A total of 115 degrees were conferred at the 118th Commencement Exercises of The Jewish Theological Seminary (JTS) on May 17 in New York City. The distinguished graduates became the newest JTS cohort of lay and professional leaders to serve around the continent as rabbis, academics, cantors, scholars, Jewish educators, and community leaders. Honorary doctoral degrees were awarded to Dr. Martha Minow, Mr. Bruce Slovin, Dr. Michael Walzer, and Mr. Leon Wieseltier.
Professor Arnold M. Eisen, chancellor of JTS, delivered the Commencement Address. In his greetings to the assembled, he said, "At The Jewish Theological Seminary, we are committed to providing our students with knowledge of the Jewish past so rich and nuanced that, when our graduates move forward to meet present and future challenges, they can be certain that it really is Judaism they are transmitting. Knowledge of what has been thought and accomplished must be thorough, textured, and critical if it is to serve our community and society well. Our shared task is to help Jews and the world build and maintain strong communities, and to fill those communities with meaning rich and deep enough to live for and live by. JTS is dedicated to training Jewish leaders who share this commitment and possess the passion and skill required to transmit it to a new generation of Jews."
Of the 103 graduates who were awarded degrees in this year's Commencement Exercises, 30 received bachelor's degrees from JTS's Albert A. List College of Jewish Studies; 34, including four who earned doctorates, received degrees from The Graduate School; 16 received degrees from the William Davidson Graduate School of Jewish Education, including 1 EdD; 5 cantors were invested by the H. L. Miller Cantorial School and College of Jewish Music; and 26 men and women were ordained by The Rabbinical School, with another student ordained in 2011. A total of 12 students each received two degrees from different JTS schools.
Arnold M. Eisen, one of the world's foremost experts on American Judaism, is the seventh chancellor of The Jewish Theological Seminary. Since his appointment in 2007, he has increased JTS's impact on the communities it serves by transforming the education of religious leadership for Conservative Judaism; articulating a new vision for JTS; guiding the formulation of a strategic plan to implement that vision; and developing innovative programs in synagogue arts and practices, adult education, pastoral care, Jewish thought, interreligious dialogue, and the arts. Chancellor Eisen blogs regularly on Torah, Jewish themes, and issues of the day at On My Mind, Arnie Eisen and HuffingtonPost.com.
Dr. Martha Minow is dean and Jeremiah Smith, Jr. Professor of Law at Harvard Law School, where she has taught since 1981. An expert in human rights and advocacy for members of racial and religious minorities and for women, children, and persons with disabilities, she has had a profound influence on many students, including President Barack Obama, who has said that Dean Minow inspired him to a career in public service and changed his life. She is a widely published author and has written many scholarly articles in journals of law, history, and philosophy, and more than a dozen books. Nominated by President Obama and confirmed by the United States Senate to the board of Legal Services Corporation, a government-sponsored organization providing legal assistance to low-income Americans, she now serves as its vice-chair and co-chair of its Pro Bono Task Force. She has also served on the Independent International Commission on Kosovo and helped to launch Imagine Coexistence, a program of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees to help promote peaceful development in post-conflict societies. Her work with the Department of Education resulted in legislative initiatives and a voluntary national standard that opened access to curricular materials for individuals with disabilities. She is a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences; a member of the boards of several nonprofit organizations, including the Covenant Foundation and Facing History and Ourselves; and has been the chair of the board of directors of the Charles H. Revson Foundation.
Mr. Bruce Slovin is the founder and chairman, now emeritus, of the Center for Jewish History. He was president of MacAndrews & Forbes Holdings and of the Revlon Group when a colleague introduced him to YIVO, the Institute for Jewish Research, in New York. He subsequently joined the YIVO board and, after being installed as chairman, invited four additional Jewish organizations to create a single center dedicated to Jewish history, culture, and art; the furthering of Jewish scholarship; and the protection of the records of the Jewish people. An accomplished businessman and devoted philanthropist, Mr. Slovin is currently the president of 1 Eleven Associates, a private investment and real estate holding company. He serves on the boards of a number of leading corporations and is a director of the American Jewish Historical Society and the Gomez Foundation for Mill House. He has been a trustee at Park East Synagogue, the Yeshiva University Museum, and Beth Israel Medical Center.
Dr. Michael Walzer is professor emeritus of social science at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, New Jersey, where he has been a professor for more than three decades. Previously, he served as a member of the faculties of Harvard and Princeton universities. He is also a member of the board of governors of Hebrew University in Jerusalem. A tireless author and frequent contributor to international newspapers and journals, Professor Walzer has published 27 books and more than 300 articles and essays. He has been a coeditor of Dissent and a longtime contributing editor to The New Republic, and he sits on the editorial board of Political Theory. His work has addressed many topics, including political obligation, the morality of war, and economic justice and the welfare of the state. His writings, including such books as Just and Unjust Wars, On Toleration, and Politics and Passion, have been translated into dozens of languages. Professor Walzer's immense learning has informed his work on specifically Jewish issues of political thought in his groundbreaking essay Exodus and Revolution, the edited volumes of The Jewish Political Tradition, and his newest book, In God's Shadow: Politics in the Hebrew Bible.
Mr. Leon Wieseltier has been the literary editor of The New Republic for nearly 30 years, and is the author of Kaddish, an eloquent book based on the year of mourning after the loss of his father. A graduate of Columbia University, he also studied philosophy at Oxford and Jewish history and religion at Harvard, where he was elected a member of the school's Society of Fellows. Chosen to give Harvard's prestigious Godkin lectures, he was also the first Salo Baron lecturer at the Jewish Museum, the first Yosef Hayyim Yerushalmi lecturer at the University of Munich, and a Daniel Pearl lecturer at UCLA. Mr. Wieseltier is an esteemed essayist and translator of Hebrew poetry, especially of the work of Yehuda Amichai. He has taught at Johns Hopkins University and the University of Chicago's John U. Nef Committee on Social Thought. He is a member of the Jewish Review of Books editorial board and the author of the titles Against Identity and Nuclear War, Nuclear Peace, and editor of his teacher's essays, The Moral Obligation to Be Intelligent: Selected Essays of Lionel Trilling.
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