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May 15, 2019
DREXEL UNIVERSITY PRESIDENT TO RECEIVE HONORARY DOCTORATE AT GRATZ COMMENCEMENT
Drexel University President John Fry
MELROSE PARK, Pa.—The president of a neighboring university will receive an honorary doctorate on Sunday, May 19, during Gratz College’s 119th commencement.
John Fry, president of Drexel University and a pioneer in online and hybrid education, will be hooded during commencement exercises, held in Gratz’s Weisbein Auditorium. Fry, who also will deliver the commencement address, said the two institutions share a kinship beyond their proximity. Drexel is located about 12 miles from Gratz’s campus in Melrose Park and the institutions were established just four years apart—Drexel in 1891 and Gratz in 1895.
“The connections between our two institutions are instructive for what they say about higher education, community and progress in Philadelphia,” Fry said. “Both have grand ambitions that stem from an ethos that reaches all the way back to the founders of Gratz and Drexel.”
Founded by the community leader Hyman Gratz, who was influenced by his sister Rebecca Gratz, a pioneer Jewish educator, Gratz College sought to serve Philadelphia’s Jewish community and educate Hebrew teachers. It was one of two colleges in the region to accept women on par with men. The other was Drexel, established by Wall Street pioneer Anthony J. Drexel and dedicated to raising the educational opportunities for all people, regardless of gender, race, or creed.
Gratz and Drexel are now “evolved institutions,” Fry said. The majority of Gratz students are not Jewish, and the majority of Drexel students are not studying engineering, which, for decades, was Drexel’s core discipline.
The two institutions are growing opportunities and training the next generation of conscientious citizens, Fry said. But Gratz and Drexel have moral obligations as well.
“In the Judaic tradition, this is known as tikkun olam—the belief that we have a duty to repair the world,” he said. “I hope that for our graduates—either those setting out in their careers, or those taking new steps along a well-established route—I hope that the idea that we need to create a better world is appealing. To the extent that this idea guides what you do, I know that you cannot go wrong.”
Gratz will welcome 70 graduates during Sunday’s commencement, including the first graduate from the Jewish Professional Studies program and one graduate of the Education Leadership Ed.D. program. It will also confer degrees on 40 graduates of the M.A. in Education program, 10 graduates of the M.A. in Holocaust and Genocide Studies program, one graduate of the M.A. in Jewish Education program, five graduates of the M.A. in Jewish Studies program, and eight graduates of the M.S. in Nonprofit Management program. Additionally, two students will earn Master’s Plus Certificates in Distinguished Teaching and Learning, and one will receive a Graduate Certificate in Holocaust and Genocide Studies.
“Congratulations to all the graduates,” said Dr. Honour Moore, interim dean of Academic Affairs. “These are significant achievements, and this commencement pays tribute to many long years of hard work and dedication.”
Commencement for the class of 2019 begins at 3 p.m. on Sunday, May 19, at Gratz College, 7605 Old York Road, Melrose Park, PA.
April 25, 2019
GRATZ HOSTS "ENTRIES FROM A JEWISH ADMIRAL'S LOG BOOK" WITH HERMAN SHELANSKI
Vice Admiral (Ret.) Herman Shelanski will present a lecture titled “Entries from a Jewish Admiral's Log Book: Aircraft Carriers, Torah, and the Inspiration to become an American Jewish Admiral” on April 30.
MELROSE PARK, Pa.—On April 30, Gratz College will host Vice Admiral (Ret.) Herman Shelanski for a lecture titled “Entries from a Jewish Admiral's Log Book: Aircraft Carriers, Torah, and the Inspiration to become an American Jewish Admiral.”
Shelanski retired in 2018 after a 38-year career in the U.S. Navy, during which he rose from a young aviator piloting E-2 Hawkeyes to the highest-ranking Jewish officer in the Navy. His final role was Naval Inspector General, a post he assumed in May 2015.
In his lecture, Shelanski will discuss his personal experiences in the Navy, such as putting a Torah onboard an aircraft carrier. The lecture is the inaugural event in Gratz College’s Rabbi Admiral Aaron Landes Lecture Series.
“The story of my career, my life in the Navy, is really the story of being Jewish in the U.S. military,” Shelanski said. “In many cases, it’s a very positive story of acceptance and change. Philosophically, life in the armed forces has become so much better, so much more diverse, due to Jewish heroes that went before me and paved the way.”
Shelanski will talk about his hero, Commodore Uriah P. Levy, the man who inspired him to serve in the Navy. Levy, also of Philadelphia, was a veteran of the War of 1812 who went on to become the first Jewish commodore of the U.S. Navy and helped end the Navy’s practice of flogging.
“Levy was both an American sailor and a Jew, and that really resonates with me,” Shelanski said. “His family came to America seeking religious freedom after the Inquisition and he was motivated by everything America had to offer—so much that when the War of 1812 broke out, he joined the Navy. Then he suffered through years of intense prejudice, but he overcame it. He stuck it out to make the Navy a more accepting place, laying the foundation for a better Navy today.”
Shelanski holds a Bachelor of Science in Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology from the University of Colorado and a Master of Science in Electrical and Space Systems Engineering from the Naval Postgraduate School. He is a graduate of the Armed Forces Staff College, the Navy Nuclear Power School and Prototype, the Naval Reactors Commanding Officer Nuclear Engineer Course and the Naval War College.
“My personal story is about how being a Jew in the Navy affected me at the beginning of my career and made me a better leader,” Shelanski said. “And it’s about how being a leader in the Navy made me a better Jew.”
His lecture will be introduced by Dr. Michael H. Mittelman, Rear Admiral, USN (Ret.) and president of Salus University.
Shelanski’s experience is part of a larger story about Philadelphia Jews and the military, said Gratz President Dr. Paul Finkelman. The Old York Road corridor in Melrose Park, Pa., where Gratz is located, is home to two historic rabbis who also served as admirals in the Navy: Rabbi Aaron Landes and Rabbi Bertram Korn.
Rabbi Korn served in the Chaplain’s Corps of the U.S. Navy during WWII and was later promoted to rear admiral, becoming the first Jewish chaplain to receive flag rank in any of the armed forces. He also served as senior rabbi at Reform Congregation Keneseth Israel (KI), located just down the road from Gratz. The current senior rabbi at KI, Dr. Lance Sussman, is the vice chair of the Board of Governors of Gratz College.
Rabbi Aaron Landes served in the U.S. Navy Reserve, reaching the rank of rear admiral and retiring in 1989 as head of the Chaplain Corps. For 36 years, he served as rabbi of Beth Sholom Congregation, also located just down the road from Gratz. Landes is the namesake for Gratz’s Rabbi Admiral Aaron Landes Lecture Series.
“The Old York corridor where Gratz is located is absolutely unique in American Jewish history because it is the place where two rabbis who served as heads of the Chaplain Corps also served in synagogues across the street from each other,” Finkelman said. “I see this lecture as closing the circle of Philadelphia’s unique relationship between Jewish leadership and American military history.”
Shelanski’s lecture begins at 7:30 p.m., on Tuesday, April 30. The event is free and open to the public, but registration is requested. Click here to register or for more information.
The Rabbi Admiral Aaron Landes Lecture Series is made possible through the generosity of Bryna and Joshua Landes and Family.
February 12, 2019
GRATZ COLLEGE HOSTS RABBI SKORKA FOR SHUSTERMAN LECTURE
MELROSE PARK, Pa.—Gratz College will host Rabbi Abraham Skorka on Wednesday, March 27, for a Shusterman Distinguished Scholar Lecture about interfaith understanding
Pope Francis embraces Rabbi Abraham Skorka and Omar Abboud, an Argentinean Muslim leader, during the Pope's trip to the Holy Land in May 2014. Photo courtesy of Getty Images
Rabbi Skorka, who has had a deep friendship with Pope Francis for many years, will discuss the importance of interfaith dialogue for Jews and other religious communities. His lecture, titled “Interfaith Dialogue: The Way Forward,” is free and open to the public.
Born in Buenos Aires in 1950, Skorka was ordained as a rabbi in 1973 and earned a doctorate degree in chemistry in 1979. Now rabbi of the Jewish Community Benei Tikva, he has published in the fields of biophysics and Biblical and Talmudic research. He is currently serving as a visiting professor at the Institute for Jewish-Catholic Relations at Saint Joseph’s University in Philadelphia.
Nearly 20 years ago, Rabbi Skorka met Jorge Mario Bergoglio (now Pope Francis) when the latter was the archbishop of Buenos Aires. The two recognized a shared commitment to interfaith dialogue and embarked on a series of discussions held alternately at the seat of the bishop and Benei Tikva. These discussions were published in the 2010 book Sobre el Cielo y la Tierra, or On Heaven and Earth.
“This friendship began because he opened the door for interfaith dialogue,” Rabbi Skorka said of the Pope. “He was archbishop of one of the most important Catholic cities in the world and I was a rabbi. He approached me first by making jokes about football, and what came out of that was a real and sincere friendship built on this commitment to interfaith dialogue.”
After his papacy began in 2013, Pope Francis sought Rabbi Skorka’s companionship during public dialogues about interfaith relationships. In September 2015, Pope Francis and Rabbi Skorka visited Saint Joseph’s University for the 50th anniversary of Nostra Aetate, the Second Vatican Council’s document calling for a transformed relationship between the Catholic and Jewish faiths. There, the Pope blessed “Synagoga and Ecclesia in Our Time,” a bronze sculpture that uses female figures to represent the Synagogue and the Church. He and Rabbi Skorka both spoke to an audience that topped 400 people.
In February 2019, Pope Francis and Rabbi Skorka again made headlines when they visited the United Arab Emirates. There, Pope Francis and the Grand Imam of Al Azhar signed a Document on Human Fraternity, calling on people around the globe to unite to bring about interfaith harmony and spread a vital message of peace.
“In interfaith relationships, the emphasis is on relationships,” Rabbi Skorka said. “A relationship is much more than mere words. It’s an attitude of understanding the other, of forming situations in which you are putting yourself in the place of the other and coming to a deep understanding of the sentiments of the other.”
Rabbi Skorka also accompanied Pope Francis to the Holy Land in May 2014 and to Auschwitz-Birkenau in July 2016. In Auschwitz, Rabbi Skorka fielded questions from Polish journalists who asked him about his friendship with the Pope.
“They asked what I ate and drank with the Pope,” he said, “but they also asked serious questions about why it’s important to have interfaith dialogue. I told them that people lived in the barracks, in miserable conditions, before facing death. I told them that the barracks would not exist if, 80 years ago, a reality of dialogue existed.”
“Dialogue means putting yourself in the place of the other,” Rabbi Skorka said. “It means being empathic with the other, to understand the other, to see in the other your brother. The Holocaust occurred because faith became a barrier that divided one person from the other, but even after so many bad things have happened, it’s possible to sit around the table and discover the brotherhood that connects one to the other.”
Rabbi Skorka’s lecture promises to entertain and inform, said Dr. Ruth Sandberg, the Leonard and Ethel Landau Professor of Rabbinics at Gratz and director of the Interfaith Leadership program. Skorka will define interfaith dialogue and discuss ways to put it into action.
“Rabbi Skorka has really become a Jewish partner who accompanies the Pope on these important trips,” Sandberg said. “This relationship really epitomizes interfaith dialogue and serves as an example for why all faiths need to be involved in these conversations. Everyone needs a voice, but they also need to hear the other voices.”
The Shusterman Distinguished Scholar Lecture begins at 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday, March 27, at Gratz College, 7605 Old York Road, Melrose Park, Pa. Admission is free, but pre-registration is recommended. Click here to register or for more information.
Supported by a major endowment, the Shusterman series is dedicated to bringing outstanding programs to Gratz College. Gratz College is grateful for the generosity and foresight of Judith (z”l) and Murray (z”l) Shusterman.
February 12, 2019
"HUMAN RIGHTS, TERRORISM, AND THE DILEMMA OF ISRAELI DEMOCRACY":
GRATZ COLLEGE HOSTS DR. AMOS GUIORA FOR ANNUAL STERN LECTURE
MELROSE PARK, Pa.—Dr. Amos N. Guiora, a retired lieutenant colonel in the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) and a law professor at the University of Utah, will headline the annual Stern Family Institute lecture on February 19 at Gratz College.
Guiora, who holds a B.A. from Kenyon College, a J.D. from Case Western Reserve University of Law and a Ph.D. from Leiden University, served for 20 years as a senior officer in the IDF’s Judge Advocate General Corps. Drawing on his military and academic backgrounds, Guiora will address the challenges of developing and implementing counterterrorism policies while balancing individual rights with national security rights.
“Counterterrorism is only going to be effective if it’s subject to the rule of law,” Guiora said. “If it’s not, then you lose your moral standing and any measures you take—even under the auspices of the state—will be in violation of the rules of war, inherently illegal and ultimately ineffective.”
Guiora has published extensively on the issues of national security, the limits of interrogation, religion and terrorism, the limits of power, multiculturalism, and human rights. His most recent work includes The Crime of Complicity: The Bystander in the Holocaust (2017) and Earl Warren, Ernesto Miranda and Terrorism (2018).
The topics of counterterrorism and the limits of power are important today, Guiora said. United States history is rife with examples of illegal military actions—such as Franklin D. Roosevelt’s 1942 order to relocate 120,000 Japanese Americans to internment camps or George W. Bush’s approval of enhanced interrogation techniques in the aftermath of 9/11.
“Those are classic examples of overreaction,” Guiora said. “It’s really important for the wider audience to understand the limits of power and the dangers of not respecting that power, and that’s relevant whether one is speaking about Israel or the United States. Self-imposed restraints are necessary in order to ensure that the rule of law is respected regardless of the threat posed.”
Dr. Paul Finkelman, president of Gratz College, said the topic of Guiora’s lecture is especially relevant for Gratz, which in 2017 launched the country’s only online Ph.D. program in Holocaust and Genocide Studies. Guiora’s 2017 book, The Bystander in the Holocaust, explores the crime of complicity during the darkest era of Jewish history.
“Guiora is the son of two Holocaust survivors,” Finkelman said. “He was born in Israel and educated in the United States. He has become an internationally renowned expert on the laws of war and interrogation. Because of his expertise on issues of war and peace in the Middle East, he is the ideal person to give the Stern Family Institute lecture.”
Endowed by the family of Harry Stern, the Stern Family Institute for Israel Studies seeks to educate American Jewry about complex issues related to Israel and Zionism. Harry Stern’s son, Jerry, said the annual lecture exposes the Gratz community to critical discussions about timely topics.
“It was my father’s intent to bring to Gratz those academics and scholars associated with thinktanks and institutions of higher learning who ordinarily wouldn’t come here,” Jerry Stern said. “This lecture series allows Gratz to benefit from the latest expertise and knowledge of topics pertinent to the Jewish community.”
Guiora’s lecture, titled “Human Rights, Terrorism, and the Dilemma of Israeli Democracy,” begins at 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 19, in the Gratz College Reading Room. This event is open to the public, but registration is recommended. CLE credit is available. Click here for more information or to register.
Alysa Landry | Communications Liaison | [email protected]
Dodi Klimoff | Executive Assistant to the President | [email protected]
Naomi Housman | Director of Institutional Advancement | [email protected].edu
January 22, 2019
GRATZ HOSTS FILM SCREENING ON HOLOCAUST REMEMBRANCE DAY
MELROSE PARK, Pa.— In honor of the International Day of Commemoration in Memory of the Victims of the Holocaust, Gratz College on Sunday, Jan. 27, will host a screening of “Who Will Write Our History,” a film that documents the account of historian Emanuel Ringelblum and a group of journalists, scholars and community leaders in the Warsaw Ghetto who risked everything to ensure their archives of stories survived.
The screening is one of more than 200 held in venues across the United States and in more than 40 countries. It is a collaborative event sponsored by Gratz College, the Anti-Defamation League of Philadelphia, the Holocaust Awareness Museum and Education Center, the Jewish Community Relations Council of the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia and the Philadelphia Holocaust Remembrance Foundation.
“As a leader in the field of Holocaust and Genocide Studies, Gratz College is committed to facilitating thoughtful discourse,” said Lori Cohen, director of Adult Jewish Learning at Gratz. “Hosting this film with our local partners in Holocaust education aligns with our core mission.”
“With this event, we want to educate the community about the residents of the Warsaw Ghetto who risked their lives to tell their own stories,” Cohen said. “But we also want to build on the point of the movie, which is the value of histories written by the victims themselves. They sacrificed everything so the Holocaust will never be forgotten.”
The film, written and directed by Roberta Grossman with executive producer Nancy Spielberg, combines the writings of Ringelblum and his group with new interviews, rarely seen footage and dramatizations that detail life in the ghetto from the Jewish perspective. Although most of the 450,000 Jews who were sealed in the Warsaw Ghetto did not survive, their diaries, essays, poems and songs comprising 60,000 pages of documentation did survive and became the most important cache of eyewitness accounts from the war.
“This movie reflects the importance of the issues of memory and identity,” said Rabbi Batya Glazer, director of the Jewish Community Relations Council of the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia. “The centrality of the Holocaust on the Jewish community’s undertaking of ourselves, of our responsibility to the survivors and to the memory of the victims, and to our future as a people cannot be overestimated. This is an opportunity to reflect not only on the strength and resilience of the individuals trapped in the Warsaw Ghetto, but on the lives of real people who lived and celebrated their lives as part of a flawed society that succumbed to the worst of human nature.”
Director Roberta Grossman said the film is especially important in today’s world where people are questioning the truth. Told from the Jewish perspective, the film offers unique insights into a history that was largely told by German victors.
“Which side of the story becomes the official narrative?” Grossman said. “Whose accounts do we elevate to the level of ‘truth,’ and whose do we ignore or even bury? What is real and what is fake? These are top-of-mind questions in 2019, but they also preoccupied a courageous group of resistance fighters imprisoned in the Warsaw Ghetto in World War II. This, in my opinion, is the most important unknown story of the Holocaust.”
All are invited to attend the screening at Gratz, which begins at 12:30 p.m. with introductory remarks by Josey Fisher, director of Gratz’s Holocaust Oral History Archive. The film begins at 1 p.m. and will be followed by a Facebook LIVE discussion with author Samuel Kassow, Executive Producer Nancy Spielberg and Director Robert Grossman.
The discussion will be broadcast from UNESCO Headquarters in Paris and the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C. It will reach hundreds of thousands of viewers simultaneously, watching from movie theaters, churches, mosques, synagogues, museums and community centers worldwide.
Doors open at 11:45 a.m. Admission is $10 in advance or $15 at the door.
For more information or to register, visit www.gratz.edu/event/who-will-write-our-history-global-screening-event
Alysa Landry | Communications Liaison | [email protected]
Lori Cohen | Director of Adult Jewish Learning | [email protected]
Naomi Housman | Director of Institutional Advancement | [email protected]
January 23, 2019
GRATZ LAUNCHES MASTERS IN CAMP ADMINISTRATION AND LEADERSHIP
MELROSE PARK, Pa.— Gratz College has launched a new Master of Science in Camp Administration and Leadership, a program designed to empower camp professionals with the knowledge and skills necessary for successful camp leadership.
The 36-credit, online program begins in February 2019 and is the only master’s degree program of its kind in the country. Courses include foundations in camp administration; leadership for the camp professional; camp law and ethics; communication and collaboration; management and marketing; curriculum and program development; personnel and human resources; supervision; and inclusion and special needs.
The program culminates with a practicum in the camp setting.
“This is really for anyone looking for professional development or credentials in camp administration,” program director Dave Malter said. “In an increasingly competitive world where camp administrators need to be the best, this is a program for beginning and experienced camp leaders. It’s geared toward giving professionals at any level a stronger background in running camp.”
Malter, who also serves as director of Gratz’s Master of Education program, holds a bachelor’s degree in communications and a master’s degree in English. He’s working on a doctorate in education from the Jewish Theological Seminary, where he’s studying leadership trends at Jewish camps.
Malter teaches business communication at Temple University and works as a consultant for camps across the country and even internationally. He’s been involved with camps since he attended his first camp at age 6 and he believes a master’s degree program will help the field grow, develop and professionalize.
“I’m a huge believer in both education and camp, and bringing the two together is important,” he said. “This program will be like going to camp or business conference every day until you finish the degree. It’s taught by experienced people from the camp field, from the business sector and from a legal background. Really, it’s just a great professional development piece.”
Alysa Landry | Communications Liaison | [email protected]
Dodi Klimoff | Executive Assistant to the President | [email protected]
Naomi Housman | Director of Institutional Advancement | [email protected]
December 4, 2018
Jewish Learning Venture and Gratz College Announce Transition for One Book, One Jewish Community Program
Jewish Learning Venture (JLV) and Gratz College are pleased and excited to announce that as of February 2019 One Book, One Jewish Community (OBOJC) will be housed at Gratz College. JLV empowers families to make Judaism more relevant and meaningful for themselves. Gratz is the nation’s oldest independent Jewish college.
Since Jewish Learning Venture launched OBOJC twelve years ago Gratz has been a key partner. A committee of dedicated community volunteers will continue to support OBOJC at Gratz with the annual book selection, resource guide and other related activities.
JLV and Gratz will jointly sponsor the kickoff event for the 2018-19 selection, The Last Watchman of Old Cairo, by Michael David Lukas, at 3 pm on Sunday, January 13, at Gratz College (7605 Old York Road, Melrose Park, PA). This community event is open to the public and includes a presentation and book signing with the author. Books will be available for purchase at the event.
Lukas also is the author of the internationally best-selling novel, The Oracle of Stamboul, which was a finalist for the California Book Award and the Harold U. Ribalow Prize. It has been published in 15 languages. He is a graduate of Brown University and was a Fulbright Scholar in Turkey and a student at the American University of Cairo. His writing has appeared in The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times and he works at the Center for Middle Eastern Studies at UC Berkeley.
The Last Watchman of Old Cairo is a fascinating, multi-generational novel about Joseph, a man who seeks to unravel a centuries-old family secret that ties him to both the Muslim men of his family and his American Jewish mother. Connecting with his family in Egypt, Joseph learns about the family “business” of serving as watchmen of the ancient Ibn Ezra Synagogue. The story includes the fascinating discovery of the Cairo Genizah, a treasure trove of medieval Jewish documents, including the “Ezra Scroll.” British sisters and scholars, Agnes and Margaret Smith, and rabbi and educator Solomon Schechter are the main characters in this chapter in history. Among many other things, this is a story of family, cultural identity and the role of women in academia.
Jewish Learning Venture’s CEO, Rabbi Philip Warmflash said, “One Book has been a signature program of Jewish Learning Venture for 12 years – and now we are so pleased that Gratz College will continue to share important Jewish books with our community. We look forward to the additional opportunities that Gratz can also make available as features of OBOJC in the future.”
Dr. Paul Finkelman, President of Gratz College, noted that this transition fits with Gratz’s historic commitment to adult education and Jewish education. “I am delighted that Gratz can help continue this program throughout Jewish Philadelphia,” he said. “As an online college, we also have the capacity engage our students and alumni from across the region, the nation -- and the world -- in One Book, One Jewish Community.”
Alyse Unterberger, Director, Special Initiatives, Jewish Learning Venture
Alysa Landry; Communications Liaison, Gratz College
Naomi Housman; Director of Institutional Advancement, Gratz College
November 6, 2018
Gratz College Hosts Arnold and Esthere Tuzman Memorial Holocaust Teach-In
MELROSE PARK, Pa.—On Sunday, November 11, Gratz College will host its biennial Arnold and Esther Tuzman Memorial Holocaust Teach-In, a program aimed at providing an intensive learning experience for the community at large as well as tools for educators to teach the next generation about the Holocaust.
Sunday’s program, held on the 80th anniversary of Kristallnacht, features a keynote address by Dr. Steven Luckert, senior program curator at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. In his lecture, “Artifacts and Memories,” Dr. Luckert will explore the stories behind the artifacts displayed in the museum—like a wedding dress made from a German parachute and worn by several survivors at their weddings in a displaced persons camp in 1946.
“For most of history, museums have been about art or science or things that make people feel good,” said Dr. Paul Finkelman, president of Gratz College. “The U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum is all about educating people about things that are truly hard to think about.”
The program runs from 1:30 to 5:45 p.m., with a morning workshop exclusively for teachers presented by Randi Boyette, education director for the Anti-Defamation League. The afternoon features seminars on Polish concentration camps, hidden children and their protectors, rescue of the Danish Jews, Nazi propaganda, the Nuremberg Trials, and other topics.
“This is a chance for anyone to learn about the Holocaust from personal items,” Dr. Finkelman said. “It’s important to read about the Holocaust or see movies about it, but when you talk to someone who survived or touch an artifact, history becomes more real. There will not always be Holocaust survivors, but there will always be artifacts.”
The Teach-In is the first since Gratz launched its new Ph.D. program in Holocaust and Genocide Studies last year. The program director, Dr. Monika Rice, said the event presents attendees with the most current scholarship in the field.
“This allows teachers, lawyers, other professionals and the general public to become acquainted with some of the most important events, debates and issues within the field of Holocaust and genocide studies,” she said.
This program is made possible by the financial support of the Arnold and Esther Tuzman Holocaust Education Fund. Arnold and Esther Tuzman each fled their homes as teens to escape the Nazis. Esther was hidden by a Polish Catholic farmer. After imprisonment in a Siberian labor camp, Arnold served in the Polish-Russian army. Still in uniform after V-day, Arnold gave a ride to a beautiful young woman named Esther. They married in 1946 and immigrated to the US in 1947. The Tuzman family is proud to support The Arnold and Esther Tuzman Holocaust Memorial Holocaust Teach-In.
October 23, 2018
Gratz College Hosts Hasia Diner For Lecture on Julius Rosenwald
MELROSE PARK - Gratz College will host Dr. Hasia R. Diner on Sunday, October 28, for a Shusterman Distinguished Scholar Lecture about Julius Rosenwald, an American Jew, social activist and philanthropist who took up the cause of African Americans during the Jim Crow era.
Dr. Diner, the Paul S. and Sylvia Steinberg Professor of American Jewish History and director of the Goren-Goldstein Center for American Jewish History at New York University, has been writing about Rosenwald for four decades. Her latest book, Julius Rosenwald: Repairing the World (available for purchase at the lecture), takes an unflinching look at a complicated man who was sympathetic toward the plight of African Americans.
Born in Springfield, Ill., in 1862 to Jewish immigrants from Germany, Rosenwald made his fortune as president of Sears, Roebuck and Company. Early on, he began giving his money away to African American causes, most famously establishing the Rosenwald Fund. The fund donated millions in matching dollars for the education of African American children in the South and paid for white principals and superintendents in the South to attend training.
Rosenwald did not, however, use his money to push for integration, Dr. Diner said.
“Rosenwald believed the real issue was economic equality,” she said. “That would not be attained unless the African American population was literate, educated and economically independent. That is how he defined what was needed and where he put his money.”
As a Jew living in Chicago, Rosenwald was not personally affected by racism or anti-Semitism, Dr. Diner said. But he was concerned about discrimination and worked to end economic inequality.
“It’s important to note that, as a Jew in America, Rosenwald was a beneficiary of white privilege,” Dr. Diner said. “In many ways, he was never personally touched by discrimination, but he dedicated much of his resources to fighting for groups that have been oppressed.”
Rosenwald was deeply committed to communal engagement. A study of his life and philanthropy offers a nuanced understanding not only of African American history during Jim Crow, but also American Jewish life in the early twentieth history.
“What I’m interested in is Rosenwald as a Jew,” Dr. Diner said. “What role did his Jewishness play in his engagement with African Americans? And how did Jews, who found themselves on the outskirts of society, make sense of racism in America?”
Rosenwald died in 1932, but his eldest son, Lessing J. Rosenwald, took over Sears, Roebuck and Company, running the business from Philadelphia. He had an estate in Jenkintown, which he donated to Abington Township and is now the Abington Art Center. He was a member of Reform Congregation Keneseth Israel of Elkins Park.
The Shusterman Distinguished Scholar Lecture is free and open to the public, though registration is requested. The lecture begins at 7 p.m. on Sunday, Oct. 28, at Gratz College, 7605 Old York Road, Melrose Park, Pa.
September 13, 2018
Gratz President Cited in Landmark Religious Freedom Case
MELROSE PARK, Pa.—A U.S. District Court judge cited Dr. Paul Finkelman, president of Gratz College, a number of times in a ruling that upholds religious liberty in Pennsylvania.
Christopher C. Conner, chief judge of the United States District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania, on Aug. 29 ruled against the Pennsylvania House of Representatives in a case that questioned the constitutionality of a policy limiting who can pray at the beginning of legislative sessions. Chief Judge Conner relied heavily on an expert report from Dr. Finkelman, president of Gratz College, citing him four times by name and his report a few more times in the 36-page opinion.
The House opens most of its daily legislative sessions with a prayer or invocation delivered either by a House member or an invited guest chaplain. It maintains a policy that requires guest chaplains to be members of “a regularly established church or religious organization” and to subscribe to a belief in God or a divine power.
In his ruling, Chief Judge Conner found that the guest chaplain policy violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment by purposefully discriminating against individuals on the basis of religion. The policy denies individuals with nontheistic beliefs the opportunity to deliver an invocation before the House, he wrote in his opinion.
This policy “categorically excludes those who would present an uplifting message of hope, mutual respect, and peace yet—based upon their nontheistic beliefs—would fail to incorporate theistic entreaties to a divine or higher power,” Chief Judge Conner wrote. He also found that, before it changed its policy in early 2017, the House unconstitutionally coerced visitors to standing during the opening prayer and thereby participate in a religious exercise.
Dr. Finkelman, a legal historian who has written extensively on issues of civil and religious rights, generated a comprehensive report detailing the use of chaplains by the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives—and finding no historical evidence of nontheists requesting or being denied the opportunity to pray in either chamber of Congress.
Dr. Finkelman’s report notes that when Congress first created chaplaincies in 1789, it passed a resolution that sought to reflect religious diversity. Neither federal nor state legislative history supports the intentional exclusion of nontheistic guest chaplains but, in the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries, nontheists likely did not let their beliefs become public because of the threat of imprisonment or “severe physical punishment.”
Dr. Finkelman noted that this case “expands religious liberty in Pennsylvania, and hopefully the whole nation, by protecting the spiritual and intellectual beliefs of all Americans.” He also noted the irony of the legislature’s policy.
“Pennsylvania was founded by William Penn, who was jailed in England for his refusal to support the established church and for his public preaching,” Dr. Finkelman said. “He established the Pennsylvania colony as a haven for all people, of all beliefs. He would have been appalled by legislature discriminating against residents of the state because of their beliefs.”
Even more ironic, Dr. Finkelman said, is Pennsylvania’s Revolution-era history.
“Benjamin Franklin, the most famous citizen of the state, was not a member of any organized church, and was uncertain about the existence of God,” he said. “Before this case, the state legislature would not have allowed Franklin to give an invocation.”
The case was brought by seven nontheist Pennsylvania residents who desire to deliver an opening invocation before the House. The Plaintiffs—joined by groups including Pennsylvania Nonbelievers, Inc., and the Philadelphia Ethical Society—claim that such invocations would not proselytize or disparage any faith. Instead, the prayers would be “positive, uplifting, unifying, and respectful toward all.”
Four of the plaintiffs are ordained clergy, clergy leaders or ministers.
The court granted partial summary judgment, declaratory judgment and permanent injunctive relief to the plaintiffs. Defendants are expected to appeal.
Click here for a copy of the ruling.
Wednesday, September 5, 2018
Gratz Welcomes Two New Members of Our Board of Governors
MELROSE PARK, Pa.—Gratz College has welcomed two prestigious educators as members of its Board of Governors.
In separate meetings earlier this year, Zipora Schorr, Ed.D., and R. Owen Williams, Ph.D., were appointed to the board, which has primary responsibility for oversight of the college. The appointments bring board membership to 25 and expand the board’s professional and geographic diversity.
“It’s exciting to have such accomplished educators join the Gratz Board,” said Dr. Paul Finkelman, president of Gratz College. “Both of our new board members bring years of educational experience and scholarly accomplishment to the board.”
Zipora Schorr, Ed.D.
Schorr, director of education for Beth Tfiloh Dahan Community School in Baltimore, Md., earned her Ed.D. in educational leadership from Gratz College. In 2003, Schorr received the prestigious Covenant Foundation Award for Exceptional Jewish Educators, and in 2013 she received the Award for Educational Excellence in the Diaspora from the World Council for Torah Education.
“I first came to Gratz as a student looking for a school that combined my passions: educational leadership and Jewish studies,” Schorr said. “When I was asked to be on the board, I was impressed by the depth of the people I would be working with. I felt like I could help Gratz grow its footprint.”
Williams, who holds a Ph.D. in history from Yale University, is president of the Associated Colleges of the South and makes his home in Atlanta, Ga. He brings substantial experience in both finance and college administration.
Williams has the distinction of being the first non-Jewish member of the Gratz Board of Governors.
“I am not Jewish, but I’m deeply interested in Jewish history and current affairs,” he said. “To be invited to be a member of the Board of Governors is an enormous honor.
The Board of Governors supports as many as 30 members. Individuals are nominated by the college president or existing board members. After a vetting process, members are asked to join the board for three-year terms.
The board, which meets six times per year, selects the president of the college and establishes policies related to governance, course of studies and management of the college's resources and assets.
The appointments of the new members come as Gratz expands its Jewish learning opportunities and grows its academic repertoire. In 2017, it launched the country’s first online Ph.D. program in Holocaust and Genocide Studies, which attracts students and faculty from around the globe. In early 2018, Gratz launched on online M.A. in Interfaith Leadership.
R. Owen Williams, Ph.D.
Williams said Gratz’s focus on both Jewish history and interfaith dialogue sets it up as an academic leader in areas that are important on a global scale.
“The Jewish story is a central element of the human story, and as a historian, that interests me a great deal. As a human, it interests me even more,” he said. “From my perspective, the idea of a Jewish college for Jewish students is less important than a Jewish college for the purpose of understanding Jewish history. I’m extremely enthusiastic about an integrated understanding of the human story and condition. I think it’s imperative that the Jewish story in all its glory and trial be properly recounted and understood.”
Gratz also continues to operate a Jewish community high school and offer adult Jewish learning courses. Schorr, who has decades of experience in the Jewish day school and leadership communities, called Gratz a “beautiful little secret” with a mission to expand its reach.
“Gratz has some work to do in making itself a more visible presence in the Jewish education world,” she said. “It is a gem that can absolutely grow its footprint. It is a truly unique and valuable place of higher learning that should appeal to a much broader range of interested students, and at the same time attract
“Gratz has some work to do in making itself a more visible presence in the Jewish education world,” she said. “It is a gem that can absolutely grow its footprint. It is a truly unique and valuable place of higher learning that should appeal to a much broader range of interested students.”