Every year we are excited about the prospects ahead for our seniors as they plan their next steps following graduation. This year, it is my pleasure to announce that the Israel Guidance Program at Yeshiva University High School for Girls (YUHSG) is being renamed the Joy Rochwarger Balsam Israel Guidance Program, thanks to a generous gift by Joy’s family in her memory.
Joy Rochwarger Balsam, z’l, a member of the Class of 1984 of Yeshiva University High School for Girls, received her undergraduate degree from Barnard College. Following her graduation from college, she made aliyah. For over a decade, she was a beloved teacher in the post-high school program at Midreshet Moriah in Jerusalem.
While living in Israel, Joy completed her master’s degree, writing her thesis, Sefer Pa’aneah Raza and Biblical Exegesis in Medieval Ashkenaz, under the supervision of Professor Ephraim Kanarfogel. Joy was also a protégée of the renowned scholar Nechama Leibowitz and acted as her personal assistant during Professor Leibowitz’s latter years. Joy paid tribute to her mentor in an essay written for the collection Torah of the Mothers (Urim Publications 2000).
In 2001, Joy returned to the United States, where she served happily and tirelessly as a program officer for The Avi Chai Foundation. Joy’s commitment to Jewish education included twelve years of devoted volunteer work in Poland, where she worked with the Lauder Foundation to help Jews reconnect with their heritage, visiting often and arranging for distinguished scholars to address the Warsaw Jewish community.
Joy was always involved in formal and informal Jewish education. Her teaching spanned the gamut from a Bais Yaakov in Queens to Jews in Poland who knew very little about their faith, because she believed that all Jews should be educated. She was often consulted, both in Israel and the United States, for advice on women’s Torah education.
Barely a year after her marriage, Joy passed away on Rosh Chodesh Sivan 5764 (May 21, 2004), having accomplished much in her tragically short life, but wanting to do so much more. Joy’s impact on her friends, family, and students is evident from the sixteen children who have been named after her. Her cheerful disposition, tremendous faith, love of Israel, and infectious devotion to learning lishma inspired countless students, making it particularly appropriate that the Israel Guidance Program be dedicated in her memory.