Gift of Life's Founder and Executive Director, Jay Feinberg received an honorary doctorate at Yeshiva University's 81st Annual Hanukkah Dinner and Convocation on Sunday, December 11, 2005 at The Waldorf Astoria. YU President Richard M. Joel conferred honorary degrees upon Jay, Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, and other leaders including Linda Altman, Kathryn O. Greenberg, Jack M. Nagel, and Rose Yavarkovsky. As he opened the convocation ceremony, President Joel said, "Tonight we celebrate Yeshiva University and look to the future with hope and challenge. The recipients of honorary degrees exemplify the life lessons and models of leadership that we seek to teach our students."
Since its inception in 1991, Gift of Life has facilitated over 1,000 bone marrow and blood stem cell transplants for patients around the world. Since tissue type is inherited, a patient searching for a suitable donor is most likely to find one among those of similar ethnic ancestry. However, international donor pools are not adequately representative of all ethnic groups. Gift of Life's mission to increase the representation of Jewish volunteer donors arose in response to the devastating effects of the Holocaust which severed bloodlines. The organization was founded by Jay after a four year search for his own bone marrow donor resulted in the transplant that saved his life.
Jay was personally nominated for this honor by President Joel. Together, they forged a partnership between Gift of Life and Hillel: The Foundation for Jewish Campus Life, where Mr. Joel previously served as President. Through this partnership, college students are exposed to Gift of Life's mission and encouraged to run donor recruitment drives on their campuses. This, along with other campus-based programs including one with Alpha Epsilon Pi Fraternity has not only recruited over 10,000 young, healthy donors into the registry and identified potential matches for dozens of patients who need transplants, it has encouraged students to take leadership roles organizing events that may save countless lives in the decades to come. With help from Gift of Life, students take ownership of the drive and gain invaluable experience that carries into their professional lives, wherever their interests lie. Through their participation, students also explore issues of Jewish medical ethics, such as views on organ donation and pikuach nefesh, saving lives.
As President Joel presented Jay with the honorary Doctor of Humane Letters, he said, "Jay, that you are here today is testament to your triumph over (leukemia). But you won more than a victory for yourself; your search for a matching bone marrow donor, and a cure, grew into a life-saving cause that has become your life's work." He continued, "Jay, your courage enabled you to survive a near-fatal illness. Your vision and determination have made you a crusader giving the gift of life to others."
Senator Clinton delivered the principal convocation address, where she expressed unequivocal support for Israel and described the United States and Israel as partners against terrorism. She said, "People in the Middle East who are not sure what democracy means should look to Israel." She continued, "The bonds between the United States and Israel are forged on the common struggle for human rights, democracy, and the right to live without fear and oppression."
YU ranks among the nation's leading academic research institutions and stands out as America's Jewish university in service to humanity. Other degree recipients included Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, Linda Altman, Kathryn O. Greenberg, Jack M. Nagel, and Rose Yavarkovsky.
Senator Clinton is the only former First Lady ever elected to the United States Senate. Since she was elected in 2000, Senator Clinton serves on the Senate Committees for Environment and Public Works; and Health, Education, Labor and Pensions. She is also the first New York senator to serve on the Senate Armed Services Committee.
Linda Altman is a member of the Board of Overseers and president of the National Women's Division of YU's Albert Einstein College of Medicine. She also served in leadership roles on the division's National Board before assuming the presidency.
Kathryn O. Greenberg has been chair of the Board of Directors of YU's Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law since March 2004. Ms. Greenberg is the first chair of Cardozo to come from the ranks of its alumni. After graduating cum laude, she joined the law firm of Shea & Gould and served as a supervising attorney at Cardozo's Bet Tzedek Legal Services Clinic. In 1990, Ms. Greenberg founded the New York Legal Assistance Group (NYLAG) to provide free civil legal services for low-income New Yorkers who would otherwise be unable to afford legal help.
Jack M. Nagel, a Holocaust survivor, is chairman of the West Coast Friends of Bar-Ilan University and a member of Bar-Ilan's Global Board of Trustees. He and his wife, Gitta, are founders of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C. His companies, Decron Properties Corporation, Decron Management Corp., and Nagel Construction Co., manage and develop commercial and residential properties.
Rose Yavarkovsky is a member of the Executive Council and a founding board member of the Atlantic Beach Chapter of the Yeshiva University Women's Organization. Through YUWO, she established the Rose Yavarkovsky Scholarship at YU's Stern College for Women. Mrs. Yavarkovsky and her son, Ira, are founders of YU's Sy Syms School of Business. They also established four scholarships at Wurzweiler School of Social Work and are Fellows of Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law.