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RCC Graduating Student Spotlight: Pinchas Kreizel

portrait of Pinchas Kreizel

Pinchas Kreizel was brought up in the insular ultra-Orthodox Jewish community in Monsey, N.Y., which values religious studies over secular subjects like math and science. In his community, “secular studies in general are disregarded and college is practically taboo,” Kreizel said.

Kreizel, who holds a perfect 4.0 GPA, is a 2019 recipient of the SUNY Chancellor's Award for Student Excellence, the highest honor conferred by New York's state university system. As an Honors student, Phi Theta Kappa member and Chancellor's Award winner, he will be a distinguished member of RCC's Class of 2019 at Commencement on May 23.

“I left a secure, well-paying job to pursue a dream that seemed impossible,” said Kreizel. “Once I began to study at RCC, my mind opened up in unexpected ways.”

After completing his Talmudic studies at age 20, Kreizel began working as a preparation cook in a catering company and ascended to the position of head chef. Despite having no secular education past the eighth grade, he decided to pursue a college degree. Kreizel earned a high school diploma from Rockland BOCES and then enrolled at RCC, where he is completing his prerequisites as part of his associate's degree. He plans to transfer to Cornell University to pursue a bachelor's in agricultural science.

“RCC exposed me to many ideas about global issues, such as environmental problems and economic injustices, and I learned how to write and think about them in analytical ways,” said Kreizel. “Most importantly, however, I learned that through my studies I can make a difference in this world.”

Kreizel is social media manager for RCC's Organic Gardening Club and has played a major role in reinvigorating the campus garden. He is also president of the Environmental Science Club; one of his projects involved working to start a composting initiative on campus. Kreizel also mentors in the peer mentoring program at RCC, and has served as secretary of the Disability Awareness Club.

Kreizel is the recipient of the Betty Norr Saveth Memorial Scholarship, presented by the RCC Foundation for excellence in academic performance. He also earned the Footsteps Scholarship Award for excellence in academic achievement in the face of great challenges. Footsteps is an organization helping former members of the ultra-Orthodox Jewish community forge a life in the mainstream society.

Kreizel hopes to use his background in food to help solve global-scale food issues, such as lack of inner-city access to fresh foods and feeding a growing world population.

“RCC has helped me expand my horizons more than I thought possible when I first signed up more than two years ago,” he said. “Thanks to RCC, I am well on my way to achieve my dreams of making the world a better place for the future.”