others in a positive way the foundations
of our beliefs.
My story, of course, is not unique but
it is worth repeating because each of you will
have the opportunity to do for others what
rabbis in the past have done for me. Inclu-
sion and acceptance are transformative acts
that can change a person’s life. I hope you
will be that agent of spiritual and religious
transformation when called upon. The re-
sponsibility is awesome, but I can tell you
from firsthand experience that the end result
can be truly life-changing.
The commitments to inclusion and to
are sometimes seen as separate
aspects when we read or talk about the cor-
nerstone beliefs of Reform Judaism. Yet
when I look back on my own life, I realize
that inclusion is in itself an important way of
repairing the world. Inclusion, by its very na-
ture, combats exclusion, intolerance, and
prejudice. Inclusion encourages respect. In-
clusion accepts those who are different into
our faith and, through them, sends them out
into the world to change their own lives and all
those with whom they come in contact.
And what better goal can we aspire to
than repairing the world?
This belief sustained and guided me
throughout the experience of Hurricane Ka-
trina in 2005. Katrina was both a natural
and man-made disaster of unprecedented
proportions. Its impact on New Orleans, the
Gulf Coast Region, and Tulane University
was devastating, and it threatened the sur-
vival of everyone and everything touched by
it. The government’s response, or lack
thereof, will always be a dark chapter in the
history of this country.
In my darkest hours and days after Ka-
trina I needed a lifeline to survive and lead,
and a guiding light to show me the way.
That lifeline and light came from my reli-
gion – its values and beliefs, and what I
learned from remarkable people throughout
my life who dedicated their lives to “repair-
ing the world” at great personal sacrifice.
Would I have met the challenges I con-
fronted if I were not a Jew? I certainly hope
the answer would be “yes,” but my religion
provided a context and expectation that
strengthened my will and determination. In
many ways, I feel blessed to have been a part
of this historical moment to test my faith
and to live out my beliefs. I will be forever
thankful to Reform Judaism for including
me and instilling in me
Honorary Doctors of Humane Letters
HUC-JIR recognized the distinguished communal, civic, and scholarly leadership of:
Dr. Walter Homolka (left), Executive Director, Abraham Geiger Kolleg, Potsdam,
Germany, and Dov L. Seidman (right), Chairman and CEO, LRN, with Barbara
Friedman (center), Chair, Board of Governors, at Graduation in New York.
Lowell Milken, Chairman and Co-Founder, Milken
Family Foundation (left); Dr. Mohamed Fathi Osman,
Scholar in Residence, Omar Ibn al-Khattab Foundation
center); and Dr. Michael Signer, z”l, Abrams Professor of
Jewish Thought and Culture, University of Notre Dame,
who was represented by his wife Betty B. Signer (right),
at Graduation in Los Angeles.
Dr. Scott S. Cowen, President, Tulane University, and Cardi-
nal William Henry Keller, Archbishop Emeritus of Baltimore,
at Graduation in Cincinnati.
| THE CHRONICLE