Graduation & Ordination
Speakers and Honorees


HUC-JIR NY campus

New York Speakers

  • Graduation / Recipient of Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters:
    Tom Nides, Vice Chairman of Strategy and Client Relations at Blackstone and former United States’ Ambassador to Israel (View Bio)
  • Ordination:
    Rabbi Norman Cohen, Professor Emeritus of Midrash at HUC-JIR/NY (View Bio)
HUC library in Los Angeles

Los Angeles Speakers

  • Ordination:
    Rabbi Candice Levy, Ph.D., Milken Community Schools (View Bio)
  • Graduation:
    Janice Kamenir-Reznik ’75, Co-Founder, Jewish World Watch; Co-Founder Jews United for Democracy and Justice (View Bio)
HUC-JIR campus in Cincinnati

Cincinnati Speakers

Joseph Prize Recipient

  • Hand in Hand
    A growing network of bilingual, integrated schools and communities working to build inclusion and equality between Arab and Jewish citizens of Israel.

Stay tuned for more announcements about this season’s graduation and ordination speakers.

Meet the Speakers & Honorees

Janice Kamenir-Reznik headshotJanice Kamenir-Reznik ’75

Co-Founder, Jewish World Watch; Co-Founder Jews United for Democracy and Justice

Ms. Kamenir-Reznik is co-founder of Jewish World Watch, an organization whose mission is to be the Jewish response to genocide and mass atrocities, and co-founder of Jews United for Democracy and Justice.

After completing her initial years of education (B.A. ’73, UCLA; M.S.W. ’75, USC; M.A. ’75, HUC), Janice led LA’s Soviet Jewry mobilizing effort and traveled to the former Soviet Union in her capacity as the Director of the Commission on Soviet Jewry for the Los Angeles Jewish Federation. After earning her J.D. from UCLA in 1982, Janice practiced environmental law for more than two decades, focusing exclusively on real estate based environmental law for private clients.

Janice has served as a leader of many Jewish, feminist, and legal organizations in addition to serving as an LA County commissioner. She is married to Benjamin and has three children, Yoni, Devi and Sami, who is married to the lovely Rachel.

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Tom Nides headshotThomas R. Nides

Thomas R. Nides served as the United States’ Ambassador to Israel from 2021 to 2023 having been unanimously confirmed by the U.S. Senate. Prior to that, he spent over a decade at Morgan Stanley in various capacities including Chief Operating Officer and Vice Chairman. Nides was appointed Deputy Secretary of State and Chief Operating Officer of the U.S. State Department by President Barack Obama and was awarded the nation’s highest diplomatic honor by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for his service. He has also previously been a senior leader at Credit Suisse, Fannie Mae, the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, and on Capitol Hill. Currently, Mr. Nides is a Vice Chairman, Strategy and Client Relations at Blackstone.

Nides serves on the boards of the Partnership for Public Service, the International Rescue Committee, the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), and is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations. He formerly served as chairman of the board of the Woodrow Wilson Center. He received his B.A. from the University of Minnesota.

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Rabbi Normen Cohen headshotRabbi Norman Cohen, Ph.D.

Rabbi Norman Cohen was born in Astoria, Queens. He graduated from Columbia College in 1964, attended Hebrew University from 1962-63, and from 1963-66 attended the Jewish Theological Seminary. From 1964-67 he attended Columbia University in the department of Near and Middle Eastern Languages. He was ordained from HUC-JIR/New York in 1971 and received his Ph.D. from HUC-JIR/Cincinnati in 1977. In 1985 he became a Professor of Midrash, and in 1986 became the director of the HUC-JIR/New York Rabbinical School. In 1988 he became Dean of HUC-JIR/New York, and in 1996-2006 served as Provost of HUC-JIR. In 2001 he became Acting President, and as of 2009 he is an Emeritus Professor of Midrash. He has three children from his first marriage, and two children with his current spouse, Terry Redston Cohen. He has ten grandchildren and lives in Briarcliff Manor, NY.

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Candice Levy headshotRabbi Candice Levy, Ph.D.

Rabbi Dr. Candice Levy has a BA in Political Science and Sociology from Yeshiva University, and a Ph.D. in Near Eastern Languages and Cultures from UCLA. She received rabbinic ordination from the Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies at the American Jewish University in 2023. Her scholarly work has focused on the afterlife and how it relates to theodicy and rabbinic authority.

Candice has taught undergraduate Jewish Studies as UCLA and at the Louchheim School for Judaic Studies, as well as Education and Rabbinical Students at the Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies and Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion. Most recently, Candice has served as a rabbi and Jewish Studies teacher at the Milken Community School.

Candice’s involvement with a variety of Jewish communities – Sephardic, Ashkenaz, Orthodox, Conservative and Reform – has allowed her to recognize their differences, learning to appreciate what can be learned from each, while striving to maintain their commonalities in service of God and Torah.

She is a parent to two boys, a lover of donuts and sneakers… and donuts.

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Leon Morris headshotRabbi Leon Morris

Rabbi Leon Morris is President of the Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies, and the first Pardes alumnus to hold this position, having studied on the Pardes Year Program in 1995-96. Rabbi Morris is a product of the Reform movement. He served as the NFTY National President from 1986-87, worked at URJ Camp Harlam, and studied for the rabbinate at Hebrew Union College – Jewish Institute of Religion where he was ordained in 1997. He was the founding director of the Skirball Center for Adult Jewish Learning in Manhattan (now the Streicker Center at Temple Emanu-El) and served in that position for a decade. He served as the rabbi of Temple Adas Israel in Sag Harbor, NY for 15 years. In the summer of 2014, Rabbi Morris made aliya to Israel with his wife and three children. He served as Vice President for North American programs in Israel at the Shalom Hartman Institute and was on the faculty of HUC in Jerusalem.

He is one of four editors of the new Reform High Holy Day prayer book, Mishkan HaNefesh, and a frequent contributor to the American and Israeli press. For two decades, Rabbi Morris has devoted himself to fostering greater opportunities for learning in Reform contexts and rethinking the place of mitzvot in the lives of liberal Jews. Leon is a contributor to Jewish Theology in Our Time: A New Generation Explores the Foundations and Future of Jewish Belief (edited by Elliot Cosgrove, Jewish Lights, 2010) and to Platforms and Prayer Books: Theological and Liturgical Perspectives on Reform Judaism (edited by Dana Evan Kaplan, Rowman and Littlefield, 2002).

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Fred Lawrence HeadshotFrederick M. Lawerence

Frederick M. Lawrence is the 10th Secretary and CEO of the Phi Beta Kappa Society, the nation’s first and most prestigious honor society, founded in 1776. Lawrence is a Distinguished Lecturer at the Georgetown Law Center, and has previously served as president of Brandeis University, Dean of the George Washington University Law School, and Visiting Professor and Senior Research Scholar at Yale Law School. He was elected to the American Philosophical Society in 2018 and the American Law Institute in 1999.

An accomplished scholar, teacher and attorney, Lawrence is one of the nation’s leading experts on civil rights, free expression, higher education law, and bias crimes. Lawrence has published widely and lectured internationally. He is the author of Punishing Hate: Bias Crimes Under American Law (Harvard University Press 1999), examining bias-motivated violence and the laws governing how such violence is punished in the United States. He had testified before Congress on free speech bin campus, frequently contributes op-eds to various news sources, such as Newsweek, The Boston Globe, The Philadelphia Inquirer, and The NY Daily News, and has appeared on CNN, Fox News and MSNBC, among other networks.

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