TEDxYU Debuts with Strong Launch

By: Yardena Katz  |  October 2, 2016

tedDemonic as November sounds to the vacation-loving student, TEDxYeshivaUniversity promises to charge next month’s return to classes with a jolt of inspiration. Consisting of six talks on a range of intriguing topics, the event will be held at Schottenstein Theater the evening of Tuesday, November 1st. Although its coveted tickets have already sold out, videos of the talks will be made available online for the public.

The high anticipation surrounding the event is quantifiable. Tickets went on sale Wednesday, September 27th at 7:45 PM for $10 each and sold out within ten minutes. On TEDxYU’s Facebook page, over 350 people have responded that they are either interested or attending.

TEDx events are coordinated by thousands of institutions and communities worldwide, and operate independent of the TED Conferences famously run by the nonprofit Sapling Foundation. Running an event under the TEDx label, however, does involve obtaining a free license from TED and signing onto several regulations. TEDx events are required to be nonprofit and cannot imburse speakers, but “may use an admission fee or commercial sponsorship to cover costs.”

Though a global phenomenon, a TEDx event at YU is unprecedented. Noam Safier, co-chair of TEDxYU with Esti Hirt, highlighted that the event “was fundraised for, planned and executed entirely by students. Of course, different offices were consulted for input and to help with some of the logistical details,” he said. “But overall the program has been entirely student-run,” marking it a commendable student innovation.

“Our aim in bringing TEDx to Yeshiva University is multifaceted,” Hirt emphasized. “On the one hand, we hope to excite the student body by highlighting extraordinary people who have interesting research and thoughts to share. On the other hand, we are aiming to serve as an outlet for the ideas of these YU students, faculty members, and alumni to go beyond the Jewish community, and make their messages accessible to anyone looking for a good TED talk to watch.”

The project is being sponsored by a $2500 grant from Neal’s Fund and by Provost Selma Botman. The social entrepreneurship fund is in memory of Neal Dublinksy (‘84 YC), and directs grants to select charity-based startups that are run by YU students and that “help the Jewish and general community.” It has supported numerous other successful projects, including Music Vs, Good St. and Counterpoint Israel.

The TEDxYU webpage identifies one of its main goals as being “to display the diverse academic and intellectual community of Yeshiva University on the international stage,” particularly “through the sharing of videos.” As per TED Conference regulations, admission was capped at 100 guests, which will render video sharing to be a crucial tool in engaging the larger student body.

In addition to enhancing student life, the project aims to extend beyond campus bounds in order “to fulfill our Jewish mission of being an ‘or l’goyim,’ or ‘light unto the nations.’” The mission of TED is similarly coined as “ideas worth spreading.” If the rest of the popular TEDx YouTube library is any indicator, YU’s TEDx videos can potentially generate thousands of views. Once editing is completed several weeks following the live taping, the talks will be posted on the official TED YouTube channel, joining a collection of more than 30,000 TEDx videos from over 130 countries.

The multidisciplinary lineup of speakers includes a mix of accomplished professionals, students, faculty and alumni: Monica Dugot, international director of restitution at Christie’s; Shy Krug, psychologist and magician; Mark Weingarten, rabbinic intern at Lincoln Square Synagogue; Arielle Zellis, Stern College psychology major; Jesse Itzkowitz, assistant professor of marketing at Syms; and Ariel Fishman, assistant vice president of academic program planning, development and approval at Fordham University.

There’s no need to think about what lies beyond vacation just yet, but no need to doubt its excitement factor either. TEDxYU is starting strong, and sounds like an idea worth spreading.