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Meet the Scholars

The Zahava and Moshael Straus Center for Torah and Western Thought

Cohort IV

Rebecca Aduculesi

Rebecca Aduculesi is from Teaneck, New Jersey. She graduated from Frisch, where she served as a member of the student council and spent four years playing on the volleyball team, eventually becoming captain during her senior year. Rebecca loves participating in chessed [charity] opportunities; she ran in the Jerusalem Marathon to raise money for Shalva and traveled to Charleston, South Carolina, on an NCSY mission to help build houses with Habitat for Humanity. After high school, Rebecca was privileged to learn at Sha’alvim for Women, where she studied halacha [Jewish law], Tanakh [Hebrew Bible], and machshava [Jewish thought]. Rebecca spent the past two summers working as sports staff and a counselor at Camp Morasha. She plans on majoring in biology but also enjoys studying English literature. Rebecca is excited to be a part of the Straus Center and expand her intellectual horizons.


Ayelet Brown

Ayelet Brown was born in Jerusalem, Israel, and moved to Silver Spring, Maryland, when she was one. There she learned the importance of community and leadership and used her energy and organizational skills to work with Friendship Circle and Chai Lifeline. In high school, she served on her shul youth board, was a Bnei Akiva madricha [youth counselor], and a member of a Jteen Philanthropy cohort, where she learned to allocate charitable dollars across the community. A graduate from Berman Hebrew Academy in 2019, Ayelet participated in her school’s contingent to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, was a creative member of the engineering club, served as yearbook head photographer for two years and received an art award for her photography. Following her graduation, Ayelet spent her gap year in Midreshet Lindenbaum in Jerusalem. During her summers, Ayelet worked at Camp Simcha and Camp Kaylie. Ayelet hopes to continue advocating for children with disabilities by majoring in psychology and is interested in the intersection of Judaism and human behavior.

Natan Ehrenreich

Natan Ehrenreich grew up in University Heights, Ohio, where he graduated from Fuchs Mizrachi School in 2019. He then spent a year learning at Yeshivat Orayta in Jerusalem. At Mizrachi, Natan was a member of both the debate and Model UN teams and also served as a student council representative. He also spent time as a leader for Bnei Akiva and was selected by the Jewish Federation of Cleveland as a Saltzman Youth Panelist, helping allocate over $40,000 to different organizations across Cleveland. He is passionate about American politics and has spent his summers working for several law firms. Natan has received numerous awards for academic achievement, including AP Scholar with Distinction and the Fuchs Mizrachi Young Scholar Award. He also graduated as valedictorian of his high school class. He is excited to join the Straus Scholars program at YU, where he plans to major in political science.

Judah Fortgang

 grew up in New Rochelle, New York. He graduated from SAR High School in 2018 and spent a year learning at Yeshivat Har Etzion (Gush). At SAR, Judah was the captain of his hockey team and the editor of the school’s award-winning economics magazine, Incentives. Having spent the past few summers with the Tikvah Fund, he has been exposed to the immense depth and importance of both Jewish and Western thought and looks forward to an immersive program studying these rich traditions.




Benjy Gottesman

Benjy Gottesman was born and raised in New York City. In 2018, he graduated from the high school of Hebrew Academy of the Five Towns and Rockaway (HAFTR) as a National Merit Commended Scholar and a member of six of HAFTR’s honors societies. While in high school, Benjy served as captain of the Torah and College Bowl teams for all four of his seasons. He also served as the founding captain of the National Speech and Debate Association team, placing in over a dozen tournaments during his tenure. After high school, Benjy spent two years in Jerusalem’s Yeshivat HaKotel, where he joined the Bergman Family Leadership Program and spearheaded the revival of the Chabura Family Leadership Program. While in Israel, he also participated in the Tikvah Overseas Student Institute. During the summer, Benjy has interned with organizations such as DOROT and the Simon Wiesenthal Center. However, Benjy is most passionate about his time working as a counselor at Camp Moshava Indian Orchard. Benjy enjoys the study of early Christian thought, Toras Chassidus, and Ultimate Frisbee.

Reuben Hartman

Reuben Hartman lives in Lincolnwood, Illinois. For high school, Reuben attended the Wisconsin Institute for Torah Study in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. While there, he was the senior class president and the class valedictorian. Reuben is a regular volunteer at Chai Lifeline Midwest as a mentor for kids with illness. He also spends his summers at Chai Lifeline’s Camp Simcha as a counselor. Reuben also spent a summer at the Illinois Institute of Technology’s Experiment in Architecture program. In the past two years, he has attended Yeshivat Sha’alvim in Nof Ayalon. While there, he was a participant both years at the Tikvah Overseas Students Institute’s “Jews, Morality, and the West” program, where he explored multifaceted theories and beliefs about the realities between religion and politics. Reuben spent the summer between his yeshiva years as an intern for State Representative Rabbi Yehiel Mark Kalish, Illinois’s first rabbi congressman. At Yeshiva University, Reuben plans to major in political science and minor in architecture. Reuben is excited to spend his college career at the Straus Center, finding the divine connection between God’s Torah and the creations in his world.

Penina Spearman

Penina Spearman, a lifetime resident of Kew Gardens Hills in Queens, New York, is a graduate of Midreshet Shalhevet High School, where she participated in debate club, model congress, Torah Bowl, College Bowl and drama and served as vice president of the senior class of 2019. She also received the Torah U’madda Book Award for commitment to her school, community and ideals and objectives of Yeshiva University. After graduating high school, Penina spent a year studying in Israel at Michlelet Mevaseret Yerushalayim in Jerusalem. While there, she participated in the Tikvah Overseas Students Institute, where she focused on the political and moral dilemmas Jews face in the modern era.



Cohort III

Ariel Greenwald

Ariel Greenwald recently completed a year of learning in the Gush Etzion region at the Stella K. Abraham Beit Midrash for Women of Yeshivat Har Etzion/Migdal Oz. She lives in Riverdale, New York and graduated from SAR High School. During her time at SAR, Ariel served as captain of the Model Congress team and played on the junior varsity and varsity soccer teams. She also acted in several musical theater productions. Most notably, she participated in the Witness Theater program, where high school students create original dramatic productions by reenacting the wartime experiences of Holocaust survivors. Ariel has always been passionate about Israel advocacy. By participating in the Jewish Week's Write On For Israel program, Ariel was able to build a strong understanding of the Middle East conflict and develop the tools to defend Israel. In addition to her extracurricular activities, Ariel was selected as a Tikvah Scholar and spent a summer at Yale attending lectures on topics ranging from Jewish identity to political philosophy. Ariel continued her involvement with Tikvah during her year in Israel through the Tikvah Overseas Students Institute. During the summers, Ariel enjoys bringing Jewish history and culture to life as a leader of experiential education at Camp Stone.

Abigail Pinchot

Abigail Pinchot grew up in Silver Spring, Maryland. She graduated from Berman Hebrew Academy in 2018 and spent her gap year studying in Israel at Midreshet Torah V’ Avodah.  At Berman, Abby played on the volleyball and softball teams, won awards in national art competitions, was chosen to participate in a select Israel advocacy course, and co-chaired the Annual Student Dinner (the largest extra-curricular fundraising event in the school). Outside of Berman, Abby served as a leader in Bnei Akiva and Zach, volunteered with Yachad Israel, created and sold her original artwork, and interned with fashion designer Cristina Ottaviano in New York City. Abby is currently working on writing and illustrating an original children's book and plans to be a liberal arts major.


Eliana Wagner

Eliana Wagner lives in Teaneck, New Jersey and attended Ma'ayanot Yeshiva High School for Girls. While in high school, Eliana was the head of her school's political action committee and on the board of the community service committee. During this time, Eliana fostered a love of Israel advocacy, taking part in Write On For Israel, a two-year Israel advocacy fellowship, serving as a member of the StandWithUs leadership council, and spending one summer interning at AIPAC. Eliana was recognized as an AP Scholar and also received a Lakeland Bank scholarship for academic excellence. In addition to political advocacy, Eliana is extremely dedicated to community service and took part in several missions in New Orleans to rebuild after Hurricane Katrina and the floods of Baton Rouge. Additionally, she helped organize community donations for her school's annual midnight run and coordinated the annual Pink Day events. After graduating high school, Eliana spent a gap year studying in MMY and hopes to pursue a major in political science.

Yehuda Goldberg

Yehuda Goldberg grew up in Passaic New Jersey. He attended Yeshiva University High School for Boys (MTA) for high school, where he was captain of the mock trial and debate teams. He left high school early to begin college and learn in RIETS Rosh Yeshiva Rav Rosensweig’s shiur. He has spent several summers at Tikvah, the Witherspoon Insititute and the Salvatori Center, where he studied the thought of Leo Strauss, new natural law, and other topics in philosophy and religion. Yehuda recently spent two years at Yeshivat Har Etzion and looks forward to joining the Straus Scholars program as he returns to Yeshiva University to major in philosophy and continue his Torah studies.



Noam Josse

Noam Josse was born in London, United Kingdom. When he was nine, his family moved to New York where he attended the Yeshiva University High School for Boys (MTA), graduating in 2017. There, he was one of the founders of Polis, an academic student-run journal, and worked for the Israel club, leading lobby missions to Washington D.C.  He was also awarded for success in English and history. During one of his summers, Noam worked at a law firm in New York City. Noam participated in Tikvah high school programming, attending lectures on a variety of political, economic, and religious topics. After graduating MTA, he studied in Yeshivat Sha'alvim for two years. Noam is fluent in French.



Ezra Wildes

Ezra Wildes grew up in the Upper West Side of Manhattan, New York. He graduated from Yeshiva University High School for Boys (MTA) in 2017 and spent two years studying in Yeshivat Sha'alvim in Israel. At MTA, he served as the co-president of the Yeshiva Fellowship, contributed to the Hatzioni religious Zionist event planning club and publication, and was a part of the debate team. Ezra was a member of the Honors Society in MTA and helped tutor underprivileged public school students in the Washington Heights area. Additionally, he was an avid member of the tennis team and ran in the Jerusalem Marathon while helping to fundraise for Shalva's new Nation Center in Israel. In the summers, he volunteered for Camp Simcha and was a madrich on NCSY Kollel. Ezra began his experience in the Straus Center as a senior in high school, taking Straus courses in philosophy and participating in a research project which analyzed ancient Mesopotamian legal documents and their comparison in biblical records. Ezra has always been deeply passionate about Torah U'Madda and founded and directed the Torah U'Madda section of MTA’s intellectual publication, The Academy News.

Cohort II

Baruch-Lev Kelman

Baruch-Lev Kelman graduated from Maimonides School in Brookline, Massachusetts and spent his gap year studying abroad at Yeshivat Birkat Moshe in Ma'ale Adumim. At Maimonides, he served as captain of the Talmud mishmar, co-captain of the robotics team, and acted in several school plays. Additionally, Baruch-Lev was annually invited to deliver a presentation on the architecture of the Jerusalem Temple to incoming Maimonides eighth graders. Baruch-Lev is also an Eagle Scout from Boy Scout troop 54 of Brookline, Massachusetts. His Eagle Scout project focused on preserving Holocaust silver artifacts at the United States Coast Guard Museum. As a Scout, Baruch-Lev received the National Jewish Committee on Scouting's Ner Tamid emblem and served as the senior patrol leader of his troop. He also received Maimonides School's 2017 Tanach Award. Baruch-Lev is fluent in Italian, studied Arabic in high school, and enjoys fencing.


Elimelekh Perl

Elimelekh Perl grew up in Dallas, Texas. He and his family moved to New York in 2014, where he graduated from DRS Yeshiva High School for Boys. At DRS, he was captain of the mock trial team and the starting catcher for varsity softball. He was also recognized as an AP Scholar with Distinction, was awarded the National Merit Scholarship Commendation, and received the New York State Scholarship for Academic Excellence. During the summers he works with children with disabilities, having been a counselor in HASC and an assistant division head at Camp Kaylie. His hobbies include Frisbee and fantasy football. Elimelekh recently completed two years of study in Yeshivat Har Etzion, and will be majoring in computer science.


Avishai Samouha

Avishai Samouha was born and raised in the heart of Brooklyn, New York. After spending a year at Yeshivat Sha'alvim in Nof Ayalon, Israel, Avishai decided to begin his journey at YU and the Straus Center. During his time at DRS Yeshiva High School for Boys, he was senior class president, student body vice president, and was involved in many extra-curricular activities. In addition, Avishai was an editor for the DRS Starstudent publication, where he focused on articles pertaining to STEM and the area of scientific research. Throughout his four years, he participated and excelled in Science Olympiad competitions and obtained several awards, including the AP Scholar with Distinction award.



Michael Weiner

Michael Weiner graduated from Kohelet Yeshiva High School in Pennsylvania in 2016, and then spent the next year and a half studying Gemara and Tanach at Yeshivat Har Etzion in Israel. During the last several summers, he served as a research assistant for various professors in the field of Jewish studies, translating and analyzing the halachic works and personal correspondence of several important 19th-century rabbinic figures. He is currently a writer for the website Patheos, an online compendium of blogs featuring diverse voices on religion and modern life, where he offers a Modern Orthodox take on our contemporary culture and politics.



Cohort I

Benjamin Atwood

Benjamin Atwood recently completed two years of study at Yeshivat Har Etzion in Alon Shvut, Gush Etzion. He lives in Teaneck, New Jersey, and graduated from The Frisch High. While at Frisch, Benjamin volunteered as editor-in-chief of Frisch’s weekly Torah publication and continued to serve as an alumni editor after graduating. Benjamin was also selected as a Tikvah Scholar, during which time he participated in a series of lectures on Jewish thought, and was also a Hebrew and Judaic studies teacher at the Jewish Youth Encounter Program. Benjamin published original research in Frisch's Bible scholarship journal and was the Har Etzion representative for the Religious-Zionist slate in the World Zionist Congress election. In addition to his pursuits in Jewish studies, Benjamin served as co-captain of his high school debate team, was co-founder of Frisch's acapella group, served as head gabbai and ran track.

Thesis — The Unexpected Journey of a Justice: Louis D. Brandeis’ Zionist Transformation (PDF)

Jonathan Fenster

Jonathan Fenster recently completed two years of study at Yeshivat Sha'alvim in Nof Ayalon, Israel. He lives in Lawrence, New York, and graduated from DRS Yeshiva High School for Boys. While at DRS, Jonathan was a member of the debate team and captain of the football team. He was also awarded the school's 2013 Torah Growth Award and the 2013 AP Scholar Award. Jonathan enjoys volunteering and has dedicated his time to Chai Lifeline and the Hurricane Sandy Relief Committee. Jonathan also served as minyan director at the Young Israel Lawrence-Cedarhurst. For his achievements, Jonathan has been awarded the Young Israel Lawrence-Cederhurst Teen and College Minyan Award and the 2014 Certificate of Merit from the Nassau County Executive.


Eliott Dosetareh

Eliott Dosetareh was born and raised in Atlanta, Georgia. He came to YU directly after studying for one year abroad in Israel at Yeshivat Sha'arei Mevaseret Tzion. He attended Jewish day school his entire life, and graduated from the Atlanta Jewish Academy (AJA) as a members of the Class of 2015. Throughout his high school career, he found his passions in various fields of interest — ranging from Israel advocacy and student government to volunteer work and self-driven projects. Eliott served as president of the Israel Advocacy club in his high school. He was also on student government in his junior year. Developing a particular interest by working with the Friendship Circle early on, Eliott has gone on to work in special needs sleepaway summer camps, including Camp Living Wonders (NC) and Camp Kaylie (NY). During his sophomore year, Eliott spearheaded and oversaw a project to bring a Better World Books donation drop-box to AJA, which saw the donation of over 2,000 books that went directly towards assisting global literacy partners, namely, Books for Africa. At the end of his junior year, Eliott was the student-recipient of the University of Pennsylvania Book Award. Outside of the classroom, Eliott continued his passion for Torah reading, serving as a Hebrew and Bar-Mitzvah tutor in his community and also enjoyed playing on the varsity basketball team from his freshman to senior year. As a freshman at YU, Eliott is currently deciding upon a major, but is considering study in psychology and biology and perhaps a minor in the humanities.

Thesis — Hebrew Universalism: The Future Vision of Rav Kook (PDF)

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