July 22, 2024
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Northern NJ Students Among YU 2016 Valedictorians

On Wednesday, May 25, hundreds of students from Yeshiva University’s undergraduate schools received their degrees at YU’s 85th Commencement Ceremony at Madison Square Garden in New York City. Nine of the students were honored with the designation of valedictorian for their outstanding academic achievement.

Alex Abraham of Teaneck, NJ was the valedictorian of the Irving I. Stone Beit Midrash Program, and Joshua Wildes of Englewood was the valedictorian of the James Striar School of General Jewish Studies.

“One of the things I loved most about YU was the ability to continue my Jewish study throughout my college experience,” said Abraham. “YU provided me with a strong and structured Torah education that has prepared me to continue my Torah study in the future, when it will become much more difficult to immerse myself in daily study to the same degree.”

Wildes, in full agreement, added that he saw every day at YU as the ultimate Jewish learning experience. “I was able to learn Torah, grow spiritually, and learn important life lessons that I will cherish forever. The ability to wake up every morning and learn about our Jewish culture, history and heritage was truly incredible.”

Abraham hopes to pursue a career in Computer Science, his passion and major while at Yeshiva College. Wildes, who majored in Business Management and minored in Marketing, was also very active on campus, serving as the Lead Mentor for the high school students at the Marsha Stern Talmudic Academy (MTA), a Board Member of the College Democrats Club, and the founder of the “Humans of Yeshiva University” Facebook page.

Robert Kraft, chairman and CEO of The Kraft Group, and the owner of the New England Patriots, was the keynote speaker and also received an honorary degree. Rabbi Hershel Billet, rabbi at The Young Israel of Woodmere, Long Island, and Dr. Ruth Bevan, David W. Petegorsky Professor of Political Science at YU, also received awards.

In bestowing the Presidential Medallion on Bevan, YU President Richard M. Joel credited her for creating a superb political science department shaped by her “wisdom, care and unswerving devotion.”

As he conferred an honorary degree upon Rabbi Billet, President Joel lauded the outstanding success of the rabbi’s leadership of the congregation.

President Joel then presented Robert Kraft with an honorary degree and praised him for practicing a “philanthropy that models for each of us what it means to wear our Jewishness with pride.”

After receiving the award, Kraft delivered a heartfelt speech about how much joy his father, Harry Kraft, would have felt if he could see his son receiving this degree from Yeshiva University: “Watching his son deliver the commencement address at Yeshiva would be far more rewarding to him than all of our Super Bowl successes combined.”

Kraft encouraged the graduates to have a chalom gadol, a big dream, that “wakes you up in the morning ready to attack your day, to persevere and persist until you accomplish it: Don’t play conservatively between the 40-yard lines because making improbable dreams happen is the story of our people.”

He finished with a call to action for the graduates to take responsibility for the state of the world in which they live. “Go forward from here, my friends, and make people’s lives richer and better because they have known all of you.”

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