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News Briefs: Chag Hasmecha, Partnership Minyanim, Local Shuttle Crash, Madoff, Rabbi Ehrenkranz Dies

RIETS Ordains 230 Rabbis in Largest Ceremony  

The Yeshiva University-affiliated Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary bestowed Semicha (rabbinical ordination) to 230 rabbis at its March 23rd Chag HaSemikhah ceremony, held on the Wilf Campus. Over 3,000 people attended the event in person, while more than 5,000 viewed the event online. Representing the largest cohort in RIETS history, the graduates of the 2011-2014 classes join more than 3,000 rabbinic alumni. A $50 million campaign was announced later that evening at the RIETS dinner, held at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel. “At a very crucial time in Jewish history, you are uniquely trained and qualified to reach out to Jews of all backgrounds with an authentic Torah message,” said Rabbi Menachem Penner, RIETS dean, at the Wilf ceremony.

Despite Denunciations, Partnership Minyanim on the Rise

A number of harsh critiques leveled against partnership minyanim has not diminished their numbers. In fact, partnership minyanim around the country—in universities and local communities--report substantial increases in participation. In the months following the discussions, a partnership minyan in Washington Heights attended by YU students and alumni has gone from meeting monthly to meeting weekly. “All these accusations simply alienated us further and actually energized the minyan,” a YC student, who wished to remain anonymous, said about joining the group. In November, a widely attended conference of college students at the University of Pennsylvania discussed halachik and logistical questions about the minyanim.

Local Shuttle Crashes, One Student Hospitalized

The Wilf Campus local shuttle crashed into an oncoming van while making a turn onto Amsterdam Avenue and sustained serious damage on Monday, March 24. Police and Hatzalah Ambulance Service arrived within minutes. While only two students were on the shuttle, one was taken to Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center with mild neck injuries on recommendations of the first responders. The YU shuttle service is contracted to an outside company, and all insurance claims are thus not run through the university.

Madoff, Five Years Later

At the beginning of April 2008, the Ponzi scheme that then YU Board Member Bernard Madoff ran for years finally came tumbling down, taking with it $100 million of the university’s endowment invested in his firm. The scandal, which disproportionately devastated Modern Orthodox Jews, sent shockwaves around the financial and philanthropic world. Madoff’s crime continues to plague YU, though a number of administrators said that the damage could have been prevented if President Joel put in place common conflict-of-interest rules preventing the university from investing in businesses run by board members.

In a recent interview with Politico, Madoff—serving a 150 year sentence in North Carolina—was asked if he had any remorse for criminally mishandling close to $400 million Jews had invested in his firm. “No,” said Madoff, “I don’t feel that I betrayed the Jews. ... I don’t feel any worse for a Jewish person than I do for a Catholic person... I betrayed people that put trust in me — certainly the Jewish community. I’ve made more money for Jewish people and charities than I’ve lost.”

Rabbi Ehrenkranz, Champion of Interfaith Dialogue, Dies

Rabbi Joseph Ehrenkranz, a student of the Rav and a graduate of RIETS who led interfaith dialogue and catalyzed peace talks between Israel and Egypt, died in February. He was 88. His many accomplishments include meeting with Pope John Paul II, initiating a peace pilgrimage to Cairo and Jerusalem at the invitation of Egypt’s President Anwar Sadat in 1978, serving as representative to the United Nations non-governmental organization representing the Synagogue Council of America in 1985, co-founding the Center for Christian Jewish Understanding at Sacred Heart University in 1993, and promoting human rights. Ehrenkranz was born in Newark, N.J. in 1926, ordained from Yeshiva University in 1949 (and later received an honorary doctorate) and began working at Agudath Sholom Synagogue in Connecticut in 1948. Under his leadership, the congregation flourished to become the largest Orthodox congregation in New England. “The most important thing to us is world peace,” Rabbi Ehrenkranz said, “You can’t have it without religious peace. And you can’t have religious peace without religious dialogue.”

New Endowment Fund for Budding Yeshiva Entrepreneurs

Yeshiva University recently announced the establishment of Neal’s Fund, a new endowment that will provide micro-grants to student entrepreneurs for startups intended to benefit the broader Jewish and global communities. The fund was created in memory of Neal Dublinsky, a former valedictorian of Yeshiva College and graduate of NYU Law, in order to “commemorate his entrepreneurial spirit and sense of social responsibility”.  Most grants will range from $1,000-$2,000, with a maximum of $5,000 per project. “Neal’s Fund will empower students and faculty working with students to pursue their social, innovative and creative entrepreneurial ideas, substantially impacting the local and global community with initiatives of creative kindness,” said Rabbi Kenneth Brander, Vice President for University and Community Life at YU. Student proposals will be judged on their originality, creativity, projected impact and long-term goals by the Office of University and Community Life and a committee established by the Dublinsky family.