1998 Honorary Degrees

Monday, May 4, 1998

1998 Honorary Degrees to Be Awarded to
Archbishop John CArdinal O'Connor, Dr. Glenda Abramson,
Jacob Behrman, Vladka Meed, Ben Steinberg, 
and Professor Laurence Tribe

At the 123rd Graduation Exercises of Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion (HUC-JIR) in New York, Rabbi Sheldon Zimmerman, President, will award the degree of Doctor of Humane Letters, honoris causa, to a group of outstanding individuals for their unique contributions to human understanding and ethical beliefs. The honorary D.H.L. recipients are Archbishop John Cardinal O'Connor of the Archdiocese of New York, Dr. Glenda Abramson, Jacob Behrman, Vladka Meed, Ben Steinberg, and Professor Laurence Tribe.

President Zimmerman will also bestow earned degrees, including the Doctor of Ministry, Doctor of Hebrew Letters, Master of Arts in Hebrew Literature, Master of Sacred Music, and Master of Arts in Judaic Studies on 32 graduate students of HUC-JIR. Graduation ceremonies will be held on Thursday, May 14, 7:30 PM at HUC-JIR, 1W. 4th Street, Manhattan.

Archbishop John Cardinal O'Connor will present the graduation address in addition to receiving the honorary D.H.L. degree. Archbishop O'Connor has been Archbishop of New York since 1984. Rabbi Sheldon Zimmerman, President of HUC-JIR, has praised Archbishop O'Connor's work in building bridges of understanding among the diverse religious communities of New York City, and commended his "espousal of the Judeo-Christian traditions of justice and the pursuit of truth and peace." Archbishop O'Connor helped in the establishment of formal diplomatic relations between the State of Israel and the Holy See. He was ordained Bishop by Pope John Paul II in 1979 in Rome. He also served as a U.S. Navy and Marine Corps chaplain during the Korean War and later as Chief of Chaplains from 1975-1979. Archbishop O'Connor has authored numerous books, including On Being Catholic, A Moment of GraceA Journey of Faith (with Professor Eli Wiesel) and His Eminence and His Hizzoner (with the former mayor of New York, Ed Koch).

Dr. Glenda Abramson is the Cowley Lecturer in Post-Biblical Hebrew at the University of Oxford in England. As Vice President of the Oxford Center for Hebrew and Jewish Studies, she is a leading scholar in the field of Hebrew letters. Dr. Abramson earned her Ph.D. in Hebrew Studies from the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, South Africa. She has taught and published in South Africa and the UK and has also devoted herself to adult Jewish education. Dr. Abramson has published extensively, including books and articles on the Israeli poet Yehuda Amichai. She wrote Hebrew in Three Months and editedThe Blackwell Companion to Jewish from the Eighteenth Century to the Present.

Jacob Behrman is Chairman of the Board of Behrman House Publishers, and served as President of the company from 1945 to 1996. Mr. Behrman made Behrman House a pioneer in the publication of Jewish educational materials. Behrman House published the first programmed Hebrew reading book, the first color textbook for Jewish schools, and the first integrated series of Hebrew language textbooks. Behrman House has also published adult Jewish books, including the famous New Haggadahof Mordecai Kaplan, Abba Eban's My People, and Milton Steinberg's As a Driven Leaf. Mr. Behrman graduated from Brooklyn College in 1943. During World War II he served in the Army and earned a Purple Heart and Combat Infantry Badge.

Vladka Meed was a member of the Jewish underground during the Nazi occupation of her native Poland. As a Jewish woman who "passed" as a Gentile, she smuggled weapons across the walls of the Warsaw Ghetto in preparation for the uprising. She helped Jews escape the ghetto and find shelter in Christian homes, and found ways to contact and assist Jews in camps and partisan resistance fighters in the woods. Presently, Ms. Meed is Vice President of the Jewish Labor Committee and heads the Yiddish Cultural and Welfare Department. She is a member of the board of the Memorial Foundation for Jewish Culture. Her activities on behalf of Holocaust education worldwide are numerous. Ms. Meed's book On Both Sides of the Wall, with an introduction by Elie Wiesel, has been published in 5 languages. She has published a film strip on her resistance work and curated an exhibit on the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, and written articles and lectured internationally. She serves on the Educational Committee of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Council in Washington, D.C. Ms. Meed is the initiator and director of the annual American Teachers seminars on Holocaust and Jewish Resistance, taking place in Israel, with a stop in Poland, as well as the coordinator of the annual Alumni Teacher Conferences.

Ben Steinberg, son of the late Cantor Alexander Steinberg, is a widely-recognized composer, conductor, and lecturer. He is the author of an award-winning book on Synagogue Youth Choirs and was a contributing writer to the first two editions of The Encylopedia of Music in Canada. Mr. Steinberg was Music Chairman of the Canadian Jewish Congress for 27 years and founding President of the Jewish Music Society of Toronto. His works have been commissioned by over 50 synagogues and other groups such as the Toronto Chamber Players, Cabrillo College (California), the Weizmann Institute, and Yale University in conjunction with Union Theological Seminary, Hebrew Union College, and the American Conference of Cantors. Mr. Steinberg's cantata "Echoes of Children," commemorating the children who perished in the Holocaust and broadcast under his direction on the Canadian National Network, won the prestigious international "Gabriel Award" for outstanding creativity in broadcast programming. A Toledo symphony performance of "Echoes of Children" was broadcast nationally in the U.S. by PBS.

Professor Laurence Tribe is the Ralph S. Tyler, Jr. Professor of Constitutional Law at Harvard Law School. Professor Tribe has argued 27 cases before the U.S. Supreme Court. Many of his victories have strengthened civil liberties in the U.S. He has been recognized for his profound influence on the understanding and development of constitutional law, and his book, American Constitutional Law, won the Scribes Award for Outstanding Legal Publication of 1978. Professor Tribe's areas of expertise are wide, and include mathematics, technology assessment, and the relationships between rapid technological change and the law. Time magazine named him "one of ten most outstanding law professors" in 1977 and he was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1980. Professor Tribe has published 10 books and over 100 scholarly and popular articles. He received his B.A. in Mathematics from Harvard College in 1962 and his J.D. from Harvard Law School in 1966.


Founded in 1875, Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion is North America's leading institution of higher Jewish education and the academic, spiritual, and professional leadership development center of Reform Judaism. HUC-JIR educates men and women for service to North American and world Jewry as rabbis, cantors, educators, and nonprofit management professionals, and offers graduate programs to scholars and clergy of all faiths. With centers of learning in Cincinnati, Jerusalem, Los Angeles, and New York, HUC-JIR's scholarly resources comprise the renowned Klau Library, The Jacob Rader Marcus Center of the American Jewish Archives, research institutes and centers, and academic publications. In partnership with the Union for Reform Judaism and the Central Conference of American Rabbis, HUC-JIR sustains the Reform Movement's congregations and professional and lay leaders. HUC-JIR's campuses invite the community to cultural and educational programs illuminating Jewish heritage and fostering interfaith and multiethnic understanding. www.huc.edu