Devir Kahan, Yeshiva University High School for Boys
A common spirit runs throughout Yeshiva University: the mandate to matter.
Students of all ages and backgrounds come here to pursue a range of professional and personal dreams, from scientific research and medicine to law, Jewish education or public policy. Our students seek to harness their unique talents and YU education to make a lasting impact on the world around them. This spring, when they graduate from YU, these new alumni will hit the ground running.
In the weeks leading up to Commencement, YU News will feature one remarkable graduate from each school, reflecting, in their own words, on their time here, their passions and their dreams for the future.
Meet the class of 2013.
Name: Devir Kahan
School: Yeshiva University High School for Boys/Marsha Stern Talmudical Academy (MTA)
Hometown: Monsey, New York
Passion: Information technology
Why did you choose MTA?
Coming out of middle school, I liked the idea of a high school on a college campus. MTA feels like a university. When you have a free period, you can go to the library or the gym.
In 11th grade we met with YU Rosh Yeshiva Rabbi Hershel Schachter. It was right before Pesach, and we were all sitting around asking questions to this posek who most people wouldn’t be lucky enough to meet. That’s because of the high school’s ties with the University, and it’s just one of the things I got to experience here that I couldn’t have done anywhere else.
What was your most memorable high school experience?
In 10th grade I participated in the Makor Chaim exchange program. Ten students from each grade get sent to this high school yeshiva in Israel for six weeks, and then five or six of their students come to us for six weeks. I’d been to Israel before but definitely hadn’t lived there as an Israeli high school student. It was a pretty amazing experience. All the classes were in Hebrew. Every week, the students voted on important issues in their school—they were really making major decisions about the way their education was organized to help each student grow religiously and as a person. It was different than anything I’d seen in America.
For me, it was a great opportunity not only to prove to myself that I could do something really challenging, but also to live in a totally different and fully immersive culture. At times it was hard, at times it was emotional, but I’m very glad I did it. And next year I’ll be going back to Israel when I begin my studies at Yeshivat Reishit.
What are some of the extracurricular activities you’ve been involved in?
I joined choir because I always liked singing. Lately I’ve been working on the yearbook, too. A friend of mine also got me involved in Model Congress. This being my last year at MTA, I wanted to say yes to as many opportunities as I can.
There’s also a program called MTA LEAD which I got to be a part of. If you have a business idea, MTA and Sy Sims School of Business pairs you up with a professional in the YU network who’s successfully done something similar. I started a website, BitQuill, when I was 12 or 13. It’s for the technologically inclined. The word “geek” comes to mind. I review technology, interview someone, or write how-to guides or general articles about the industry that would be interesting to someone interested in that stuff, like me. There are 20,000 to 30,000 people who read it every month.
I wanted to get some tips and pointers for the site, so I signed up for MTA LEAD with a friend who’s been helping me with the site. We spoke to someone who built a site where patients can review their physicians about how he had developed marketing and expanded traffic to his site, as well as general good practices.
How did you discover your passion for technology?
I really identified with New York Times columnist David Pogue growing up. He writes a weekly technology column which is really great, witty and a little odd. But originally, he was also going to go into play production—he’s written music for shows and he’s part of the League of Magicians. He wrote this book Magic for Dummies, which I loved.
I also play the piano and was always interested in magic, too. I read an interview with Pogue about how he became interested in technology. He said the only thing he could come up with was that he liked technology for the same reason he liked magic: the awe of not knowing how something works and wanting to figure it out. That’s basically how I feel. I understand the big ideas, but how little wires make whatever comes up on the screen—that’s magic to me.
How are you hoping to incorporate your fascination with technology into a profession?
I’ve been taking a computer programming course at MTA, which was something that I always wanted to learn. I’d love to work on my site and be a programmer, designing something really big—an application that people can use and enjoy.
What does the idea of Torah Umadda mean to you?
We were just discussing in my Jewish History course about when the concepts of Torah and madda became disassociated from each other in Jewish culture… we’re put here on Earth to grow and enhance the world, whether that’s through literally learning Torah and sharing Torah or by being a good person and creating something the world didn’t have before. I feel like that has got to count for something.