By: Darren May  | 

Syms Dinner a Triumph of Student Achievement

The Syms dinner is an event that has been on the annual YU calendar for a number of years. In many ways it is one of those events that on the face of it are quite drab. Everyone has been to award dinners, everyone has heard the same formulaic speeches, everyone has heard the same labored thank you routines. Despite this, there are some notable reasons that the Syms dinner this year was an outstanding event, an event that highlights the ingenuity and resourcefulness of two of YU’s finest students, and an even that should be celebrated by the YU community.

        In the YU News article “Sy Syms Celebrates Year of Achievement”, you will find this drab play-by-play characterization of what the night was. Who spoke when, who won what, etc. What they fail to address is that the entire event was planned solely by two YU seniors, Josh Teller and Alexa Ratner. Josh and Alexa are the respective Syms student presidents on the Wilf and Beren campuses. With virtually no help from the institution they represent, they managed to plan an event that is about as complex as a wedding.

“Alexa and I started planning the Syms dinner all the way in August,” said Josh Teller. “The point of the dinner is twofold: one is an academics awards dinner, to highlight student achievements. The other point of the night is that it is simply a nice way to end the year. I took on this responsibility with my co-president Alexa because I wanted to make my mark on the institution that gave so much to me. I think that the first couple years of my time in YU just flew by. I wanted to do something in my last year that would leave a lasting impression and impact on the YU student body, and in light of the overwhelmingly positive response I received from all the attendees, I think I managed to do just that.”

        Moishi Eisenmann expressed just such sentiments about the night. He is a graduating senior and he received the Dean’s Award for Scholastic Achievement in Management. He said, “It was a fantastic night with a great atmosphere. It was amazing to see all the wonderful seniors that YU has, and it’s easy to see that they are the future of the Jewish business world. Kudos to the Sy Syms [Student] Council for organizing this event. And of course I was beyond honored to receive my Dean's award.”

“When Alexa and I sat down in August to plan this event,” Joshua said, “we knew that we wanted it to be radically different than in years past. The first thing we decided was that we needed to revamp the event. In years past students found the even really boring. The old events went something like this, speeches, buffet, more speeches. We set out to change that. So we changed the venue to the Prince George Ballroom, we changed the caterer, we made it a sit-down dinner, a more classy galla-like event. We then made the awards during the dinner, which was a totally different format. It was a big risk because there was no format to go off, but the feedback was totally positive.  We did everything: caterer, ballroom, centerpieces, stage, light and sound, tickets, all was done by Alexa and myself -- especially Alexa, she’s really a fantastic co-president. There were definitely times I was just fed up with the whole thing and wanted to throw in the towel, but despite all the challenges we managed to make the event a great success.”

        Another notable part of the night was the acceptance speech made by Jacob Meir. He spoke about how difficult it was growing up with dyslexia. He then went on to say that his parents always believed and supported him, and how this has allowed him to excel in school and life in general.

        It is remarkable how the events that happen behind the scenes are often the ones that deserve the most recognition. The Syms dinner was no different. The tireless work of Josh and Alexa made the Syms dinner an event that was truly special for many students, parents, and faculty in YU, and the broader YU community. But beyond that, it really highlights how capable and resourceful YU students are. Two students with no background in event planning were able to plan an event for about 330 people that had many moving parts and many different facets. These are the type of stories that the YU community is so proud of.