Gratz Scholars Program

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The Gratz College Scholars Program is for adults in the community who enjoy learning in an intellectual atmosphere with instructors who are highly regarded experts in their fields. Ongoing courses are offered each semester in a variety of subjects and topics as well as Hebrew and Yiddish language. The Scholars Program also sponsors Distinguished Lecture Series, Yiddish programs, Israeli films and other special events.

For more information about the Gratz College Scholars Program please contact Hope Matles at or 215-635-7300 x172.

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Click the button below to register online

or print out and mail in this registration form. 


All classes held at Gratz College unless otherwise noted

Fall 2016

Tuesdays starting November 1
Wednesdays starting September 21
Thursdays starting September 22

Online starting November 2nd—NEW!


The Mystery of Kabbalah
Dr. Joseph Davis

8 weeks online beginning Nov. 2nd.-new session opens every Wednesday - $225

What is the "Kabbalah"?   This course will introduce and provide insights about the Jewish mystical tradition of Kabbalah,  focusing on its most famous and important text, The Zohar, and on the early Hasidic masters, including the Baal Shem Tov and Rabbi Nahman of Bratslav.  We will explore both theory in the doctrine of the Sefirot, and the lived experience of the masters, including mystical visions and experiences.  We will study the impact of Kabbalah on the mystical interpretations of Torah, the commandments and concepts of prayer.
Join us and discover the appeal of Kabbalah from the ancient rabbis to Madonna! 
There will be an optional live orientation session on Wednesday, October 26th at 7:00pm to show students how to use the online site. Dr. Davis will also hold a live optional interactive class by webinar on Wednesday, November 16th 6:45pm- 7:45pm EST. We will send directions for both of these live webinars once you have registered. For FAQ's about online classes, click here.


How Judaism Changed the World
Dr. Saul Wachs
10:00 am-12:00 pm
November 1 - December 20 - 8 sessions - $225

It is more than remarkable that a small, politically and militarily insignificant people contributed ideas and institutions that have helped shape the marketplace of ideas and the living patterns of untold millions of people. In the ancient world, Jews never were able to compete on the political stage with superpowers like Egypt, Babylonia, Persia, Greece or Rome. But from this small nation, poured forth a stream of beliefs, ideas, values, and institutions that have had a major impact on world culture. In this course, we will analyze this phenomenon as we look in depth at each of these contributions to civilization.

The History of Modern Israel
Dr. Asaf Romirowsky
10:00 am - 12:00 pm
November 1 - December 20 - 8 sessions - $225

This course will review the history of modern Israel from the inception of Zionism to the present. The four periods of study will be the ideological formations (to 1917), Zionist autonomy in Palestine (to 1948), the problems and successes of sovereignty (to 1977) and the quest for identity and normalization (to the present). Issues to be discussed will include the structure of the old and new Yishuv, immigration to Eretz Yisrael, British rule in Palestine, Arab-Israel wars, relationships with the great powers, sociological associations, Israeli literature, Israel-Diaspora relations, religion and state policy interaction, the political and economic systems, constitutional issues, Arab-Israeli wars and the peace process with Arab neighbors.


Let's Read the Constitution!
David H. Weinstein, Esq.
10:00 am - 12:00 pm
November 8 - December 20 - 7 sessions - $175

We frequently hear about important constitutional questions, whether they concern voting rights, health care, criminal procedure, abortion, gay rights, or the like. Yet few of us have ever read this profound but amazingly short document. In this course we will use a traditional form of Jewish text study -reading aloud and discussing as we go - to become acquainted with this quintessentially American foundational text. Come, let's read together most of the actual provisions of the U.S. Constitution, article by article (including the amendments)! As we go we will discuss their meaning, relevance, historical context, and related events and case decisions. Each participant in this course will be provided a personal copy of the Constitution of the United States to bring to each session and to keep after the course is finished.

WEDNESDAYS - no class October 12

Medieval Genius: The Life and Teachings of Maimonides
Dr. Ruth Sandberg
10:00 am - 12:00 pm
September 21 - November 30  10 sessions - $275

Maimonides lived in the 12th century in both Spain and Egypt, during one of the most tumultuous but creative periods of history, associated with the golden age of Spain and the height of the Islamic empire. Maimonides became one of the greatest of all medieval Rabbis as well as a noted physician, harmonizing Jewish tradition with both philosophy and science. Both a maverick and a genius, Maimonides' life is a fascinating study of contrasts, and his teachings on Jewish law and belief, as well as his philosophical and scientific writings, still have great influence today and reveal an intellect that was well ahead of its time.


Contemporary Responses to Biblical Stories
Dr. Uziel Adini
10:00 am - 12:00 pm
September 21 - November 30   10 sessions - $275

Modern readers of biblical texts form contemporary opinions on ancient biblical texts and its heroes.  We legitimize ALL reader-responses and discuss them.  This new approach analyzes the text and emphasizes the biblical relevance to the modern reader.  The reader-response method acknowledges and expands, in contrast to the older methods, the legitimacy of the interpreter's contemporary self-involvement in the text.  Selected biblical stories and heroes will be discussed to elaborate on this point.
Note:  Students are requested to bring a (JPS) Bible in translation.


The Jewish-Christian Encounter
Dr. Ruth Sandberg
Wednesdays 6:30-8:30 pm 
September 21 - October 26 - 5 sessions $ 150

We will examine the relationship between Christians and Jews over the centuries, and will focus on the following questions: If the earliest Christians were all Jews, why has the relationship between Christianity and Judaism been frequently hostile over the centuries?  In what ways have Judaism and Christianity influenced each other?: Did church teachings play a role in the Nazi  genocide of Jews? How has the encounter between the two traditions changed in recent decades?  What are today's pressing challenges?  How can Jewish and Christians develop greater mutual understanding of each other?

THURSDAYS - no class November 24

Introduction to Talmud: The Rabbis on Blessings
Dr. Joshua Gutoff
10:00 am -12:00 pm
September 22 - December 1 - 10 sessions - $275

"Is there a blessing for the Czar? There is a blessing for everything!"  That's pretty close to the truth. Judaism has used standardized forms to turn almost any experience into an opportunity for a spiritual encounter, going all the way back to the very formation of what we know as Judaism.  In this class, we will focus on passages from the Mishna tractate Berachot.  We'll learn something about how this classic Jewish text works, and explore some early rabbinic attitudes towards prayer.  All texts will be in English, and no previous experience is required.


Jewish Music on Stage!
Dr. Marsha Edelman
10:00 am-12:00 pm
September 22 - December 1  - 10 sessions - $275

Although the notion of "Jewish" music is logically rooted in the synagogue, Jewish composers of the last century have produced a wealth of material intended for the concert stage.  From Yiddish theater to the symphony, Jewish composers, and the ensembles that have performed their music, have displayed a wealth of creative talent.  Listen with pride to our bright musical lights on the concert stage -- and prepare to discover how the Jewish identities of these composers have inspired their work.


From Ancient Persia to Modern Iran:
Religious, Cultural  & Political Transformations 
Dr. David Rabeeya
1:00-3:00 pm
September 22 - December 1  10 sessions - $275

This course will highlight how religious, cultural, and political transformations forever changed Iran and its relationship to Israel and the West.Starting with the incredible culture of the Imperial Persian Empire and its fight for control of the ancient world, we will study the transition from ancient Persia to the rise of Shi'ite Islam that radically changed the economy and culture of medieval and modern Iran. Discussions will include the conflict between today's Iranian western oriented youth and the radical elite's attempt to keep "the light of the Khomeini revolution" and their support of Hezbollah and Hamas as agents to be the dominant power in the Middle East.  We will explore the reasons, implications, pros and cons of the nuclear agreement with Iran and its effect on global policies and Israel's security. 


America's Response to the Holocaust
Dr. Reena Sigman Friedman
1:00- 3:00 pm
September 22 -December 1  10 sessions - $275

Since Arthur Morse's book, While Six Million Died, appeared in 1967, debate has raged about the American response to the Holocaust. A new book recently emerged to join the growing body of literature on the subject: FDR and the Jews. How did President Franklin Roosevelt, the U.S. Congress, the State Department, the American public and the American Jewish community react to the refugee crisis of the 1930's and to news of the "Final Solution"?  Did America "abandon" European Jews, as historian David Wyman maintains? Did some American and American Jewish leaders try to do what they could under the circumstances?  In this class, we will evaluate the historical record and seek to draw lessons from this dark period that can be applied to our own times.

Registration/Refund Policy

Minimum class size required to run each course. Full tuition payment is due upon registration prior to the start of the first class.  If a cancellation is received at least two days before the course begins, 100% of tuition will be refunded.