Barbra Streisand given honorary doctorate at HU

Visiting singer and noted social activist uses part of her acceptance speech to cite women’s rights in Israel as cause of concern.

June 17, 2013 19:23
3 minute read.
BARBRA STREISAND receives an honorary doctorate at Hebrew University of Jerusalem at Mount Scopus

Streisand gets doctorate 370. (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)


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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.

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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 event.

BARBRA STREISAND receives an honorary 
doctorate at Hebrew University of Jerusalem at the Mount Scopus campus 
Monday afternoon. (Marc Israel Sellem)

“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 daughter.”

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 was young.


BARBRA STREISAND receives an honorary 
doctorate at Hebrew University of Jerusalem at the Mount Scopus campus 
Monday afternoon. (Marc Israel Sellem)

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 Award.

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.”

Streisand 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 restrictions.

BARBRA STREISAND receives an honorary 
doctorate at Hebrew University of Jerusalem at the Mount Scopus campus 
Monday afternoon. (Marc Israel Sellem)

“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.

“Jews 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.

“My 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 said.

“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.

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