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Straus Scholars: Making an Impact Outside the Classroom

As we conclude the spring semester and look ahead to the summer months, Straus Scholars at Yeshiva University continue to make an impact in the fields of political science, law, philosophy and Jewish studies. With the support of the Straus Center for Torah and Western Thought, in partnership with the Paul Singer Foundation, Straus Scholars are pursuing prestigious professional and academic opportunities, gaining invaluable knowledge in policy, research and legal fields while raising the profile of Yeshiva University.

Michael Weiner, who graduated this spring, completed a double major in political science and Jewish studies. Over the course of the spring semester, Weiner conducted research with Dr. Mike Doran of the Hudson Institute examining the theological roots of American foreign policy and 19th-century inter-Christian debates that shaped America’s international engagement and global leadership.

“I am so grateful for my academic experiences at the Straus Center over my years at Yeshiva University,” said Weiner. “Much of my academic work at the Straus Center had been focused on discovering the place of religious ideas in political institutions and behavior, and it was a privilege to experience the multidisciplinary academic study and faculty mentorship that the Straus Center provided. I look forward to applying this distinctive training to my future career.” This summer, he will be participating in the Tikvah Fund’s Summer Fellowship as a researcher for Elliott Abrams, the senior fellow for Middle Eastern studies at the Council on Foreign Relations.

Like Wiener, Eliana Wagner is pursuing a degree in political science as a Straus Scholar. During the spring semester, she clerked for Judge Rachel “Ruchie” Freier, the first female Hasidic district judge. As a clerk, Wagner got an in-depth view of the American legal system, developing an understanding of courtroom proceedings and gaining greater comfort inside the courthouse.

Over the course of the semester, she participated in legal research, wrote court documents and sat in on active cases. She also helped Judge Freier create a syllabus for an upcoming course in American history and constitutional law. “This internship enabled me to learn more about the American legal system and have a greater understanding of American history,” Wagner explained. “I feel that the knowledge I have gained as a Straus Scholar made me a stronger employee and allowed me to enter this job with a greater wealth of knowledge and skills.” This summer, Ms. Wagner will be preparing to take the LSAT.

Natan Ehrenreich Natan Ehrenreich

Natan Ehrenreich is also a political science major. This year, he reconstituted the American Enterprise Institute’s (AEI) Executive Council at YU, and he is a member of the Tikvah Fund’s Collegiate Forum. This summer, Mr. Ehrenreich will be participating in the Heritage Foundation’s Summer Academy. The 10-week program features sessions with experts in public policy, seminars in political theory and American history, and meetings with high-profile figures in American politics.

“I am excited to engage in cohort meetings with other summer fellows who have similar interests and aspirations,” said Mr. Enhrenreich. “Ultimately, my participation will allow me to advocate for issues that are central to the Straus Center’s mission: the role of religion in the public sphere, the importance of classical education and the vision of America as a nation under God. I hope to develop my own knowledge and skills in what will be an important stepping stone in my professional development.”

Benjy Gottesman Benjy Gottesman

Straus Scholars Benjy Gottesman and Penina Spearman will both be participating in research internships at the Kohelet Policy Forum in the summer months.

Gottesman, a political science and history major, will build his research skills in preparation for writing his Straus senior thesis. He also looks forward to gaining knowledge in Israeli policy and government, further enhancing his academic experiences. “The most meaningful experience I have had thus far at the Straus Center was this past semester’s Straus course, Zionist Political Thought: Arguing Zionism, with Rabbi Dr. Meir Soloveichik, Prof. Neil Rogachevsky, and Prof. Liel Leibovitz,” Gottesman explained. “I believe that it is time to bring theory to practice. If I am to grow into a role of Jewish leadership, I need to see and contribute to the inner workings of Israeli policy. I look forward to bringing my newfound knowledge and experience back to the Straus Center next semester, bridging the gap between Zionist thought and action.”

Penina Spearman Penina Spearman

Spearman, a philosophy major, is similarly excited to embark on her internship at Kohelet. An active member of several campus groups (including the AEI Executive Council, the Alexander Hamilton Society - YU Chapter and the Special Committee for Uyghur Activism), Spearman has a deep interest in public policy and foreign relations.

At Kohelet, Spearman plans to research Israel’s parliamentary system as it compares to America’s constitutional and federalist system. “My research at Kohelet goes hand-in-hand with my academic pursuits at the Straus Center, where I enjoy studying government in Western countries and how liberal societies protect religious freedoms and individual rights,” Spearman explained. “I’m greatly looking forward to expanding my intellectual horizons through my internship at the Kohelet Policy Forum.”

As a fellow at the Jewish Federation for the Education of Women, Spearman is also receiving a generous stipend to support her research and her educational and professional goals.

Heading into the 2021-2022 school year, the Straus Center will continue to mentor and support the Straus Scholars through the Straus Impact Office in a wide range of fields, enabling the Scholars to pursue impactful professional experiences that further the mandate and mission of the Straus Center. We greatly look forward to welcoming a new cohort of Straus Scholars in the fall.

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