A total of 110 degrees are scheduled to be conferred at the 114th Commencement Exercises of The Jewish Theological Seminary, which will be held on May 22 in New York City. The distinguished graduates are the newest group of lay and professional leaders trained to serve nationwide as rabbis, academics, cantors, scholars, Jewish educators, and community leaders.
Harold Hongju Koh, Dean of Yale Law School, will deliver the commencement address and be awarded an Honorary Doctor of Laws. In addition to Dr. Koh, honorary doctoral degrees will be awarded to Dr. Baruch S. Blumberg, a Nobel Prize winner and Distinguished Scientist at Fox Chase Cancer Center and University Professor of Medicine and Anthropology at the University of Pennsylvania; Professor Moshe Halbertal, professor of Jewish Thought and Philosophy, Hebrew University, and Gruss Professor, New York University Law School; and Congresswoman Nita M. Lowey, (D-Westchester/Rockland). Audrey and Yale Asbell of Cherry Hill, New Jersey, will be inducted into the JTS Society of Fellows.
Of the 104 graduates who are scheduled to participate in this year's commencement, 32 will receive bachelor's degrees from the Albert A. List College of Jewish Studies; 26, including 3 students earning doctorates, will receive degrees from The Graduate School; 20 will receive degrees from the William Davidson Graduate School of Jewish Education, including 1 EdD; 8 cantors will be invested by the H. L. Miller Cantorial School and College of Jewish Music; and 24 men and women will be ordained by The Rabbinical School. Six students will receive two degrees from different JTS schools.
Harold Hongju Koh is Dean and Gerard C. & Bernice Latrobe Smith Professor of International Law at Yale Law School, where he has taught international law, human rights, and civil procedure since 1985 and has served as dean since 2004. From 1998 to 2001, he served as Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor. A graduate of Harvard College, Oxford University (where he was a Marshall Scholar), and Harvard Law School, he went on to clerk for Judge Malcolm Richard Wilkey of the DC Circuit, and Justice Harry A. Blackmun of the U.S. Supreme Court. Before coming to Yale, he practiced law at the Washington law firm of Covington & Burling and at the Office of Legal Counsel at the US Department of Justice.
Dean Koh has written more than eighty articles and authored or co-authored eight books, including The National Security Constitution, which won the American Political Science Association's award as the best book on the American presidency. Dean Koh has received more than twenty-five awards for his human rights work, including representation of Haitian refugees before the US Supreme Court. A fellow of numerous prestigious societies, he has served as an editor of the American Journal of International Law. Dean Koh has received Guggenheim and Century Foundation Fellowships and sat on the boards of directors or overseers of Harvard University, the Brookings Institution, National Democratic Institute, Human Rights First, Human Rights in China, and the American Arbitration Association.
Dean Koh was named by American Lawyer magazine as one of America's 45 leading public sector lawyers under the age of 45, and by A Magazine as one of the 100 most influential Asian-Americans of the 1990s.
Dr. Blumberg won the 1976 Nobel Prize for the discovery of the hepatitis B virus. In 1993, he and his coinventor, Dr. Irving Millman, were elected to the National Inventors Hall of Fame for their invention of the hepatitis B vaccine and the diagnostic test for hepatitis B. The former director of NASA’s Astrobiology Institute in California, Dr. Blumberg previously served as senior advisor to the administrator of NASA, based in Washington DC. Dr. Blumberg was master of Balliol College, Oxford University; associate director for Clinical Research at Fox Chase Cancer Center; and served on the staff of the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland. He earned an MD from the College of Physicians and Surgeons, Columbia University, and a PhD (DPhil) in Biochemistry from Oxford University.
In addition to his position at Hebrew University and the NYU Law School, Dr. Halbertal is a fellow at the Shalom Hartman Institute. He received his PhD from Hebrew University, and from 1988-1992 was a fellow at the Society of Fellows at Harvard University. He has also served as a visiting professor at Harvard Law School and at the University of Pennsylvania Law School. The coauthor of Idolatry (with Avishai Margalit), he has written People of the Book: Canon, Meaning and Authority; Interpretative Revolutions in the Making; Between Torah and Wisdom: R. Menachem ha-Meiri and the Maimonidean Halakhists in Provence; and By Way of Truth: Nahmanides and the Creation of Tradition. His latest book, Concealment and Revelation: Esotericism in Jewish Thought and Its Philosophical Implications, was published by Princeton University Press in 2007. Dr. Halbertal is the recipient of the Bruno Award of the Rothschild Foundation, and the Goren Goldstein award for the best book in Jewish thought in the years 1997-2000.
Congresswoman Nita M. Lowey is serving her tenth term in Congress, representing parts of Westchester and Rockland Counties. She served in the Democratic leadership in 2001 and 2002 as the first woman and first New Yorker to chair the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. A member of the House Appropriations Committee, where she serves as Chairwoman of the State and Foreign Operations Subcommittee and the House Homeland Security Committee, Lowey has been described by Congressional Quarterly as “one of the 50 most effective Members of Congress.”
A leader on many vital public policy issues, including educational opportunity, health care quality, and biomedical research, Lowey has been recognized for her leadership in securing over $20 billion for recovery efforts after September 11, 2001. A strong advocate for women, children, and families, Lowey authored the first-ever bill mandating clear, concise food allergen labeling. A strong public safety advocate, Lowey is working to ban the sale of handguns like the "Saturday night special." She was named Mothers Against Drunk Driving's (MADD) Legislator of the Year for her leadership in authoring the nation's zero tolerance law. A staunch proponent of a strong US-Israel relationship, she is a longtime champion of human rights. Born in The Bronx, New York, she received a bachelor's degree from Mount Holyoke College and served as Assistant Secretary of State for the State of New York before being elected to Congress.
Audrey and Yale Asbell are the newest members of JTS's Society of Fellows, an association of men and women who have demonstrated devotion to the highest ideals of Judaism and to the principles of social justice and concern for the broader community. They are people of extraordinary and diverse talents who have made an enormous impact on the welfare of JTS.