Author Anita Diamant Spoke on Minhag America at HUC-JIR/NY Graduation Ceremonies; Received Doctor of Humane Letters, honoris causa

Thursday, May 1, 2008

(Stuart Matlins, Sponsor, Author Anita Diamant, and Rabbi David Ellenson, Ph.D., President of HUC-JIR) 


Rabbi David Ellenson, President of Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, presented the honorary degree of Doctor of Humane Letters to Anita Diamant, distinguished author and guide to contemporary Jewish life, at the College-Institute's Graduation Ceremonies of the 133rd academic year, held at Congregation Emanu-El of the City of New York on April 30, 2008. 

When presenting the doctoral degree citation to Diamant, Rabbi Ellenson said "Anita Diamant, in the course of her life's journey, has been nourished by the most human experiences which have enriched her creative energies. She occupies a unique place in contemporary writing as an award-winning author whose novels appear in 25 countries. Her writings envelop the female reader in sensations of realistic awareness as she manifests her devotion as Founder and President ofMayim Chaim, Living Waters Community Mikveh and Education Center, a 21st century resource dedicated to exploring the ancient traditions of ritual immersion and to enriching Jewish life. Her words, imaginatively abundant and stark, deliver a clear message about one's own Jewishness." 

In her graduation address, Diamant said, "We are on the verge of an entirely new iteration of Jewish history and of Judaism itself, a time that is bursting with ideas and possibilities, music and art, wisdom and laughter, scholarship and movies. And holiness. I call this new chapter Minhag America. The title comes from the famous prayer book published in 1856 by Rabbi Isaac Meyer Wise, who dreamed of uniting all of American Jewry with a single siddur. That was doomed to fail, and fail it did. I use Rabbi Wise's title not to unite or paper over the differences and variations in American Jewish practice, but as an umbrella term to describe the rich diversity of Jewish life in America, and of a uniquely American Judaism, alive and kicking." The full text is available here

Anita Diamant is the author of ten books, including The Red Tent, which won the 2001 Booksense Book of the Year Award. Based on the biblical story if Dinah, The Red Tent becamse a word-of-mouth bestseller in the US and overseas, where it has been published in 25 countries. Her other novels include Good Harbor and The Last Days of Dogtown. Diamant's six non-fiction guides to contemporary Jewish life have become classic reference books and include How to be a Jewish Parent; Saying Kaddish; Choosing a Jewish Life: A Handbook for People Converting to Judaism; Living a Jewish Life; The New Jewish Baby Book; and The New Jewish Wedding. She has also published a collection of personal essays, Pitching My Tent: On Marriage, Motherhood, Friendship, and Other Leaps of Faith. An award-winning journalist, Diamant's work has appeared in the Boston Globe Magazine, Parenting Magazine, Parents, Boston, Yankee, and Reform Judaism. Recently, she has begun writing for the stage and writing lyrics. Diamant graduated from Washington University in St. Louis and holds a Master's Degree in English from the State University of New York at Binghamton.

Founded in 1875, Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion is North America's first 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.