Honorary Degrees Presented to Rabbi Moshe Yehudai, Rabbi Dr. Daniel Schiff, Avraham Infeld, and Dorit Beinisch

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Leading Israeli scholars, spiritual leaders, academics, and communal activists were awarded honorary doctoral degrees by Rabbi David Ellenson, Ph.D., President of Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion (HUC-JIR) at the Academic Convocation on HUC-JIR’s Jerusalem campus on Wednesday, November 14, 2012.

Rabbi Moshe Yehudai

Rabbi Moshe Yehudai was born in 1940, in Jerusalem. At the age of 17, he was admitted to the Rubin Academy of Music, and graduated as a qualified cello teacher. Being a conscientious objector, he served for four years in the remote town of Yeruham, in Israel's Negev as a music teacher. He graduated from Ben-Gurion University with two degrees: the BA in Jewish history and social sciences and the Bachelor of Music. In 1973 he was exposed for the first time to non-Orthodox synagogues in Toronto, Canada, and consequently joined the Israeli Reform Movement. He decided to study for the rabbinate, and in 1976 was admitted to HUC-JIR and the Hebrew University Department of Jewish philosophy, for part time simultaneous studies which were concluded in 1983, when he was ordained as a rabbi and was awarded two degrees – MAHL from HUC-JIR and MA (cum laude) from the Hebrew University. Since then, he has served congregations in Israel; Sydney, Australia; Newcastle, England; and various communities in central Europe. He was active in interfaith relations and in Israel volunteered in various human rights organizations, including Physicians for Human Rights, and was a founding member of Rabbis for Human Rights, of which he served as co-chairman and now he is in the executive.

Rabbi Dr. Daniel Schiff

Rabbi Dr. Daniel Schiff is a noted teacher and researcher in Jewish ethics. He lives in Jerusalem and is currently working on a new Jewish museum concept.

For sixteen years, Rabbi Schiff was the Agency for Jewish Learning Community Scholar in Pittsburgh and the rabbi of B'nai Israel in White Oak, Pennsylvania.

Born in Sydney, Australia, Rabbi Dr. Schiff grew up in Melbourne. He graduated with a BA from the University of Melbourne. Rabbi Dr. Schiff received ordination, as well as his Master of Arts in Hebrew Letters degree, from HUC-JIR. He also received his Doctor of Hebrew Letters degree from HUC-JIR. Additionally, Dr. Schiff earned an MA in museum studies from Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore.Dr. Schiff is the author of Abortion in Judaism, published by Cambridge University Press. He has written a substantial number of articles, particularly in the field of Jewish law and ethics. He is a former board member of the City of Pittsburgh Ethics Board and the Society of Jewish Ethics.

Avraham Infeld

Avraham Infeld, President Emeritus of Hillel – the Foundation for Jewish Campus life – has invested a lifetime building Jewish identity and strengthening the State of Israel. He is the founder and director of a succession of innovative educational institutions. Today he serves as a consultant on Tikkun Olam to the Reut Institute, is a member of the faculty at the Mandel Institute, is President of Israel Way, and expresses his love for the Limmud enterprise by serving as a roving ambassador for Limmud International. In May, 2012, he was elected Chairman of the Board of the Hillels of Israel. In the 1970s, he founded Melitz, a non-profit educational service institution that fosters Jewish identity rooted in a pluralistic understanding of Jewish life and the centrality of Israel. He stood at the helm of Melitz for 30 years. He also served as chairman of Arevim; director of the birthright Israel planning process; founding chairman of the San Francisco Federation’s amuta in Israel; and chairman of the Board of Israel Experience, Ltd., an independent company created by the Jewish Agency. Concurrently, in the late 70s and early 80s, he was also Director General of both Gesher Educational Affiliates and the Shalom Hartman Institute. He served abroad as the first community shaliach in Baltimore, Maryland, and as Director of the Jewish Agency’s Youth Department in Great Britain. In 2003, he was appointed President and International Director of Hillel – Foundation for Jewish Campus Life, and served in that capacity until September 2006, when he returned to Israel to assume the Presidency of the Chais Family Foundation until it was forced to close in December 2008, due to a massive fraud on Wall Street. He continues to serve as President Emeritus of Hillel International. A native of South Africa, he immigrated to Israel in 1959 and is a graduate of the Hebrew University in Bible and Jewish history, and of Tel Aviv University’s Law School. In 2005, he was awarded the Hebrew University of Jerusalem’s prestigious Samuel Rothberg Prize for Jewish Education, the first specialist in informal Jewish Education to be so honored. He was given an honorary doctorate by Muhlenberg College in May 2006, for his contribution to the field of education.

Dorit Beinisch

President (ret.) of the Supreme Court of Israel Dorit Beinisch was born in Tel Aviv; she received her LL.B and LL.M. (summa cum laude) from Hebrew University in Jerusalem. In 1967 she was admitted to the Israeli Bar. Justice Beinisch began her professional career in public service as Assistant to the Jerusalem District Attorney and, subsequently, as Senior Assistant to the State Attorney. From 1976 to 1982, she served as Director of the Department of Constitutional and Administrative Law at the State Attorney's Office. She represented the State before the Supreme Court of Israel in constitutional and administrative cases, in petitions against the government and the Israeli Defense Force, and in basic deliberations between the individual and the state. In 1989 Beinisch was appointed the State Attorney of the State of Israel, becoming the first woman in Israel to hold that position. In this capacity she was in charge of all state attorneys in the country, and represented the state in a variety of litigation (civil, criminal and constitutional), mainly before the Supreme Court. Serving as State Attorney, Dorit Beinisch focused on fighting corruption, dealing with issues of human rights based on both Israeli and international law, and ensuring compliance with the law by police and security forces. In 1995 Beinisch was appointed Justice of the Israeli Supreme Court. In 2006 she became the first woman named President of the Supreme Court. As a justice, Beinisch ruled in numerous cases relating to human rights, minority rights, terrorism, and national security. Among her numerous court opinions is a decision holding that parents cannot use corporal punishment against their children; a decision ruling against privatization of prisons in Israel, holding that a privately managed and operated prison violates the constitutional rights to personal freedom and human dignity; and a decision finding that a portion of Israel’s Unlawful Combatants Law authorizing administrative detentions violated a detainee’s rights to liberty, holding that the law should be interpreted in accordance with international law. Justice Beinisch developed case law doctrine authorizing judges to disqualify evidence on the grounds that it was obtained illegally. And she ruled that the "Tal law" – which exempted ultra-Orthodox Jews from military service – was unconstitutional. Justice Beinisch stressed in her decisions the importance of protection of the rights of women, children and the weak in society.


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 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