Straus Scholar Spotlight: Penina Spearman

By Sarah Wapner,
Impact and Recruitment Officer

Penina Spearman

Born and raised in Queens, New York, Penina Spearman arrived at Yeshiva University and the Zahava and Moshael Straus Center for Torah and Western Thought in 2020 after spending a year studying in Israel at Michlelet Mevaseret Yerushalayim (MMY). At Stern College for Women, Penina is pursuing a degree in Philosophy, with a particular focus on political thought and economic theory.

Outside of the classroom, Penina is making a meaningful impact in the realms of Jewish thought, foreign affairs, and public policy. Through her leadership activities and extracurricular pursuits as a Straus Scholar, she is emerging as an intellectual leader on campus and beyond.

Penina serves as a Teacher’s Assistant at the Tikvah Fund, and is a member of their Collegiate Forum. This past summer, she interned at the Kohelet Policy Forum where she did research on the Israeli judicial system. On campus, Penina sits on the American Enterprise Institute’s YU Executive Council, and she is the Logistics Officer for the Alexander Hamilton Society (AHS) Yeshiva University chapter.

Penina’s strong involvement in AHS led to her appointment as a delegate to the 2021 Alexander Hamilton Society Student Leadership Conference in Washington, DC. There, as a representative of Yeshiva University, she met students from AHS chapters across the country who shared her passion for American politics and policy. “It was the first time I was able to network with other like-minded students with similar interests from other universities,” she says.

The conference provided Penina with a deep-dive into the world of foreign policy. “My favorite panel was titled “Supporting Freedom, Democracy, and Human Rights in American Foreign Policy,” and it included panelists from the International Republican Institute, the Atlantic Council, and the George W. Bush Institute,” she explained. “It was a truly eye opening panel. While I have always had an interest in foreign policy I had never considered it to be a real career option for myself. This panel broadened my understanding of non-partisan foreign policy and the work that America does to promote democracy and freedom around the world. After this panel, I was able to visualize myself being a part of organizations that work to bring freedom to people everywhere.”

The AHS conference also included a masterclass on writing and editing, seminars on US Grand Strategy towards China, and sessions with AHS alumni who now work in Washington, DC. The participants also enjoyed plenary sessions with Elliott Abrams, Senior Fellow for Middle Eastern studies at the Council on Foreign Relation, and Gabriel Scheinmann, AHS Executive Director.

Penina summed up her experience with the following reflection: “The Alexander Hamilton Society Student Leadership Conference was an amazing and eye-opening experience. I met a diverse group of intellectually curious people from all over the country. I was able to listen to and learn from important people in the foreign policy world, and I gained a new understanding of the career opportunities available to me in the field. I am immensely grateful for having had the opportunity to participate, and as a Straus Scholar I look forward to making a powerful impact in this realm.”