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YU’s 92nd Hanukkah Dinner and Convocation

Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat Delivers Keynote Address; Joseph Appleman, Gitta Nagel, and Joshua L. Muss Honored

The Honorable Nir Barkat, mayor of Jerusalem, received an honorary degree and delivered the keynote address at Yeshiva University’s 92nd Hanukkah Dinner and Convocation on Sunday, December 11, 2016, at the Waldorf Astoria in New York City.

Barkat has served as mayor of Jerusalem since 2008, transforming Israel’s capital into an international leader in business, culture, and innovation.

In his introduction of Barkat, President Richard M. Joel lauded the mayor for his business skills and his commitment to public service as well as his success in creating a Jerusalem of peace, safety and wholeness. “With the eclectic variety that the population of Jerusalem maintains, you’ve elegantly shown that unity without uniformity is possible to achieve. You share and model the attributes of commitment to the Jewish people, professional acumen and determination, centrality of family and profound public service.”

In his keynote address, Barkat spoke movingly about his deep personal connection to Jerusalem and his determination to do his best to enable the city to fulfill its highest potential. He cited how the city has spawned hundreds of business start-ups, multiplied the number of cultural events, elevated educational achievement at all levels and fostered an ethic of innovation and confidence. “I am so proud and so optimistic. When you walk our streets—where kings and prophets walked thousands of years ago—you see the diverse people of our city living together, thriving together, in our restaurants and theaters, in our hospitals and universities. You understand that Jerusalem is fulfilling its role in the world more and more.”

At the convocation, President Joel also conferred honorary degrees upon Joseph Appleman, Gitta Nagel and Joshua L. Muss.

Attorney Joseph Appleman graduated from the Marsha Stern Talmudical Academy/Yeshiva University High School for Boys (YUHSB) in 1943 and Yeshiva College in 1947. He received his LLB from New York Law School in 1960. As a proud alumnus, he served as president of the Yeshiva College Alumni Association, and he is currently an honorary member of the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law Board of Overseers.

Gitta Nagel is a community leader admired for her devotion to Jewish education, Holocaust remembrance, and the State of Israel. Together with her husband Jack Nagel, chairman of Decron Properties and member of the Yeshiva University Board of Trustees, the Nagels have been active and generous donors to many organizations, including Shaare Zedek Medical Center, United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, YULA High Schools, Bar-Ilan University, Israel Bonds, the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles and YU where they created the Nagel Family Atrium and Student Commons and the Nagel Scholarship Program for California students. Gitta received an honorary doctorate degree from Bar-Ilan University in 2001.

Joshua L. Muss—who serves as principal of Muss Development, a family company founded by his grandfather, Isaac, in 1906—has a rich history with YU. He graduated from YUHSB in 1958, Yeshiva College in 1962 and Harvard Law School in 1965. Muss continues his relationship with the University by serving on the YU Board of Trustees, Yeshiva College Board of Overseers, YU Executive Committee and YU Recruitment and Admissions Committee, and he chairs the YU Real Estate Committee. He and his wife, Harriet, are YU benefactors whose contributions support the Rabbi Hyman Muss Torah Learning Center and Beit Midrash Complex, Yeshiva College and YU as a whole.

During the dinner portion, President Joel recognized eight Points of Light—students, faculty and alumni who exemplify the mission of the University—calling each one up to light a symbolic candle on the menorah. President Joel said that he was proud to honor these “exemplars of Yeshiva University, who dream dreams and awaken the world with their commitment.”

The first point of light celebrated the centennial of YUHSB with a dual presentation of Ira Bernstein, the high school’s oldest known living alumnus (having graduated in 1930) and Meir Uretsky, a current student and an exemplar of a modern YUHSB education. These bookend-students, one the patriarch of a family which has attended YU for decades, and the other enrolled in multiple AP honors courses as well as a member of the baseball and hockey teams, highlighted the rich heritage of the school as it enters its second century.

Leslie Newman, professor of law at Cardozo, heads up the legal writing program, which inculcates in students an understanding of the importance of language in the law and in creating understanding between contending parties. Her efforts have been so effective that the Wexner Program at the Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary (RIETS) turned to her to help train top rabbinical students to enhance their capacity to address congregants, public officials and society at large.

Noam Safier, a senior at Yeshiva College majoring in psychology, is deeply involved in student life. An abbreviated list of his accomplishments includes the presidency of Yeshiva Student Union, a member of the advisory board for Bnei Akiva, a former policy intern in the Office of the CEO for the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, the logistics coordinator for the Yeshiva University Political Action Committee and a student ambassador for the recent #IAmYU Day of Giving.

Dr. Harris Goldstein, associate dean for scientific resources at Albert Einstein College of Medicine, combines a stellar career as a researcher, teacher and lecturer on infectious diseases, immunology and AIDS with a strong devotion to his Jewish faith. He is a graduate of MTA, Yeshiva College and Einstein and his children have attended YU.

Tiffany Rodriguez, a student at Ferkauf Graduate School of Psychology, and Dr. William Salton, associate clinical professor of psychology and clinical director of the Parnes Clinic at Ferkauf, have worked together on the Asylum Program, which combines therapeutic counseling with assistance in preparing court affidavits for refugees seeking political asylum in the United States. The Asylum Program also partners with Cardozo and Physicians for Human Rights, an international humanitarian organization. So far, all the refugees whose cases have gone to court have received asylum.

Rabbi Dan Cohen of RIETS is known for the work he has done with the Sephardic community. Originally from Afghanistan, he is currently serving as the Edmond J. Safra Sgan Mashgiach [mentor and counselor] for the Sephardic community. He received semicha [ordination] from RIETS and is working towards a masters in Jewish education from Azrieli Graduate School of Jewish Education and Administration. He also teaches in the Isaac Breuer College at YU and is taking part in the inaugural cohort of the RIETS–Ferkauf graduate program in mental health counseling.

Tzivya Beck, a senior at Stern College for Women, is majoring in political science and minoring in business. She is a member of the S. Daniel Abraham Honors Program, a resident advisor, a fellow at the Zionist Organization of America, president of three organizations (the J. Dunner Political Science Society, YU Israel Club and Jacob Hecht Pre-Law Society), editor and writer at the YU Political Science Journal, board member of the College Democrats and the YU Social Justice Society, a teacher for the Jewish Youth Connection, a research assistant for Shalom Hartman Institute in Israel, and a judicial intern for The Honorable Judge David Cohen. Beck participated in the YU flood relief mission in Baton Rouge, numerous Torah Tours, the Frontiers in Contemporary American Law seminar, the Zahava and Moshael Straus Center for Torah and Western Thought Seminar Series, and the Straus Center Undergraduate Fellowship on Faith & Reason. She also received first place in the 2016 Langfan Oratory Competition and the 2016 Moot Beit Din (Jewish law debate competition), and was a member of the debate team.

Manny Dahari is a senior at Sy Syms School of Business, majoring in marketing and minoring in political science. Born in Yemen, he came to the United States and attended many different schools and yeshivas before deciding to come to YU. During his second semester, he dedicated himself to freeing his family from Yemen, which had begun its descent into war. He became involved with the Jewish Agency, an Israeli organization that specializes in helping Middle-Eastern Jews immigrate to Israel. After 14 months of hard work and ten years of separation, Dahari’s entire immediate family finally left Yemen for Israel, bringing with them a Torah scroll that they have had in the family for over 600 years.

Close to $4 million was raised at the dinner and convocation, which serves as the University’s main annual fundraising event.