Finding his roots
An active member of Hillel at Elon, Ron Yardenay ’11 continues working with the Jewish community.
By Kyle Lubinsky ’17
Undergraduate research provides many opportunities for Elon students. In the case of Ron Yardenay ’11, the experience not only allowed him to delve deeper into a topic surrounding his field of study, but also shaped his identity beyond graduation in ways he did not expect.
Born in Israel, Yardenay moved to North Carolina in 1994 at a young age. As the business administration and history double major was completing his last year of college and preparing for his final senior seminar project, he decided to look into his own family’s history after being encouraged by history professor David Crowe. Yardenay was taking a class that focused on Nazi Germany taught by Crowe, who retired in 2015 and is internationally recognized for his expertise on the Holocaust. That summer, under the guidance of his mentor, Yardenay embarked on researching the story of his ancestors who had migrated to Israel between 1910 and 1947, with a specific focus on his grandfather.
The result was “The Story of Avraham Fogel: An Escape from the Holocaust,” a thesis that through a historical lens follows the story of how Yardenay’s grandparents escaped from concentration camps and eventually returned to Israel. “I grew up very far from my grandfather, he in Israel and I in the USA,” Yardenay recalls. “I knew him as my grandfather, but I never knew him personally.” Revisiting his life after conducting research on the subject, and after becoming an adult, Yardenay adds, granted him the opportunity to better understand the struggles his grandfather endured. “I know him now on a very deep level.”
Besides leading him to be in better touch with his family heritage, the project opened new career opportunities for Yardenay. An active member of Hillel at Elon, he was impassioned to continue his service to the Jewish community after college. He serves as Jewish life coordinator at High Point University, where he works with a board of students to plan for regular community programming as well as holiday celebrations according to Judaic traditions. He is also very active in the area’s Jewish community. “This project, in many ways, has shaped my identity,” he says. “It allowed me to uncover my family roots and, to a broader point, the roots of my people.”
Working on the project also had a profound effect on Yardenay’s worldview—it has given him a new lens through which to process life events. “I would encourage others to recount and reflect on their experiences,” he says, “or even better, the experiences of others, and to do so in a personal and scholarly method. Only then we will understand rather than react to those around us.”