A total of 150 degrees were conferred at the 112th Commencement Exercises of The Jewish Theological Seminary, held on May 18 in New York City. The distinguished graduates are the newest group of lay and professional leaders trained to serve nationwide as rabbis, academics, cantors, scholars, Jewish educators, and community leaders.
Dr. Ismar Schorsch, who is retiring next month after serving twenty years as Chancellor of JTS, delivered the keynote address and was awarded an Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters. In addition to Dr. Schorsch, honorary doctoral degrees were awarded to Professor Amos Oz, acclaimed Israeli author and Professor of Hebrew Literature at Ben-Gurion University; Mario Ringler, President, Seminario Rabinico Latinoamericano "Marshall T. Meyer"; and Dr. Judith Shapiro, President of Barnard College.
Of the 144 graduates* who participated in this year's commencement, fifty received bachelor's degrees from List College; forty-two, including four PhDs and two DHLs, received degrees from The Graduate School; thirty-two received degrees from the William Davidson Graduate School of Jewish Education, including two EdDs; six cantors were invested by the H.L. Miller Cantorial School and College of Jewish Music; and twenty men and women were ordained by The Rabbinical School. Six students received two degrees.
Ismar Schorsch is the sixth Chancellor of JTS and the Rabbi Herman Abramovitz Professor of Jewish History. Throughout his twenty years as Chancellor, Dr. Schorsch has worked to convey his vision of Conservative Judaism as the most authentic contemporary expression of rabbinic Judaism. In 1995, he published Sacred Cluster: The Core Values of Conservative Judaism, his highly-acclaimed monograph outlining the seven fundamental tenets of Conservative Judaism.
Under Dr. Schorsch's leadership, JTS has informed and elevated the religious lives of Jews in the United States, Israel, Argentina and Russia. A top scholar in the field of modern Jewish history, in 1998 the Russian State University awarded him an honorary degree in recognition of the extraordinary success of Project Judaica — the first time in that country's history that such an honor was given to a Jewish scholar. His belief that the survival of the Jewish people depends on education resulted in the creation of the William Davidson Graduate School of Jewish Education at JTS in September 1996, which has helped to stimulate a revolution in the field of Jewish education in North America.
During his tenure as Chancellor, Dr. Schorsch has become increasingly recognized as one of the foremost spokesmen on a range of critical issues, bringing a uniquely Jewish dimension to discussions on the environment, separation of church and state, health care, and welfare reform. He has shared a podium with the Dalai Lama, and working closely with former Vice President Al Gore, helped create the National Religious Partnership for the Environment, a coalition of religious and scientific leaders, which succeeded in using the moral influence wielded by religious leaders to effect change. Commitment to Israel remains another top priority for Chancellor Schorsch. The leading voice in the fight to expand the rights and religious identity of Conservative Jews in Israel, he continues to strengthen JTS's Israel campus.
Dr. Schorsch was ordained by JTS in 1962, holds master's degrees from JTS and Columbia University and was awarded a PhD in Jewish History from Columbia in 1969.
Universally renowned as one of today’s greatest Israeli writers, Professor Oz grew up at number 18 Amos Street, close to where much of his mesmerizing fiction takes place. The author of twenty books in Hebrew and more than 450 articles and essays, his works have been translated into thirty languages in over thirty-five countries.
Professor Oz has earned the highest accolades around the globe, including the Prix Femina, France's most coveted literary prize for best foreign novel; the Israel Prize for Literature; and Germany's Goethe Cultural Award, given to the likes of Sigmund Freud and Thomas Mann. Shai Agnon Chair for the Study of Modern Hebrew Literature at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, he has been a Visiting Professor at Princeton and Oxford Universities, among others, and an activist on behalf of the Israeli peace movement.
As President of the Seminario Rabínico Latinoamericano "Marshall T. Meyer" for twenty-five years, Mr. Ringler has sustained the institution, elevated its standards, and strengthened the Conservative Movement worldwide. Under his guidance, the Seminario — JTS’s affiliate in Buenos Aires — provides Jewish leadership within Argentina and throughout Latin America. Special Advisor in Religious Freedom to the Argentine State Department, he is the founder and a vital member of the Argentine Council for Religious Freedom Affairs. For many years he served as the Vice President of the World Council of Conservative/Masorti Synagogues, which recently named him its Honorary President.
A highly respected cultural anthropologist, Dr. Shapiro is credited with greatly advancing the cause of women's education in the United States. The first woman to be appointed to the Department of Anthropology at the University of Chicago, she served as Provost and Chair of the Department of Anthropology at Bryn Mawr College. She is a past President of the American Ethnological Society, a Fellow at the Center for Advanced Study in Behavioral Sciences, and a Fellow of the American Council of Learned Societies. In 2002, she received the National Institute of Social Sciences' Gold Medal Award for her contributions to women's higher education.
* This year's graduates exemplify the combination of academic accomplishment, community service and Jewish scholarship that distinguishes JTS graduates from graduates of other institutions. The notable students include:
Dr. Job Jindo is receiving a PhD from the Bible and Ancient Semitic Languages Department. He arrived at JTS via Osaka, Japan, Hebrew University in Jerusalem, and the Harvard University Graduate School of Arts and Sciences.
Liati Mayk of Eatontown, New Jersey, who is receiving an MA from the Graduate School, is a muralist and performance artist who designed a large-scale mural representing the two sides of the JTS student landscape: the upper West Side and Israel. She has also represented Israel on its women’s international Maccabi softball team and will continue her studies at JTS as a PhD candidate.
Robert Menes, who is being invested as a cantor, served in the Peace Corps and was a para-professional in his synagogue in Victoria, British Columbia.
Sharon Grainer, originally from Toronto and who is also being invested as a cantor, studied Hebrew in Tzefat, Israel, French at the Sorbonne in Paris, and Yiddish at the Oxford Institute for Yiddish Studies in England.
Boris Ostrer, receiving the M.Phil in the Midrash program, trained as a molecular biologist. He hails from St. Petersburg, Russia, via Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and most recently, St. Paul, MN.
Editors/Reporters: For further information on the Commencement Exercises or the graduates, please contact Sherry Kirschenbaum in the Department of Communications at (212) 678-8953; or email.
Founded in 1886 as a rabbinical school, The Jewish Theological Seminary today is the academic and spiritual center of Conservative Judaism worldwide, encompassing a world–class library and five schools. JTS trains tomorrow's religious, educational, academic and lay leaders for the Jewish community and beyond.
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