The Foundation of Their Futures

Class of 2015 Reflects on Unique Yeshiva University Experience

On Sunday, hundreds of Yeshiva University students will celebrate their graduation at YU’s 84th Annual Commencement Ceremony at the Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey. Hailing from as far away as Hong Kong or as close as Teaneck, moving on to professional careers and graduate study in fields that range from medicine to archaeology, the Class of 2015 shared one thing: an undergraduate experience like no other. Below, in their own words, the new graduates reflect on how their education here has shaped their future.

Hadassa Holzapfel

Hadassa Holzapfel

After growing up in Germany, I came to Stern College for Women on my own and I had to form my own community. By joining the University Housing team as a resident adviser, I became part of a family that made me feel at home when I was so far away from my own. Being at Stern, I was finally surrounded by a religious community with peers who understood the value of concepts like kashrut and Shabbos. I didn’t have to worry about my exams being on Shabbos or Jewish holidays, which is a huge struggle for my Jewish friends in Germany. Stern allowed me to develop my Jewish identity and deepen my Jewish knowledge while also advancing my secular studies, laying the foundation for my future. As a Stern graduate, I am part of the YU community and network that I strongly believe will help me in the future. Above all, I am grateful for all the guidance and support I received along the way. I could not have enjoyed the past three years at Stern without the support from both the administration, particularly Dean Bacon and Mrs. Marga Marx, and the friends I met at Stern. It has been an exciting journey and truly changed my life in ways I never would have expected. – Hadassa Holzapfel, biochemistry major, Dusseldorf, Germany; conducting research at Mt. Sinai Medical Center and serving as a Graduate Assistant in University housing

Participating in the play my first semester at Stern, I stepped simultaneously into a role and into a community. The immersive experience that was drama taught me early in my college career about making sacrifices for things you think are worth doing. Stern gives you an opportunity to participate in the richness of academics and extracurricular life at a level that would be impossible at a larger college lacking the unique sense of community that pervades Stern. At no other college can you integrate such multifaceted aspects of your personality—athletics, drama, leadership, academics, Jewish learning—into your “college experience.” At Stern you have the exposure and outlet for such a wide range of experiences, and you are empowered help create those experiences for others. I feel that I am participating in and building a community that is for life. –Daniella Penn, English literature major, Los Angeles, California; YU’s Office of the President as a Stanton Fellow 

Joseph Lipton

Joseph Lipton

One of my favorite classes in Yeshiva College was game theory with Professor Michael Richter. The professor was excellent and it really helped develop my critical thinking and logical reasoning skills. My favorite memory was representing YU in intercollegiate athletics on the cross-country and volleyball teams and setting the school record for most conference championships won in a career—six in total! At YU, I was able to get a great secular and Jewish education and play intercollegiate sports without compromising my religious values. – Joseph Lipton, economics major, Toronto, Canada; pursuing medical school 

Jonathan Herskowitz

Jonathan Herskowitz

I love the varied cultures at YU. You’re getting a large group of students who are your age from all around the world, who have similar values but grew up in different cultures, with different interests, everyone at their own religious level, and it’s interesting to be around such a diverse group of guys. You’re really growing your network. When you go to a secular college, the people you graduate with are just part of a list of names that get handed out at graduation. Here, the friends you make are your friends for life: you value the same things, you grew up in different environments and cultures, but you can connect—you don’t get that anywhere else. – Jonathan Herskowitz, finance major, New York, New York; investment banking analyst at Credit Suisse

I’ve met several close friends through Shabbat at Stern. The Shabbat that sticks out most in my mind is from last spring, when a friend of mine organized Disney-related activities for the Shabbat of reading week. We played Mafia in the roles of various Disney characters on Friday night and played trivia games the next day. There was nothing official planned that weekend, but that was part of why the Shabbat was so special – all we needed was each other, and we had a wonderful time. I will miss the Stern family that I have had the pleasure of being a part of for the past three years. While I could have gone to a local university in Maryland that had a perfectly good English department, I wanted a school that understood me as an Orthodox Jew and could provide for my religious needs as well. I have not been disappointed. – Sara Olson, creative writing major, Baltimore, Maryland; pursuing a career in trade publishing and graduate study in library sciences

Yosef Kornbluth

Yosef Kornbluth

I really feel that I gained a solid undergraduate education while studying Torah on an uncompromising level. I spent three years in Rabbi Michael Rosensweig’s shiur, and watching his creativity, enthusiasm and character really inspired me to try to do my best. I also gained a lot from Dr. William Lee’s classes. I thought I knew what I was doing in literature, and watching him really gave me a good dose of intellectual humility. The day before Hurricane Sandy, I solved a research problem that I was working on with Dr. Sergey Buldyrev. I sent him an email that I solved it, but didn’t give the solution. Over the next few days, we tried to find somewhere to meet and discuss it – he was as eager as I was. – Yosef Kornbluth, physics and mathematics major, Teaneck, New Jersey; pursuing a doctoral degree in mechanical engineering at Massachusetts Institute of Technology and rabbinic ordination at Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary (RIETS)

Shalva Ginsparg

Shalva Ginsparg

Somehow, every semester, Dr. Cynthia Wachtell, director of the S. Daniel Abraham Honors Program, manages to arrange the most exciting lineup of cultural events; examples that stand out to me include a tour of Grand Central Station during its centennial year, a visit to a Roman Vishniac exhibit at the Museum of Photography, and a trip to see Twelfth Night on Broadway. Walking back from Lincoln Center with friends, discussing the opera or the ballet we have just been treated to by the honors program, is for me one of those “pinch me, I’m dreaming” moments, when you just marvel at the fact that you are in college in the heart of New York City, with all of these incredible cultural experiences at your fingertips. I think that because of the honors program, and specifically the honors events, I will continue to seek out those interesting, life-enriching cultural experiences after I graduate. – Shalva Ginsparg, English literature and Judaic studies major, Hollywood, Florida; pursuing a master’s in English education at Columbia University’s Teachers College 

Yiriel Liss

Yiriel Liss

One thing that stands out is the incredible network that we, as undergraduates have, both in each other and in Yeshiva alumni. As an upperclassman, every day I get texts, Facebook messages, and emails from underclassmen asking me for my opinion on everything from which courses to take to interview tips for potential jobs. When I was in my first year, I remember doing the same thing. We have a thriving and active network of professionals and students, all of whom look out for each other and will go to unimaginable lengths to assist and further the career of a fellow YU student. I am proud to be a part of this and to carry the tradition forward. – Yiriel Liss, finance major, Sharon, Massachusetts; analyst in corporate services and real estate division at Goldman Sachs 

Dov Levine

Dov Levine

If the point of attending four years of college is more than filling the brain with information, but shaping my identity through the ups and down and by engaging in different disciplines, then I have been blessed to attend YU where the faculty has had such a large part in shaping that identity. With Dr. William Lee, my honors thesis and mentor and professor for three great semesters, I have learned to critically analyze texts, to love reading and writing, all while benefiting from his personal interest in, and support for, my career ambitions in medicine. As captain of the Men’s Cross-Country team (after two years as a member), my greatest joys came from our team success and awards – like being named Hudson Valley Intercollegiate Athletic Conference Champions or Skyline Conference Runner-Up – several of which were firsts for YU. Cross-County has truly been a vehicle to merge a pleasure of mine with community service: for Sharsheret, I organized gear sales to raise awareness for breast cancer; for the Halachic Organ Donor Society, I served as YU team leader in the 5k race and, with my parents’ help, organized a membership drive in my home; and for Cooma for Colon Cancer, I participated on YU’s team in the Colon Cancer Challenge Foundation’s 5k race. – Dov Levine, chemistry major, biology minor, West Hempstead, New York; pursuing an MD at Albert Einstein College of Medicine and rabbinic ordination at RIETS

Hadassah Tirschwell

Hadassah Tirschwell

I think the courses I took with Rabbi Meir Soloveichik were most indicative and unique within my Stern experience. Clubburah (a club hour chabura in which we contrasted the thought of Rabbi Yosef Dov Soloveitchik with the philosophical writings of C.S. Lewis), The Image and the Idea (a class that studied the relationship between Judaism and art, co-taught by Dr. Jacob Wisse), and Judaism and Democracy (co-taught by Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks) were intellectually engaging, religiously inspiring, and extremely unique. It’s hard to choose one favorite memory, but handing in my senior honor’s thesis, the capstone of my work, research, and mentoring, is definitely a highlight. My thesis discusses standards and the movement to standardize education with the sphere of secular education and its implications and applications within the realm of Jewish Day School education. – Hadassah Tirschwell, Judaic studies major, mathematics and philosophy minors, Teaneck, New Jersey and Boca Raton, Florida; pursuing master’s degree at Azrieli Graduate School of Jewish Education and Administration, teaching Judaic studies at YU’s Samuel H. Wang High School for Girls (Central)

 

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