Northwest Yeshiva High School grad Oren Kaufman, who graduated from Yeshiva University this past May, returned to YU this fall. He participated in the Presidential Fellowship and University Leadership Program, created by university president Richard Joel to identify top graduates and keep them connected to their alma mater.
Oren explained from his office at the New York City school that fellows in the program are placed in various departments of the school's administration. For most of them it is their first exposure to this side of an academic institution.
'It's an amazing experience,' said Oren, one of 14 fellows selected, 'especially coming from the perspective of a former student. As a student you see a one-dimensional aspect of the university and it's sort of negative.'
Kaufman says students would often complain that the university didn't do enough and ask why they didn't do more. But now he sees that the administration does a tremendous amount.
'From my perspective now, the university is very active and they really are trying to make a lot of changes.'
Among the benefits of the fellowship is working in a business environment. A psychology major, Oren was once interested in industrial psychology, but now he is drawn to Jewish communal work, particularly in development and fundraising.
'Part of this fellowship is leadership training in the Jewish communal environment,' he told me. 'That has sparked my interest in that, and also in business.'
As part of their leadership training, the presidential fellows attended the United Jewish Communities' general assembly in Toronto early this month. That made a big impression.
'It was unbelievable to be exposed to every single type of Judaism,' he reports. 'To see people express their Judaism in so many different ways. Everyone is committed in a very serious way.
'It was inspirational and motivational and it gave me an increased interest and desire to have a career in Jewish communal service.'
After completing the 12-month program, Kaufman hopes to return to graduate school to study business. Meanwhile, he is busy working full days in YU's Office of Institutional Advancement, which deals with alumni affairs, fundraising and community affairs.
'Every day is fun and exciting,' says Oren, who also attends weekly leadership seminars and completes reading assignments for the program. 'It's a tremendous opportunity to work on projects that provide value to alumni.'
Most of these programs are in the New York area, where most of the alumni reside, but there are plans for events in other parts of the country.
Kaufman was able to return to Seattle this summer, where he worked as a counselor at Bikur Cholim Machzikay Hadath's Camp Kol Rena and he was also able to visit during Sukkot. He would like to return to Seattle to live one day, but for now school will take him elsewhere. Also, he pointed out, for an Orthodox young person, social opportunities in New York are much greater than in Seattle.
'I have a strong connection,' he says, 'and I try to maintain contact with my high school.'
He says that his graduating class as a whole was very committed to returning to ' or staying in ' the Seattle area, with its growing Jewish (and Orthodox) community.
Oren is the son of Stuart Kaufman of Seattle and Chana Rubin of Beersheva, Israel.
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Kathy and Steve Berman were recently recognized by Jewish Family Service for facilitating a unique $250,000 allocation to Jewish food bank programs nationwide.
Steve, named Washington State's top litigator by the National Law Journal in 2000, is widely known as a class action litigator in high-profile cases involving the Washington Public Power Supply System, Exxon Valdez oil spill, Michael Milken, Enron, tobacco companies and Visa/Mastercard.
In 2004 he won a legal settlement involving manufacturing violations of Jewish dietary laws. The settlement stipulated that a portion of the proceeds, in the amount of $250,000, should benefit Jewish food banks around the country.
Kathy recently stepped down from the JFS board of directors after serving nine years. During that time, the agency benefited greatly from her 15 years of experience with Microsoft in the fields of human resources, executive recruitment and international marketing. She is currently director of human resources for an Eastside investment firm.
The allocation was directed, at the Berman's discretion, to the Association of Jewish Family and Children's Services for distribution to member agencies operating food banks in their communities. Locally, JFS received $55,000 to purchase a long-needed new van for its food bank program. The van will greatly increase the ability of the emergency services department to pick of large donations of food and will also support delivery of food to home-bound clients. The distribution will fund two years' worth of fuel and maintenance for the van and also purchased $6,000 of food.
The Bermans recently endowed and established the Environmental Law Clinic at the University of Washington.
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Everybody needs a hug. Spotted at the University Village QFC: A well-dressed woman picked up one of the large, plush teddy bears on display in the floral department and pressing it to her face, gave it a long squeeze. Then she put it back and proceeded to her car with her groceries.