A total of 120 degrees were conferred at the 119th Commencement Exercises of The Jewish Theological Seminary (JTS) on May 23 in New York City. The distinguished graduates became the newest JTS cohort of professional and lay leaders to serve around the continent as rabbis, academics, cantors, scholars, experts in Jewish education, and community leaders. Honorary doctoral degrees were awarded to Mrs. Edith Everett, Rabbi Michael B. Greenbaum, Dr. Richard M. Hodes, US Congressman John R. Lewis, and Dr. Dan Miron. Mr. Henry and Ms. Gilda Block were inducted into the Society of Fellows.
Of the 107 graduates who were awarded degrees in this year's Commencement Exercises, 41 received bachelor's degrees from JTS's Albert A. List College of Jewish Studies; 28, including 4 who earned doctorates, received degrees from The Graduate School; 27 received degrees from the William Davidson Graduate School of Jewish Education, including 4 EdDs; 4 cantors were invested by the H. L. Miller Cantorial School and College of Jewish Music; and 20 men and women were ordained by The Rabbinical School. A total of 12 students each received multiple degrees from different JTS schools.
Mrs. Edith Everett is a prominent leader in Jewish philanthropy and steward of education whose career included teaching and finance. She created the Everett Family Foundation with her husband, Henry (z"l); supported education in Israel; and established the Everett Internship Program to introduce students to public service. Mrs. Everett was a member of CUNY's Board of Trustees; built the Everett Jewish Life Center in Chautauqua, New York; and served on the boards of numerous Jewish and other nonprofits. She is the founder of Language Forum, an organization for English as a Second Language faculty, and recipient of New York State and national TESOL awards.
Rabbi Michael M. Greenbaum is JTS vice chancellor emeritus and senior advisor to Chancellor Arnold M. Eisen, and served JTS for more than 40 years, including as vice chancellor and chief operating officer for a quarter-century, and as assistant professor of Educational Administration. He earned his doctorate in Higher Education Administration from Columbia University, and held leadership roles in both the Association of Theological Schools and the Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools. Rabbi Greenbaum is currently secretary of the National Ramah Commission, member of the Rabbinical Assembly's Executive Council, and on the advisory panel of the Auburn Theological Seminary. He was twice named one of the "Top 50 Rabbis in America" by Newsweek. His extraordinary leadership has helped shape the Conservative Movement and guided JTS in achieving major milestones.
Dr. Richard M. Hodes is the medical director for the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee's programs in Ethiopia, and has served in that capacity for more than 20 years. During that time, he has overseen health care for more than 65,000 people before their immigration to Israel. Dr. Hodes is also attending physician at Mother Teresa's Mission in Addis Ababa, specializing in heart and spine diseases as well as cancer, and established a program there to send patients abroad for free surgery. He is the subject of the book This Is a Soul, by journalist Marilyn Berger, and of two films, with a third in progress.
US Congressman John R. Lewis is US Representative of Georgia's Fifth Congressional District, and has served Congress for more than 25 years. During the Civil Rights Movement, he was chair of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, or SNCC, from 1963 to 1966; organized voter registration drives; and was a keynote speaker at the March on Washington in 1963. He also participated in the Selma-to-Montgomery march in 1965 along with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and JTS Professor Abraham Joshua Heschel. Congressman Lewis's many honors include the Medal of Freedom, the highest award granted to civilians, bestowed by President Barack Obama.
Dr. Dan Miron is the Leonard B. Kaye Professor of Hebrew and Comparative Literature at Columbia University. Focusing on Hebrew and Yiddish writing, his scholarship includes more than 1,000 essays and 40 books. His work A Traveler Disguised revived interest in the 19th-century Yiddish novel, while his more recent From Continuity to Contiguity-Toward a New Jewish Literary Thinking has redefined the genre of "Jewish literature" to include different languages, regions, and audiences. Dr. Miron received the National Jewish Book Award for Scholarship in 2011, among many previous distinctions such as the Israel Prize for Hebrew Literature.
Mr. Henry and Ms. Gilda Block are dedicated philanthropists in the areas of education, art, culture, and communal affairs. Mr. Henry Block followed his father as head of Block ArtWorks. Ms. Gilda Block had a successful career in advertising, serves on committees of the Film Society of Lincoln Center, and is on the advisory board of the New York Civil Rights Coalition. They have supported the New York Public Library and the New School, established a scholarship program at The Rabbinical School of JTS, and received the JTS Community Service Award at Temple Emanu-El of Palm Beach.