By: Rikki Kolodny  | 

YU’s 96th Annual Hanukkah Dinner to be Held Virtually

Yeshiva University’s 96th Annual Hanukkah Dinner will be held virtually this year on Dec. 6 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Vice President of Institutional Advancement Adam Gerdts announced on Nov. 6.

The dinner will be held virtually instead of the New York Hilton Midtown, where it has taken place for the last two years. According to Gerdts, the dinner is a major fundraiser to “support the university and one way we help fund student scholarships.” The guest list usually consists of donors, alumni and current student leaders. President Ari Berman will address the guests, who will be given the opportunity “to experience a number of YU Conversations,” Gerdts said. The attendees will then have the chance to hear from different speakers on multiple topics relevant in the Jewish world today. It is unclear through which medium the event will take place.

This year’s topic-sessions include “Jewish Values in Professional Sports,” “Risks vs. Rewards of Bringing Cutting-Edge Science and Technology to Market,” “Halacha during a Global Pandemic” and “Supreme Friendship in a Polarized Age: Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Antonin Scalia.” Some of the highlighted speakers include Stan Kasten, president and CEO of Los Angeles Dodgers, Anne Neuberger, director of cybersecurity at the NSA, Ambassador Danny Danon, Israel’s former ambassador to the United Nations and a new visiting professor of political science at Yeshiva University and Rav Hershel Schachter, a rosh yeshiva at the Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary, among others.

In previous years, the dinner was able to generate more than $5 million in donations. In 2017 the dinner raised $4.3 million; in 2018, $5 million; and in 2019, $5.6 million was raised, a record-breaking number. Gerdts did not respond to The Commentator’s request for comment regarding this year’s monetary goal. 

Guests will be required to pay an entrance fee based on their participation level, which has not been done in previous years. To participate as a “Young Alumni (2015-2020)” the fee is $180, as a “Friend” the fee is $500 and as a “Donor” the fee is $1,000. There is also a higher level of participation known as the “President’s Society” which recognizes donors who donate $1,800 or more annually. Among the seven total levels above $1,800 donations are “Chai Supporter” for donors who donate $1,800-$4,999 annually, “Scholars Circle” for the donors who donate $5,000-$9,999 annually, “Minyan Club” for donors who donate $10,000-$24,999 annually and “Dean’s List” for donors who donate $25,000-$99,999 annually. Additionally “Senior Leadership” is for donors who donate $100,000-$499,999 annually, “President’s Cabinet” for donors who donate $500,000-$999,999 annually and the “Etz Chaim Society” for donors who donate more than $1,000,000 annually.

Current students were asked to film a short prompted speech that will be shown at some point during the event. The film will include both current students and alumni as well as a thank you speech to the donors for attending the dinner and for the donations that will contribute to student scholarships. Gerdts did not answer The Commentator’s queries regarding the allocation of the funds that will be raised and what proportion of the funds will be allocated for student scholarships.

“In a year that has presented unprecedented challenges and opportunities, we are thrilled that our esteemed faculty, rebbeim and thought leaders will be showcasing the University’s values during our virtual YU Conversations panels during this year’s Hanukkah Dinner,” President Berman told The Commentator. “Through this program, the broader YU community will have the opportunity [to] celebrate and learn together to support scholarship funds for our students, the leaders of tomorrow.” 

Photo Caption: This is YU’s 96th Annual Hanukkah Dinner. 
Photo Credit: Yeshiva University