Revel graduate Rabbi Chaim Strauchler ‘99YC, ‘06R, ‘06BR is the Senior Rabbi at Congregation Rinat Yisrael in Teaneck, New Jersey. He grew up in West Orange, New Jersey and is a proud graduate of YU and the Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary (RIETS), following in the footsteps of his mother’s father, Rabbi Gershon Romanoff, a rabbi in Hudson, NY, Chelsea, MA and Bronx, NY. His father’s parents were Holocaust survivors who moved to Minneapolis, MN after the war.

Revel News had a chance to catch up with Rabbi Strauchler to discuss his career as a shul rabbi and how his education at Revel influenced his professional and personal lives.

What was your Jewish education like as you grew up?
Throughout my childhood, I attended Congregation Ahawas Achim B’nai Jacob & David (AABJ&D) under the leadership of Rabbi Alvin Marcus. I studied at The JEC in Elizabeth, New Jersey from kindergarten through eleventh grade which was a wonderful experience with great teachers and friends. Following that, I studied at YU early admissions and then at Yeshivat Har Etzion in Israel.

What convinced you to attend Yeshiva University?
The opportunity to expand my knowledge and skills in Torah and secular studies. Both my parents are graduates of the Albert Einstein College of Medicine.

What led you to continue your studies at Revel?
The opportunity to study Torah with Revel faculty whom I was exposed to as an undergraduate at YU.

How do you take what you’ve learned from your studies at Revel and apply it to your role as the rabbi at Rinat?
So much of my thinking is a function of the skills and traditions that have been passed on to me. When I teach Tanach [bible] or history, it is with the frame of thinking and many of the insights that I imbibed from professors such as
Rabbi Dr. Shnayer Leiman, Dr. Barry Eichler, Rabbi Dr. Mordechai Cohen, Dr. Elisheva Carlebach, Dr. Richard Steiner, Dr. Jeffrey Gurock and Rabbi Dr. Yaakov Elman.

Can you recollect one or two experiences that would give readers a feel for the essence of your Revel experience?
As much as the classroom was critical to my Revel experience, the chance to “talk in learning” in the 5th Floor Library with fellow students in my courses as well as students who were not, was the essence of the Revel experience for me. We were a community of learners – all engaging in ideas, scholarship and a lived Jewish life on and beyond the YU campus.

What would you like to say to students considering pursuing Jewish studies at Revel?
The advanced Torah learning available only at Revel will deeply enrich your thinking and living for long into your future.

 

Ayelet Mael Rosenberg ‘08S, ‘10R is currently corporate counsel at Amazon Web Services (AWS), the cloud computing business of Amazon. In her work as a products attorney for different AWS products, she helps the business teams and computer engineers navigate the legal issues related to the development of new products.

Her intellectual journey has been an interesting one, beginning with a major in Studio Art at Stern College for Women with a concentration in graphic design and moving on to a degree in medieval Jewish History from the Bernard Revel School of Jewish Studies.

 

After Revel, she went to the University of Pennsylvania Law School for one year before transferring to New York University Law School, going on to work at Sidley Austin LLP as a transactional attorney in the Global Finance group for six years and then AWS.

 

Revel News had a chance to catch up with her to discuss her career as a lawyer and how her education at Yeshiva University influenced her professional and personal lives.

 

Where did you grow up? Also, please tell me about your background. 

I grew up in Lawrence, New York, in a wonderful Modern Orthodox home. My parents imbued within us a strong sense of Torah U’madda (which isn’t surprising since my dad grew up in Boston with the Rav), where we were encouraged to grow in our Torah knowledge and connection to Judaism while developing other interests and a strong work ethic for any future profession.

 

 What was your Jewish education like? 

 

In terms of my formal Jewish education, I went to Hebrew Academy of Long Beach, Stella K. Abraham High School for Girls, Sha’alvim for Women, Stern College and then Revel. In terms of my informal Jewish education, I learned a tremendous amount from my parents and grandparents (some of whom grew up without a strong Jewish community and nevertheless, remained incredibly committed in their observance). I also participated in summer programs such as JOLT, in which we taught unaffiliated Ukrainian children about Judaism and attended Gateways shabbatons that exposed me to discussions about how we know G-d exists and that the Torah is from Sinai.

What convinced you to attend Stern College? 

 

Beginning around 7th grade, I thought I would be a high school Tanach [bible] teacher (and I’m embarrassed to admit that I began saving my school notes, thinking they would be useful when I’d be teaching those subjects). I therefore thought that there was no better place than Stern College to continue learning Judaic studies and getting involved in extracurricular programs related to Jewish education. If someone would have told me then that I would end up in law school, becoming a corporate finance lawyer, and ultimately working in Amazon’s cloud computing business, I would have just laughed.

 

What led you to continue your studies with Revel? 

 

When I graduated from Stern College, I understood that getting a master’s degree in either Jewish studies (at Revel) or Jewish education (at Azrieli Graduate School) would be helpful in pursuing a career in Jewish education. Between the two, I thought I would enjoy learning the subject matter of Jewish studies over educational theory… so I ended up at Revel.

 

How do you take what youve learned from your studies at Revel and apply it to your role as a lawyer? 

My classes at Revel were probably the most rigorous, intellectually challenging classes that I have taken in my life. I vividly recall a Jewish philosophy class with Dr. Daniel Rynhold where we delved into a Spinoza piece, and I left feeling mentally drained, as if my brain had done advanced gymnastics for an hour. Learning in Revel how to think critically and analytically, in a way that I had not done in any prior educational setting, was immediately applicable and incredibly helpful throughout my time in law school and in my role as a lawyer.

Can you recollect one or two experiences that would give readers a feel for the essence of your Revel experience? 

Sure! While I was student at Revel, I had the opportunity to visit Chicago one Shavuot as an “up-and-coming Torah educator.” I gave shiurim [lectures] at three different shuls and ran one session for teenagers, over the two-day yuntif [holiday]. I developed some of my shiur content based on theses I had written for my Revel classes, morphing my scholarly materials into a digestible and inspiring format. I even remember that Revel connected me with Rabbi J.J. Schacter to review and give me feedback on my materials. Each shiur over the yuntif was really well received, and the entire experience showed me that my Revel education was providing amazing tools to develop content, give shiurim and be involved in communal Jewish education, even if I didn’t end pursuing a career in formal Jewish education.

What is the most satisfying work you do as a lawyer?

 

Pro bono work. Throughout my time practicing as a lawyer, I have taken on a handful of pro bono cases ranging from helping veterans get governmental rights and underprivileged women file for uncontested divorces to assisting nonprofits in setting up their legal entities and registering as a 501(c)(3) to helping organizations that do amazing work in third-world countries with employment issues. I’ve always felt the importance of doing chesed [charity work] and volunteering, and I love that my day job provides opportunities to use my legal skills and “give back.”

What would you like to say to students considering Jewish studies at Revel? 

If you are someone who likes to learn and appreciates your Judaism and/or Jewish heritage, you should definitely go for it! The classes were wonderful, and no matter what you end up doing professionally, the skills that you gain by studying at Revel will most certainly be helpful for your personal and professional life going forward.

If anyone reading this is on the fence and wants to talk about it further, feel free to connect with me on Facebook or LinkedIn – I’d be happy to talk about it more!

 

Dr. Jeong Mun Heo has recently been appointed as the Head of Development for South Korea at the Bernard Revel Graduate School of Jewish Studies.

In this new capacity, Dr. Heo will be working to launch a graduate certificate program in Jewish-Christian relations. He also aspires to establish a center for Jewish-Christian relations in South Korea.

Dr. Heo remarks, “I have been inspired by the leading voices of Rabbi Jonathan Sacks z”l on Jewish-Christian relations in his book, The Dignity of Difference. During my studies at Revel, I also have been deeply inspired by the values and ideas of Yeshiva University, such as Torah Umaddah and Torah Lishmah, encouraging a balanced perspective between faith and scholarship.”

It is his hope that the establishment of a Jewish-Christian certificate program will allow “many students, especially Korean students…to get familiar with a wide range of knowledge of Jewish studies and Jewish-Christian heritages.”

Jeong Mun Heo completed his Ph.D. at Revel in 2021. His dissertation is titled, “Images of Torah from the Second Temple Period Through the Middle Ages.” He also holds a B.Sc. in Mathematics and Computer Sciences from Kosin University and a M.Div. from Korea Theological Seminary in his native South Korea, and a M.A. in Jewish Education from the Hebrew University Jerusalem, as well as a Th.M. in Biblical Studies from Boston College. He hopes to continue research in the area of phenomenology of religion, and the philosophical and theological discourse between Judaism and Christianity.

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Hanukkah, Guangming Jie

Chinese students celebrate Jewish festival

 

In Chinese, Hanukkah is 光明节 (Guāngmíng jié), “festival of light.” The Chinese word for “light” here also has the metaphorical sense of “hope,” as in Biblical Hebrew, for example in Psalms 27:1, “God is my light and salvation.” Hanukkah represents the hope of the Jewish people to overcome adversity even in the darkest hours through faith in God. That message is as true today as it was for the Maccabees in ancient Israel. A small group of Chinese YU students at the Katz School of Science and Health enjoyed a first-hand experience of this Jewish festival and learned more about its meaning and rituals at the home of Mordechai Cohen, Professor of Bible and Associate Dean of the Bernard Revel Graduate School of Jewish Studies, on the first night of Hanukkah this year, Sunday, November 28, 2021. This joyous event has since been posted and re-posted on WeChat—the popular Chinese social media app, bringing new meaning to pirsumei nissa, publicizing the miracles of Hanukkah.

 

The Chinese-Jewish conversation (CJC) at YU, of which Professor Cohen is the founding director, held its last on-campus event on March 3, 2020: Jewish and Chinese visions of an Ecological Society, as reflected in biblical sources and modern Israeli culture, as well as ancient Confucian teachings and modern Chinese society. The next day, YU shut down because of the pandemic. Since then, CJC has worked mainly online, creating a robust video library and a blog on Jewish culture published in Chinese on WeChat.

 

Yet CJC was originally intended to provide a home away from home for our Chinese students at YU—and so, we sought an opportunity to hold an in-person gathering. As Allen Wang, from Beijing, remarked: “At Professor Cohen’s home, together with his family, my friends and I really felt at home. We tasted traditional Jewish foods and lit the first candle of Hanukkah together. We talked freely about Chinese and Jewish cultures. We increased our deep friendship from this gathering and look forward to the next one very much!”

 

 

The CJC Hanukkah event indeed brought greater understanding between our two ancient cultures, as the Chinese students noted many similarities and shared values to their festivals back home, which, like Hanukkah, are family-oriented and involve lots of delicious foods.

 

Grace Choi, from Wuhan, commented, “I had heard of Hanukkah; but this was the first time I learned about its origins and experienced it in a Jewish family. From the rituals to the food, to the story behind them, Professor Cohen gave us a special lesson, which gave me a deeper understanding of ancient Jewish culture. It is similar to Chinese culture. Both are thousands of years old, but still maintain their unique charm.”

 

In the spirit of pirsumei nissa, “publicizing the miracle,” i.e., the miracles behind Hanukkah, Professor Cohen explained how the Maccabees miraculously prevailed over the Seleucid Greeks in the 2nd century BCE and established the Hasmonean kingdom, how they rededicated the Holy Temple, and how the small vile of oil they found, miraculously lasted for eight days.

 

The Cohen family lit the Hanukkah candles and sang Hanerot Halalu and Maoz Tzur with the Chinese audience, a group of young Chinese people eager to learn about Jewish culture, which, on the one hand is different from theirs, but, on the other hand, shares similarities, which reveal by investigating them further.

 

 

This impact is reflected in the words of Sophie Wai, from Tainan: “This was such a heart-warming night immersed in the Jewish culture. I love the part of our hosts singing Maoz Tzur and lighting up the Menorah one by one. It shows how Jewish people are closely related to their family and their culture.”

 

Apart from the rituals surrounding the Hanukkah candles, we also made latkes—which were eagerly consumed.

 

Actually, Professor Cohen, his family, and the students, even had fun grating the potatoes and onions (crying a little bit), combining the other ingredients and cooking the latkes all together.

 

 

Christina He, from Beijing, remarked: “I learned lots of Jewish traditions and ate the very delicious potato pancakes! I also felt very excited to light the Hanukkah candle for the very first time. Many thanks to Professor Cohen, who hosted us!”

 

After dinner the Cohen family introduced the Chinese guests to various dreidel games, in which the Chinese students participated eagerly. As Riley Zhang, from Suzhou, China, remarked: “We also played with the spinning top (dreidel)! This is a very interesting game, everyone at the party is keen to show their skills best. Although winning more chocolate coins is exciting, spinning top is more like a spirit. It makes people willing to put down their phones and play games with their partners. This is a rare happy time. It reminds me of those happy moments when I was young.”

 

The Chinese students put their own spin, so to speak, on the dreidel games that reflects the outlook of traditional Chinese culture and values. As Ms Zhang continued: “I also saw the friendship and love between the children and the generosity of sharing with each other from this game. Some players would take the initiative to distribute to the person with the least chips, and the player with the most chips would continue to distribute to the person who lost the chips when turning to the next round. A dynamic balance was achieved in everyone’s hands. I think this might be the epitome of a fair society full of sharing spirit and love.”

 

 

Ms Wai, likewise, remarked: “The Jewish dreidel game is simple but meaningful. I love that there is an option of giving away your chocolate coins to others and that everyone needs to give away one out at the end of each round. It reminds us the importance of sharing and caring for others!”

 

In the ancient Confucian tradition, learning and self-improvement through actions of caring for others in society are core values. It is not difficult to see, then, why Jewish tradition resonates with Chinese audiences.

 

The warmth, light, and hope of Hanukkah, 光明节, as this gathering demonstrated, is just one example of how our ancient traditions can be a guide to us in the bustling modern world, as we strive to improve ourselves through learning and good deeds, in the hope of bringing harmony and peace to a world fraught with challenges and tensions.

 

Yigal Gross

Yigal Gross ’06YC, ’07R is internal counsel at Peridot Financing Solutions, a Blackstone portfolio company headquartered in New York City. Peridot is a global player in working capital finance, with offices in 20 countries and $60 billion in annual settled volumes. In addition to attending Yeshiva College (where he earned a bachelor’s in pre-engineering) and Revel Graduate school (adding a master’s in Jewish history), he also earned a J.D. at Cornell Law School in 2010.

He currently lives in Teaneck, New Jersey, with Tamar Warburg, a graduate of both Stern College for Women (2005) and the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law (2008), and their four children: Ella, Sara, Yonatan and Aviva.

Revel News had a chance to catch up with him to discuss his career as a lawyer and how his education at Yeshiva University influenced his professional and personal lives.


Thank you for taking the time to speak with us. Where did you grow up?

I grew up in Lawrence, New York, and was blessed with parents who are not only observant but passionate about Jewish education and the Jewish community.  The discussions around our table were about Jewish communal issues and concepts, and my parents sought out all kinds of ways to give of themselves to the Jewish community.

My father, Yaacov Gross, founded Rambam Mesivta in 1991, which I attended, and devoted countless time and energy during my childhood to communal matters.

My mother, Ronit Gross, constantly sought opportunities to learn at a high level and herself taught Tanach from 2010 to 2018 at Stern College. I love them deeply, and they were and remain my role models of what Modern Orthodox Jews should be.

 

What was your Jewish education like as you grew up?

My parents taught me to strive for excellence and intellectual independence. For me, that meant attending a variety of schools.  I attended HAFTR for elementary school and Rambam Mesivta for high school and, after high school, Kerem B’Yavneh, Derech HaTalmud and Yeshivat HarEtzion for various periods of time. These are quite different institutions. But what they all share is a dedication to excellence and an ability to embrace independently minded students. I am deeply indebted to all of them. They each gave me something different and valuable.

 

What convinced you to attend Yeshiva College?

Yeshiva College is the college in the United States whose core mission is ensuring Jewish communal continuity. All other aspects of Yeshiva University, including its college and graduate programs, stem from and ultimately support (or are at least meant to support) that mission. Other schools in the United States do have a Jewish “feel,” a lot of Jewish students, robust Jewish programming and so forth.  But only Yeshiva University sees a thriving American Jewish community as its responsibility.

When you study in Yeshiva University, you are not just going to college but actively, intentionally and meaningfully engaging in the Jewish communal experience.  Building the Jewish future is the essence of what you do. It is the conversations in the hallway, the articles in the newspaper—everything. That’s what I wanted my college experience to be. And there is no other college in the United States that offers that.

 

What led you to continue your studies with Revel?

Two things. First, I fell in love with the academic study of Jewish history at Yeshiva University. Second, I made a very fortunate error and did not realize that I needed to take my LSAT a year earlier than I did. So I had a “free” year between graduation and law school.  I figured what better way to spend it than by getting a Master of Arts in Jewish History at Revel.

 

Can you recollect one or two experiences that would give readers a feel for the essence of your Revel experience?

I pretty much lived on the fifth floor of the Gottesman Library for a year. That about sums it up. My teachers were all great, and I would feel funny singling any out because then I would need to mention them all!

 

What is the throughline from Revel and Jewish studies to Cornell and the law, and why Cornell?

I always wanted to be a lawyer. And Cornell Law School is an amazing place to study law. The setting is gorgeous, nestled up in Ithaca overlooking the Finger Lakes.  The teachers were serious academics but also warm and accessible. I had a lovely and diverse group of classmates, many of whom have since gone on to do amazing things: Sharice Davids, whom I studied with, is in Congress, representing Kansas’s 3rd congressional district; Ari Melber, who was in my IP law class, is the chief legal correspondent at MSNBC; Quinton Lucas, who was a year above me, is now the mayor of Kansas City, Missouri.

Professionally, it was absolutely the right move for me, but it was challenging. I was the only openly Orthodox student in my class. I was single. There were Israel-related flare-ups on campus that I was drawn into. The Orthodox Jewish community was small and did not have anything remotely resembling the infrastructure that I had grown accustomed to in YU.  It’s not for everyone and not a step to take lightly.

 

What is the most satisfying work you do as a lawyer?

I enjoy helping people, being trusted and being creative. Being a lawyer allows me to do all these things. I have been fortunate to work with clients and colleagues who seek to accomplish remarkable things, which often involve significant complexity and operational hurdles. My job is to help them navigate that complexity, overcome those hurdles and, ultimately, achieve their goals. It’s a demanding job, but one that can be deeply fulfilling, particularly if you work with people you respect and continually learn from, as I do.

 

Does your work at Revel influence what satisfies you as a lawyer?

Of course.  I took a demanding course load at Revel—I completed the master’s in a summer and two semesters. I had to work really hard to get everything—coursework, papers, comps—done, and done well, in such a short period of time.  I had to be diligent and, at times, push myself. That was good preparation for law school and a legal career, where success tends to come to those who work hard rather than those who are gifted.

On a substantive level, much of what I studied in Revel involved textual analysis and attention to detail—I recall a paper I did analyzing how the Crusade Chronicles’ author utilized Tanakhaic imagery and verbiage—and that type of study was good preparation for the type of work that I do as a lawyer.

 

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