• Hanukkah Dinner and Convocation

  • Honorees

    Yeshiva University’s annual Hanukkah Dinner and Convocation, a cherished University tradition, will be held on Sunday, December 13, 2015.

    Each year, we confer honorary degrees on outstanding members from the University community and beyond who have demonstrated committed leadership and dedication to education.

  • Benjamin S. Chouake, M.D., Honorary Degree Recipient

    Ben Chouake Dr. Ben Chouake, of Englewood, NJ, first became involved with Yeshiva University when his son, Jason ’07YC, attended the university. 

     Dr. Chouake is no stranger to supporting causes that do significant work to advance the Jewish community. As the national president of NORPAC, the nation's largest pro-Israel political action committee, Dr. Chouake works to promote US-Israel relations in the U.S. political realm. His involvement in the leadership of YU started with membership as a Yeshiva College Board Member in 2003 and he has been a Bernard Revel Graduate School of Jewish Studies Board member since 2008.  

    Chouake’s penchant to get involved rather than sit idly by stems from his personal family history. His mother, Pepe ז״ל, survived the Holocaust and his father, Abe ז״ל, while born in America, hailed from a family that fled the persecution of Syrian Jews in Aleppo. Chouake said that his parents’ stories of survival left a deep impression on him.  

     Chouake grew up in Little Neck, NY and graduated college from SUNY at Buffalo. He attended medical school at SUNY Downstate and is currently a double board-certified physician in both Internal and Emergency Medicine. In 1983, he founded Cliffside Medical, a 10-physician multi-specialty practice, and was one of the pioneers of the Paramedic EMS system in New Jersey. Dr. Chouake founded and directed the Advanced Cardiac Life Support Teaching Agencies at Englewood Hospital and Pascack Valley Hospital. He has served as the Police Surgeon in Cliffside Park for 30 years and is on the staff of Englewood and Holy Name Hospitals. He received the Bergen County Volunteer of the Year Award in 2007 and the Brandies Award in 2003 from the ZOA.  

     He and his wife, Esther, established the Esther and Ben Chouake Scholarship at Yeshiva College in 2003. In addition to his roles at YU and NORPAC, Dr. Chouake also sits on the boards of Touro College, New York Medical College, the Orthodox Union, Frisch Yeshiva High School, and the Rosenbaum Yeshiva of North Jersey, as Vice President of the Zionist Organization of America, and as the Secretary of the American Jewish Congress. He is also appointed to the National Council of AIPAC

    Norman Sternthal, Honorary Degree Recipient

    Norman SternthalNorman Sternthal, an active member of Montreal’s Jewish community, is co-founder of Groupe Fairway, a real estate and development firm located in Montreal. His wife, Johanne, is a renowned theatrical producer, author and philanthropist. 

    Sternthal’s father, Joel Sternthal, a”h, was President of the Canadian Mizrachi. Through his work with the late Rabbi Pinkhos Churgin, former dean of Jewish Studies at YU, Joel Sternthal was one of the founders of Bar-Ilan University. In 1966, he helped found the first Jewish high school in Montreal, which became known as the Hebrew Academy. In the early years of Canadian Friends of YU, Joel Sternthal and his wife, Sarah, a”h, were among its foremost supporters, with Joel’s business office in downtown Montreal eventually becoming the official address of Canadian friends of YU.

    Sternthal graduated from Adath Israel Academy and attended Bar-Ilan University. He currently serves as a member of the Bar-Ilan University’s Board of Trustees and its Canadian Board of Directors.  Bar-Ilan University awarded Mr. Sternthal and his wife honorary doctorate degrees in 2010 and 2014, respectively and the couple was honored at the Canadian Friends of Bar Ilan’s 50th Anniversary Dinner in 2006.

    The couple established the Johanne and Norman Sternthal Foundation to support Jewish agencies, human services and education. The Sternthals are known contributors to the Combined Jewish Appeal, Hebrew Academy, Beth Jacob D'Rav Hirschprung, Ner L’Elisheva and Yeshivot Hesder. They also established the Johanne and Norman Sternthal Wing at the Center for Cognitive Rehabilitation at the International Center for the Enhancement of Learning Potential in Jerusalem, Israel.

    Sternthal serves as a member of the Yeshiva College Board of Overseers and Director of the Canadian Friends of Yeshiva University. He established the Joel and Sarah Sternthal Rabbinic Fellowship and was recognized at a dinner in Montreal in 2009.

    The Sternthals also support the Yadin Yadin Program at RIETS in honor of Dr. Norman Lamm.  Each year, RIETS hosts the Chief Rabbi Pinchas and Rebbetzin Alta Chaya Hirschprung z”l and Joel and Sarah Sternthal z”l Memorial Lecture.  They recently made a new Benefactor-level gift to RIETS to support a special training initiative for pulpit rabbis known as The Norman and Johanne Sternthal Halakhah L’Maaseh Program.

    Mark Wilf, Honorary Degree Recipient

    Mark WilfFor Mark Wilf, 53, supporting Yeshiva University is not just a personal cause but a family legacy. As the son of Joseph and Elizabeth (known as Suzie) Wilf, and the nephew of Harry Wilf, z”l and Judith Wilf z”l—who together first made a generous gift of scholarships to YU in 1990, Mark was born and raised in one of YU’s “first families,” a birthright to which he and his wife, Jane, have proudly adhered and instilled in their four children.

    Mark grew up in New Jersey and attended Princeton University, where he served as the radio voice of Princeton Tigers football and basketball. He received a B.S.E. in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science in 1984. He graduated from the NYU School of Law in 1987. In 1990, he married Jane Frieder. Currently, Mark serves as a principal of Garden Homes Development, a family-owned real estate business founded by Joseph and Harry in 1954. Today, Garden Homes is one of the largest residential and commercial developers and owners in the country. Mark and his brother, Zygmunt (Zygi), serve on Yeshiva University’s Board of Trustees. Mark is eager to help contribute to a new period in YU’s growth and vitality.

    Mark and Jane live in Livingston, NJ, and have four children: Steven, Daniel, Rachel and Andrew. Mark and Jane support a variety of other Jewish and general causes, including the Jewish Federations of North America, where Mark served as National Campaign Chair and where he currently serves as Chair of the Federations’ initiative to raise funds and assess needs of Holocaust survivors throughout the U.S.; Princeton University; and United Way. Mark sits on the board of several organizations, including the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee; United Israel Appeal; Hillel International; Jewish Federation of Greater Metrowest New Jersey; the Golda Och Academy (which their children attended); the Anti-Defamation League; and the NYU School of Law.

    In addition, the Wilf Family Foundation supports Holocaust-related affiliations such as Yad Vashem and the March of the Living, North America, as well as numerous cultural, educational and social endeavors, including Israel Bonds and the Jewish Educational Center of Elizabeth, NJ.

    A lifelong sports fan, Mark also serves as a co-owner and president of the Minnesota Vikings football team, and, under his leadership, helped positively transform the team. Most recently, he led two of the most significant initiatives in the team’s history to develop its new state-of-the-art stadium (expected to open for the 2016 season) and to bring Super Bowl LII to Minnesota in 2018. Though it might not seem immediately obvious to lay people, Mark can easily point to the parallels in professional football and Yeshiva University. 

  • Rabbi Dr. Herbert C. Dobrinsky - Presidential Medallion Recipient

    Dr. Dobrinsky

    Born in Montreal, Rabbi Dr. Herbert C. Dobrinsky came to New York City in 1948 to attend the third year of high school at the Yeshiva University High School for Boys/Marsha Stern Talmudical Academy. He graduated from Yeshiva College in 1954 and was ordained at the Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary (RIETS) in 1957. Dr. Dobrinsky also holds a master’s degree from YU’s Graduate School of Education in 1959 and a doctoral degree in education in 1980 from the University’s Ferkauf Graduate School of Psychology.

    Following five years as a rabbi at Beth Israel Synagogue in Halifax, Nova Scotia, and as the B’nai B’rith Hillel counselor at Dalhousie University, Dr. Dobrinsky joined Yeshiva University in 1962 first as assistant director and then as associate director of the Max Stern Division of Communal Service at RIETS. At RIETS, he was also director of Rabbinic Placement from 1964 to 1973, where he placed 400 rabbis in pulpits. He served as YU’s liaison to the Metropolitan NY Commission on Talmud Torah Education of the Board of Jewish Education of New York. He played a key role in establishing the B’nai Hillel Honor Society and Camp Morasha. In 1973, he was named executive assistant to Dr. Samuel Belkin, president of YU and later to Dr. Norman Lamm, YU’s third president, who named him Vice President for University Affairs of Yeshiva University in 1981. He serves as Vice President for University Affairs under President Richard M. Joel since his election. In 1978, he initiated the University’s Planned Giving Program and a large committee. He was certified by the Kennedy Sinclair Inc., as having completed their Planned Giving Training Program.

    Dr. Dobrinsky’s outstanding achievements as a scholar, educator, administrator and communal leader was highlighted as co-founder of the Sephardic Studies Program and the Sephardic Community Activities Program in 1964 with Dr. Samuel Belkin, Z”l and the late Haham, Rabbi Dr. Solomon Gaon Z”l and Sophie and Ivan Salomon, Z”l, Co-Founders of our Sephardic Studies Programs. Both programs were aimed at preserving the rich Sephardic Jewish heritage of North America. He also established the Maxwell R. Maybaum Memorial Chair in Talmud and Sephardic Codes (Halakhah) at RIETS and the professorial Chair in Sephardic Studies at the Jacob E. Safra Institute of Sephardic Studies. In 1966, he published the first edition of The American Sephardi, a journal for the Sephardic Studies Program of Yeshiva University. In the 1980s, Dr. Dobrinsky established the Sephardic Council of Overseers, whose members represent the leadership of all segments of Sephardic and Middle Eastern Jewry. He was co-founder of the American Society of Sephardic Studies and served as vice president of programming for the society. He is the author of the widely acclaimed 575 page volume entitled A Treasury of Sephardic Laws and Customs, now in its third revised edition, as well as its 145 page Teacher’s Guide. The jubilee anniversary edition of YU’s Sephardic Newsletter appeared this year. He has published scholarly articles in Journals on Sephardic Jewry. In 1975, another major program Dr. Dobrinsky founded was the Annual Interdisciplinary Conference on Bereavement and Grief and he secured funding from the Jewish Funeral Directors of America. It functioned for 20 years under the auspices of the Wurzweiler School of Social Work and was attended by thousands of professionals.

    The establishment of the University’s Holocaust Studies Program, and the Eli and Diana Zborowski Chair in Interdisciplinary Holocaust Studies, the world’s first endowed Holocaust Studies Chair was due to Dr. Dobrinsky’s hard work. In 1982 he invited David J. Azrieli to name the University’s Gradu­ate School of Jewish Education and Administration and together with President Joel encouraged him to provide ongoing significant support for the school from the Azrieli Foundation. He also secured hundreds of scholarships throughout the United States, Canada and abroad for all of YU’s high schools, undergraduate and graduate schools. He established the Bora Laskin Scholarship Fund in memory of Canada’s 14th chief justice.

    Dr. Dobrinsky has been honored several times within the University and RIETS. In 2010, he received the prestigious Harav Yosef Dov HaLevi Soloveitchik Zt”l Aluf Torah Award at the RIETS Chag HaSemikha ceremony. This was the highest honor he has been given, until then received by only three other prominent rabbis.

    During his 53 years of service to the University, Dr. Dobrinsky has traveled and lectured throughout the United States, Canada, Central America, England and Israel. He has played a major role in the establishment of 38 professorial chairs within YU, Einstein, Cardozo and RIETS. He organized five boards for YU schools and helped strengthen most of the other boards. For the last 40 years, he has served as YU’s liaison officer to the Canadian Jewish community and consultant to the Canadian Friends of Yeshiva University. He has visited more than 100 communities to gain firsthand insight into their needs.

    Dr. Dobrinsky and his wife, Dina, whom he recognizes as his full partner in all his achievements, live in Riverdale, NY. Married for 62 years, they have three children, 13 grandchildren and 12 great grandchildren. All of their children and most of their children-in-law and grandchildren are alumni of Yeshiva University schools. YU President Richard M. Joel is presenting him the Presidential Medallion at the Yeshiva University Hanukkah Dinner on December 13, 2015 at the Waldorf Astoria.



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