The diva is now a doctor.
On Monday afternoon, three days before her much-anticipated and first-ever performance in the Holy Land on June 20, Barbra Streisand gave a different kind of show at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem: She accepted an honorary doctorate of philosophy, bestowed in recognition of her contributions to music and culture and in appreciation of her commitment to Israel and the Jewish people.
Dressed all in black, with a wide-brimmed hat and sky-high stilettos, the Grammy-, Oscar-, Tony-, Emmy- and Golden Globe-winning performer seemed gratified to accept the honor and used her time at the podium to promote women’s values and education, two issues close to her heart.
“For close to 30 years I’ve had a deep connection to the Hebrew University,” said Streisand, who was last in Israel in 1984 to help dedicate a building on the campus in honor of her late father. “It’s not only home to a diverse population of some of Israel’s best and brightest students, but as you’ve heard it also houses the Emanuel Streisand Building for Jewish Studies.”
Reminding the audience that she had been only 15 months old when her father passed away at the age of 35, Streisand recalled a childhood marked by Jewish education and her own questioning nature.
“I guess I’m still that same person, still questioning, and that can get me into trouble sometimes,” she told the assembled audience, all friends and fans of the university who had gathered for a previous ceremony in which six scholars from around the world were named honorary fellows. “Only today,” she added, “my questions are mostly about environmental issues and equality for minorities, gays and women.”
Streisand, who uses much of her time offstage to serve as chairwoman and founder of the Streisand Foundation, made use of her acceptance speech to voice her support for Women of the Wall, decry the growing trend of gender-segregated buses in religious neighborhoods in Israel, and hail the university as an oasis of inclusion and Arab-Jewish relations in an otherwise troubled and segregated city.
“I wish the world were more like the hallways of the Hebrew University,” she said, before telling the audience she was sure that her father would have smiled upon her new degree. “He loved literature and I think he would be very proud to know that this esteemed institution is honoring his daughter,” she said.
And then the diva left the building, her security entourage in tow. As she was exiting the stage, one particularly excited audience member screamed out, “We love you, Barbra!”
Menachem Ben Sasson, president of the university, immediately turned to the shouter and chastised him.
“That’s right!” said the audience member. “What I mean is, we love you, Dr. Streisand!”