Rabbi Becher in Korea

This past summer two PhD candidates at Bernard Revel Graduate School coordinated a lecture in Seoul for Korean educators and graduate students interested in Jewish studies. The lecture was initiated by Jeong Mun Heo, a current doctoral candidate in Jewish Philosophy at Revel and a native of South Korea.  With the diverse background of computer science, mathematics, and Christian theology, one of Jeong’s current interests is Jewish learning methodologies, such as the chavruta system, where partners study together. Since the Korean educational system has a significant focus on rote memory, Jeong wanted to share the more interactive chavruta system with his Korean colleagues. Rabbi Mordechai Becher, a fellow doctoral student at Revel whose dissertation focuses on the historical development of laws of prayer, agreed to deliver the lecture. Rabbi Becher, currently senior lecturer at Gateways Organization and instructor at Yeshiva University, has a rich and varied resume of Jewish education and outreach, and was also passing through South Korea as scholar in residence for a Jewish tour there this summer. On August 13, 2019, seven Korean educators and graduate students attended and enjoyed Rabbi Becher’s lecture about the educational philosophy and history of chavruta learning. Rabbi Becher remarked, “It was a wonderful opportunity for some cultural exchange, and to explain some key aspects of Judaism to an educated group who had very little access to traditional Jewish thought.”


Jackie, Moriah, Rebbetzin Smadar, Avigayil, and Rav Michael Rosensweig (from L – R)

Many institutions pride themselves on being not just a school but a family, a colloquial reference to the camaraderie and mutual support of their students and staff.

But the Bernard Revel Graduate School can profile an actual family of students studying together.

Rabbi Michael Rosensweig, renowned Talmudic scholar and Rosh Kollel of the Beren Kollel Elyon at Yeshiva University, holds the Nathan and Perel Schupf Chair in Talmud at RIETS. Rav Rosensweig, as he is respectfully called, also completed an MA and PhD in Medieval Jewish History at Revel. His doctoral thesis, “Debt collection in absentia : Halakhah in a mobile and commercial age,” was completed under the direction of Dr. Haym Soloveitchik.

Now, many of Rav Rosensweig’s children are pursuing degrees at Revel. Moriah Rosensweig Weiss, 31, completed her MA and is pursuing a PhD in Medieval Jewish History focused on the intellectual history of the Rishonim and the interface between Ashkenaz and Sefarad. She currently teaches as an adjunct Bible instructor at Stern College for Women, where her mother, Mrs. Smadar Rosensweig, serves as Clinical Assistant Professor of Bible. For Moriah, Revel was the best place to develop her interest in Jewish intellectual history and “to study the time period of the Rishonim..[and]..analyze their works of biblical and Talmudic exegesis.” Moriah is inspired by her parents’ dedication to teaching Torah and enjoys “discuss[ing] the ideas and sources” from Revel classes with her siblings.

Itamar Rosensweig, 30, also completed his MA in Medieval Jewish History at Revel and is now pursuing his PhD at the graduate school. He serves as scholar in residence at Englewood’s Congregation Ahavath Torah and gives a weekly shiur at RIETS. Avigdor (28) and Avigail (23) Rosensweig each completed their MA in Medieval Jewish Studies this year, and Avigail will be continuing in the Revel PhD program this fall.

Jackie Fast, 33, married to Ariel Rosensweig, is completing her PhD in Modern Jewish History at Revel. Jackie is writing about the social history of the Bais Yaakov movement in the inter-war period. Reflecting on her time at Revel, Jackie highlights “the caliber of its professors as scholars, teachers, and mentors, the religious environment, the impressive cadre of peers.” She also feels that  “being in a family with many current students… is wonderfully supportive.”

The broader Revel family is proud to have so many members of the Rosensweig family in its midst.




Jonathan GrossmanYeshiva University Press and Maggid/Koren Publishers recently announced the publication of Creation: The Story of Beginnings by internationally-renowned biblical scholar Rabbi Dr. Jonathan Grossman, an associate professor in the department of Bible at Bar-Ilan University.

In the book, Dr. Grossman uncovers new meaning in the first eleven chapters of Genesis through a creative analysis that interweaves theology, psychology and philosophy with contemporary literary tools.

Creation book coverIn the book’s foreword, Dr. Mordechai Cohen, associate dean of the Bernard Revel Graduate School of Jewish Studies, praises the book as representing the best of modern Jewish scholarship, with literary-theological analysis that exemplifies what Rashi referred to as “the peshat [simple meaning] interpretations that newly emerge every day.”

Dr. Grossman’s book is a meaningful exploration that will have deep resonance for any curious reader interested in gaining a deeper understanding of Genesis.


Dr. Roger Ames of Peking University Unfolds the Complexities of Confucian Thought

by Michael Bettencourt for YUNews

Roger Ames (left) and Mordechai Cohen

Dr. Roger Ames (left) and Dr. Mordechai Cohen

The Chinese-Jewish Conversation” took an interesting turn on Tuesday, March 12, 2019, at an event held at the Israel Henry Beren Campus sponsored by the Bernard Revel Graduate School of Jewish Studies, the Katz School of Science and Health and the Provost’s Colloquium Initiative.

Dr. Roger Ames, a leading scholar of Confucian philosophy and the interpretations of classical texts from Peking University in China, delivered an invigorating lecture to over 100 attendees on Confucian role ethics and the multiple ways they differ from the worldview encompassed by Jewish and Christian theologies and Western philosophical principles.

In introducing Dr. Ames, Dr. Mordechai Cohen, professor of Bible, associate dean Bernard Revel School of Jewish Studies and divisional coordinator of academic Jewish studies, noted Yeshiva University’s longstanding tradition of “engaging the world around us through the rubric of Torah U-Madda [Jewish and general learning]” and emphasized the importance of “exploring the Chinese and Jewish traditions comparatively” as global networks and connections abound and the number of Chinese students at Yeshiva University expands.

Shun Shang Guan

Shun Shang Guan

Representing Yeshiva’s Chinese student union, Shun Shang Guan from Wuhan in China spoke of her experiences at the Katz School of Science and Health, where she is studying quantitative economics after having earned a bachelor‘s degree in statistics from Zhong Nan University of Economics and Law in China. She expressed gratitude for “the opportunity to study at Yeshiva University, America’s famous Jewish university,” where she is able to “engage in the educational benefits and social learning common to Jewish culture and pursue the American experience.”

In “A Challenge to the Ideology of Individualism,” Dr. Ames began by stripping away the Christian overlay that generations of missionaries had used to make the writings of Confucius feel familiar to a religious audience that believed in a single divinity located in a place called heaven and who exercised control over the fates of human beings.

The reason for deleting this veneer, said Dr. Ames, is so that we can come to the texts in all their strangeness and originality and understand them in their Confucian context.

For example, one major difference between the Christian and Confucian views of life concerns the idea of a deity: “A capital H ‘Heaven’ gives us a concept of God where, in the Chinese tradition, there is no notion of a transcendent God, which is a different way of being religious that is not familiar to us.”

Another example concerns the idea of “the way,” which in Chinese is dao. The Christian notion of this comes from John 14:6: “I am the Way, and the Truth, and the Life.” In Christian religiousness, the path to salvation is already laid out, and the individual is obliged to follow that path to its expected end.

Roger Ames speaking and gesturing“However, this is not Confucianism,” said Dr. Ames. In the Chinese tradition, “‘the way’ is not His way; ‘the way’ is the human way together. The human being extends the way, it’s not the way that extends the human being: dao is made in the walking, something in which the human being has to participate in extending for his or her own time and place.”

“Family” is one area where Western and Chinese traditions do overlap, but a major difference concerns the relationship between the family and the authority that establishes social order and governance. For Westerners, authority is grounded in laws derived from religious and secular principles external to the family, and the family follows these laws in carrying out the work of civilization.

For the Chinese, the social authority for achieving harmony through governance derives directly from family relations, from both the “cultural body” of the family, the repository of the values transmitted forward generation by generation—what Dr. Ames called “embodiment”—and the family’s physical bodies, whose interrelationships keep the cultural body whole and intact.

“Using family as the governing metaphor,” said Dr. Ames, “is really quite productive because it leads us, as one philosopher noted, to want to ‘family’ the world as the way to bring peace to our lives.”

“When we think of the concept of ‘person’ in this tradition,” continued Dr. Ames, “it’s holistic: the whole cosmos is in any one person, and we need the whole of the cosmos to explain one person. A human being is not a human being but a human ‘becoming’: a human is something that we do, a human is a process. The individuality of a person is not a starting point but an achievement, accomplished by virtue of the relationships cultivated with other people.”

Using linguistic terms, “Aristotle gave us a world of things, noun-centered. In the Chinese world, the idea of the gerund, that is to say, ‘human becoming,’ is fundamental. A human being is an event in history, a narrative. A human being is not something you can isolate and know; you have to know the narrative of where she comes from.”

Two women in the audience of the lecture by Dr. Roger AmesUnderstanding these texts on their own terms, then, leads to concepts about human individuality and the purpose of life that are quite different from those put forth through Judaism, Christianity and Western philosophy. Confucianism proposes an “atheistic religiousness, a family-centered religiousness, and you need a Chinese vocabulary to express it. We have to let this Confucian tradition have its own voice in order to appreciate the contribution it has to make to the modern world.”

What is that contribution? For Dr. Ames, the world in which we live is too often focused on winners and losers, on playing what he called “finite games.” The challenges presented by climate change are one example of humans playing finite games regarding resources and dominance.

To move toward playing “infinite games,” which are generative in nature and call for a continuous interplay of renewable resources, we need different concepts about what makes humans human and what constitutes a viable world order.

“Infinite games, which are the alternative to individualism, to winners and losers, is grounded in a relationally constituted gerundive concept of person,” he observed, “in achieving personal identity through embodiment, through living your roles and relationships. It’s not only through rationality that you find your way forward; we also need our feelings, we need our bodies, we need imagination, the ability to put yourself in somebody else’s position and figure out the best way to grow this relationship.”

Dr. Henry Huang

Dr. Henry Huang

The increasing number of Chinese attendees at events sponsored by the Chinese-Jewish Conversation at YU indicates that the time has come for this vision. Quite a number of Chinese attendees—alumni of Beijing University—were invited by Dr. Henry Huang, associate professor of accounting at the Sy Syms School of Business. Dr. Huang, who is also president of the Beijing University Alumni Association of Greater New York, encapsulated the rationale for the conversation: “Jewish and Chinese cultures share common core values like family and education, and there is no better place than YU to host such a dialogue to bring the two communities closer.”

For more Revel events, go to https://www.yu.edu/revel/events-calendar.

Group shot with Dr. Cohen and Dr. Ames

Dr. Mordechai Cohen, Ms. Shun Shang Guan and Dr. Roger Ames with students from the Katz School of Science and Health and Stern College for Women





Leonard Grunstein

The Times of Israel

The Blogs

March 19, 2019



The Ancient and Sordid History of the             Dual Loyalty Canard


The latest crop of anti-Semitic politicians seeking to make a name for themselves by deceitfully accusing Jews of having dual loyalties are relative neophytes, when it comes to invoking this canard. It is ancient in origin and has been discredited time and time again. History can help us better understand this unique phenomenon, which has plagued the Jewish people for millennia.

The Bible[i] describes what was likely the original effort cynically to contrive the dual loyalty or more generic disloyalty false narrative. It started with the very inception of Jewish people-hood in ancient Egypt. The Bible depicts a new king arose over Egypt, who knew not Joseph[ii]. He felt insecure in his position[iii], possibly because he was not a descendant of the prior king[iv]. He gathered together with his advisors, Balaam, Job and Jethro[v] , who were not Egyptians, to deal with the perceived threat of a powerful Jewish presence in Egypt[vi]. The meeting was not about fact-finding. As the Bible reports, they had a preconceived notion that the Jewish people were too numerous and strong[vii].

The Talmud[viii] comments their concern was actually about remaining in power. It goes on to describe how this fear was borne of projection. This makes most sense when viewed through the prism of how the new Pharaoh came to power in the first place. If he could seize power, then so could someone else and replace him. The object of the cabal of Pharaoh and his advisors was to contrive a shrewd plan to deal with the perceived threat to their remaining in power. They formulated the libel that if a war came, the Jews would join the enemy and fight against the Egyptians. They deceitfully advanced this fabricated excuse for their notorious program against the Jews.

Sound familiar? It should be, because it is the same false narrative being advanced today about Jews having allegiance to a foreign country or dual loyalty.


A similar theme is evoked in Megillat Esther[ix]. This time the perpetrators are King Achashverosh, a usurper of the Persian throne[x] and Haman, a non-Persian[xi], who is his notorious advisor and partner in crime. Achashverosh is insecure in his new position. As the Talmud[xii] explains, he sought approval from the elites he invited to his 180-day long party[xiii]. He even demanded his royal wife Vashti, a descendant of Nebuchadnezzar[xiv], appear unclothed on the last day of his subsequent 7-day gathering for the people[xv] to please his guests[xvi].

After disposing of Queen Vashti[xvii], Haman and Achashverosh hatched a scheme against the Jews. They invoked the ancient canard of disloyalty to target the Jewish people[xviii]. Haman described the Jews as a certain people, who are different and scattered and dispersed throughout the realm. He then slandered them, by accusing them of following their own laws and not the King’s. In substance, he falsely asserted the Jews were not loyal to the King and it was not worth tolerating them. His solution to the perceived threat was wholly to eliminate the Jews.

Whether characterized as outright disloyalty or dual loyalty the effect is the same; it is about identifying the Jews as enemies. The promoters of this false and notorious conspiracy theory typically have an agenda. Blaming the Jews and demonizing them serves their political needs. Stoking fear and hatred of an identifiable minority can help establish solidarity within a constituency. The modus operandi is all too familiar. The pattern of branding someone else as an enemy can also divert attention away from any personal character deficiencies or similar disabilities.

It is likely the motivation for promoting this egregious canard today is no different. Like the Biblical headline of yore, the new one could just as well be, newly ennobled and insecure political actors seek validation by attacking others. It’s calculating and contrived; but it’s also reckless. The effect is only temporary, because hatred is a vile and poisonous emotion, which eats away at the souls of those involved. Historically, it eventually causes their own self-destruction, in the orgy of hatred they engendered. The real question is how many innocent people are negatively affected in the process. It’s why we have to act to prevent harm to others.

I am a child of Morris Grunstein, of blessed memory, a Holocaust survivor of Auschwitz and Ida Grunstein, a victim of the Soviet labor camps of Siberia, where her father perished for the crime of wanting to remain Jewish. I am sensitized to the fact that there is no right or left that is blameless, when it comes to anti-Semitism. Members of both the left and right have used the tools of anti-Semitism and self-proclaimed victimhood, in furtherance of their nefarious goals and programs.

There was the delusional Austrian, Hitler, may his name and memory be blotted out, who also invoked the ancient disloyalty canard. Never mind that Jews loyally served in the German army in World War I. Indeed as loyal citizens of the many countries at war with each other in World War I, they often fought against each other, too. Hitler, though, managed to unify the German people, in no small measure, by falsely labeling the Jews as disloyal and demonizing them as the enemy of the people. This enabled him, as the aggressor, to play the victim. Thus, he proclaimed the German people were the victims of the Allies and the Versailles Treaty, as well as, the Jews. He also managed to deflect attention away from himself, as an Austrian, who despite failing at most things in life became the Fuhrer of Germany. He and his cohorts were the masters of the modern big lie, invoking all sorts of conspiracy theories and fantasies about Jewish power to justify causing World War II and perpetrating the Holocaust.

Stalin, the notorious communist Premier of the Russian Soviet Empire, was also no stranger to anti-Semitism. As a Georgian by birth, he was not readily accepted by polite Russian society. Is it any wonder that he saw conspiracies everywhere? Why not single out the Jews to villainize, as the enemy, to deflect attention from himself? Almost to his last breath, he sought to brand Jewish doctors in the Soviet Union as disloyal and enemies of the state. This was to be the prelude to his new anti-Semitic campaign. Fortunately, he died before he could actually set his plan in motion. However, when leftists like the UK’s Corbyn continue to spout their deceitful hate of Jews, is it any wonder that we feel unease at the specter of renewed anti-Semitism in our wonderful United States of America?

The Talmud[xix] analyzes the problem of projection and concludes that anyone who habitually claims others are flawed should themselves be examined, because they likely posses those same flaws. This is a powerful critique of those who regularly accuse others of disloyalty or dual loyalty. Consider the misplaced focus on the legitimate domestic lobbying efforts of proponents of a strong US-Israel relationship. Is this perhaps an effort to divert attention from the outsized role of foreign money from the Gulf States[xx] and identification with terrorist linked groups[xxi]?

Given this historical perspective and my own family’s real life experiences, I can’t help but react soberly and skeptically when it comes to anti-Semitism and those who express this ancient anti-Semitic canard. They have plagued the Jewish people since ancient times and the memories of the more recent outbursts of hate and destruction, as relayed to me by my parents, are still vivid. The cry of ‘Never Again’ reverberates in my brain. We can’t sit back complacently and just let it happen again; not here; not now; not anywhere or anytime.

It is why I believe it is disingenuous, cavalierly to explain away this destructive and contemptible false narrative as somehow expressed out of ignorance. Perhaps some might have innocently misspoken. But if that were so for others, then why would they promote it publically, again and again, and publicize it so thoroughly on social media? Why defend it when questioned?

The reaction of some is to treat the accusation as if it were a rational one. However, it is most assuredly not. Efforts to explain, educate and discuss are misplaced; they often only embolden the perpetuators of the canard. This is because the entire issue is cunningly contrived just to generate this kind of a response. It is designed to enable the victimizer falsely to claim the status of a victim, because of his or her inability to respond coherently to any factual, logical and irrefutable defense. In essence, the vigorousness of the defense is used to support the very conspiracy theory he or she is falsely promoting in the first place.

We can’t afford to be naïve; we have our children and grandchildren to think about. It is reckless to ignore the connivance the Bible warned about in its introduction to its report of this canard. It uses the expression ‘Havei NisChachma Lo’, which is loosely translated as, lets deal shrewdly with them. Should we expect any less of the Jew haters of today? Don’t be taken in by the appearance of youth and inexperience. It’s an act designed to mislead and obfuscate the malicious and callous intent hidden in the evil heart of those promoting this libelous slander against Jews.

As we approach the Jewish Holidays of Purim and Pesach, we should be mindful of how we faced similar challenges to our existence in the past. We are grateful that G-d saved us then, with hidden miracles in the case of Purim and overt ones in the case of Passover. It’s, thus, also a fortuitous time to pray for G-d’s grace and aid in resolving this new present crisis of anti-Semitism, here in the US and elsewhere. However, G-d also wants us to do what we can to help ourselves, too. Calling it out for what it is, just plain despicable anti-Semitism, is something; but it’s not enough. We must vote for and support candidates who recognize anti-Semitism is unequivocally wrong and should not have a home in the USA. This doesn’t mean that we don’t disdain any form of hate. Let me be clear; hate has no home in the USA. May we all be blessed to live in a world at peace, where there is no longer any threat of anti-Semitism.



[i] Exodus 1:9-10.

[ii] Exodus 1:8.

[iii] Exodus Rabbah 1:8.

[iv] Ibn Ezra commentary on Exodus 1:8.

[v] Babylonian Talmud, Tractate Sota, at page 11a.

[vi] Exodus 1:7.

[vii] Exodus 1:9.

[viii] Ibid.

[ix] Megillat Esther 3:8.

[x] Babylonian Talmud, Tractate Megillah, at page 11a.

[xi] As noted in Megillat Esther 3:1, Haman was a descendant of Agag, who was an Amalakite. See also Pesikta Rabbati 13:1.

[xii] Babylonian Talmud, Tractate Megillah, at page 12a.

[xiii] Megillat Esther 1:3-4.

[xiv] Babylonian Talmud, Tractate Megillah, at page 10b and Esther Rabbah, Petichta 12.

[xv] Megillat Esther 1:5-11.

[xvi] Babylonian Talmud, Tractate Megillah, at page 12b and Esther Rabbah 3:13.

[xvii] Megillat Esther 1:16-19. See also Babylonian Talmud, Tractate Megillah, at page 12b, which identifies Memuchan as Haman.

[xviii] Babylonian Talmud, Tractate Megillah, at page 13b.

[xix] Babylonian Talmud, Tractate Kiddushin, at pages 70a-b.

[xx] See What about ‘the Benjamins’ coming from the Gulf States?, by Barabara Boland, dated 3/13/19, in the Spectator.

[xxi] See Ilhan Omar to Speak at Banquet for Group Known for Terrorist Group Support, by Ilanit Chernick, dated 2/19/19, in the Jerusalem Post. See also Ilhan Omar to Speak Alongside Man Who Praised Killing Jews, Report Says, by Ryan Saavedra, dated 2/11/19, in the Daily Caller and CAMERA Op-Ed: Stop Whitewashing Ilhan Omar’s Antisemitism, by Sean Durns, dated February 18, 2019.




About the Author

Leonard Grunstein, a retired attorney and banker, founded and served as Chairman of Metropolitan National Bank and then Israel Discount Bank of NY. He also founded Project Ezrah and serves on the Board of Revel at Yeshiva University and the AIPAC National Council. He has published articles in the Banking Law Journal, Real Estate Finance Journal and other fine publications.