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Dr. Ruth Sandberg standing teaching a room full of seated students

Jewish Studies Courses

The Daniel and Louise Cohen Adult Jewish Learning 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. In addition to courses, Gratz adult education offers Distinguished Lecture Series, Yiddish programs, Israeli films and other special events.


FALL 2023

All classes are online using the Zoom platform. Some classes are also in-person.

From Moses to Moses: No One Rose Up Like Moses
Rabbi Albert Gabbai  
Mondays: 10:00 am – 12:00 pm, October 16 – December 4
Zoom only, $250

Come and explore with us the fascinating life of the one who revolutionized Jewish thinking to this day. We will start by reading his biography, exploring his major three works, dwelling on some of his writing, and finding some Aristotelian ideas. What made it that he had such an impact on all walks of life in the Jewish conscience? The class will be very interactive, with questions and answers to understand the underlying philosophy. The only prerequisite is curiosity and willingness to learn.  (Every Hebrew term will be translated into English).


Our Long and Winding Road 
Rabbi Richard Address 
Mondays: 2:00 pm – 4:00 pm, October 16 – December 4
Zoom only, $250

We are living longer and better and we are met with new life situations. We will explore how our tradition can inform, support and serve as a spiritual foundation for our hoped-for longevity. We will explore some basic texts from Torah, as well as issues related to caregiving, health and wellness, end of life choices and challenges, the "new" Jewish grandparent, new rituals that speak to new life stages as well as how we can deal with such concerns as loss and time. 

Between the Lines: Reading and Discussion of Jewish Short Stories 
Anndee Hochman 
Mondays: 6:00 pm – 8:00 pm, October 23 – November 27
Zoom only, $250

Reading is typically a solitary venture. But when we read and discuss stories together, each person brings their whole life to the table: their regrets and ambitions, their insights and curiosities. The story grows larger. We learn from each other. We might even change our minds. In this six-session class, we will read and talk about short stories from a range of Jewish writers including Isaac Bashevis Singer, Tillie Olsen and Grace Paley. Each session will include a short writing prompt in response to the story and a chance to share your work aloud. 

Confronting Antisemitism
Steve Chervin, Ed.D.
Tuesdays: 10:00 am – 12:00 pm, October 24 – December 19 (excl. 11/21)
Zoom only, $250

How did Jew-hatred begin, why does it persist, and what forms has it taken over the millennia? What are some theories about its causes, and how did the recurring tropes originate? We will take an historical overview of this "oldest hatred", and identify its key forms of expression (e.g., conspiracy theories, stereotypes, images, anti-Jewish legislation and restrictions, violence). We will also explore the various ways in which Jews have coped with antisemitism - on both the individual level (e.g., name-changing, conversion, assimilation), as well as the communal level (e.g., creating Jewish defense organizations, building coalitions with other minority groups targeted by hate, creating independent Jewish organizations and businesses). 

Jewish Medical Ethics 
Rabbi Alan Iser 
Tuesdays: 2:00 pm – 4:00 pm, October 10 – November 28
Zoom only, $250

This class will cover a wide variety of contemporary issues in medical ethics from the perspective of Jewish tradition. Among the topics we will discuss are: personal autonomy (do you own your body?); assisted suicide and end-of-life issues; who has priority in receiving treatment; organ transplants; abortion and new reproductive technologies.  There will also be a brief introduction to Jewish law."

Philadelphia Klezmer 
Susan Lankin-Watts 
Tuesdays: 6:00 pm – 8:00 pm, October 10 – November 28
Online and in-person, $250

If you have Jewish soul and have moderate to advanced and beyond proficiency on a musical instrument, come join our klezmer band! Playing from the deep Philadelphia tradition of klezmer, this ensemble will focus on the Philadelphia klezmer traditions of Ukraine and America. From the late 1800’s all the way to the 1960’s and beyond, our Klezmer band will delve through the tome of Philadelphia’s klezmer luminary, direct from Podolia, Ukraine, Joseph Hoffman. For the ensemble, purchase “The Hoffman Book: Joseph Hoffman Klezmer Collection (1923) on At the helm of the kapelye (band) is Philly's own, world renown, 4th generation Hoffman klezmer, vocalist, trumpeter, and composer, Susan Watts. 

Intro to Jewish Mysticism 
Ruth Sandberg, Ph.D. 
Wednesdays: 10:00 am - 12:00 pm, October 11 – December 6 (excl. 11/22)
Online and in-person, $250

This course will first explore various definitions of mysticism and how the roots of Jewish mysticism are found in the Bible and in ancient Rabbinic sources. We will then study the development and growth of mysticism in medieval Kabbalah and its most important text, the Zohar. Other topics to be discussed include: the mystical concept of the soul; reincarnation; visions and trances; creation and the origin of evil; and beliefs about the Golem. We will also explore why Kabbalah is so enduring and still very popular today. 

When Philadelphia Was the Capital of Jewish America 
Zev Eleff, Ph.D. 
Wednesdays: 2:00 pm – 4:00 pm, October 11 – December 6 (excl. 11/22)
Online and in-person, $250

For centuries, Philadelphia's Jewish community was the cultural and religious lifeblood of American Jewish life. With the aid of digitized materials and letters, go back in time and encounter the Gratzes, Isaac Leeser, Mayer Sulzberger, Marcus Jastrow and the "Philadelphia Group" that transformed the American Jewish experience. 


The Way of God 
Rabbi Daniel Levitt
Wednesdays: 6:00 pm – 8:00 pm, October 11 – December 6, (excl. 11/22)
Online and in-person, $250

The Way of God is a renowned philosophical work that delves into fundamental concepts of Jewish belief and the purpose of human existence. This class provides students with a comprehensive understanding of Luzzato's teachings, including topics such as the nature of God, divine providence, free will, and the ultimate goal of life. Through in-depth analysis we will see the way this creative thinker understood the changing nature of the early modern world and how he “explained” Jewish beliefs and worldview to the evolving sensibilities of the Modern person. 


How Judaism Changed the World 
Saul Wachs, Ph.D. 
Thursdays: 10:00 am – 12:00 pm, October 12 – December 7 (excl. 11/23)
Zoom only, $250

One of Judaism's contributions to the marketplace of ideas was the concept of hope. While other ancient cultures regarded history as lacking purpose or direction, the messianic ideal pointed to the working out of God's plan for the world — with an active role of people as God's partner. In modern times, secular messianic movements like socialism accepted the view that civilization could be "redeemed."  Even those who were alienated from religion did not lose their faith in our capacity to solve the social and economic challenges faced by humanity. Jewish participation and leadership in these movements was significant. This course will examine Secular Jewish Messianism in Eastern Europe, America, and Palestine. We will draw on the work of Professor Nora Levin, who taught at Gratz College for many years and was a world-class expert on this subject. 

Altruism, Rescue and Extreme Empathy in Jewish Thought 
Elliot Ratzman, Ph.D.
Thursdays: 2:00 pm – 4:00 pm, October 12 – December 7 (excl. 11/23)
Zoom only, $250

What do we owe distant strangers? How effective should our altruism be? What responsibilities do we have to non-family members or those outside of our community? What Jewish practices are meant to develop empathy and right action? Are there limits to empathy? This course explores how modern Jewish thinkers addressed questions of charity and responsibility in an age of mass communication and global reach. Moderns turned to rabbinic sources, Maimonides, and others to think through problems of social need. Philosophers like Levinas articulated an ethic of radical altruism utilizing Jewish disciplines like Mussar and halacha as tools for managing problems of scarcity. Case studies include: rescue during the Holocaust, transnational human rights movements, international aid relief, health care equity, the Effective Altruism movement. 

Hebrew Reborn! Fifty Treasures of the Gratz Library 
Joseph Davis, Ph.D.
Thursdays: 6:00 pm – 8:00 pm, October 12 – December 7 (excl. 11/23),
Zoom only, $250

In this course, we will look at fifty treasures from the collection of the Tuttleman Library of Gratz College. Together they tell the inspiring story of the rebirth of Hebrew and the creation of modern Hebrew.  We will look at Hebrew books from the 17th century to the 21st, focusing on the century from 1850 until 1950, when Hebrew first became a modern spoken language.  Included are Hebrew books by famous authors such as Mendelssohn, Bialik, and Buber, but also many by lesser-known authors, such as Isaac Graanboom, Miriam Markel-Mosessohn, Elisheva Bihovsky, and A. S. Yahuda.  We will also focus on Hebrew books by Philadelphia Jews, many associated with Gratz, such as Solomon Solis-Cohen, Samuel L. Blank, Zevulun Balaban, and William Chomsky.

For more information or to register for classes, please contact Hope Matles at 215-635-7300 x172 or at

Mail In Registration

Registration Notes
Minimum class size is required to run each course. For all Scholars Program courses, 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. If cancellation is received by the second session, a 50% refund will be issued. Tuition includes a non-refundable $25 registration fee.  For all classes full payment is due upon registration. An internet connection is required for online classes. Gratz is not responsible to make up classes for a limited, local power outage or technical problem.  If a technical issue affects more than half of the class, Gratz will make-up the class at a mutually agreed upon time -- much like any weather-related closing. All classes are recorded. A link will be sent to view the class if you missed it live. The recording will be available for 3-4 weeks.
Gratz College is committed to making its programs, events, and courses accessible.  Should you need an accommodation, please contact Naomi Housman, ADA Coordinator All accommodations must be requested by no later than ten (10) business days prior to the start of the course or day of the program.


"Many thanks again for the outstanding course and for the extra resources which I plan to use in delving deeper into my ancestral roots in Western Galicia."
— BRIAN BIMM, describing the course, "the Path To Modernity: The Jews of Galicia"