Hundreds of students from Yeshiva University’s undergraduate schools were presented with their degrees at YU’s 82nd Commencement exercises, held at the IZOD Center in East Rutherford, NJ on May 30. Excitement for the future was in the air as students and their families hugged and snapped pictures, but a shared sense of purpose and empowerment was also an essential theme of the day’s celebration.
“Your experience at Yeshiva has been exciting, varied, formative, and informative in magnificent ways,” YU President Richard M. Joel told the new graduates. “But as you look back now, realize that you’ve done something else—you’ve lit a candle. You’ve spun your own unique wicks from a variety of threads, ancient and modern all bound up in one, one informing the other, and both ignited by your drive to matter in the world and to make a difference.”
In his keynote address to the Class of 2013, Rabbi Joshua Fass—an alumnus of YU’s Yeshiva College, Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary, and Azrieli Graduate School for Jewish Education and Administration—reflected on the way his own YU education had equipped him to pursue his difficult but world-changing vision as cofounder and executive director of Nefesh B’Nefesh, an organization that has helped more than 36,000 Western olim actualize their dream of settling in Israel.
“Heroically and astonishingly, YU transmits a unique and noble approach, a derech hachayim [way of life], a mesorah [tradition] that resonates this extraordinary synergy,” he said. “We have been taught to open our eyes and see the myriad number of concerns that need to be addressed and repaired in our community and beyond, to have the fortitude and courage to make those changes, while being grounded securely in Torah and halacha.”
Urging the new alumni to remain engaged and active as members of the Jewish community and staunch advocates of the State of Israel, Fass added, “As YU graduates, you are uniquely positioned to make a difference—you have the talent, conviction, passion, and ideological drive to script the future story of our people.”
President Joel conferred an honorary degree upon Fass, as well as on Tony B. Gelbart, cofounder and chairman of Nefesh B’Nefesh and a serial entrepreneur who serves as a member of the national board of directors and adviser to the president of the Jewish National Fund; businessman and philanthropist Abraham Naymark, whose contributions to YU include the establishment of the Naymark Scholarship Fund at the Sy Syms School of Business; and Merryl H. Tisch, chancellor of the New York State Board of Regents and chairwoman of the Metropolitan Council on Jewish Poverty.
Meirah Shedlo, valedictorian of Stern College for Women, noted in her remarks to her classmates, “As we, the Class of 2013, depart from the house of learning that is Yeshiva University, we have been charged with the mission of using our personal development in service of our communities. At YU, we’ve had the opportunity to gain a stellar education and achieve a high level of accomplishment in our respective fields. Now we’re all starting on new paths that will build upon the ideas, challenges, and triumphs we have encountered here.”
YU alumnus Dr. Mark Skier flew in from Milwaukee, WI to watch his son Rafi graduate Yeshiva College. “I’ve been a member of the YU family for a long time and when the time came to send our kids to college, we didn’t look anywhere else,” he said. “Where else could my son earn a world-respected education in a top-level academic environment, surrounded by other religious Jews, minyanim, and Torah learning? I’m excited for the opportunities and mentorship he’s had here, and I know they could only have happened at YU.”
The reunion classes of 1963, 1973, and 1988 were recognized at the graduation ceremony for their 50th, 40th, and 25th reunions, while in all, more than 1,400 undergraduate students from Yeshiva College, Stern College for Women, and Sy Syms School of Business, as well as graduate students in the fields of law, medicine, social work, education, Jewish studies, and psychology, were awarded degrees from YU during its commencement season. v