Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, keynote speaker at Yeshiva University’s 87th annual Hanukkah convocation at the Waldorf-Astoria, was impressed how the university’s Center for the Jewish Future (CJF) engages in the spirit of tikkun olam.
She said graduate Josh Teitcher spent a summer in Israel with Counterpoint Israel—a CJF initiative for students to help local youth connect to Jewish values—and changed the life one young boy named Yitzchak.
Yitzchak suffered from a severe stutter. In the second week of camp he was so exasperated that he walked out on an activity. Josh sat with him to hear his frustration. Josh told him that as someone who also suffers from a stutter, he knew exactly what Yitzchak was going through.
The more time Josh spent with the boy, the more the boy would speak, reaching a point where he would speak openly and candidly. On the last day of camp, Yitzchak handed Josh a note in Hebrew.
Josh keeps that note on his desk at home. It ends with four words in English: quiet, fear, hope, future.
“The values and lessons Josh learned from his educators at Yeshiva University,” Gillibrand said, “developed his determination to change one boy’s fear into a powerful sense of hope for his future. And as Josh discovered his ability to empower one person to find their voice, his eyes were opened to his own potential to empower many.”
Josh is now pursuing a master’s program in speech-language pathology at New York Medical College.
Some 600 guests applauded as President Richard Joel conferred an honorary degree on Gillibrand. The YU president also presented honorary degrees to Philip Friedman of Livingston, N.J., founding president/CEO of Computer Generated Solutions; Stephen B. Siegel, chairman of global brokerage at CB Richard Ellis; and Ira Mitzner, founding president of Rida Development real estate firm in Houston, Texas. The convocation and dinner raised more than $4 million for Yeshiva University.