History and Mission | Gratz College

History and Mission

Gratz College bears the name of a storied Jewish family, whose rich history is interwoven with that of Philadelphia and, indeed, the entire United States. The significance of the Gratz name extends beyond the college walls, back to the time of the American Revolution. The Gratz family history is one of patriotism, economic success, philanthropy and support for Jewish education.

LEFT: Photograph of an oil sketch of Rebecca Gratz, 1831. RIGHT: Photograph of oil portrait of Hyman Gratz, date unknown, painted by George Peter Alexander Healy (American, 1813-1894), the original of which is in the permanent collection of The Philadelphia Club, Philadelphia, PA.

Rebecca Gratz (1781 – 1869) was perhaps the most prominent and inspirational member of the family. In 1838, Rebecca created the Hebrew Sunday School Society in Philadelphia, which became the launch pad for all Jewish congregational education in North America. She was also profoundly concerned with the social issues of her day. Rebecca was instrumental in the creation of the Female Hebrew Benevolent Society, a Jewish foster home, the Fuel Society, the Sewing Society and more. With so many accomplishments to her name, it is not hard to understand why Rebecca Gratz is rumored to have been the model of Rebecca, the heroine in Sir Walter Scott’s Ivanhoe

Undoubtedly inspired by Rebecca, her brother Hyman joined with the Hebrew Education Society of Philadelphia to fund a teachers’ college of Jewish education. Formally founded in 1895 as the first independent college of Jewish studies in North America, Gratz College continues the mission of the Gratz family today, with a commitment to quality education and Jewish community.

Mission Statement

Gratz College provides a pluralistic education and engages students in active study for professional growth and personal enrichment.  Gratz offers graduate and undergraduate degree and certificate programs, as well as learning opportunities for adults and teens. Through productive partnerships, the College also seeks to maintain and expand its institutional and academic relationships in Philadelphia, North America and worldwide.

Many of Gratz’s programs reflect the College’s historic focus on Jewish studies and education. With a broad commitment to the intellectual and professional growth of diverse constituencies, the College creates access for students everywhere to become leaders in their professions and communities.

Vision Statement

Gratz College is internationally recognized as a leader in developing effective educators, professionals, leaders and scholars, both within and beyond the Jewish community; inspiring life-long learners; and helping to build informed and strong communities through education grounded in Jewish values.

Core Values

1.    Perpetuating and developing educational and other professional resources for the Jewish community

2.    Promoting life-long learning and love for knowledge

3.    Inspiring study and academic excellence

4.    Nurturing critical thinking

5.    Upholding integrity and ethics as a foundation for the conduct of the institution, its personnel, and the educational process

6.    Advancing professional development and scholarship

7.    Fostering diversity and respect for the individual

8.    Building communities of learners through collaboration

9.    Contributing a Jewish perspective to the marketplace of ideas.