Honorary Degrees Presented at Ordination and Academic Convocation at HUC-JIR/Jerusalem - Hebrew Union College - Jewish Institute of Religion
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Honorary Degrees Presented at Ordination and Academic Convocation at HUC-JIR/Jerusalem

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Monday, November 1, 2010

The Jerusalem campus of Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion held its Ordination and Academic Convocation on Friday, October 29, 2010 at 13 King David Street, Jerusalem, Israel.  Please click here to view the 2010 program. 

Rabbi David Ellenson, President of HUC-JIR, presented Honorary Degrees to Nurit Eldar; Javier Simonovich, Ph.D.; Cantor Professor Eliyahu Schleifer; and Tsvia Walden, Ph.D.


Nurit Eldar, leader of the Tali (Enhanced Jewish Studies) educational systems, leader of Tali Bayit Vegan, principal of the junior high school division, and later principal, at Tali Beit Hinuch School, was awarded the President's Medallion. 

Distinguished Educator, Outstanding leader.

Nurit Eldar was born and educated in Jerusalem, and has devoted many years to educational work in the city and to shaping its teaching institutions. She gained her pedagogic training at the finest seminaries, and later at the Hebrew University (MA in educational administration). As a pedagogic figure, her principal tools are the Bible, Jewish history, and the culture this history has created. She gained her BA at the Hebrew University, and later studied at the Schechter Institute. During many years’ work as a leading figure in the Tali (Enhanced Jewish Studies) educational systems, Nurit developed a profound bond between the Reform spirit and pluralistic schools, while coping with the challenges of Jewish education in the modern era.

Nurit served as a school principal for sixteen years, mainly in institutions affiliated with the Tali system in Jerusalem. She began her career in this framework by taking on the difficult task of leading Tali Bayit Vegan school and shaping its educational course. Together with the teachers, she inculcated a broad cultural approach in the school, engaged in profound educational activity, and encouraged the productive involvement of parents and of the IMPJ and Tali institutions. By so doing, Nurit placed Tali Bayit Vegan in the first rank of elementary schools in Jerusalem.

In 2002, Nurit assumed the position of principal of the junior-high section at Tali Beit Hinuch school, and in 2004 she became principal of the school. She coped with the challenge of steering the course of this school as it underwent a process of renewal, drawing both on the Reform Tali tradition and on the tradition of Beit Hinuch itself, in a process that responded to the approaches of the secular and traditional populations that attended the school. Throughout her time as principal of the school, she gave it the best of her spirit, wisdom, and infinite devotion. Her personality and approach influenced the cultural atmosphere and worldview of students and teachers at the school. Together with the staff, she developed a unique six-year curriculum in Jewish studies and thought – without neglecting fields such as physical education, the arts, cinema, and the sciences. Under Nurit’s leadership, Tali Beit Hinuch has made a crucial contribution to developing high-school education in Jerusalem. The school combines academic excellence with a strong special education component, a clear emphasis on Jewish studies and on the Jewish cultural experience, and the development of study tracks in technology and science. Beit Hinuch is a community school in which parents, teachers, and students are all involved in diverse levels of action, leadership, and creativity. Here, too, the school has become among the leading high schools in the city.

Nurit has been awarded the Genger Prize for the academic year 2010/11. This prize recognizes personal excellence in the management of Tali schools and the enrichment of Jewish education. The prize will be awarded to Nurit in April 2011.

After many years of admirable and pioneering work, Nurit has decided to close this intensive and demanding chapter in her professional life. On her retirement from the post of school principal, HUC grants Nurit the President’s Award as a token of love, admiration, and thanks for all her work.

Javier Simonovich, Ph.D., urban community consultant and lecturer emeritus at Haifa University, lecturer at Jezreel Valley Academic College, and former director of the Leo Baeck Community Center, Haifa, received the Doctor of Jewish Communal Service, honoris causa.

Consecrated Jewish Communal Service Professional

Javier is a social and community worker, urban planner, and psychotherapist. He immigrated to Israel from Argentina in 1978 as an expression of his commitment to the Jewish people and the State of Israel. Javier holds a BA in social work from Haifa University, an MSW from Washington University in St. Louis, and an MA in Jewish Communal Service from HUC Los Angeles. In 2002, he received a PhD in socioeconomic planning from the Faculty of Architecture and Town Planning at the Technion in Haifa.

Javier worked as a lecturer in social work in Haifa University for some twenty years, raising generations of community workers. Since 2003, he has worked as a lecturer in the Department of Human Services at Jezreel Valley Academic College, specializing in the fields of socioeconomic planning, organizational management, entrepreneurship, and organizational resilience. As an urban community consultant, he provides services for organizations in the public, private, and third sectors. In his work as a psychotherapist he assists individuals, couples, and soldiers who have experienced crisis or loss. He served in managerial functions and developed programs for children, new immigrants, Arab-Jewish coexistence, and numerous community projects in the spirit of liberal Judaism at Leo Baeck Community Center, which he directed during the 1990s.

Javier is also active in a voluntary capacity in various associations committed to advancing social issues. For several years, he has continued to make a contribution to Leo Baeck Education Center in Haifa as a member of the board.

His multifaceted involvement in the Israel Movement for Progressive Judaism and in various voluntary organizations in Israel has contributed to the growth and wellbeing of the State of Israel. Accordingly, he is awarded an honorary doctorate in Jewish community work.


Cantor Prof. Eliyahu Schleifer, Director of Cantorial Studies and Associate Professor of Sacred Music at HUC-JIR/Jerusalem (1987-2010), received the Doctor of Humane Letters, honoris causa.

Distinguished scholar and Professor of Sacred Music

Eliyahu Schleifer was born in Jerusalem in 1939. As child he studied in "Cheder" and at the Yeshivah "Etz Chaim" in Machaneh Yehuda.. Then he went to "Tachkemony" school and the Hebrew University High School. He began his musical career as a Meshorer (Choirboy) and Junior Cantor at the "Shirat Yisrael" Institute, where he studied Hazzanut with the master of cantorial art, Cantor Zalman Rivlin. Concurrently he studied violin and French horn at the Jerusalem New Conservatory of Music. He then served as a musician in the Israeli Army Band and Symphony Orchestra. After his discharge from the army he continued his musical studies at the Rubin Academy of Music, Jerusalem and studied Jewish philosophy and Kabbalah at the Hebrew University. During the years 1964-67 he served as assistant to the ethnomusicologist, Dr. Edith Gerson-Kiwi, researching the music of the Jewish communities of Israel. He then studied at the University of Chicago where he received his M.A. and Ph.D. degrees in musicology. During his studies, he served as Cantor at the Conservative synagogue South Side Hebrew Congregation in Chicago. In 1976 he returned to Israel and served as lecturer at the Rubin Academy of Music, Jerusalem and senior lecturer in the Department of Musicology at Tel Aviv University. In his public capacity as musicologist he served a number of times as judge in the Israel Prime Minister's Prize for Composition and was Chairman of the Israeli Musicological Society. In 1981 he began his service as Cantor at Hebrew Union College – Jewish Institute of Religion, Jerusalem sharing the pulpit with Rabbi Shaul Feinberg. From 1985 he served as teacher at HUC and two years later he was appointed Associate Professor of Sacred Music and Director of Cantorial Studies there. During his service as cantor and teacher, he wrote various liturgical compositions. In 2010 he retired and he now continues his research projects on Ashkenazi synagogue-music. Prof. Eliyahu Schleifer is married to the pianist Aya Schleifer and they have two sons, Doron and Uri, who are also musicians.

Tsvia Walden, Ph.D., head of the Institute for Initiatives, Language and Computers and Senior Lecturer at Beit Berl College and Ben Gurion University, received the Doctor of Humane Letters, honoris causa.

Innovative thinker, cultural activist and creative author

Tsvia was born in Israel, where she lives and raises her children and grandchildren. She is a linguist specializing in linguistic development in children, literacy, and the use of computers. Tsvia serves as head of the Institute for Initiatives, Language and Computers and as a senior lecturer at Beit Berl College and Ben Gurion University.

Tsvia devotes much of her time and energy to research and teaching, as well as to writing and editing materials for television that draw on the Jewish sources. She is a central figure in the field of Jewish cultural renewal in Israel; was among the first members of Beit Daniel, the Israel Movement for Progressive Judaism synagogue in Tel Aviv; and among the founders of Kolot Beit Midrash for Jewish studies, where she served for many years as a board member and lecturer in Jewish subjects. Tsvia is also active on social issues and is a committed peace campaigner.

Tsvia was among the initiators of the series Corner of London and Ben Yehuda, and is currently investing considerable efforts in the establishment of the Hebrew Space in Rishon LeZion, which will include a museum, school, and theme park.

Tsvia's endeavors have won widespread admiration thanks to her dynamic character, her belief in her chosen path, and her constant effort to meet the objectives she sets herself. Her pleasant manner is a hallmark of her personality and her decisions, even in difficult times.

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 leaders to serve 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, museums, 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