Celebrating Our Past, Present, and Future

On Tuesday, April 27, the Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary (RIETS) celebrated its annual gala virtually, allowing rabbis from the globe-spanning RIETS alumni community to join in celebration of their yeshivah.

Highlights of the evening included a special tribute to Rabbi Hyman Arbesfeld, z”l, a RIETS musmach and benefactor, on the one-year anniversary of his passing. Rabbi Dr. Ari Berman, president of Yeshiva University, and Rabbi Menachem Penner, Max and Marion Grill Dean of RIETS, both spoke about the lasting impact Rabbi Arbesfeld had on the yeshivah. The tribute was capped by the naming of Rabbi Aryeh Lebowitz as the Abraham Arbesfeld Chair of the Director of the Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik Semikha Program, donated by Rabbi Arbesfeld and his wife Ann before his passing, in memory of his father. Rabbi Arbesfeld, who earned his semichah [rabbinic ordination] from RIETS in 1956, and Ann, have been generous supporters of the rabbinical school and Yeshiva University for decades. He joined the RIETS Board of Trustees in 1982 and became its vice chairman in 2007.

“Our Torah connects us to our Masorah, while charting a course for our future. This is the character of the Torah at RIETS that is both deeply rooted and forward focused, ready to confront the world’s challenges, and discover new opportunities to fill the entire world. Our roshei yeshivah, rabbis, and educators are building the religious, intellectual, and spiritual scaffolding that shapes the global Jewish community,” said Rabbi Dr. Ari Berman

Rabbi Penner explained how meaningful Rabbi Aryeh Lebowitz’s installation was to Rabbi Arbesfeld, recalling, “Rabbi Arbesfeld did not want to hear of establishing a chair for anyone else. He saw in Rabbi Lebowitz a leader for the next generation of rabbis who would emerge from RIETS.”

“The RIETS dinner was a beautiful tribute to Rabbi Hy Arbesfeld, a person whose love for, and dedication to, our yeshivah, was second to none. I feel so fortunate to be the first occupant of the chair dedicated to Rabbi Arbesfeld’s father, Abraham Arbesfeld,” said Rabbi Aryeh Lebowitz.

During the gala, a video was shown, featuring RIETS rabbis from across the United States who, as leaders in their own communities, turned to the yeshivah and its roshei yeshivah for guidance during the pandemic. The well-received video demonstrated the yeshivah’s significance to the global community during a time of great need.

Attendees joining the virtual gala were given the opportunity to view one of several conversations with generations of RIETS rabbis. Participants included:

Rabbi Haskel Lookstein, Rabbi Emeritus of Congregation Kehilath Jeshurun, and Rabbi Joshua Lookstein, Head of School at Westchester Day School (father and son)

Rabbi Yosef Blau, Mashgiach Ruchani of YU and Rabbi Binyamin Blau, rav of the Green Road Synagogue and Fuchs Mizrachi’s Rosh Yeshiva (father and son)

Rabbi Elazar Muskin, Young Israel of Century City, Rabbi David Block Associate Head of School at Shalhevet High School, and Rabbi Daniel Goldberg, Associate Rabbi at Congregation Ahavath Torah (father-in-law and sons-in-law)

Rabbi Perry Tirschwell, Head of School at South Peninsula Hebrew Day School, Rabbi Gershon Albert, Senior Rabbi at Beth Jacob Congregation, Rabbi Moshe Abrams, Teacher at Kohelet Yeshiva, and Rabbi Yisroel Frankel (father-in-law and sons-in-law)

The event concluded with a small portion of a Yiddish shiur [lecture] translated into English by Rabbi Soloveitchik, of whom Rabbi Arbesfeld was a student, that featured a message perfectly fitting the gala’s theme of celebrating the yeshivah’s historic past, present, and future.