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A Seminary of His Own

Yisroel Besser

Rabbi Dovid Refson might have been in the right place at the right time, but that fact alone does not account for Neve Yerushalayim’s outstanding success. The largest college for women in the Jewish world was built on his dedication, smarts, and the mussar he heard from his mentor, Rav Elyah Lopian. Now, Rabbi Refson is once again nurturing the school as it enters a new period of challenge and change.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

The lobby of Manhattan’s United Nations Hotel is a flurry of ambassadors and bureaucrats, neckties knotted tightly, briefcases clasped close as they whisper to each other in a babble of languages. Rabbi Dovid Refson strides across the lobby in marked contrast to the bevy of officialdom: Tieless, he appears very British in a wool sweater, his imposing frame, cheerful smile, and exuberant greeting so different from the hushed, polite tones all around us. It’s been a year spent in transit for the dean of the Orthodox world’s largest all-women’s college. Unprecedented financial challenges have forced him out of his beloved classroom and on to the fundraising trail. If he appears a bit weary, he compensates with humor, candor, and insight. The builder of one of the kiruv world’s flagship institutions has been called farsighted, even visionary, but as he eases into a red-and-gray-striped lobby chair, he waves away the labels. If Dovid Refson had a goal when he was young, it was simply to make himself useful.

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