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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Lunch and Learn

Wednesday, March 22
12:15 - 1:30 p.m.
$15 by March 14; $18 starting March 15

Jewish Galicia: Vibrant Past Rediscovered
Speaker: Andrew Zalewski

Learn how the Jews of Galicia (1772-1918) thrive and prosper during a wave of Jewish Enlightenment. The community comes alive: professionals, pious traditionalists, self-assured reformers, and dwellers of shetls and cities are heard in this narrative. The story of Galician Jews is the story of many contrasts: poverty mixing with opportunities and separateness with acculturation.

About the speaker: Andrew Zalewski is a physician and former Professor of Medicine at Jefferson University, Philadelphia, where he practiced cardiology and conducted research for about 20 years. Andrew has been passionate about bringing to light the story of Galicia. Several generations of his Jewish and Christian ancestors traced their roots to this former province of the Austrian and Austro-Hungarian Empire. Despite a busy professional life, Andrew published two non-fiction historical books about Galicia where he weaves in unique and surprising discoveries about his genealogical research.

Thursday, April 27
12:15 - 1:30 p.m.
$15 by April 19; $18 starting April 20

What's in a Jewish Name?
Speaker: Rabbi Robert Layman

"What's in a Jewish Name?" consists of a survey of Jewish naming customs and superstitions, the origin and meaning of popular names, going back to the Bible, continuing into Rabbinic literature and the Middle Ages, and including modern Israeli names. We will also discuss Yiddish names popular among Ashkenazic Jews. Names are broken into several categories such as theophoric (containing one of the names of God), names based on flora and fauna, and those based on emotions or particular situations like the names of Jacob's sons.

Wednesday, May 24
12:15 - 1:45 p.m.
$15 by May 16; $18 starting May 17

The Music That Got Us Through World War II
Speaker: Herbert Kaufman

World War II "was a glorious time for songs." Families depended on their radio for home entertainment.  During the war, radios were filled with new patriotic and sentimental songs; romantic ballads and many novelty songs reached the top of the music charts.  This was the era of the big band and many young vocalists became stars.  The program includes the music and songs of Glenn Miller, Tommy Dorsey, Judy Garland, Al Jolson, Bing Crosby, the Andrews Sisters, and many more. Using CD’s and highlighted by many original World War II era 78 rpm records -- patriotic music, sentimental songs, comic melodies and music that has been woven into the fabric of our American culture are presented. Learn about the composers, bands and singers that got us through the war.

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All classes held at Gratz College unless otherwise noted

Spring 2017 Online

Divine Doings in Myth and Midrash (Online)
Instructor:  Rabbi Richard (Shmuel) Lewis

Check back for new dates....

The classic texts of Judaism, the Bible (Tanakh) and Midrash, do not easily fit into the genres we’re familiar with in the modern world, so it’s easy to make mistakes interpreting them by (mis)applying our recognized genres to them.  The first part of this course is an attempt to clarify the genres of much of the narrative of the Torah, on the one hand, and of rabbinic midrash of it, on the other.  The bottom line of the claim is that the Torah narratives belong to a genre we will call ‘myth’ and the genre known as midrash is invented as the best way of reading (i.e., responding to) myth.  After clarifying what we mean by 'Hebrew myth' and differentiating it from genres we are familiar with and from other kinds of myth, we will turn to its presentation of God and creation in Tanakh and midrash with new understanding. 

About Rabbi Richard (Shmuel) Lewis


Master the Bible in Four Sessions (online)
Instructor: Ruth Sandberg
Wednesdays, January 4 – 25, 2017

According to Jewish tradition, the Hebrew Bible consists of 24 books. This course will cover all 24 books of the Hebrew Bible in four sessions! Each day, we will explore the basic content and key passages of six Biblical books. You can become a “master” of the Bible in just four sessions!

The Wandering Jew (online)
Instructors: Dr. Joseph Davis & Sara Greenberg

Wednesdays: February 8 – March 1, 2017
(4 sessions)

Travel and migration have been central to the Jewish experience, from the Exodus, to the great migrations of the 19th and 20th century, and aliyah to Israel today. The legend of the "Wandering Jew" expresses this age-old connection of Jews and travel. Jews have been wanderers; we have made pilgrimages; we have been tourists; and we have been exiles. The class will study some classic patterns of Jewish travel, while looking at some of the extraordinary literature of travel and migration that Jews have produced throughout the ages.


Spring 2017 On Campus


What Is in the Qur'an? Revelation vs Critical Analysis (10 weeks)
Instructor: Dr. David Rabeeya
Tuesdays, Feb. 14 - May 2 (excl. 4/11, 4/18), 10:00 am

The course will begin with the revelation of the Qur'an and the eventual book based on these revelations as well as the structure, chronology and language in the holy book of the Muslims. Also, the meeting go god, the prophets and Mohammed will be explored as well as the connection between the Qur'an and society in modern times. The inner connection between the Arabic language of the Qur'an and its influence on worldwide Islam will be discussed. Relating the Abrahamic revelations to the Qur'an will shed light on the connections among the three monotheistic religions.

The Implications of the Six Day War (10 weeks)
Instructor: Dr. Asaf Romirowsky
Tuesdays, Feb. 14 - May 2 (excl. 4/11, 4/18), 10:00 am

2017 marks the 50th anniversary of the Six Day War - the War that created the modern day Middle East.  It was the Six-Day War that furnished Israel with the territory and permanence necessary for achieving peace with Egypt and Jordan. It transformed Jerusalem from a divided backwater into a thriving capital, free for the first time to adherents of all faiths. The war reconnected the Jewish people to our ancestral homeland in Judea and Samaria, inspiring many thousands to make Aliyah. Given the above, the course will examine and survey the events of the war and the implications we are dealing with today regarding the Arab-Palestinian refugees, Jerusalem and the 1967 borders.

Talmud on the Edge: Strange Stories of Death, Desire and Power (8 weeks)
Instructor: Dr. Josh Gutoff
Tuesdays, February 14 - April 4, 1:00 pm

In this class we will examine several Talmudic discussions where stories of the bizarre or extreme are used to explore profound questions and reveal insight into the human condition, moral life and the search for God.  All texts will be studied in English, and no prior background is required.

The History of Rabbinic Civilization (15 sessions)
Instructor: Dr. Ruth Sandberg
JST 519
Tuesdays, January 10 - April 25 (excl. 4/11, 4/18)
7:00 - 9:45 p.m.
$375 auditor fee
This is an on-campus, evening, graduate-level class that has been opened to auditors!

This course provides an overview of the history of the Rabbinic period (70 CE-500 CE), as well as an in-depth look at selected historical and scholarly problems of the Rabbinic period, which are being debated among Rabbinic scholars even today. Some issues to be discussed include: the Maccabean revolt and the establishment of the festival of Hanukah; the resistance against Rome; the significance of Masada; the rise of Jewish mysticism in the ancient world; the Bar Kochba revolt; and the relationship between Rabbinic Judaism and early Christianity.


How “True” is the Bible? An Archaeological Exploration (10 weeks)
Instructor: Dr. Ruth Sandberg
Wednesdays, February 15 – April 26, 2017 (excl. 4/12), 10:00 am

Did the Exodus really happen? Did King David really live? What evidence is there for Solomon’s Temple? How “true” is the Bible? This course will explore archaeological evidence to measure how “true” or historically accurate the Bible may be. Topics include evidence, or lack of it, for: the Patriarchs and Matriarchs, the Exodus from Egypt, Canaanite culture in Israel, the lives of David and Solomon, the Babylonian Exile, as well as glimpses into everyday life in ancient Israel. We will also discuss the issue of what value the Bible still holds, even if archaeology cannot prove that it is “true.”


American Jews in the Civil War
Thursdays, February 9 – 23, 10am – 12pm (3 weeks)

Sessions 1 & 3 (Feb. 9, 23)
A People At War
Led by Herbert Kaufman

This presentation will explore Jewish thought and behavior during a time of great unrest and turbulence. Emphasis will be placed on individuals in the Jewish community who fought on both sides of the war, bringing to light the heroic actions of both soldiers and women who served as nurses and spies. Discussion will include Lincoln’s relationship with the Jewish community, his reaction to Grant’s General Order #11 and the placement of Jewish Chaplains.
Session 2 (Feb. 16)
Never Forget What They Did Here: The Jewish Soldiers Who Fought at Gettysburg
Led by Rabbi Lance J. Sussman, Ph.D.

The Battle of Gettysburg, July 1863, is often referred to as the “High Water Mark” of the Confederate war effort, the South’s last real opportunity to force a political resolution to the Civil War.  Fought over three hot summer days, the action at Gettysburg has become legendary and was subsequently immortalized by President Lincoln in his “Gettysburg’s Address” who challenged the nation to “never forget what they did here.”  In this presentation, Lance J. Sussman, Ph.D., Senior Rabbi of Keneseth Israel (Elkins Park, PA) will discuss the role of the hundreds of Jews who fought at Gettysburg on both sides of the conflict, including a large number from Philadelphia.  Small in number compared to the tens of thousands of their fellow combatants, they too fought with valor at a decisive moment in American history.  Largely unknown, their story is our story and something we and the world should know and remember with great pride.

Jewish History in the First Person (10 weeks)
Instructor: Dr. Reena Friedman
Thursdays, February 16 – April 27 (excl. 4/13), 1:00 pm

This course explores major themes in modern Jewish history as reflected in memoirs and personal letters written by Jewish men and women living in different parts of the world in the eighteenth through the twentieth centuries. What can we learn about Jewish life and culture from these memoirs? How do the writers' thoughts and experiences relate to us today?

What’s on Your Plate this Passover? Make Your Seder Meaningful (3 weeks)
Instructor: Dr. Saul Wachs
Thursdays, March 23 – April 6, 1:00 pm

The Seder is a  great time for telling stories and that is only one way to create an amazing (intergenerational) experience and to pacify “uncle Herman”  (the one who comes with only one question: “when do we eat?” This mini-course will discuss some of the great themes of the Haggadah and look at some proven methods of making the Seder a memorable experience.

Historic Haggadot Exhibit at The Tuttleman Library
Collector/Speaker: Ierachmiel (Yerach) Daskal M.D, Ph.D.
Thursday, April 6, 3:15 pm
Free (small donation to the library appreciated)
Refreshments served.

Ierachmiel (Yerach) Daskal M.D., Ph.D., a board-certified pathologist will share his passion for collecting Judaica, specifically Haggadot created in many languages and through the centuries, under a wide range of circumstances. Learn about both traditional and nontraditional pieces. Compare and contrast Haggadot created from memory, during wars & in ghettos, on Kibbutzim, and from distant lands and foreign languages.

RSVP here for the Haggadot Exhibit

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.