May 19, 2024
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YU’s Sacks-Herenstein Center for Values and Leadership Announces Two Graduate Fellowship Cohorts

Colloquium presentation of Sacks Scholars Graduate Fellowship, May 2023.

In “To Heal a Fractured World,” Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks, zt”l, calls for us to act upon our ethics of responsibility. “As long as there is hunger, poverty and treatable disease in the world there is work for us to do. As long as nations fight, and men hate, and corruption stalks the corridors of power; as long as there is unemployment and homelessness, depression and despair, our task is not yet done, and we hear, if we listen carefully enough, the voice of God asking us, as he asked the first humans, ‘Where are you?’”

Rabbi Sacks inspired us at Yeshiva University to design two remarkable cohorts of graduate scholars: the Sacks Research Scholars and the Sacks Impact Scholars, building upon the success of last year’s Sacks Scholars Graduate Fellowship.

The Sacks Research Scholars is designed to strengthen the professional skills and expand the leadership platform of graduate students in YU’s Azrieli Graduate School of Jewish Education and Administration, Graduate Program in Advanced Talmud/Tanach Studies, Bernard Revel Graduate School of Jewish Studies and Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary through the learning, researching, publishing and teaching of the thought of Rabbi Sacks, in engagement with contemporary Jewish ideas. As he wrote in “Future Tense”: “If we are to apply Torah to the world, we must understand the world. We need a new generation of Jews committed to the dialogue between sacred and secular if Judaism is to engage with the world and its challenges.”

We are thrilled to announce this year’s impressive cohort of Sacks Research Scholars 2023-2024:

Rabbi Tzvi Benoff is a third-year fellow in the Wexner Kollel Elyon/Kollel L’Horaah and serves as the assistant rabbi at the Riverdale Jewish Center. He holds an MA in international political economy and development from Fordham University.

Tamar Yastrab Koslowe is a second-year student in GPATS and in Nishmat’s Yoatzot Halacha Fellows Program. She earned a BS in computer science from Stern College and worked on a risk management team at J.P. Morgan.

Neti Linzer Penstein is a second-year student in GPATS, while pursuing her MA in Jewish philosophy at the Bernard Revel Graduate School. She earned a BA in philosophy from Princeton University and was a teaching fellow at Ma’ayanot and Maimonides high schools.

Asher Willner is a third-year student in RIETS and serves as rabbinic intern at the Young Israel of the West Side. He earned a BS in computer science from Columbia University, where he taught a weekly Talmud class.

Alisa Zeffren is a doctoral candidate at Azrieli Graduate School of Jewish Education and Administration. She teaches Jewish studies at Ida Crown Jewish Academy in Chicago, where she is also the student activities director.

The cohort will meet bi-monthly to workshop their research, writing and teaching projects, and will join the Sacks Impact Scholars in leadership training sessions.

The Sacks Impact Scholars fellowship is an interdisciplinary cohort comprised of graduate students from Cardozo School of Law, Ferkauf School of Psychology, Fish Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies, Katz School of Science and Health, Sy Syms School of Business, and Wurzweiler School of Social Work. In the spirit of Rabbi Sacks’ charge, “We are here to make a difference, to mend the fractures of the world,” Yeshiva University welcomes these scholars who are making a dent in the universe:

Megan Priaulx (Cardozo) will contribute to the Perlmutter Center for Legal Justice’s legal research, case investigation and social advocacy on behalf of individuals seeking relief from wrongful convictions.

Shira Levy (Ferkauf) will work with asylum-seeking high school students in a mental health support group to share, address and heal from the traumas of their asylum journeys.

Ann Squicciarini (Fish) will create interfaith Holocaust programming, resources and curricula to expose communities with lesser ties to people of the Jewish faith to the history that set the stage for the antisemitic rhetoric and sentiments that fueled the rise of Nazi Germany’s “Final Solution.”

Thota Manish Kumar (Katz), using artificial intelligence, will train a model that can recognize and teach course content, answer questions and provide interactions with audiences to improve the learning experience and student engagement in online courses.

Michelle Borde and Eitan Kastner (Syms) will develop a two-sided marketplace software platform for the hiring of adjuncts in higher education. They will also continue to build YU’s relationship with IRS’ VITA [Volunteer Income Tax Assistance] program to assist local low-income residents with their tax preparation.

Sharon Turnage (Wurzweiler) will aid in Wurzweiler’s Care Café’s efforts to support military veterans and Holocaust survivors through psychoeducational programming promoting physical and mental health.

This diverse cohort will collectively participate in monthly leadership training seminars and individually contribute to impact projects in their respective schools. Dr. Shira Weiss, assistant director of the Sacks-Herenstein Center, and Dr. Erica Brown, the Center’s director, and I will be working closely with all of the scholars in both cohorts.

Dr. Shira Weiss is the assistant director of the Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks-Herenstein Center for Values and Leadership. She teaches Jewish thought at YU’s Bernard Revel Graduate School and has previously taught at Stern College for Women. She also oversees admissions and curricular innovations at The Frisch School, where she served as assistant principal. She is the author of “Joseph Albo on Free Choice,” “Ethical Ambiguity in the Hebrew Bible,” co-author of “The Protests of Job: An Interfaith Dialogue,” as well as articles in academic journals and anthologies.

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