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Gratz College
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Adult Learning Classes

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

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. In addition to courses, Gratz adult education offers Distinguished Lecture Series, Yiddish programs, Israeli films and other special events.


SUMMER 2021 Online

All classes for this semester will use the Zoom platform.

To Heal a Fractured World: The Ethics of Responsibility
Rabbi Jon Cutler
Monday - Thursday, 10:00 am – 12:00 pm ET
June 7 – June 10

Rabbi Jonathan Sacks died November 7, 2020. He was one of the most profound thinkers of our day. This course will discuss his book, “To Heal a Fractured World: The Ethics of Responsibility.” We’ll discuss the return of religion to its true purpose -- as a partnership with God in the work of the ethical and moral living. What are our responsibilities to others, to society and to humanity? With his book as a guide, we will answer these questions by using Biblical text, Jewish law and theology as well as works of philosophers and ethicists from other cultures. The format of this class will be similar to a book club -- in that it is highly participatory. Each student will relate which concepts he or she found to be the most compelling and explain why. We will discuss the Jewish text and the background to what Rabbi Sacks has written about.
The book is required for class. It can be found inexpensively on Amazon and other sources.

How Judaism Regards Other Religions
Dr. Saul Wachs
Monday - Thursday, 10:00 am – 12:00 pm

June 14 – June 17
In the Hebrew Bible, there is a generally negative attitude towards the religions of Israel's neighbors -- with the Bible ascribing barbaric practices like infanticide to them. Over time, and with greater familiarity with these religions, many Jews have begun to look with great respect and a deeper understanding of Christianity, Islam, Buddhism and others. In this mini-course, we will look at similarities and differences and explore how we have responded to changing attitudes towards us by others.


The Path Toward Modernity: The Jews of Galicia
Andrew Zalewski, M.D.
Monday –  Friday, 10:00 am – 12:00 pm ET
June 21 – 24

What drove Jews to have a participatory voice in the modern society? How did they respond to new ideas from within and without? Which laws misfired on their path to civil integration? We explore these questions with a focus on Galicia, home of the largest Jewish community within the Austrian Empire. Passing through European capitals, we witness the Jewish Enlightenment (Haskalah), and the controversies it provoked. Back in Galicia, home-reared intellectuals challenged the traditional community, while increasingly diverse cultural identities were embraced by 19th-century Jews. As a part of the continuum, the next century brought pressure to emigrate, WWI and the collapse of the old order. The course is illustrated by unique records, maps, and documents.

Session 1: Disappearing Countries, New Borders, and Jewish Communities
Session 2: Quest for Education and Jewish Enlightenment
Session 3: Jewish Emancipation and Jews in the Public Square
Session 4: World War I and the Identity Crisis

The course, "The Path Toward Modernity" has reached enrollment capacity. Please contact Hope Matles at or 215-635-7300 x172 to be placed on a waiting list.


Eight Jews Who Came Before the Supreme Court
Dr. Paul Finkelman

Monday - Thursday, 10:30 am – 12:30 pm
July 12 – 15
Jews have always made up a very small percent of the US population.  Yet, a surprising number of Jews have been active in taking cases to the Supreme Court.  This in part reflects the deep commitment of most Jews (as immigrants) to the American legal system.  The United States was the first place in the western world where Jews had complete legal equality and by 1800 (with a few famous exceptions) political equality in all states. Thus, Jews embraced the American legal system and the Constitution.  In addition, Jewish culture is very legalistic.  Jews have been called the “people of the book,” but the “book” in this case – the Bible – is mostly a law book, with 613 separate commandments, and many more laws than that.  Jewish culture had volumes of legal commentary (The Talmud) and while a Rabbi is a teacher, Rabbis have always been a combination of judges and lawyers, interpreting rules, applying the law in rabbinical courts, and being mediators.  Finally, many Jewish immigrants brought radical ideas of politics with them – Russian Jews had fled the Czar’s persistent drafting of Jews and so some resisted the draft in World War I.  Thus, it is perhaps not surprising that Jews have had a great impact on American laws.   In this four-day course, we will look at eight supreme court cases (approximately one for each hour) involving Jewish plaintiffs and defendants.  We will start with Cohens v. Virginia (1821), which involved the Cohen brothers (thus the plural “Cohens” in the case name) and meet at least two other Cohens along the way, as well litigants named Abrams, Braunfeld, Frank, Gratz, Goldman (maybe two), Ginsberg, and Rosenberg.  Copies of the Supreme Court opinions will be supplied and summarized.


register here

What Makes American Jewish History Unique?
Dr. Reena Sigman Friedman
Monday - Thursday, 10:00 am – 12:00 pm

July 19 – 22
This course will discuss the various political, economic, and social factors that contributed to distinguishing the Jewish experience in America from that of most Jewish communities in Europe in the eighteenth through the twentieth centuries. These distinctions have generally been accepted as truth. However, we will discuss contemporary challenges to the idea of “American Jewish exceptionalism.” Is American Jewish history unique? Key points will be illustrated through visuals and primary source excerpts. 

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Ancient Israel: A Brief History
Rabbi Lance J. Sussman, Ph.D.
Monday – Thursday, 10:00 am – 12:00 pm
July 26 – 29

This course will examine the history of Ancient Israel.  While many of the Biblical stories of the origins of the Jewish people are well-known, scholars have developed a wide variety of theories about the Hebrews, the Exodus, the Settlement-Conquest of Canaan, the history of the Israelite Kingdoms and the canonization of the Hebrew Bible.  In this class, we will review the leading theories about Ancient Israel's history, archeology and literature.  We will also consider Israelite history from the broader perspective of the Ancient Near East.  Hebrew terms will be used although a reading knowledge of Biblical Hebrew is not required. 

Lance J. Sussman, Ph.D. is Senior Rabbi of Reform Congregation Keneseth Israel (Elkins Park) and the immediate past Chair of the Board of Gratz College. Rabbi Sussman has taught at Princeton, Hunter College and SUNY-Binghamton. He is author of several books and many articles in the field of Jewish history.

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A Bride for One Night: Twice Told Talmud Tales
Dr. Steven Chervin
Monday - Thursday, 10:00 am – 12:00 pm
August 2 - 5
A wife who dresses as a prostitute to seduce her pious husband in their garden? A woman who risks her life for a sister suspected of adultery? An itinerant rabbi who marries and then divorces a woman in every town he visits? And these stories actually appear in the Talmud?! Yes, and more! In this class, using the book A Bride for One Night by Talmudic scholar Ruth Calderon, we will read the original Talmud texts (in English translation of course!), and then we will explore how Calderon rewrites these tales in colorful new ways. Think Anita Diamant and The Red Tent.

register here

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

Registration Notes
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. All online classes are recorded. A link to the recording will be sent to all registrants and is available for a limited period of time.