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Meet the Scholars

Cohort V

Ruchama Benhamou

Ruchama Benhamou, who commonly goes by Ru, is originally from Miami, Florida. She moved to Los Angeles for high school, attending YULA Girls High School, where she rose to be captain of both the flag football and soccer teams and was awarded the 2020 CIF Comeback Player of the Year Award. She also served as editor of her school newspaper, chief editor of the yearbook and volunteered for Yachad, experiences that taught her the importance of leadership, problem solving and planning ahead. She is passionate about STEM and is excited to pursue a career in science while also studying in-depth philosophy and liberal arts in the Straus Scholars Program. 



Daniel Ganopolsky

Daniel Ganopolsky was born and raised in Brooklyn, New York. He graduated from Rambam Mesivta in Lawrence, New York in 2019. While there, he was the captain of the debate and model congress team, as well as a member of the mock trial team. In high school, Daniel started the Israel Today newspaper, a bi-weekly publication focusing on current events in Israel, and served as president of the Israel Action Committee. He spent two years studying at Yeshivat Migdal Hatorah in Israel, where he focused on Jewish studies, philosophy and physics. While studying in Migdal, he participated in the Tikvah Overseas Students Institute, focusing on the political, economic and moral dilemmas Jews face in the modern era. Daniel enjoys working behind the scenes, observing the political process unfold on a grassroots level. He lobbied on Capitol Hill with AIPAC and NORPAC multiple times throughout high school. He also worked as a campaign staff member for Michael Grimm and Steve Saperstein during their election campaigns. Daniel is very excited to join the Straus Scholars Program, where he plans to major in economics and political science.

Racheli Gottesman

Racheli Gottesman grew up in Woodmere, New York, and graduated from Hebrew Academy of the Five Towns and Rockaway (HAFTR) in 2020. During her time at HAFTR, Racheli served as captain of the speech team, volleyball team, and Shakespeare team, and competed as a member of the Torah Bowl, debate, Model Congress, and Model United Nations teams. Additionally, Racheli acted in several theater productions, both in school and community theater, and served as an officer of HAFTR’s Thespian Honors Society. Racheli has interned as a journalist for The Nassau Herald. She spent two summers as a counselor for Yachad and a summer learning and teaching Torah as a member of Camp Moshava’s Beit Midrash program. She recently spent a year learning in Israel at Michlelet Mevaseret Yerushalayim (MMY) and participated in the Tikvah Overseas Student Institute. 


Yonatan Kurz

Yonatan Kurz grew up in Teaneck, New Jersey, and attended Torah Academy of Bergen County (TABC), where he was captain of the College Bowl and History Bowl teams, editor-in-chief of the Israel Report, and a member of the Honors Society. After studying for two years at Yeshivat Sha'alvim in Nof Ayalon, Israel, Yonatan is currently pursuing a double major in political science and Jewish studies with a minor in psychology at Yeshiva University as a fourth-generation student, in addition to learning in Rav Michael Rosensweig’s shiur. He is a YU Political Science Society member, a contributing writer to The Commentator, and has published several articles and essays on YUTorah. In his summers, Yonatan has been a madrich (advisor) on NCSY Kollel and also served as a legal research intern for the Orthodox Union’s general counsel. He is also a Shevet Glaubach Fellow for NCSY and a member of the Tikvah Collegiate Forum. Yonatan is passionate about the foundation and evolution of Modern Orthodoxy and the future of Judaism in America. In his free time, Yonatan enjoys learning Torah, exercising, reading books about American history and social science, and exploring the depths of modern Jewish thought.

Noam Mayerfed

Noam Mayerfeld was born in New York City and moved to Teaneck, New Jersey, at the age of five. He graduated from MTA/YUHSB, where he served as captain of the mock trial and debate teams and helped plan MTA’s annual lobbying trip to Washington, D.C. as a member of his school's political action club devoted to U.S.-Israel relations. Through these experiences, Noam developed his passion for thoughtful discussions about contemporary issues. After graduation, Noam spent two years in Yeshivat Kerem B'Yavneh (KBY), where he devoted himself to the intense study of Torah. He spent his past few summers as a counselor at Camp Kaylie and as a madrich (advisor) at NCSY Kollel. Noam is keeping an open mind about his area of study and is looking forward to spending his time with the Straus Center, studying God’s will as seen through the lens of the 21st century and contemporary philosophy.


Allie Orgen

Allie Orgen was born and raised in Teaneck, New Jersey. She is a graduate of The Frisch School, where she spent four years involved in Israel activism and advocacy. She was president of Cougars for Israel, founded the Israel Journal, and attended multiple AIPAC leadership conferences as the Frisch campus representative. Allie spent a year learning in Midreshet Harova in Israel, where she was selected to join the first AIPAC gap-year cohort. Allie spent two years interning for Congressman Josh Gottheimer and worked on the campaign for the winning slate of candidates in the 2020 Teaneck municipal elections. Allie loves chessed and has participated in various Friendship Circle activities, went on a mission to Detroit to volunteer with Habitat for Humanity, and took part in the Teaneck Adopt-a-Senior program at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. In Spring of 2021, while still in seminary in Israel, Allie organized and served on the committee of the Bergen County Unite for Israel Parade, which attracted over 5,000 Marchers. Allie looks forward to joining the Straus Center and learning to bridge her love of law and politics with Jewish thought.


Jennie Peled

Jennifer Peled is from Los Angeles, California. She attended YULA Girls High school, where she served as senior class President and captain of the Model UN, Mock Trial, Moot Beit Din, Robotics, and Varsity Track teams. During her senior year, Jennifer was awarded the President's National Volunteer Service Award for her work with BeMyEyes, the Marciano Art Foundation, and as President of Yachad LA. After graduation, she attended Midreshet Harova and took classes with the Tikvah Overseas Institute. She continues to serve as a member of the Tikvah Collegiate Forum. Jennifer spends her free time volunteering with Yachad, and continues to serve as Coordinator of the Manhattan/Monsey chapter. She is currently pursuing a dual degree in computer science and mathematics, and looks forward to enriching her work in STEM with a thorough background in Western and Judaic thought.



Jacob Sundel

Jacob Sundel is from Boston, Massachusetts. In 2019, he graduated from Yeshiva Ohr Yisrael as an AP Scholar with Honor. While in high school, Jacob was a captain of the basketball team, a member of the Model Beis Din team, and recipient of the Rose Ruderman Scholar Award. Following high school, Jacob spent two years learning in Yeshivat Kerem B’Yavneh (KBY) in Israel. Jacob is also an Eagle Scout from Boy Scout Troop 54 of Brookline, Massachusetts. For his Eagle Scout Project, Jacob started a Yachad chapter in his high school. Jacob enjoys dedicating his time to causes that help people with special needs, like participating twice in the Friendship Circle Bike Miami and being a counselor in Camp Kaylie. 



Cohort IV

Rebecca Aduculesi

Rebecca Aduculesi is from Teaneck, New Jersey. She graduated from Yeshivat Frisch in 2019 and then studied in Israel at Sha’alvim for Women. Rebecca is currently a junior in the S. Daniel Abraham Honors Program at Stern College for Women majoring in biochemistry. On campus, Rebecca volunteers as a teacher for START! Science and serves as a mentor for College EDge. She also participates in YUNMUN, serves as the sophomore class vice president, and is a board member on the Beit Midrash Committee. Rebecca works at the Beren Writing Center, is a chemistry peer tutor, and is a news editor for the YU Observer. During her free time, Rebecca enjoys learning Torah, playing tennis, and tutoring local students in her community. In the summer of 2021, Rebecca served as an advisor on NCSY Hatzalah Rescue, where she had the opportunity to bond with campers, teach Torah, and become a certified emergency medical responder. In her junior year, Rebecca looks forward to doing research in Dr. Ran Drori’s lab at Stern College. Rebecca is very appreciative of the Straus Center and all the opportunities it has to offer. 

Ayelet Brown

Ayelet Brown was born in Jerusalem, Israel, and raised in Silver Spring, Maryland. Ayelet attended the Berman Hebrew Academy, where she learned the importance of community and leadership and used her energy and organizational skills to volunteer with Friendship Circle (where she serves as the program director) and Chai Lifeline. After high school, Ayelet attended Midreshet Lindenbaum. At Yeshiva University, Ayelet is an active member of Project Sunshine and Project IncludED. Over the summers, Ayelet worked at Camp Simcha and Camp Kaylie. She has also worked for the Montgomery County Police Department Autism/IDD and Alzheimer’s Outreach Program, as well as The Children’s Inn at the National Institutes of Health, volunteering with children who have special needs and rare diseases. Ayelet is majoring in psychology and minoring in public health. She is interested in child development and the intersection of Judaism and human behavior. 


Natan Ehrenreich

Natan Ehrenreich grew up outside of Cleveland, Ohio, where he graduated from Fuchs Mizrachi School in 2019 as valedictorian. He spent a year learning at Yeshivat Orayta in Jerusalem. Now a junior at YU, Natan is involved with organizations such as the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) and the Tikvah Fund. On campus, he established AEI’s Executive Council, through which he hopes to facilitate public policy dialogue on campus with the help of one of the nation’s most impactful think tanks. He is also a member of Tikvah’s Collegiate Forum. In the summer of 2021, Natan served as an Academy Fellow at the Heritage Foundation, where he studied with leading thinkers in political theory and policy. A political science major, Natan has greatly enjoyed his involvement with the Straus Center and looks forward to his first year of in-person learning. After graduation, he hopes to attend law school and work in law and politics.


Judah Fortgang

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). Judah currently studies political theory and is the vice president of YU's Alexander Hamilton Society, a club dedicated to launching its members into careers in foreign policy imbued with the Hamiltonian vision of strong and principled American leadership. Having spent the past few summers with the Tikvah Fund, most recently as a Beren Summer Fellow, he has been exposed to the immense depth and importance of both Jewish and Western thought and looks forward to continuing to study these rich traditions. After YU, he hopes to pursue a career in law or sports analytics.  



Benjy Gottesman

Benjy Gottesman was born and raised in New York City. In 2018, he graduated from 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. After high school, he attended Yeshivat Sha’alvim in Nof Ayalon. While there, he participated in 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 is from Kew Gardens Hills, Queens. She attended Midreshet Shalhevet High School and spent a year studying in Israel at Michlelet Mevaseret Yerushalayim (MMY) in Jerusalem. Upon acceptance to Yeshiva University, Penina received the Torah U’madda Book Award for commitment to her school and community and the ideals of Yeshiva University. She is currently a junior at Stern majoring in philosophy. As a sophomore, she served as a teaching assistant at the Tikvah Fund and is a member of the Tikvah Collegiate Forum. On campus, Penina is a member of the AEI Executive Council and sits on the board of Yeshiva University's Alexander Hamilton Society chapter. She is also a board member of the Special Committee for Uighur Activism at YU. Penina serves on the Student Life Committee as the Student Liaison for the Counseling Center. She is also a Jewish Foundation for Education of Women (JFEW) Liberal Arts Fellow. In the summer of 2021, Penina interned at the Kohelet Policy Forum.


Cohort III

Ariel Greenwald

Ariel Greenwald 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. She spent a year in Israel studying in the Gush Etzion region at the Stella K. Abraham Beit Midrash for Women of Yeshivat Har Etzion/Migdal Oz. 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 Stern College for Women, Abby is majoring in English literature and minoring in sociology. Abby is passionate about the arts, has won awards for her art pieces, and continues to sell her artwork. Abby serves as an NCSY advisor and has led NCSY summer programs. She also leads weekly learning sessions for teens across the US via zoom. Abby assists with the non-profit organization MyZuzah, whose mission is to deliver as many mezuzot as possible to Jewish homes throughout the United States. In the summer of 2021, Abby interned at OpenDor Media, where she assisted in the development and writing of podcasts and conducted research for future projects in Jewish history and Israel education. 



Eliana Wagner

Eliana Wagner lives in Teaneck, New Jersey, and is in her senior year at Stern College for Women. She is currently pursuing a degree in political science. Through the YU Pre-Law Judicial Internship Program, Eliana had the opportunity to intern for Judge Ruchie Freier at the Queens County Civil Court and gained extensive insight into the legal process. In past years, Eliana has worked as a legislative intern with the American Jewish Congress and as an intern on a congressional campaign. On campus, Eliana serves as the president of the campus Israel club, the Dunner Political Science Society, and the J-Hecht Pre-Law Society. Eliana hopes to attend law school after graduation and ultimately work in civil service law.



Yehuda Goldberg

Yehuda Goldberg is a senior at Yeshiva University, where he studies philosophy. Prior to studying at YU, Yehuda spent two years at Yeshivat Har Etzion. He is interested in the intersection of theology and political philosophy, Christian humanism, Charedi thought, and the role that the careful study of rabbinic texts can play in shaping Jewish thought. After completing his undergraduate degree at Yeshiva University, he hopes to continue his studies in a graduate school and at RIETS.




Noam Josse

Noam Josse was born in London, United Kingdom. When he was nine, his family moved to New York, where he attended Yeshiva University High School for Boys (MTA), graduating in 2017. After graduating MTA, he studied in Yeshivat Sha'alvim for two years. During his time as YU, he was accepted to summer fellowships at the Hoover Institution, Tikvah, and the Witherspoon Institute, and worked at a law firm in New York City. At YU, he is one of the officers of the Alexander Hamilton Society - YU Chapter. Noam is fluent in French.



Ezra Wildes

Ezra Wildes grew up on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, New York. He graduated from Yeshiva University High School for Boys (MTA) in 2017 and spent the following two years studying in Yeshivat Sha'alvim in Israel. Ezra has always been deeply passionate about Torah U'Madda, which led him to found and direct the Torah U'Madda section of MTA’s intellectual publication, The Academy News. 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. As a computer science major specializing in the data science track, Ezra attempts to bridge the gap between computer science and his Judaic and philosophic studies. In the summer of 2021, Ezra interned at Dicta, part of the Yeshiva University-Bar Ilan University joint research program. Ezra utilized his computer science skills to improve access to countless Jewish and Hebrew manuscripts for scholars and laypeople alike.


Cohort II

Baruch-Lev Kelman

Baruch-Lev Kelman earned his Bachelor of Arts in Jewish studies with a minor in architecture from Yeshiva College in 2021. Upon graduation, he received the Dean Isaac Bacon Award for Excellence in the Humanities and Jewish Studies and the Sidney P. Rosenblum Award for Excellence in the Study of Jewish History. Baruch-Lev’s Straus Center senior thesis examined Jacob Judah Templo's Retrato in light of early modern Hebraism. As an undergraduate, Baruch-Lev also served as the Glatt Research Associate at the Center for Israel Studies. He is passionate about language and culture, being fluent in Italian and Hebrew and having studied Arabic. Baruch-Lev is currently pursuing a master’s at Bernard Revel Graduate School and plans on taking a semester abroad at the University of Urbino researching Jewish contributions to the Italian Renaissance. He will continue his work at the Center for Israel Studies, contributing to the exhibit Samaritans: A Biblical People set to open at the Museum of the Bible in 2022. 

Thesis — Middoth for Ezekiel and Solomon (PDF)

Eli Perl

Elimelekh (Eli) Perl grew up in Dallas, Texas, and now lives in Woodmere, New York, with his family. Before Yeshiva University, Elimelekh graduated from DRS Yeshiva High School for Boys and spent two years studying at Yeshivat Har Etzion. Elimelekh is pursuing a Bachelor of Science in data science within YU's computer science program. Over his time in college, he has captained one of YU’s mock trial teams, competed in intramural ultimate Frisbee, and co-founded the YU Tech Ethics Society. Elimelekh is also a proud participant in the Tikvah Fund’s collegiate programming, having spent a summer working as a Tikvah Jewish Ideas on Campus intern and attending Tikvah’s two-week seminar on Jews and American politics. He also served as the Tikvah Campus Ambassador at Yeshiva University. In the summer of 2021, Elimelekh worked as a technology engineering analyst in the controllers division at Goldman Sachs.


Avishai Samouha

Avishai Samouha was born and raised in Brooklyn, New York. After spending a year at Yeshivat Sha'alvim in Nof Ayalon, Israel, Avishai began his journey at Yeshiva University and the Straus Center. At YU, Avishai is a board member of the Medical Ethics Society, a co-founder of an a capella group, and is currently doing academic research in several areas. For his Straus thesis, Avishai plans to focus on how Torah U'madda can be applied to the foreign policy struggles related to Iranian nuclear ambitions. He is also in the process of publishing a scientific paper and a review article related to the effects of Reovirus treatment on KRAS-mutated colorectal cancer.



Michael Weiner

Michael Weiner graduated from Yeshiva University in May 2021, where he majored in political science. During his time at YU, he explored the field of foreign policy and US-Israel relations through research internships with The American Interest and the Hudson Institute, translating work of Israeli policy articles for Mosaic Magazine, and his own op-ed writing on these topics for national outlets. In the summer of 2021, he participated in the College Fellowship at the Tikvah Fund and served as a research assistant to Elliott Abrams. Mr. Weiner hopes to pursue a career in US foreign policy in the Middle East. 



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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