Graduates from six Touro graduate schools participated in a virtual commencement ceremony on June 16, where they were invited to close their eyes and imagine themselves at Lincoln Center’s David Geffen Hall. The majestic hall, home to the New York Philharmonic, is where their academic degrees are normally conferred — surrounded by family, friends, faculty, and administration.
Still, the event held fast to many of Touro’s traditions: the national anthem opened the ceremonies, Touro College and University System (TCUS) Vice President Rabbi Moshe Krupka provided an inspiring invocation, and congratulatory remarks and advice were generously offered by President Dr. Alan Kadish and other senior administrators, deans, and faculty.
“This is a day of dreams come true,” said Dr. Nadja Graff, vice president of the Division of Graduate Studies, in opening remarks to the Class of 2020. “Today more than ever, our city, state, and nation need dedicated, well-prepared, courageous, and caring leaders. As you join the ranks of practitioners and policymakers, accept the challenges ahead and be confident in the knowledge that you have the skills, dedication, and determination to make a positive impact on our global society.”
After reflections from six class speakers, over 1,000 graduates from the Touro College graduate schools of business, education, Jewish studies, social work, technology, and health sciences were congratulated by Patricia Salkin, provost of the graduate and professional divisions, who then awarded their degrees along with instructions to turn the tassels on their caps from right to left. The ceremonies concluded with the familiar “Pomp and Circumstance,” as each graduate was recognized for their achievement.
TCUS President Dr. Alan Kadish expressed delight at celebrating the graduates’ accomplishments, which he said reflected the culmination of their hard work and commitment to fulfilling their dreams. He is confident, he said, they will continue on that path, and is hopeful Touro has prepared them both to succeed and to model compassion, concern, and social justice. “I am confident we have instilled in you a commitment to serve humanity,” the president said.
Noting the particularly challenging times, Dr. Kadish called on the graduates to join Touro in finding a solution to end racism. “We have come face to face with persistent racism. The George Floyd murder has reminded us that racism remains a major problem in our country. It is intolerable,” he said. “We must work together, united. We must find a way, without endangering others, to make equality and social justice the cornerstones of what we do.”
Associate Dean of Faculties Dr. Donne Kampel introduced the deans from each school, who introduced their student speakers.
Elisheva Friedman, Graduate School of Jewish Studies valedictorian and student speaker, began at Touro in the Judaic Studies Honors Program at Lander College for Women. This year she completed her M.A. in Jewish Studies. Friedman recounted for classmates a meaningful lesson she learned from studying Jewish history.
“The struggles and challenges that we face do not have the power to determine our happiness and success.” She said Touro has equipped them to achieve great things, but that is not enough. “We need to make the conscious decision every day to use the skills we’ve been given. We will be tested, but we are also capable of overcoming every obstacle in our way,” she said.
Sarah Fishman, MSW, was chosen student speaker by classmates at the Graduate School of Social Work. She displayed a passion for helping others — including peers — and excelled academically, graduating with a 4.0 GPA. Before coming to Touro for social work, Fishman explored a business career and taught American History at two all-girls’ schools in Brooklyn. “As a teacher, I saw the need for better mental health care for my students and decided I wanted to improve the lives of children and teenagers,” she said. While earning her master’s, Fishman counseled kids and teens at mental-health agencies as a social work intern. She knew she had found her calling. “Social work is about being compassionate, giving of oneself to others. The greatest form of self a person can achieve is expanding their love of self to others,” she told her class.
David Regev also finished with a 4.0 GPA and an M.A. in Web and Multimedia Design from the Graduate School of Technology. He shared his love for UX (user experience) design — creating a digital product so it works to help people achieve their goals. He also shared that he lost his mother to COVID-19, though he and his grandmother survived. Regev used the example of the coronavirus and the host of institutions involved with it — hospitals, medical schools, insurers, government, and their websites and apps — to illustrate his point. “Together they form one very large system. Anyone can research and find opportunities for improvement. The potential to help people and save lives is enormous,” he said.
Rivky Goldman was a wife, mother, and pillar of her chassidic community when she realized a need for mental-health support in her community and went back to school. She began at Touro’s School for Lifelong Education and then went on to earn her M.S. in Clinical Mental Health Counseling at the School of Health Sciences. While in school, she organized support groups for women whose husbands or teens were diagnosed with disorders, and directed a parent mentoring program. Goldman said at Touro she learned that to be a counselor means to be a special “human being” — human meaning to “keep our own weaknesses and struggles in mind” and being meaning “being present with the client in the moment and connecting, while maintaining awareness of your own experience and emotions.”
Touro Students Help Design Virtual Summer Internship Program at Eastern Union
Sometimes a casual conversation can be the catalyst for a major initiative. A few weeks ago, Chaim Shapiro of Touro College Career Services was discussing a project with Ira Zlotowitz, founder and president of Eastern Union, when Zlotowitz asked Shapiro how the pandemic was affecting his students’ prospects for summer internships. Shapiro shared that many internships at top-tier firms had been curtailed and some offers were even rescinded due to the virus. Students were frustrated by the lost opportunity and unsure whether they would find a meaningful and productive alternative.
In less than five minutes, Zlotowitz asked, “Why don’t we do something together for them?”
Overnight, a virtual internship program was born. Shapiro sent résumés of seven business and accounting students. Zlotowitz followed up with a conference call where the students shared insights and gave input to help build the program from the ground up. They discussed what they would like to learn and what elements were necessary to make it a success, agreeing that both educational and experiential components should be incorporated.
Zlotowitz took their advice. After a follow-up meeting with Shapiro and Jodi Smolen from Touro Career Services to finalize the details, he launched the Virtual Summer Underwriting Internship, open not only to those Touro students, but to any college students across the country who want to learn about real estate through the eyes of banks—lending, underwriting, and finance.
In less than a week, 350 student interns signed up. Zlotowitz has decided to keep the applications open, but to cap the program at 500. College and graduate students studying real estate, finance, accounting, economics, business, law, mathematics, marketing, or management are eligible to apply. “We’re looking for applicants ready to learn on-point skills in commercial real estate finance, and then leverage these skills to help propel their future careers,” said Zlotowitz.
“Everyone has a life mission. Mine is to help people make a living — to give them the skillset, mentoring, coaching, and confidence they need to be successful,” continued Zlotowitz. “At my firm, we take every opportunity to do this. We have the best training system in the country in the commercial real-estate lending space and we want to use that to help position people for success.”
“Virtual” interns will participate from the safety and convenience of their homes and work remotely alongside Eastern Union’s commercial real estate brokers and senior underwriters.
Internship curricula will be offered in conjunction with services provided by the company’s new “Multi-Family Group,” which recently reset market pricing by introducing an unprecedented quarter-point fee — with no back-end fees — for refinancing multifamily properties backed by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac, transactions known as “agency refinancings.”
The internship program covers four tracks: underwriting and finance education, sales and origination education, hands-on education, and business development and underwriting. Students may enroll in multiple tracks. The program will offer Zoom sessions followed by Q&A; enable interns to join portions of the junior brokers training; offer the opportunity to analyze live deals every week with the head of underwriting, and for those who are able to bring a deal to Eastern Union, the chance to actually work on it live with a senior underwriter mentoring them every step of the way and possibly even earn a commission.
“Ira asked for our input and valued our opinions, and came up with great solutions — the four different tracks — to help different people with diverse goals and priorities achieve the most out of their internships,” said Moshe Pinkas, a finance major at Touro. “I’m excited to get started and see how the business works from A to Z. The unprecedented access to behind the scenes calculations and negotiations will be invaluable for anyone going into real estate specifically and finance generally.”
“I have always wanted to enter the fields of real estate or financial advising. This internship allows me to hit the ground running on the real estate path. I had something lined up in the financial advisory sector which was canceled due to COVID. I’m grateful to have this opportunity presented at the last minute. Thanks to Ira’s generosity and thoughtfulness the summer will be a productive one. May Hashem repay Ira’s generosity and kindness the way only He can,” continued Pinkas.
“While discussing different ideas and deciding how the internship should be structured, I learned more about myself, which allowed me to zero in on what exactly I was looking to gain from the internship,” said Bennet Kest, an accounting major at Touro College.
Internship sessions will run during the Monday through Thursday period from July 1 to August 31. Internship spots are limited, so students are urged to apply promptly. Students may apply at EasternUnion.com/intern.
“Touro Career Services is always working on new and innovative ways to increase employment opportunities for our students, so a collaboration with a forward-thinking industry leader like Eastern Union was a natural fit. We are so pleased that this partnership can extend further as well,” said Chaim Shapiro, M.Ed, director of the Office for Student Success at Touro College.