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OTRC: Barbra Streisand gets honorary Ph.D. in Israel, talks women's rights

Barbra Streisand received an honorary doctor of philosophy degree from Hebrew University in Jerusalem, Israel, on Monday, June 17, 2013, and during her speech, slammed Jewish religious practices in the country that discriminate against women.

The legendary 71-year-old singer was recognized for her "professional achievements, outstanding humanitarianism, leadership in the realm of human and civil rights, and dedication to Israel and the Jewish people." Streisand is a longtime champion of civil rights and equality.

During her acceptance speech, she talked about the treatment of women in parts of Israel, the Jewish state.

"It's distressing to read about women in Israel being forced to sit in the back of the bus," the Associated Press quoted her as saying, "Or when we hear about 'Women of the Wall' having metal chairs thrown at them when they attempt to peacefully and legally pray.

Streisand had landed in Israel on Sunday evening via a private plane and immediately visited the famous tourist spot, one of the holiest sites in Judaism, along with an entourage, Israel's Ynet website reported.

In Israel, there is an ongoing struggle between a secular majority and an ultra-Orthodox minority over lifestyle issues, such as clothing regulations at holy sites and women's access to religious areas. The Western Wall's praying area and several buses that run through ultra-Orthodox neighborhoods are segregated by gender and violence has occasionally ensued after lines were crossed.

A court has ruled that women, like men, are allowed to wear prayer shawls at the holy site, and there is also a proposal to create a mixed-gender area, the Associated Press reported. As for the buses -- Israel's government is currently drafting legislation that would make gender segregation illegal.

While in Israel, Streisand will perform in Jaffa, near Tel Aviv, on Thursday and Saturday. These will mark her first concerts in Israel. She also plans to attend the 90th birthday party of Israeli President Shimon Peres on Tuesday.

Barbra Streisand: Singer, actress, philanthropist

Streisand is an eight-time Grammy winner who is known for songs such as "People" and "You Don't Bring Me Flowers" and has appeared in films such as "Yentl" and "Funny Girl." She won an Oscar for Best Actress in a Leading Role for the latter film, released in 1968, and also received an Academy Award for her song "Evergreen," the love theme from the 1976 movie "A Star in Born."

In 1986, Streisand founded the Streisand Foundation, which gives grants to nonprofit environmental and civil rights groups and women's health causes and equality. She has donated some $25 million to her charity, which also founded the Barbra Streisand Women's Heart Center at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles.

Streisand, who was raised Jewish, established the Emanuel Streisand Building for Jewish Studies at Hebrew University in 1984. She dedicated the building in memory of her beloved father, Emanuel, whom she praised as "a teacher, scholar and religious man who devoted himself to education," the university said in a statement.

Hebrew University was co-founded by Albert Einstein in 1925 and is the home of the Albert Einstein Archives. Fellow Oscar winner Natalie Portman took graduate classes at the university in 2004.

Streisand also received an honorary doctorate in Arts and Humanities from Brandeis University in 1995. She is an honorary chairperson on the board of directors of the college's Hadassah-Brandeis Institute, which "develops fresh ways of thinking about Jews and gender worldwide by producing and promoting scholarly research and artistic projects," according to its website.

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