Gratz Names New President, Creates Chancellor Position
After a rigorous nationwide search, the Board of Governors of Gratz College has unanimously selected Dr. Zev Eleff as the college’s new president. He will succeed Dr. Paul Finkelman, who served as president of Gratz College for four years.
Dr. Eleff is currently chief academic officer of Hebrew Theological College and vice provost of Touro College Illinois. In addition, Dr. Eleff is a professor of Jewish history at Touro College’s Graduate School of Jewish Studies and a member of the academic council of the American Jewish Historical Society. He is the author or editor of nine books and more than 50 scholarly articles in the field of American Jewish history. His most recent book, Authentically Orthodox, was published in 2020.
Born in Philadelphia and raised in Baltimore, Dr. Eleff earned his Ph.D. in American Jewish History from Brandeis University and a Master’s in Education from Teachers College, Columbia University. He received rabbinical ordination from Yeshiva University.
“Foremost, I am an educator,” Dr. Eleff said. “I consider it a sacred task to reach students wherever they are. Gratz possesses an incomparable reach into the tempo of Jewish education and the sort of education reinforced by Jewish values. The college supports education in all phases of life, including young people in high school, undergraduates, professionals seeking advanced training, graduate students, and adult learners.”
Current Gratz President Dr. Finkelman will remain at the college, transitioning into the newly created position of Chancellor of the College. He will also serve as a distinguished professor of history.
During Dr. Finkelman’s tenure, Gratz increased its student enrollment by more than 35 percent and launched new master’s degree programs in Interfaith Leadership, Camp Management, and Human Rights. This spring, Gratz established a Center for Holocaust Studies and Human Rights, combining three of the college’s academic programs: Holocaust and Genocide Studies, Human Rights, and Interfaith Leadership. Gratz expanded its community programs to include leadership of the One Book, One Jewish Community program, and fully online adult education and teen programming.
As Dr. Finkelman assumes the role of chancellor, he will support Dr. Eleff’s transition into the president’s office. The two will continue to work together to meet Gratz’s growing needs.
“The skills that Dr. Eleff brings to the college will make Gratz more robust and will expand our opportunities to work with students, faculty, and the larger community,” Dr. Finkelman said.
The leadership change comes one year after the college celebrated its 125th anniversary.
“Gratz has reached a point where it needs to expand its team in order to expand its reach,” said Kathy Elias, chairwoman of the Board of Governors.
Dr. Eleff will take on the role of president at the beginning of the 2021-2022 academic year. He is looking forward to relocating to Philadelphia with his wife, Melissa, and their three children.
“Gratz College stands for applied Jewish wisdom, and its impact is well known,” Dr. Eleff said. “My goal is to work with our terrific team to increase the college’s capacity to do good, to cast the widest possible net, to apply the Jewish wisdom and Jewish values that are the college’s bedrock, and to continue serving an increasingly diverse constituency.”