World-renowned singer, actress and social activist Barbra Streisand was feted by
Hebrew University of Jerusalem’s Board of Governors with an honorary doctorate
at the school’s Mount Scopus campus Monday.
The ceremony, which was
preceded by the presentation of six honorary degrees to other accomplished
professionals, was presided over by university President Menahem Ben-Sasson in
the school’s Mexico Hall.
A packed auditorium greeted Streisand with a
standing ovation and cheers as she climbed the steps to a podium wearing an
elegant black dress and hat. Her husband, actor James Brolin, videotaped her
from the front row, while hundreds of others took pictures and recorded the
“I’m so grateful to be here to receive this honor,” said the
71-year-old, Brooklyn-born Streisand upon accepting the prestigious “Doctor
Philosophiae Honoris Causa” award.
“My father loved literature and I
think he’d be proud to know this esteemed institution is awarding his
Streisand noted her 30-year relationship with the university;
in 1984 she donated to the campus the Emanuel Streisand Building for Jewish
studies in memory of her father, a Jewish educator and scholar who died when she
Yeshiva-educated, Streisand first became involved with the
university in 1979 via its American Friends Association, and in the early 80s
was presented with the American Friends of the Hebrew University’s Scopus
A noted social activist, Streisand used part of her acceptance
speech to promote equality in Israel not only among Arabs and Jews, but among
women and men.
“It’s distressing to read of women in Israel being forced
to sit in the back of the bus, that Women of the Wall [is] having metal chairs
thrown at them, and that women can’t sing in public,” she said. “To remain
silent about these things is tantamount to accepting them.”
told an anecdote of an ultra- Orthodox rabbi who shook her hand when they first
met while he was advising her during the filming of Yentl, despite the religious
“I asked him why he shook my hand,” said Streisand. “He
answered, ‘More important than the practice of not shaking a woman’s hand, is
the larger lesson of not embarrassing another human being.’ “Human dignity means
giving all people a voice,” she added. “It’s only through dialogue that people
and countries come together.”
Streisand went on to praise the
university’s noteworthy co-existence of Jewish and Arab students.
and Arabs sit together in classrooms, sit together in the cafeteria and learn
from the same professors,” she said. “I wish the world was more like the
hallways of Hebrew University… [the university] is proof that people [from
different backgrounds] can live in peace.”
Streisand expressed her wish
that peace can be attained one day through the university’s example.
hope is that we continue to build a world rooted in compassion and peace, and I
believe that whenever we get there, HU will be leading the way,” she
“As Albert Einstein once said, ‘Example isn’t another way to teach,
it’s the only way to teach.’” Following a standing ovation of several minutes,
Streisand joined the other honorary doctorates, as well as Ben-Sasson and the
Board of Governors, to sing the national anthem.