HEBREW UNION COLLEGE AWARDS HONORARY DOCTORATE TO DAN MERIDOR AND RABBI MOSHE ZEMER, HONORS 25th ANIVERSARY OF FIRST ISRAELI RABBINICAL ORDINEE, AND ORDAINS FOUR NEW RABBIS AT ACADEMIC CONVOCATION NOVEMBER 4, 2005
Honorary Doctorates will be awarded to Dan Meridor and Rabbi Doctor Moshe Zemer at Hebrew Union College - Jewish Institute of Religion's ordination and academic convocation in Jerusalem on November 4, 2005. After 25 years of service to the Reform community of Israel and abroad, the first Israeli ordained Reform Rabbi, Rabbi Mordchai Rotem, will be honored with his Doctorate of Divinity. Four new rabbis, Adi Cohen, Mira Regev, Ofer Sabath - Beit-Halachmi, and Ayala Shashua-Meron, will be ordained by Rabbi Professor David Ellenson, President of Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion. These new rabbis exemplify the growing impact of Progressive Judaism among young Israelis and their quest for authentic Jewish expression.
Dan Meridor is an influential Israeli political figure. He served as Cabinet Secretary under Prime Ministers Menachem Begin (1982-83) and Yitzhak Shamir (1983-84). In 1984, he was elected to the Knesset as a Likud representative. Later Meridor became a leading member of the Center Party. In the 11th Knesset (1984-88), he was a member of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee and the Constitution, Law and Justice Committee. From 1988-92 he served as Minister of Justice and member of the Inner Cabinet where he worked diligently to advance human rights in Israel and initiated the Basic Law in the field. In the 13th Knesset (1992-96), he was a member of the Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice Committee. In June 1996, Dan Meridor was appointed Minister of Finance, in which capacity he cut the state deficit and initiated structural reforms in the economy. In the 15th Knesset, he chaired the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee (until August 2001). Dan Meridor served as Minister without Portfolio, responsible for national defense and diplomatic strategy in the Prime Minister's Office from August 2001 until February 2003. Meridor has been a Knesset observer to the Council of Europe and has published articles in academic journals. In 2003, Meridor retired from political life and returned to his law practice.
Rabbi Mordchai Rotem was the first student in the Israeli rabbinic program at HUC-JIR in Jerusalem and was ordained in 1980. Rotem has served as the Rabbi for Congregation Or Hadash in Haifa, the Executive Director of the ISRAEL MOVEMENT FOR PROGRESSIVE JUDAISM (1980-1985), Chairman of Maram (1988-1992), Chairman of ISRAEL MOVEMENT FOR PROGRESSIVE JUDAISM, and has taught at the Leo Baeck School in Haifa and in the Department of Biblical Studies of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Rotem co edited "Kavanat Halav", the Movement's High Holy Day prayer book. From July 2001 until July 2003 Rotem served as the rabbi for Temple Beth Shalom in San Juan, Puerto Rico and is currently the spiritual leader of Temple Rodef Shalom in Waco, Texas.
Rabbi Doctor Moshe Zemer is a leading intellect and scholar of Progressive Judaism in Israel. Moshe Zemer became the rabbi of Kehillat Sharon in Kfar Shemaryahu in 1963. He went on to found the Ramat Gan Progressive Congregation in 1964 and the Tel Aviv Progressive Congregation in 1966. He was active in the establishment of other congregations, and served as a congregational rabbi in Tel Aviv until the early 1990s. Rabbi Dr. Zemer has been the President of the Israel Council of Progressive Rabbis, a Member of the National Executive of the Israel Movement for Progressive Judaism, and a Member of the Executive Board of the Central Conference of American Rabbis. Rabbi Dr. Zemer is an eminent and prolific scholar in the field of non-Orthodox Halakhic discourse. He has served as the Head of the Beth Din of the Israel Council of Progressive Rabbis, and holds a D.H.L. in this field from HUC-JIR. In 1990 he established the Freehof Institute of Progressive Halakhah, which sponsors seminars and publishes works. Rabbi Dr. Zemer has published widely in Hebrew and in English, most notably Evolving Halakhah: A Progressive Approach to Traditional Jewish Law, published in English in 1999.
Adi Cohen holds a B.A. in Education and Hebrew Literature and a M.A. in Hebrew Literature from Hebrew University. He has been a formal and informal Jewish educator for 9 years. During rabbinical school, Cohen has served as the rabbinical assistant to several preschools in the Beit Daniel Congregation and is currently the education coordinator at Ra'anan Congregation in Ra'anana. Cohen's rabbinical thesis is "A Proposal for a Progressive Israel Machzor for Sukkot."
Mira Regev was born in Jerusalem in 1974 and was educated in the spirit of Religious Zionism. After Regev took courses in Jewish Thought with and emphasis on the Kabbala during her undergraduate studies, she decided to study toward a M.A. in Jewish Thought in the Ellul Beit Midrash. Regev became acquainted with liberal Judaism in Israel when she worked as a program coordinator for Mevakshei Derech Congregation and found liberal Judaism beautiful and important. During her rabbinical studies, Regev has served as the rabbinical supervisor to Noar Telem, the youth movement of the Israel Movement for Progressive Judaism. She is currently working at the Leo Baeck Education Center in Haifa. Regev is especially interested in Arab-Jewish coexistence and hopes to establish a Beit Midrash and center for coexistence studies.
Ofer Sabath - Beit-Halachmi graduated cum laude in his undergraduate studies and received a teaching certificate and a M.A. in the field of Jewish Thought at Oranim at Haifa University. Beit-Halachmi was deeply influenced by a professor to bring the values of "Torah with the way of the world" into broader circles of Israeli society. Beit-Halachmi has taught Talmud to adults, Haifa University students, and at various other schools. He led a group called "Young Melody" which was designed to develop dialogue between different streams of Judaism. Beit-Halachmi is a fellow in the Rikma program and a member of Amitei Emet, which brings together Orthodox, Conservative, Reform, and secular students. During his rabbinical studies, Beit-Halachmi served as the rabbinical advisor of the Israel Movement for Progressive Judaism's Young Adult Leadership Forum, and currently serves as rabbi of the Israel Movement for Progressive Judaism's Tzur Hadassah congregation. He has lectured and published articles in Israel and the US and edits the El Halev compendium of original prayers and blessings for lifecycle events. Beit-Halachmi's rabbinical thesis is entitled "The Ten Commandments as the Foundation for a Binding Way of Life for the Secular Jew."
Ayala Shashua-Meron was born in Kibbutz Ein Hamifratz in 1957 to Iraqi parents. She grew up in Ramat Aviv and studied literature, psychology, education, cinema and television at Tel Aviv University. She spent the mid 1980's to the mid 1990's living in Los Angeles with her family, while studying cinema at UCLA. During that time, she published her book As Sand in the Wind's Eye. While in Los Angeles Shashua-Meron looked more deeply at Judaism. In 1995, she returned to Israel and became a counselor and researcher on Zionism and Aliyah at the Center for the Heritage of Iraqi Jewry in Or Yehudah and edited short documentary films. During rabbinical school, Shashua-Meron worked at Ra'anan Congregation in Ra'anana. She is currently guiding Bavat Ayin which is a growing congregation in Rosh Ha'ayin. Shashua-Meron's thesis is entitled "Fabric of Sand and Light - A Look at the World of Talmudic Legends through the Cinema Lens."