Message from Leadership: Michelle Portnoff

It is my pleasure to write my first article for Gratz Today. I am an alumna of Gratz College Hebrew High School, and I have been on the Gratz College Board of Governors since 2012, serving as board chair since July 2016.

This has been a year of great change for Gratz. I see the truth of the phrase “the king is dead, long live the king.” We were sorry to see the departure of our long-term president, Joy Goldstein, in December 2016, but conducting a search for new leadership provided a good opportunity for us to reevaluate our college, its mission and our unique needs.

We interviewed several excellent candidates for president, and the questions that they posed were unexpected catalysts for discussion about how each of us view the college. The most critical question posed to us was “Why Gratz”? Although there were slight differences in the fine-tuning, the consensus was that the Jewish prism is a valuable tool—not only for Jewish studies, but also for its secular studies offerings, like our education degrees. 

Our 2016 valedictorian, who earned her master of arts degree in education, teaches in an impoverished Detroit public school. Though not Jewish, the concept of “tikkun olam” was relevant to her personal mission to help advance her students’ fortunes.

The second important question we needed to answer was “Why Dr. Finkelman”? Dr. Finkelman is a renowned scholar who has authored works on both Jewish and secular topics. We are dedicated to providing excellence in education, and we felt that his expertise would help us attract the best and the brightest among faculty and students. 

Dr. Finkelman’s primary areas of scholarship are constitutional law and human rights, and we believe this expertise dovetails well with our programming in Holocaust and Genocide Studies. We welcomed Dr. Finkelman as our president in November and look forward to a new era of Jewish and secular education at Gratz College.