With 1,500 alumni in the Los Angeles area, including many rabbinic and educational leaders, Yeshiva University opened its first office here in September hoping to both raise YU’s visibility and offer its services and expertise to the local Orthodox community.
“We want to be able to provide our extensive resources as a large university and as the unique institution that we are to the community at large,” said Sarah Emerson Helfand, an attorney and YU alumna who moved from New York to direct YU’s West Coast regional office.
Helfand said she can help individuals and institutions answer admissions questions, access YU’s speaker’s bureau, or tap into resources from YU’s Center for the Jewish Future or its Institute for University-School Partnership. YU also runs college and high school service learning programs for non-YU students in the U.S., Israel and developing countries.
She will also reach out to parents and alumni to raise funds for YU.
Opening regional offices is part of YU President Richard Joel’s vision of linking the hundreds of Modern Orthodox communities in North America in a common conversation.
“The question is how do you keep communities vibrant, dreaming, aspiring and keeping their hands wide open in friendship to those to our right and our left, while being affirmative in who we are without defensiveness,” Joel said.
Joel believes the regional hubs can create a mutually beneficial “town-gown relationship.”
“What I need from the community is students and resources, and I need to feed back to the community all the ingredients for them to maintain purposeful communities—” inspired students, lay and professional leaders, rabbis and educators, and the resources to develop quality synagogues, school and institutions. “If we do that well we create inspired communities that form what I call sacred synergy.”
Joel will be a headliner at YU’s first Shabbaton in Los Angeles March 3-6, with programs in the Pico-Robertson area, Hancock Park, Valley Village and Westwood.
In addition to Joel, scholars in Los Angeles for the weekend include Rabbi Herschel Schachter, head of YU’s rabbinic seminary; Rabbi Kenneth Brander, David Mitzner Dean of the Center for the Jewish Future; Rabbi Lawrence Hajioff, instructor of Jewish studies at YU; Dr. Rona Novick, associate professor at Azrieli Graduate School of Jewish Education and Administration; and Dr. Efrat Sobolofsky, director of YUConnects.
The biggest draw, however, might be the Maccabeats, YU’s A Capella group whose Chanukah spoof, “Candlelight,” has gotten 4.6 million hits on YouTube. The Maccabeats will meet with high school students, lead Friday night services at Adas Torah in the Pico-Robertson area, daven with Young Israel of Century City Shabbat morning, sing over Shabbat lunch at Beth Jacob, and hold community concerts Saturday night and Sunday morning.
For more information, go to www.yu.edu/lashabbaton.