Interview with Dr. Moses Pava

By: Aliza Leichter on behalf of the YU Observer  |  November 26, 2020

By Aliza Leichter on behalf of the YU Observer

Dr. Moses Pava is the former Dean of the Sy Syms School of Business, the Alvin Einbender University Professor of Business Ethics, and Professor of Accounting. He has been teaching at Yeshiva University since 1998, and has lectured and written numerous books on the topics of Jewish business ethics, spirituality in business, and corporate accountability. I had the honor and opportunity to interview Dr. Pava about his past experience, the latest initiatives at YU, and advice for current students. 

YU Observer: What was your background before you came to YU, and what led you to YU?

Dr. Moses Pava: I’ve been at YU for 32 years, since 1988. In 1983, I was attending RIETS to become a pulpit rabbi, but at that point decided to go to business school. That same year, I started studying at NYU Stern School of Business’ MBA program. I discovered that I had more in common with fellow professors than students and switched to the PhD program. In 1987, I taught for the year at Hunter College, and came to YU when Dr. Michael Schiff, former head of NYU Stern’s accounting department, became founding dean of Sy Syms School of Business; I was living in Washington Heights and still attending NYU. I am at YU because of its mission to bring [T]orah knowledge and secular knowledge to students, something that is both close to my heart and something I grew up with. As soon as I started teaching at YU, I knew that this was the place I wanted to spend my career. I love teaching the students and I love the quality of the students.

O: What led you to become so interested in business ethics and corporate responsibility?

P: It happened by accident, actually. The second dean of Sy Syms, Harold Nierenberg, taught a course called Ethical and Legal Environment of Business, and last minute, asked if I was interested in teaching it. I had some interest in the topic, so I jumped at the opportunity and taught it to the students on the Beren Campus. I became more and more interested in the topic, and started doing a lot of research on it. I co-wrote “Corporate Responsibility and Financial Performance; Paradox of the Social Cost with Joshua Krausz;” it won a Choice Magazine Top Business Books of 1996 award. Krausz and I were the first professors to document a positive association with corporate social performance and traditional financial performance. It was controversial and a big deal at the time, even though today this is taken as common knowledge. I taught students from my 1997 book, “Business Ethics: A Jewish Perspective, Leading With Meaning, The Jewish Ethics Workbook,” and continued teaching the course using that book.

O: Can you tell us what we could expect and learn as students when reading your books, “Jewish Ethics In A Post-Madoff World,” “Business Ethics: A Jewish Perspective, Leading With Meaning, The Jewish Ethics Workbook,” “The Search for Meaning In Organizations,” and “Jewish Ethics As Dialogue,” and what made you decide you wanted to become an author?

P: In order to become a professor and gain tenure, you have to do research. I was conducting research as part of the job, and what made me want to combine jewish ethics with business ethics was that I was teaching at YU; I wanted to write books for the students. I co-edited “Jewish Business Ethics” with a mentor of mine, Rabbi Dr. Aaron Levine A”H, who was teaching at Yeshiva College (YC), and was also interested in the topic of Jewish Business Ethics.

O: As Chair of the Accounting Department, what are some initiatives that you have helped create?

P: I work closely with partners at several accounting firms, some of whom were former students, in order to make sure our curriculum remains state of the art. We meet bimonthly to discuss different issues in the accounting field to ensure that we are meeting the needs of our accounting students. Recently, we developed a new course called the Future of Corporate Accountability. In addition to working with and advising students, the most important job is hiring faculty to teach the courses, as well as scheduling courses, and meeting with the graduates and alumni who constitute the committee. I designed a masters program in accounting, which has grown tremendously, and accounting remains one of the biggest majors on campus.

O: What led you to design the new Sy Syms Jewish Values curriculum? 

P: Nine years ago as Dean of Sy Syms, I felt that YC requirements did not meet the needs of students, and wanted to emphasize Jewish values and the application of Jewish values for business students. 

O: What advice can you give to students who are entering the workforce during COVID?

P: Be flexible. The most important thing to learn as an undergraduate is to learn how to learn; the knowledge we’re teaching you has a relatively short shelf-life. You are going to have to become a self-learner and be much more flexible than in previous years. You need to be the entrepreneur of your own career, which means staying current, and staying motivated. There are huge opportunities in accounting, especially in the growing area of sustainability in accounting. 

O: What led you to create the honors program?

P: When I became Dean, YC had a very large honors program, and it was better for the university to have honors programs in all three undergraduate schools; otherwise, it seemed unfair. There was a high demand for the honors program among students who were extremely bright, had high SAT scores, and wanted to study at YU on a scholarship, but needed to go to either YC or Stern. I became Director of the Honors Program, which gave students much more flexibility in choosing to study either business or liberal arts, and raised the level across the board.