By: Doron Levine  | 

News Briefs: February 2015

YU Finds New Graduation Venue

Soon after hosting Iggy Azalea on her Great Escape Tour and Mcdonald’s annual Gospelfest, the Prudential Center will host an event that will be less musical but more inspiring: YU’s 84th annual commencement exercises. The ceremony was originally slated for the Izod Center of East Rutherford, New Jersey, where YU has held graduation for many years, even after the Nets, the Devils, the Seton Hall Pirates, and the Storm (NJ’s now extinct lacrosse team) had all vacated the arena. But the plan fell through when, on the afternoon of January 15th, the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority voted to shut down the arena by the end of the month and keep it closed for at least the next two years. Arena officials cited financial losses as the main reason for the shutdown; had it remained open, the arena would have lost around $8.5 million in 2015.

As soon as the shutdown was publicized, YU, along with thirteen other colleges and high schools, scrambled to find a new venue for its 2015 graduation. On February 11, President Joel announced that the ceremony will remain on its previously scheduled date, Sunday, May 17, but will now be held at Newark’s Prudential Center. Nicknamed “The Rock,” the Prudential Center is a $375 million sports arena in Newark, NJ that seats around 18,000 and boasts 360-degree LED ribbons and an eight-sided HD Jumbotron. In a few short months, YU’s graduating class of 2015 will display their caps and gowns and YU’s administration and professors will sport their signature silk robes and plush velvet hats on The Rock’s twenty thousand square foot arena floor. President Joel had assured the worried soon-to-be graduates that “a great alternative” would “be secured in the next few weeks,” and he did not disappoint.

SAR Wins 20th Annual Wittenberg Tournament

“And Jacob was left alone; and there wrestled a man with him until the breaking of the day.”

In order to encourage imitation of the ways of our forefathers, YU hosted its 20th annual Henry Wittenberg Invitational high school wrestling tournament beginning Friday, February 13. The tournament included many teams from the New York area, and some from the more far-flung reaches of the United States. The legendary Henry Wittenberg, for whom the tournament is named, founded YU’s wrestling team in 1955 and served as YU’s first wrestling coach. He won Olympic gold and silver medals for wrestling, and, in 1977, he was inducted into the Wrestling Hall of Fame.

The festivities began when the out-of-town teams arrived on the afternoon of Thursday, February 12. The wrestlers weighed in on Friday morning, and prepared for the first round which began at 10:30. The teams spent Shabbat together at a hotel, where they were treated to delicious meals and participated in the third annual Wittenberg Trivia Tournament (known to be as competitive as the wrestling itself). After Friday night dinner, the wrestlers heard from Marlon Shirley, a decorated Paralympic athlete dubbed the “world’s fastest amputee,” who has won medals in various competitions, including high jump, long jump, and 100m and 200m races, and received the ESPY award in 2003 for best disabled athlete.

The wrestling continued on Sunday and culminated with the championship final rounds at midday on Monday - the SAR Sting of Riverdale won the tournament, while TABC and MTA rounded out the top three. According to Rabbi Kenneth Brander, Vice President for University and Community Life, the tournament created a unique mix of tussling and Torah, allowing “young Jewish athletes to bond with each other in a Torah environment.”