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.
YU President Richard M. Joel bestowed an honorary doctorate upon Brooks, calling him “a noble exemplar of what we hope our students will become,” and drew 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,” added President Joel. “Ultimately, the mandate of Yeshiva University boils down to this belief: our responsibility is to partner with G-d—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.”
At the convocation, Brooks called YU “a contrast with the world,” citing Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik’s work on the biblical representations of what he terms 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.
“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,” said Brooks. “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, 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.
In addition to the honorary degree recipients, President Joel bestowed the Presidential Medallion on Dr. Susan B. Horwitz 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.
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.
They included Nicole Schreiber-Agus, assistant professor of molecular genetics at Einstein and program director of YU’s Program for Jewish Genetic Health; Mark Weingarten, a Yeshiva College premed major who founded 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; Rebecca Yoshor, the first Stern College for Women student athlete to receive Academic All-America honors, which goes to students with an outstanding combination of scholastic and athletic achievements; and Adam Moisa, a freshman in the Business Honors and Entrepreneurial Leadership Program at Sy Syms School of Business whose startup, Cloudifyd, aggregates cloud storage services and renovates the way information is viewed and displayed.
Additional Points of Light were Shmuel Legesse, a doctoral candidate at YU’s Azrieli Graduate School for Jewish Education and Administration hoping 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 who 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; 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, who became an active volunteer spokesman for the New York Blood Center and a motivational speaker after surviving a horrific car accident; and Brittany Brown, an alumna of YU’s Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law, a Cardozo Immigration Justice Fellow at the Brooklyn Defender Services, and a member of the newly-formed New York Immigration Defenders Team.
The convocation and dinner, which serves as the university’s main annual fundraising event, raised more than $3.5 million. v