This week started out with a bang, as the yeshiva held its Alumnus of the Year dinner award ceremony at Beth Sholom Congregation and Talmud Torah in Potomac, MD. Rabbi Nissan Antine (YCT 2006), Associate Rabbi and incoming Senior Rabbi, was recognized as the YCT Alumnus of the Year. Over 235 people attended that dinner, and we raised in excess of $135,000. Much of that money was eligible for matching donations, so in the end we received over $350,000!
The evening began with a panel on medical ethics and end-of-life issues. The panelists were myself, Rabbi Shmuel Herzfeld, Rabbi of Ohev Shalom: The National Synagogue and Dr. Andrew Shorr, Associate Director of Pulmonary and Critical Care at the Washington Hospital Centre, and we addressed the halakhic, pastoral and medical dimensions of these issues. The presentations made a big impact, and people remarked afterwards how stimulating and valuable they found the panel, and that they are now motivated to be more proactive in dealing with advance directives and health care proxies.
The dinner itself was extremely well attended. It was particularly moving to see a number of Rav Nissan's colleagues - his fellow musmakhim - at the dinner. Helene and Rabbi Yerachmiel Shapiro (YCT 2008), Rabbi Aaron Frank (YCT 2008), and Rachel and Rabbi Chai Posner (YCT 2010) were all there to join in the simcha. After speeches from Steve Lieberman, myself, Rabbi Michael Unterberg, and Rabbi Weiss, Rabbi Antine closed with his acceptance speech.
I must say that I found myself tremendously moved by Rabbi Antine's speech. Rabbi Antine spoke almost exclusively about his deep gratitude to YCT, how were it not for YCT he would not have been a rabbi at all, and certainly not the rabbi he is today. How YCT has educated and trained not only him, but all of his colleagues, colleagues who are serving in synagogues, heads of national Jewish camping, heads of chaplaincy of major hospitals, and as rabbis and teachers in high schools and on college campuses. He ended by saying that he cannot sufficiently thank or begin to repay YCT in words, but that he can start to do so in action - in active support of YCT, financially and otherwise, and he then encouraged his congregants and all the attendees to do the same, to be active supporters, individually and collectively, of Yeshivat Chovevei Torah.
The sincere and profound expression of gratitude that Rabbi Antine expressed was matched by comments that the attendees were making throughout the evening, talking about their enthusiasm and gratitude for Rabbi Antine, of course, but also for YCT and everything it represents. Our deep thanks go out to Steve Lieberman, our Chairman of the Board, to the dinner chairs, Debra Sunshine and Dr. Abraham Cherrick, and Evelyn Marcus-Wheeler and Charles Wheeler, and to the education chair, Judry Subar. And, of course, our thanks to all the attendees for their participation and support, and to the leadership of Beth Shalom for their eagerness to host this significant event in their synagogue.
This joyous event, however, was sadly accompanied by some tragic news. Irene Smook, mother of Naomi Smook, YCT Vice President of Institutional Advancement, passed away on Sunday, the day of the dinner. We also mourn the passing of Gertrude Bennett-Fox, mother of Rabbi Joel Tessler, Senior Rabbi of Congregation Beth Shalom. Rabbi Tessler was unable to be at the dinner as he was with his mother in Florida. To Naomi Smook and to Rabbi Tessler we say: HaMakom yinachem etkhem bi'tokh she'ar avalei Ziyon vi'Yerushalayim, May God comfort you among the mourners of Zion and Jerusalem.