Apr 25, 2008 — Four Yeshiva University graduates are among the 20 people selected this fall for the prestigious Wexner Graduate Fellowship Program. The fellowship is open to aspiring Jewish leaders who seek to prepare themselves through graduate training for careers in the cantorate, Jewish education, Jewish professional leadership, Jewish studies, and the rabbinate.
This year’s Wexner Fellows, who will each receive an annual stipend of $20,000, include Erin Cooper, a senior at Stern College for Women (SCW); Noah Cheses, a senior at Yeshiva College (YC); and Zev Nagel and Ari Gordon, both 2005 YC graduates. All four students are also designated as Davidson Scholars, a cohort of ten fellows pursuing careers in Jewish education and Jewish communal leadership.
Fellows receive leadership training, peer support, professional mentoring, and networking across career choices and denominational affiliations, both during school and throughout their lives.
The awards are granted to “exceptional candidates who have a strong personal commitment to the Jewish community, who have demonstrated excellence in academic achievement, and who possess the potential to assume significant professional leadership roles in the North American Jewish Community,” the Wexner Foundation’s Web site says.
Cooper, who hails from Silver Spring, MD, hopes that her studies in Jewish education and business administration will enable her to play a role in rejuvenating Jewish life outside of the major metropolitan areas of the US. She will attend YU’s Azrieli Graduate School of Jewish Education and Administration in the fall and is still considering schools for her MBA. “I am thinking of helping places like Charleston, SC to establish a Jewish high school,” Cooper said.
Boston native Noah Cheses, a graduate of YC’s Jay and Jeanie Schottenstein Honors Program, plans to inspire and inform Jewish life from the pulpit. He will enroll in the semikhah [rabbinical ordination] program at YU’s Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary and the master’s program at YU’s Bernard Revel Graduate School of Jewish Studies in the fall. With hopes to eventually pursue doctoral studies, Cheses will take on the “challenge of representing the Orthodox Jewish community and building bridges of understanding with other Jewish communities in North America.”
Nagel, past editor-in-chief of The Commentator, YC’s student newspaper, is a speechwriter at the Israeli Mission to the United Nations. The Los Angeles native will pursue a master’s degree in law and diplomacy at Tufts University in the fall. Nagel hopes to forge a path within the American Jewish community that will energize and encourage Jewish youth to become involved in their communities and be active in political and social processes. He is most excited about the opportunity “to interact with future leaders, to build a foundation for dialogue and understanding, and to forge an action plan for the future.”
Ari Gordon, assistant director of inter-religious affairs at the American Jewish Committee, will attend Harvard Divinity School to continue his professional involvement in inter-religious affairs. “I feel a profound hakarat hatov [appreciation] to Yeshiva University, which helped foster my commitment to serving the Jewish community and prepared me for this next exciting step of my journey,” said Gordon, who hails from Merion, PA.