The Commencement Ties That Bind

YU Administration, Faculty and Staff Celebrate Family Graduations

You might have heard of the game “Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon” where one tries to find the fewest number of connections to the Hollywood star. Well, at Yeshiva University, it takes far fewer to get to Dr. Karen Bacon, The Mordecai D. and Dr. Monique C. Katz Dean of the Undergraduate Faculty of Arts and Sciences.

President Joel with President is Rivka Pahmer. On my other side is Chevie Ayden Pahmer.
President Richard Joel with Rivka Pahmer, Dean Karen Bacon and Ayden Pahmer

When we learned that Dean Bacon had two granddaughters graduating at YU’s 85th Commencement, we wondered if there were other people connected to YU having similar experiences. Thus began a fascinating exploration into the commencement ties that bind so many YU families together.

Dean Bacon’s granddaughters are Ayden Pahmer and Rivka Pahmer, both now proud bearers of ’16S after their names. A third granddaughter, Devorah Pahmer, is on deck for graduating, currently attending Sy Syms School for Business.

Ayden and Rivka have two cousins, Max and Isaac Shulman, who also graduated, and Devorah’s father, David, is an instructor in Jewish studies, with his own graduation history from Yeshiva College, Azrieli Graduate School of Jewish Education and Administration and Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary (RIETS).

President Joel and his wife Esther, with their children Avery, Penny and Noam.
President Joel and his wife Esther, with their children Avery, Penny and Noam

One of the highlights of the 85th Commencement was President Richard M. Joel’s conferring degrees upon three of his children: Penny and Avery receiving doctorates from Azrieli, and Noam, a PsyD from Ferkauf Graduate School of Psychology. As President Joel said in his remarks, conferring these degrees means that during his tenure, he has signed diplomas for all six of his children. In what may be some sort of record, it was also a point of pride for the Joel family and testimony to their belief in and dedication to the University.

Moshael Straus, chairman of the YU Board of Trustees, could claim a similar happiness as he watched his daughter Sarah receive her degree from Ferkauf.

YU Board of Trustees Chairman Moshael Straus celebrates Sarah’s graduation from Ferkauf

Rabbi Jonathan Muskat, rabbi at Young Israel of Oceanside (New York) and a three-time YU alumnus, delivered the benediction at Commencement. He is the husband of Dr. Yael Muskat, director of the YU Counseling Center, herself a 1993 Stern alumna. Their daughter, Ahava, just graduated from Stern along with her husband, Adir Pinchot from Yeshiva College, and Adir’s sister, Arianne, also graduated from Stern. To add a little more to the mix, Adir and Arianne’s father, Dov, received his diploma from Yeshiva College in 1990.

Josh Wildes
Joshua Wildes continues a long lineage of YU graudates

Joshua Wildes, who attended Sy Syms and was valedictorian for the James Striar School of General Jewish Studies, continues a long YU lineage with his graduation. His mother and father, Michael and Amy, are alumni of Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law, and Michael and his father, Leon (an alumnus of Yeshiva College), are both Cardozo faculty members. Joshua’s uncle, Rabbi Mark Wildes, is a graduate of Yeshiva College, Cardozo and RIETS, and his aunt, Jill, carries a degree from Wurzweiler School of Social Work. Joshua and his sister, Rachel, will both attend Cardozo in the fall.

Their cousin, Ezra Wildes, goes to the Marsha Stern Talmudical Academy / Yeshiva High School for Boys (YUHSB), and another cousin, Yosef Wildes, is a YUHSB alumnus planning on attending Yeshiva College next year.

But Shai Berman, now a graduate of Yeshiva College, may just edge out Joshua. His paternal grandparents are Julius Berman (Yeshiva College and RIETS alumnus in addition to an honorary YU degree in 1995 and being chairman emeritus of the RIETS Board of Trustees) and Dorothy Berman (Stern and Ferkauf). His maternal grandparents are Rabbi Dr. David Berger (Yeshiva College, RIETS, and dean of Bernard Revel Graduate School of Jewish Studies) and Pearl Berger (Teachers Institute and dean of the Yeshiva University Libraries for 30 years).

Pearl Berger, Julius, Shai and Dorothy Berman, President Joel and Dean David Berger

Shai’s parents picked up the torch – Rabbi Eliott Berman (YUHSB, Yeshiva College and RIETS) and Dr. Miriam Berman (Samuel H. Wang Yeshiva University High School for Girls and Stern) – and Shai’s wife, Adi, graduated from Stern this past January.

From Canada come brother and sister graduates Aitan (Yeshiva College) and Yona (Sy Syms) Magence. Their mother and father, Shawna and Jeremy Magence, are both graduates of YU. Jeremy is currently the president of Canadian Friends of Yeshiva University. In addition, their grandfather, Maier Sadwin, is also a YU graduate. A younger sister, Ahava, will enter Stern next year.

The Magence family
The Magence family celebrated Aitan and Yona’s graduation

Shayna Schwarzberg, daughter of Rabbi Ronald Schwarzberg, director of Jewish career guidance and placement at the Center for the Jewish Future, now bears a diploma from Sy Syms. Shayna is engaged to Noam Itzhak, who graduated as well this month from YU. She is the last of Rabbi Schwarzberg’s four children to attend YU.

And then there is Sy Syms graduate Sammy Schwartz, son of Suzy Schwartz, assistant vice president, alumni affairs and strategic development; Danielle Wietschner, daughter of Chaim Wietschner, treasurer of the RIETS Board of Trustees, now a Stern alumna; and Eliana Sugarman, daughter of Yeshiva College Associate Dean Fredric Sugarman, now bearing ’16S after her name.

These stories just skim the surface of the deep sea of generational connections that bind graduates of YU into a tight-knit community that is also global in its reach.