Lander College for Men Announces Winners of Jacob Goldfinger Memorial Mathematics Contest for Yeshiva High School Students in the U.S. and Canada

Date: June 07, 2010
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Barbara Franklin
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Contest Believed to Be First Such National Competition for Yeshiva Students.

New York, N.Y. – Dr. Moshe Sokol, Dean of Touro College’s Lander College for Men (LCM), has announced the winners of the inaugural Jacob Goldfinger Memorial Mathematics Contest, created to broaden and enrich Yeshiva high school students' knowledge of mathematics and to enhance their mathematical creativity.

Yakir Forman of Teaneck, N.J., a junior at Torah Academy of Bergen County, is the first place winner, with a “perfect score,” in which he answered all of the problems and equations correctly, according to Dr. Morris Snow, associate professor of mathematics at LCM and contest chairman. Zachary Avigan of Sharon, Mass., a senior at Maimonides High School in Brookline, Mass., took second place honors, while Netanel Friedenberg, a senior at Torah Academy of Bergen County, N.J., placed third.

The first place prizewinner received $1,000; the second place winner, $350; and the third place winner, $150.

The competition, which consisted of both word problems and equations to solve, was open to full-time yeshiva high school students in the United States and Canada who were 19 and younger as of December 31, 2009. It is believed to be the first such national contest designed specifically for yeshiva students in the U.S.

Dean Sokol expressed his delight with the enthusiasm the competition generated, attracting 96 participants.

“With the news of a decline in the study of mathematics, both in the Jewish and secular arenas, we were thrilled to see such interest in the competition,” Dean Sokol said. “We were also very impressed with the entries themselves, which indicated a high level of mathematical aptitude and comprehension.”

Those who received honorable mention included Mark Bryk, a senior at DRS Yeshiva High School, in Woodmere, N.Y.; Tzipporah Greenberg, a sophomore at Bais Yaakov in Passaic, N.J.; Mark Kollmar, a junior at Torah Academy of Bergen County; and Eitan Zinberg, a senior at DRS Yeshiva High School.

Participating in academic contests is nothing new to Forman who, in his spare time, likes to read and play chess. In 2007, he was a runner up in the annual International Bible Contest in Israel, placing fourth worldwide, trailing only three Israelis. He placed first in a separate contest, the Diaspora Competition, which tested the top participants from countries other than Israel. At 13, Forman was the youngest person to win the Diaspora Competition.

Dean Sokol added that this mathematics competition is more than just a contest in that LCM is partnering with yeshiva high schools in providing enrichment materials for their use.

The contest examination was based on preparatory reading material that was provided to all participants in advance via a password-protected site on the Internet. The preparatory material consisted of readings, challenging problems, and their solutions. The material was divided into learning modules and participants were strongly encouraged to complete them in accordance with a schedule on the web site.

The final examination was administered on March 14.

Dr. Snow said that the field of mathematics is an exciting and lucrative place for today’s college graduates since there is a growing need for Internet-age mathematicians, statisticians, and data analysts. “A good portion of the contest involved probability, which is the basis of all statistical analysis, mathematical induction, and methods of problem solving,” he said.

Statisticians and data analysts, he added, can look forward to rewarding careers in academia, at Internet search engine companies, at insurance companies, within the U.S. government, and at top American companies.

The Prize Advisory Committee, which helped design the contest and provided the overall guidance on content and structuring of the exam, consisted of Dr. Sylvain Cappell, Silver Professor, New York University Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences and chair, New York University Faculty Senate; Dr. Wallace Goldberg, professor of mathematics and chairman, mathematics department, Queens College; Dr. Nouri Levy, deputy chairman, mathematics department, LCM; Dr. Stanley Ocken, professor of mathematics, City College of New York; Micah Segelman, Ph.D. candidate in statistics, University of Rochester (formerly instructor of mathematics at Yeshiva Chofetz Chaim and Shevach High School); Dr. Moshe Snow, associate professor of mathematics, LCM; and Dr. Joel Wolowelsky, dean of faculty and instructor of mathematics, Yeshivah of Flatbush.

Born in Poland in 1914, Jacob Goldfinger immigrated to the U.S. after losing his entire family in the Holocaust. The father of two children, grandfather of nine, and great-grandfather of 15, he did not have a formal education but possessed a very sharp mind and an exceptional aptitude for mathematics until his death at 93. His son and daughter, Solomon Goldfinger and Regina Fischbein, are proud to have sponsored this competition and are gratified by the strong interest and participation it has engendered.

Lander College for Men/Beis Medrash L’Talmud, located in Queens, N.Y., is committed to the pursuit of excellence in Jewish and academic studies in a personalized environment. Established in the fall of 2000, the purpose of LCM is to provide a superior college education for students committed to serious Beis Medrash learning in an atmosphere of Torah.