Honorary degrees and awards were presented to distinguished individuals in recognition of their scholarship, teaching, commitment to bettering society, and service to the Jewish People at the Academic Convocation at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in Jerusalem on November 2, 2007.
The Doctor of Humane Letters degree was awarded to Professor Eliezer Schweidand Rabbi Paul (Shaul) R. Feinberg, Ph.D., Associate Dean Emeritus of HUC-JIR/Jerusalem. The Doctor of Divinity degree was presented to Rabbi Walter J. Zanger and the Doctor of Jewish Communal Service degree was awarded to David Kurz. Dr. Jonathan D. Safren received the Graduate School Medallion, andRabbi Henry F. Skirball received the President's Medallion.
In his Convocation Address, Professor Eliezer Schweid stated "The modern religious movements must reconsider their approach in light of the idolatry of privatization, selfish competitiveness, and materialism, which have secured a Pyrrhic victory over the values of humanism and social and national justice. On the basis of their loyalty to their humanistic, monotheistic, and moral Jewish purpose, these movements must spark a renaissance for Jewish humanism, bringing the Jewish people back to the ideal of moral elevation as its purpose and destiny. In practical terms, this means reviving the norm of communality based on the principles of charity and justice; a balance between rights and duties; and responsibility for our fellows and for the collective."
Professor Eliezer Schweid's social and spiritual path was formed by Zionism and the Israeli Socialist Movement, of which he became a leading figure in the "United Movement" and shaped its profound affinity to Jewish tradition. A founder of the study of contemporary Jewish thought as a systemic academic discipline, he received his doctorate in 1962 from Hebrew University, where he served as a member of the faculty until his retirement and transformed the Department for Hebrew Philosophy and Kabbalah into the Department of Jewish Thought, which he headed for several years. He established and taught at Kerem, the Institute for Jewish-Humanistic Education in Jerusalem, and was one of the senior lecturers in the higher education and rabbinical framework of the Masorti Movement in Israel. He served as the Chief Education Officer of the Israel Defense Forces and was involved in the educational work of the World Zionist Organization, the Van Leer Institute in Jerusalem, the Professional Committee for Jewish Thought in the Ministry of Education, and the Shenhar Committee. He has published more than 30 books and some one thousand articles in Hebrew, English, and other languages; his writings explore the ongoing philosophical inquiry into the meaning of Judaism as a developing national culture, and examine the relationships between secularism and faith, human autonomy and the roots of tradition, sacred text and literature written by humans.
Rabbi Paul (Shaul) R. Feinberg, Ph.D., Associate Dean Emeritus and Adjunct Associate Professor of HUC-JIR/Jerusalem was recognized for "his twenty-six years of distinguished service to countless students and graduates at HUC-JIR/Jerusalem and as an outstanding example of humanity, compassion, and community," said Dr. Michael Marmur, Dean of HUC-JIR/Jerusalem. Following graduation from Rutgers University in 1965, he began his rabbinical studies at HUC-JIR/Cincinnati, where he was ordained in 1971 and served the deaf congregation in Chicago. In 1968 he was among a number of students who came to study at the HUC-JIR and the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, followed by rabbinical pulpits at Temple Emanu-El in Birmingham, Alabama, Temple Sholom in Chicago, Illinois, and service as Rabbinic Advisor to the Chicago Federation of Temple Youth and on the faculty of the Olin-Sang- Ruby Union Institute. He earned a Ph.D. at Loyola University in 1981. He joined HUC-JIR's Jerusalem campus as Associate Dean in 1981 and in 2000 was appointed Assistant Adjunct Professor of Jewish Religious Education and Liturgy. He has led services and presented lectures at congregations, federations, Jewish professional associations, universities, and interfaith organizations throughout around the globe, encouraging students and colleagues to become emissaries of Progressive Judaism. An expert in the curriculum and the language of education in Israel and worldwide, Feinberg is the chairperson of Milah – Jerusalem Institute for Higher Studies, and a board member of Keren-Maimon, Ziv Tzedaka Foundation. He has served as the chair of the Israel Chapter of the International Association for the Advancement of Curriculum Studies, and as a national board member of ARZA (Association of Reform Zionists of America). He was an Israel Foreign Ministry Emissary to the Former Soviet Union in 1989, was a founding board member of Rabbis for Human Rights, and chair and board member of the Hillel Foundation at Hebrew University. Feinberg's writings have been published in leadning publications, including theCCAR Journal, Journal of Curriculum Theory, The Pedagogic Reporter, The Jewish Spectator, and the Journal of Reform Judaism. He has presented at numerous conferences around the world on the subject of curriculum studies, pedagogy, human rights, family education, and Jewish values.
Rabbi Walter J. Zanger, an Israeli lecturer, author, columnist, film-writer, television personality, and one of Israel's best-known guides, is the author and publisher of From Jerusalem, the archaeological host of the long-running television magazine, "Hello Jerusalem," a writer and featured participant in documentary films for the Israel Film Service and the History Channel, a member of the Editorial Board of the Jewish Bible Society, and the author of a book on the Land of Isarel for distribution to Jews in the Former Soviet Union. A graduate of Amherst College, he was ordained by HUC-JIR/New York in 1962 and served as a U.S. Air Force chaplain stationed in the Philippines, where he served Jewish personnel throughout Southeast Asia. He immigrated to Israel in 1966 and served as a contributor and assistant to the publisher of the Encyclopedia Judaica, worked for the Jerusalem Post, and entered the tourism industry, for which he received the Distinguished Tourism Employee Award. He served in an anti-aircraft battalion in the Israel Defense Forces, and since his discharge has been an active volunteer in the Tourism Unit of the Israel Police.
David Kurz is a social worker specializing in community and organizational development in Israel. Most recently, as Director of Community Development in the Southern Region for the Welfare Ministry, he played a major role in the Negev, supporting local workers responding to rocket attacks in Sderot and the Gaza perimeter, coordinating development of comprehensive services for the Bedouin community, coordinating the resettlement of families taken out of Gaza. He is in the forefront of creating a Social Planning Council for the Bedouin villages in the South and his independent consulting firm specializes in coaching leadership in voluntary organizations and professional agencies. In 1973, he graduated from the Certificate Program at the School of Jewish Communal Service at HUC-JIR/Los Angeles, where he was mentored by Dr. Gerald Bubis, and completed the MSW at San Diego State University. He immigrated to Israel in 1974, where he joined the Welfare Ministry's Community Development Department, serving as Director in three different regions and as national coordinator of Leadership Development. He was the founding director of LAJFC's Aliyah Demonstration Project in Los Angeles, and returned to Israel to specialize in cross-cultural work with new immigrants, Jews, and Arabs. In 1993, he organized the first communal seder in generations in Samara, Russia.
Rabbi Henry F. Skirball received a B.A. from Harvard and a doctorate from Columbia, and also studied at the Boston University College of Medicine, the Hebrew University, the University of Chicago, and Oxford University. Ordained at HUC-JIR/Cincinnati in 1957, he was a U.S. Army chaplain in Washington, DC and Germany. He served the Hillel Foundations at Miami University of Oxford, Ohio, the University of Chicago, and Northwestern University, where he was a member of the faculty and advisor to the student senate, and was associate director, then director, of the National Federation of Temple Youth (NFTY). In 1971 he immigrated to Israel, where he directed Reform (Progressive) programs in Israel for youth from Israel, North and South America, New Zealand, Australia, and Great Britain, headed the World Zionist Organization Department of Education and Culture in the Diaspora, and taught at HUC-JIR/Jerusalem. His book on Reforms in Judaism was translated into Russian for present-day and former citizens of the Former Soviet Union. His extensive leadership positions include chairing the Association of National Jewish Youth Directors and the board of Interns for Peace; serving as national President of the Association of Americans and Canadians in Israel; and advising the North American Jewish Youth Council. He was twice chosen as a Citizens Rights Party candidate for the Knesset and once for the Jerusalem Municipality. He has served as an officer or board member of Beit Hillel at Hebrew University, Education Committee of the Israel Movement for Progressive Judaism, French Hill Tali School, Jewish Agency (Executive, Board of Governors, General Zionist Council, Jewish Education Fund, and Pincus Fund), Jewish Bible Quarterly, Keren Tali, Melitz, and Rabbis for Human Rights.
Jonathan D. Safren, Ph.D. received the B.A. in Hebrew and Bachelor of Religion Education at Yeshiva University, immigrated to Israel in 1963, and studied Bible at Hebrew University and taught Bible at local secondary schools in Afula. He resumed his graduate studies at HUC-JIR/Cincinnati, where he received his M.A. in Bible in 1976 and Ph.D. in Hebraic and Cognate Studies in 1979. He returned to Israel to teach at several academic institutions, and since 1986 has lectured and served as the department chair in Bible at Beit Berl College, where he was named Senior Lecturer in 2005. He was a guest lecturer at the University of Ludwigsburg in Germany in 2002. In 1998 he joined the editorial staff ofMehkere Hag, the annual of the Center for Jewish Holiday Studies at Beit Berl College, and in 2002 was one of the founders of Mo'ed – Annual for Jewish Studies, published by the Center for Jewish Culture there, of which he is co-editor. He has published widely in the areas of Bible, Assyriology. and Jewish holidays.