David Brooks Delivers Keynote Address; Jack Belz, Dr. Susan Horwitz, Harvey Kaylie and William Zabel Honored
Acclaimed journalist and New York Times columnist David Brooks delivered the keynote address at Yeshiva University’s 89th Annual Hanukkah Convocation and Dinner on Sunday, December 8 at The Waldorf Astoria in New York City. President Richard M. Joel bestowed an honorary doctorate upon Brooks, calling him “a noble exemplar of what we hope our students will become” and drawing on the words of American poet Robert Frost to praise the morality in Brooks’ writing: “In a world which has moved inexorably down a path paved with hyperbole, cynicism and categorical one-dimensionality, you have mustered the courage and integrity to take the road less traveled.”
“How fitting it is to host you tonight at this annual assembly honoring Yeshiva University and the value which it adds to the world,” said President Joel. “Ultimately, the mandate of Yeshiva University boils down to this belief: our responsibility is to partner with God, not in retreating from but engaging with the wide world around us, forever informed by the eternal values of our tradition. That, too, is a road less traveled by, a road which necessitates patience, sensitivity and bravery.”
Brooks has been a New York Times columnist since 2003 and is a political and cultural commentator on “PBS NewsHour.” Previously, he worked at The Washington Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Weekly Standard, Newsweek and Atlantic Monthly. At the Convocation, Brooks called YU “a contrast with the world,” citing Rabbi Joseph B. Solveitchik’s work on the biblical figures of Adam I and Adam II and his belief that Adam I was driven by the desire for greatness, stature and success, while Adam II sought to build a moral and fulfilling internal life.
“Soloveichik’s point is that to live a good life involves a permanent confrontation between these two sides within ourselves, but we happen to live in a society that nurtures and encourages and bloats Adam I, leading to the neglect and atrophy of Adam II, the internal Adam,” Brooks said. “To be here is such an honor because Yeshiva University is one of the rare institutions in this country that is consciously and intentionally and intelligently training not only Adam I, but both sides of life, both the Adams, the majestic and the humble. It’s impressive to be here in the middle of a profound and necessary counterculture.”
President Joel also conferred honorary degrees upon Jack A. Belz of Memphis, TN, chairman and CEO of Belz Enterprises and a Benefactor and Trustee of YU; Harvey Kaylie of Great Neck, NY, founder, president and CEO of Mini-Circuits International and a YU Benefactor; and William Zabel of Manhattan, founding partner of Schulte, Roth & Zabel and head of the Individual Client Services Group.
Belz joined his father in the family real estate business in the late 1940s. Together, they developed commercial and industrial real estate, businesses and other properties, now operating a portfolio of more than 25 million square feet of commercial and residential real estate in several states. Belz’s parents, Philip and Sarah, established YU’s Philip and Sarah Belz School of Jewish Music, a division of YU-affiliated Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary, in 1984. Belz and his wife, Marilyn, are Memphis community leaders, supporting a variety of organizations and institutions.
“Yeshiva University is proud to bear the Belz insignia,” said President Joel, noting that Belz hadn’t wavered in his support of the Belz School of Jewish Music since his father’s death in 2000, in addition to his support of YU and Jewish education in general. “Tonight, we gather to pay homage not only to your journey, but to the ways in which you have enabled countless others to sing their own songs and dream new dreams.”
Kaylie graduated from City College of the City University of New York and earned his master’s degree from New York University. He and his wife, Gloria, who serves as the secretary and treasurer of Mini-Circuits, support a wide range of charitable organizations, ranging from the Hampton Synagogue, Shaarei Zedek Hospital, Beit Izzy Shapiro, Harei Torah, Ohel and YU.
“Your illustrious career has been marked by your knowledge of and investment in technology and engineering designs, but your investment in the Jewish future has always been your trademark, beginning communities of value and the next chapter in our Jewish story,” said President Joel to Kaylie, touching on his recent gift to launch YU Global, an initiative that will help YU expand its reach beyond its physical walls. “Your leadership, counsel and friendship have proven to be invaluable in moving our institution forward.”
Zabel practices in the area of estate planning, wills, trusts, charitable foundations, income and gift-tax planning, estate administration and family law. A prominent advocate for civil liberties and human rights, he is involved with many charitable causes and organizations.
“While your litigation prowess and storied legal career have distinguished you as one of the nation’s finest attorneys, your passion and your drive for civil and human rights have distinguished you further,” said President Joel to Zabel, a supporter of YU’s Benjamin N. Cardozo Law School. “You have strongly identified with Cardozo’s value-driven mission, and the University has been privileged to be the benefactor of your guidance, support and counsel.”
In addition to the honorary degree recipients, President Joel bestowed the Presidential Medallion on Dr. Susan B. Horvitz of Larchmont, NY, who is the Rose Falkenstein Professor of Cancer Research and co-chair of molecular pharmacology at YU’s Albert Einstein College of Medicine and whose pioneering cancer research has touched the lives of thousands of people with cancer who receive taxol as a component of first-line chemotherapy to treat breast, lung and ovarian cancer. She is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Science, a fellow of the National Foundation for Cancer Research, and a member of the National Academy of Sciences and the Institute of Medicine.
“Hanukkah celebrates the idea of a miracle, but you did not wait for a miracle—you made one,” said President Joel of Horvitz’s historic work in cancer treatment. “Through your remarkable advances in the field of medical research and through being the person that you are, you have achieved more than merely a scientific breakthrough—you have brought healing and comfort to a fractured world.”
During the dinner portion, President Joel also recognized eight Points of Light—students, faculty and alumni who embody the mission of Yeshiva University—calling each one up to light a symbolic candle on the menorah.
“It remains our sacred mission to ensure purposeful survival and provide enthusiasm for a life of meaning to a society still searching for light,” said President Joel. “At this annual gathering, we have made it our tradition to identify eight Points of Light who are exemplars of the array of inspired excellence that makes this University like no other.”
The Points of Light included Nicole Schreiber-Agus, assistant professor of molecular genetics at YU’s Albert Einstein College of Medicine and program director of the Program for Jewish Genetic Health, which was established to ensure that members of the Jewish community facing genetic health issues wouldn’t be deprived of proper care due to lack of awareness, financial barriers, or difficulty navigating the health care system.
Mark Weingarten, a premed major at Yeshiva College, was honored for creating Music Vs., a student club that performs music for the elderly, veterans and sick children in hospitals and has expanded to other universities throughout the country. The program aims to use the universal language of music as a bridge to form connections with those less fortunate and lay the foundation for lasting relationships. Weingarten also won first-prize in EMUNAH’s Joss Berger Holocaust Essay Contest.
Another Point of Light was Rebecca Yoshor, who is majoring in English Literature at Stern College for Women and plays forward for the Lady Maccabees basketball team. She became the first female student-athlete in YU history to receive the Academic All-America honor, which goes to students with an outstanding combination of scholastic and athletic achievements. Yoshor was named one of the Jewish community’s 36 under 36 by The Jewish Week in 2013.
Shmuel Legesse, a doctoral candidate at YU’s Azrieli Graduate School for Jewish Education and Administration, was honored for his mission to build a school that will help Ethiopian Jewish teens integrate their cultural and Jewish backgrounds and prepare them to succeed in modern Israeli society.
Savyon Lang, a hard-of-hearing graduate of YU’s Wurzweiler School of Social Work, was recognized for her determination not only to excel in her own studies, but to help others in the deaf and hard-of-hearing communities overcome their disabilities. She plans to improve her sign language and earn her Licensed Clinical Social Worker certificate so she can open up her own practice to service the deaf and hard-of-hearing populations and beyond.
Another Point of Light was Dr. Ariel Fishman, director of institutional research in the Office of the Provost at YU and assistant professor of management at the Sy Syms School of Business. After surviving a horrific car accident with the help of many surgeries, including the amputation of his lower legs and requiring the donation of 70 units of blood, Fishman became an active volunteer spokesman for the New York Blood Center and has given numerous motivational speeches describing his experiences and subsequent recovery. He was named one of the Jewish community’s 36 under 36 by The Jewish Week in 2013.
Brittany Brown, an alumna of Cardozo, was honored for her work as a Cardozo Immigration Justice Fellow at the Brooklyn Defender Services in addition to her role as a member of the newly-formed New York Immigration Defenders Team. While at Cardozo, she was active in the Kathryn O. Greenberg Immigration Justice Clinic; her experiences there enabled her to contribute to the publication of an online practice advisory for the American Immigration Council.
The final Point of Light was Adam Moisa, a freshman in the Business Honors and Entrepreneurial Leadership Program at Sy Syms. Prior to enrolling, he completed three internships in finance and risk management and was accepted to Princeton University and the University of Chicago, but decided to attend YU after Sy Syms Associate Dean, Clinical Professor of Management and Entrepreneur-in-Residence Michael Strauss actively reached out to help mentor Moisa’s startup, Cloudifyd, which aggregates cloud storage services and renovates the way information is viewed and displayed.
The convocation and dinner, which serves as the University’s main annual fundraising event, raised more than $3.5 million.