A priest, a nun and the founder of an Israeli social justice organization were among the honorees of New York’s major rabbinical schools during the current commencement season.
Yeshiva University presented an honorary degree to Father Patrick Desbois, a French Roman Catholic priest who has led an interfaith movement to uncover the history of 1.5 million Jews murdered during World War II in the former Soviet Union.
More than 780 students from YU’s undergraduate schools received their degrees at the school’s 80th commencement exercises, at the Izod Center in East Rutherford, N.J.
Other recipients of honorary degrees were John Sexton, president of New York University; Mira Kowarski Rottenberg, who conducted pioneering research on the treatment of autistic children; and philanthropist Ronald Lauder, who established a foundation to help revitalize Jewish life in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union.
Hillel David, YU’s vice president for university life, received the Presidential Medallion, the school’s highest honor for a faculty member or member of the administration.
Mary Boys, a member of the Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary, and a professor of practical theology at Union Theological Seminary, received an honorary degree from the Jewish Theological Seminary of America. Sister Boys also serves as an adjunct faculty member at JTS and Columbia University’s Teachers College.
A total of 141 degrees were conferred at JTS’s 117th commencement exercises.
Honorary degrees were also presented to Mitch Albom, author and talk show host; Deborah Lipstadt, professor of modern Jewish history and Holocaust studies at Emory University in Atlanta; and John Ruskay, executive vice president of UJA-Federation of New York.
Hebrew Union College – Jewish Institute of Religion presented its Roger E. Joseph Prize to Rabbi Levi Lauer, who was ordained by the school in 1972 and is founding director of ATZUM, a decade-old Israeli organization that works to ensure protection for the country’s “severely disadvantaged.”
ATZUM area’s of concentration are survivors of terror, people who risked their lives to rescue Jews during the Holocaust, and the victims of human trafficking — women who are forced to work as prostitutes.
HUC-JIR ordained 12 new rabbis and invested six new cantors during services at Congregation Emanu-El.
The school presented its Dr. Bernard Heller Prize to Dr. Rick Hodes, medical director in Ethiopia of the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee.
The Academy for Jewish Religion, based on the campus of Mount Saint Vincent in Riverdale, ordained 10 rabbinical students and two cantorial students. For the first time, four of the school’s students also received master’s degrees from Philadelphia’s Gratz College, which they earned through online studies.