Commencement at Hebrew College

Honorary Degrees Recipients 2017

Leon Botstein has been the president of Bard College since 1975, where he is also the Leon Levy Professor in the Arts and Humanities. Dr. Botstein’s accomplishments at Bard College speak to his long time advocacy for the reform of education and the right of disadvantaged populations to its access. Not only has Bard College become a premiere American educational institution but an international leader in liberal arts education with joint-degree programs with universities in Russia, the West Bank of the Jordan River, and Kazakhstan. Dr. Botstein’s model for the reform and acceleration of American high-school education as described in his acclaimed book Jefferson's Children: Education and the Promise of American Culture (1997) has been realized with the great success of Bard’s public high schools in New York, Newark, the Harlem Children’s Zone, New Orleans, Cleveland, and Baltimore, which were recognized for their excellence by President Obama.

Since 1992, Leon Botstein has also been music director of the American Symphony Orchestra and a conductor of international renown. He is also co-artistic director of the acclaimed Summerscape and Bard Music Festivals, which take place at the Richard B. Fisher Center for the Performing Arts, designed by Frank Gehry for Bard College. From 2003 to 2010 he was music director of the Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra, the state radio orchestra of Israel, where he now serves as conductor laureate. Beginning in the summer of 2018 he will assume the position of Artistic Director of the Grafenegg Academy in Austria.

Dr. Botstein publishes widely on the subjects of music, history, culture, and education. 

Leon Botstein

Dr. Judith Kates is Professor of Jewish Women’s Studies at Hebrew College, Newton, MA. Her teaching and writing focus on classical Jewish texts, especially Bible and midrash viewed through literary and feminist lenses. She received a PhD in Comparative Literature from Harvard University where she taught literature for 11 years. First appointed to the faculty of Hebrew College in 1992, she became a founding member of the faculty of the  Rabbinical School at its inception in 2003, creating core text courses on Torah as understood within the full range of Jewish interpretation.  She has taught Bible and Rabbinics in many settings of adult learning in the Jewish community, including a local group of women which has met for Torah study for over 25 years.

In 1998 Dr. Kates received the Keter Torah Award for outstanding educators from the Bureau of Jewish Education of Greater Boston.

She is co-editor (with Gail Twersky Reimer) of Reading Ruth: Contemporary Women Reclaim a Sacred Story (Ballantine, 1994) and Beginning Anew: A Woman’s Companion to the High Holy Days (Simon and Schuster, 1997) among numerous other publications. 

Judith Kates

Daniel Matt is one of the world’s leading authorities on Kabbalah and the Zohar. He has been featured in Time Magazine and has appeared on National Public Radio and the History Channel. He has published over a dozen books, including The Essential Kabbalah (translated into seven languages), Zohar: Annotated and Explained, and God and the Big Bang: Discovering Harmony between Science and Spirituality (revised edition, 2016).

Recently Matt completed an 18-year project of translating and annotating the Zohar. In 2016, Stanford University Press published his ninth volume of The Zohar: Pritzker Edition, concluding the Zohar’s main commentary on the Torah. For this work, Daniel has been honored with a National Jewish Book Award and a Koret Jewish Book Award. The Koret award called his translation “a monumental contribution to the history of Jewish thought.”

For twenty years, he has served as professor at the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, California, and has also taught at Stanford University and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. 

Daniel Matt


> View a list of all Hebrew College Honorary Degree recipients