Dr. Michael Isaacson to Receive Honorary Doctorate from Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Dr. Michael Isaacson, one of the most prolific and accomplished American Jewish composers of our time, received the Doctor of Humane Letters, honoris causa, from Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion (HUC-JIR), for extraordinary contributions to contemporary Jewish liturgical music. The ceremony took place at HUC-JIR’s Graduation on Thursday, May 4, 2017 at Congregation Emanu-El of the City of New York, 10 East 66th Street, New York.

Dr. Isaacson has composed and published more than 600 sacred and secular works, conducted and produced over 50 CDs and albums, pioneered the National Federation of Temple Youth’s American folk music style, and is the Founding Music Director of the Israel Pops Orchestra and the Milken Archive of American Jewish Music. He has been honored as one of ten distinguished living Jewish sacred music composers in America by HUC-JIR and The Jewish Theological Seminary.  

Dr. Isaacson created the symphonic music, recorded by the Israel Philharmonic, for the New York Museum of Jewish Heritage's permanent collection exhibit, and supplied additional music for the Skirball Museum in Los Angeles. He is the recipient of the largest co-commission of synagogue music in history To Recreate the World, a Sabbath worship service performed simultaneously across America and Canada by children from forty-three congregations to welcome in the new millennium on Shabbat Shirah, the Sabbath of Song in January of 2000. Dr. Isaacson also composed and recorded another national sacred service Ladorot Habaim – For Generations to Come, co-commissioned by 22 congregations and premiered across America on February 10, 2017. 

With a Ph.D. in Composition from the Eastman School of Music, an M.A. in Composition from Brooklyn College of the City University of New York, Dr. Isaacson studied keyboard at Juilliard and Ethnomusicology at Hebrew University in Jerusalem. He is the composer of six Sabbath services, three wedding services, several cantatas, and both choral and solo music for the High Holidays and life cycle settings, and is the author of the trilogy The Michael Isaacson Songbook Volumes I, II, & III, containing one hundred and sixty of his compositions with CD musical examples. His groundbreaking study entitled Jewish Music as Midrash: What Makes Music Jewish? is now in its third printed edition and available on an audio book spoken by the author. 

In Los Angeles, Michael Isaacson has arranged, orchestrated and conducted for noted film composers Alex North, Elmer Bernstein, Walter Scharf, and Charles Fox and composed his own original music for several television series. He has arranged music for the Bob Hope Show as well as The Boston Pops with John Williams. His original music can also been heard in feature films Liberty Heights, The Passover Plot and on TV’s Rich Man, Poor Man, Days of Our Lives, Hawaii 5-0, The Nanny, and most recently, Larry David’s Curb Your Enthusiasm.

Read more about 2017 Graduation and Ordination in Cincinnati, Los Angeles, and New York >


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