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YU Celebrates 93rd Chanukah Dinner

(Courtesy of Yeshiva University) Yeshiva University celebrated its 93rd Annual Chanukah Dinner on Sunday, December 3, at the New York Hilton Midtown in New York City. Rabbi Dr. Ari Berman, presiding over his first Chanukah Dinner since taking office, conferred honorary degrees upon Bret Stephens, Pulitzer Prize-winning New York Times columnist and the evening’s keynote speaker, as well as David P. Samson ’93C, chair of the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law Board of Overseers. YU Rosh Yeshiva Rabbi Meir Goldwicht was awarded the Presidential Medallion.

In his opening remarks, Dr. Berman noted that the dinner was one of the most successful in the event’s history, raising $4.3 million, and that since the start of his administration, “there has been a wave of support and interest from people around the globe who believe in Yeshiva University and who are rooting for our success.”

He added, “If there is a time that is made for Yeshiva University, it is this time. If there is a moment when our children need to be both deeply rooted and forward focused, it is this moment. For all of humanity, Yeshiva University represents a uniquely important voice modeling how to bring tradition to bear on the world of tomorrow. For the Jewish community, Yeshiva University is the best investment to ensure the success of our children and their children afterward.”

Introducing Stephens, Dr. Berman noted that the columnist’s work, like the season of Chanukah itself, reflects light into the darkness. “His sacred work to inform opinion, change minds and inspire action cuts through the skeptical cacophony and models genuine curiosity, resolute but respectful disagreement, and a willingness to stand on principle even when it’s politically or intellectually inconvenient.”

In his keynote address, Stephens cited four attitudes that he believed have contributed to the success of the United States but are now under siege “from a grievance culture on both the left and right”: treating immigrants as “human capital” rather than enemies, the importance of the “foolish thought and indelicate statement” to generating new ideas, an attitude toward failure that inspires self-reflection rather than blaming others and an ethic of global leadership that leads by example from a “policy of magnanimity towards the opinions of mankind.”

“Our greatness as a nation ultimately depends upon defining our interests according to our values rather than, in the style of every fallen empire, defining our values according to our interests,” Stephens observed. “I believe that universities like Yeshiva, with its proud embrace of religious wisdom and secular knowledge, can meet that responsibility. We believe that our morality is a long-term investment whose benefits only our children may reap but is the wellspring of our self-respect and survival. We do, indeed, have something to teach. Let’s not miss our chance.”

In conferring an honorary degree upon Samson, Dr. Berman lauded him for his “tenacity, humanity and generosity” and for being “an important and valued leader for Yeshiva University.” In accepting the degree, Samson said that what drives him to support the University is its mission of “preparing students to be the leaders long after we’re gone, planting seeds for trees whose shade we will never know and to put people in positions to lead in a way that will make us all proud.”

During the convocation portion, Dr. Berman presented Rabbi Goldwicht, The Joel and Maria Finkle Visiting Israeli Rosh Yeshiva at YU’s Mazer School of Talmudic Studies and Head Rosh Yeshiva in the University’s Irving I. Stone Beit Midrash Program, with the Presidential Medallion. Expressing the admiration of the YU community for Rabbi Goldwicht’s work, Dr. Berman described him as representing “all of the core values of Yeshiva University” and praised him for his “life of service to the Jewish people that has brightened our lives with inspiring words of Torah.”

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