Message From Leadership

Extending a Yasher Koach to Michelle Portnoff, Board Chair


I wrote this as we prepared to celebrate Passover, which is a season of renewal and remembrance.  The Mishna says, “There are four heads of the year.”  The “first day of Nisan” which is the month when we celebrate Passover, “is the new year for kings and festivals.”

For Gratz, Nissan and Passover was just such a moment. In the coming months, Michelle Portnoff, our Board Chair – in this case the “Queen” of our Board – will step down. She will be succeeded by our new board “King,” Rabbi Lance Sussman.


Michelle Portnoff, Esq.


Gratz College Medal

At our annual Gala this year– which is the College’s “festival” – I will have the honor of giving Michelle a new award that we have just created:  the Gratz College Medal. She has richly earned this honor and the distinction of being the first recipient of the Gratz Medal.  Michelle has worked tirelessly for the College for the last three years.  When I was chosen to be the president of Gratz, just about a year and half ago, I asked Michelle if she would stay on as board chair for an extra year, to help with my transition.  As a new president, I needed the guidance and steady hand of an experienced board chair.  It was a lot to ask. The job is onerous and time consuming.  It involves a seemingly endless chain of meetings with the board, the staff of the college, supporters of the College, and the Jewish Federation.  This year it also involved helping to lead the College through our reaccreditation.  Even more so, for Michelle, it involved on-boarding a new president, and helping me navigate my new job. 

On a personal level I am deeply grateful for Michelle’s leadership, her ideas, her energy, and her friendship.  Michelle has helped lead us through many changes, including the development of our Ph.D. in Holocaust and Genocide Studies and our new Master of Science degree in Camp Administration.  She has brought new energy to the College and many new ideas and suggestions.  Fortunately, while she is stepping down as board chair, she will remain in a leadership role on the Board, spearheading fundraising.   As we move forward in our next year, I extend, on behalf of the entire College a huge Yasher Koach to her.

-- MAY 2019

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