YU in Israel: A Whirlwind of Action

Dynamic Campus in Jerusalem Links Yeshiva University to the State of Israel

The Caroline and Joseph Gruss Institute in Jerusalem has had a busy and exciting spring and early summer, with reunions, graduations, major events and recognitions of important alumni.

This year’s reunions for the classes of 1957, 1967 and 1977 on May 7 had a notable new twist: a live video feed that connected the alumni living in Israel with their classmates sitting in Weissberg Commons. Former President Richard M. Joel was able to address those in Israel and new president Rabbi Dr. Ari Berman, in Israel, addressed the gathering on the Wilf Campus; alumni knew that while thousands of miles separated them, technology had brought them together for a joint celebration.

(l-4): Rabbi Dr. Ari Berman and Rabbi Joel Cohn ’77YC
Rabbi Dr. Ari Berman, left, and Rabbi Joel Cohn ’77YC

On June 8, the Board of Trustees of the Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary (RIETS) invited students, alumni and friends to participate in a Ketivat Sefer Torah in memory of HaRav HaGaon Rav Aharon Lichtenstein zt’’l. Speakers at the event honored the depth of his learning and the fullness of his heart. The Sefer Torah will be permanently housed in the Heichal Azriel Beit Medrash of the Gruss Institute, and the funds raised will support the Gruss kollel.

The Sefer Torah will be permanently housed in the Heichal Azriel Beit Medrash of the Gruss Institute
The Sefer Torah will be permanently housed in the Heichal Azriel Beit Medrash of the Gruss Institute.

Gruss kollel students and faculty enjoyed a luncheon in honor of Yom Yerushalayim with Rabbi Josh Fass ’91YUHS, ’94YC, ’96A, ’98R, co-founder of Nefesh B’Nefesh. Rabbi Fass addressed the important role that Gruss RIETS rabbis will play in fostering and strengthening a strong connection between American Jewry and Israel.

Rabbi Josh Fass addresses an audience about Nefesh B’Nefesh.
Rabbi Josh Fass addresses an audience about Nefesh B’Nefesh.

Kollel musmachim celebrated their Chag HaSemikhah, the completion of their rabbinic ordination, at the YU Israel campus, along with family members, close friends and faculty. Rabbi Menachem Penner ’91YC, ’95R, the Max and Marion Grill Dean of RIETS, was also present, and during the gala dinner, words of congratulations and encouragement were given by Rabbi Assaf Bednarsh ’89YUHS, ’97R, the Ruth Buchbinder Mitzner Chair in Talmud and Jewish Law at RIETS, and Rabbi Yoni Miller ’16R, a RIETS graduate.

YU was among 15 organizations represented at a meeting with Dr. Avraham Neguise, Member of Knesset, and Yaakov Hagoel, vice chairman of the World Zionist Organization, to address prominent issues facing English-speaking immigrants in Israel. Some of the topics discussed were pre- and post-aliyah [moving to Israel] planning, support for English speakers at Israeli universities, sherut leumi [national service], and mental health services.

YU Israel in Knesset conference
Eliana Sohn, program manager at YU Israel, and Stephanie Strauss, executive director of YU Israel (second and third from left at the table), discuss issues facing English-speaking immigrants in Israel.

Several alumni received significant congratulations for their accomplishments.

Every year, 12 people who have made a great contribution to Israeli society and the Jewish people are selected to light the 12 torches that kick off Independence Day at Mt. Herzl, and this year, Rabbanit Chana Henkin ’64YUHS, ’68S, ’76BR, the director of Nishmat: The Jeanie Schottenstein Center For Advanced Torah Study in Jerusalem, was honored with lighting one of the torches. In lighting the torch, Rabbanit Henkin said, “I light this torch in honor of the women who study Torah, who in their learning create a link in the chain of our tradition and partner in building the spiritual strength of the State of Israel.”

Rabbi Chaim Brovender ’62YC, ’65R, ’65BR was awarded the Bonei Zion Prize, an award that recognizes outstanding English-speaking olim [people who emigrate to Israel] who “embody the spirit and of modern-day Zionism by contributing in a significant way to Israel.” The citation accompanying the award stated that Rabbi Brovender “stands at the forefront of Torah learning programs for thousands who have come to Israel to explore their Judaism, and has created opportunities for people around the world to enhance their Jewish identity and connection to Israel.”

Eliezer David Jaffe ’55YC z”l, founder of the Israel Free Loan Society, also was awarded the Bonei Zion Prize nine days before he died at the age of 83 on May 25, 2017. The Israel Free Loan Association provided interest-free loans to new immigrants and needy people. He was also called “the father of social work in Israel,” and the bulk of Jaffe’s work during his life was directed toward child welfare, social services for large families, ethnic stereotypes in the Israeli population and access to nonprofit organizations in Israel.

YU Israel is a vital part of the Yeshiva University experience. Click here for more information about what YU Israel has to offer.