The Jewish Theological Seminary Confers 90 Degrees at 2016 Commencement

Press Contact: Beatrice Adela Mora
Office: (212) 678-8950

May 20, 2016, New York, NY

 A total of 90 degrees were conferred during the 122nd Commencement Exercises of The Jewish Theological Seminary (JTS) on May 17 in New York City. The distinguished graduates are the newest JTS cohort of professional and lay leaders set to serve around the globe as rabbis, educators, cantors, scholars, and community leaders. Secretary of the Treasury Jacob J. Lew delivered the Commencement Address. Honorary doctoral degrees were awarded to Ms. Roz Chast, Mrs. Karen W. Davidson, Dr. Michael Fishbane, Mr. Abraham H. Foxman, Secretary Lew, and Former Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman.

Of the 80 graduates awarded degrees during this year’s Commencement, 38 received bachelor’s degrees from List College; 20—including two who earned doctorates—completed their studies at Gershon Kekst Graduate School; and 18—including four who earned doctorates—received degrees from William Davidson Graduate School of Jewish Education. Further, three cantors were invested by the H. L. Miller Cantorial School and College of Jewish Music, and 11 men and women were ordained by The Rabbinical School. A number of  students received multiple degrees from various JTS schools.

Secretary Lew was confirmed by the United States Senate on February 27, 2013 to serve as the 76th Secretary of the Treasury. He previously served as White House Chief of Staff. Prior to that role, Secretary Lew was the director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), a position he also held in President Clinton’s Cabinet from 1998 to 2001. Before returning to OMB in 2010, Lew first joined the Obama Administration as Deputy Secretary of State for Management and Resources. In the private sector, Lew served as managing director and chief operating officer for two different Citigroup business units and asexecutive vice president and chief operating officer of New York ​University, where he was responsible for budget, finance, and operations, and served as a professor of public administration.

A brilliant interpreter of the everyday, Ms. Chast has loved to draw cartoons since she was a child growing up in Brooklyn. Her cartoons depict neuroses, hilarity, angst, and domesticity and are loaded with words, objects, and patterns. More than 1,200 of them have been printed in the New Yorker since 1978, and nine collections of her work have been published, including most recently Theories of Everything, a 25-year retrospective. Her visual humor is currently on exhibition at the Museum of the City of New York. For her recent graphic memoir, Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant?, Ms. Chast won the National Book Critics’ Circle Award for Autobiography and the inaugural Kirkus Prize for Nonfiction, and was a finalist for the National Book Award for Nonfiction.

Mrs. Davidson has performed enormous good works in the areas of education and entrepreneurship. She carries on the philanthropy of her late husband, William Davidson (z”l), including, together with her family, continued support of JTS’s William Davidson Graduate School of Jewish Education, which celebrates its 20th anniversary this year. At the University of Michigan, the founding contribution by Mr. Davidson and continuing funding by the William Davidson Foundation make possible the William Davidson Institute, an independent, nonprofit research and educational organization focused on private sector solutions in emerging markets. Mrs. Davidson is a member of many boards, including the University of Michigan President’s Advisory Group and the Detroit Symphony Orchestra.

Dr. Fishbane is the Nathan Cummings Distinguished Service Professor of Jewish Studies at the University of Chicago. The author or editor of over two dozen books and hundreds of articles in scholarly journals and encyclopedias, Dr. Fishbane’s areas of research and writing include Biblical Studies, Rabbinic Midrash, Medieval Jewish Bible Commentaries, Jewish Mysticism, and Modern Jewish Thought and Theology. His works Biblical Interpretation in Ancient Israel and The Kiss of God: Spiritual and Mystical Death in Judaism won the National Jewish Book Award. Dr. Fishbane is a fellow of the American Academy for Jewish Research and, in 2013, was inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

Mr. Foxman is National Director Emeritus of the Anti-Defamation League. After serving 28 years as national director and 50 years with the organization, he retired in 2015. Mr. Foxman is world-renowned as a leader in the fight against anti-Semitism, bigotry, and discrimination. He is the co-author of Viral Hate: Containing Its Spread on the Internet and author of Jews & Money: The Story of a Stereotype; The Deadliest Lies: The Israel Lobby and the Myth of Jewish Control, and Never Again? The Threat of the New Anti-Semitism. He regularly speaks out on issues of global anti-Semitism, the war on terrorism, church/state issues, religious intolerance, and issues relating to the Holocaust.

Judge Lippman is Of Counsel in the New York office of Latham & Watkins, LLP. He is a member of its Litigation & Trial department, where he provides clients with strategic counsel and continues his lifelong dedication to expanding access to justice for all. Judge Lippman served as chief judge of the State of New York, leading  the Court of Appeals, its highest court, from February 2009 through December 2015,  while heading a statewide court system. During his tenure on the Court of Appeals, Judge Lippman authored major decisions addressing constitutional, statutory, and common law issues shaping the law of New York, the contours of state government, and the lives of all New Yorkers.