Rabbi Steve Gutow, Cantor David Tilman and Board Chair David Weinstein will be honored at the Gratz College commencement in May.
Rabbi Gutow has also accepted the honor of delivering the commencement address. “As a social justice activist and an advocate for building community through civil discourse, Rabbi Gutow exemplifies the Jewish values that are part of the fabric of Gratz College,” explains Gratz President Joy Goldstein.
Rabbi Steve Gutow is a nationally renowned lawyer-turned-rabbi, whose resume reads like an encyclopedia of tikkun olam, the Jewish concept of repairing the world. He recently retired from his position as president and CEO of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs (JCPA), where he focused on combating poverty, protecting the environment, opposing the genocide in Darfur, building interfaith cooperation and working on other social justice issues. He also opposed the demonization of Israel, and to this end, played an integral role in the creation of the Israel Action Network as a resource for refuting attacks on Israel’s right to exist.
In addition, in September 2015, Rabbi Gutow was appointed by President Obama to the President’s Advisory Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, where he works with the other council members to address the problem of economic inequality in the United States. He is also board chair of the National Religious Partnership for the Environment, a coalition of religious leaders from different faiths who are focused on environmental protection.
Hazzan (Cantor) David Tilman is a giant in the world of Jewish music. Hazzan Tilman describes music as “the most powerful vehicle to teach Jewish values, Jewish identity and Jewish belief in almighty G-d.” According to Gratz College Professor Saul Wachs, Tilman has become a “model for the role of hazzan-educator.”
Hazzan Tilman, is completing a five-year tenure as adjunct associate professor at The Jewish Theological Seminary’s cantorial school in New York. He is also director of the adult chorus of Reform Congregation Keneseth Israel in Elkins Park, and hazzan emeritus of nearby Beth Sholom Congregation. During his 36-year career at Beth Sholom, he established an award-winning music program through which he created four choirs and taught thousands of adults and children to lead services and chant Torah.
He considers the degree “a validation of the important role of the cantor in the Jewish community.” In addition to receiving this honor at commencement, Hazzan Tilman will lead the singing of the Israeli national anthem, “Ha Tikvah.”
David Weinstein, the third honorary degree recipient, is the outgoing chair of the Gratz College Board of Governors. Weinstein is a respected attorney who has dedicated much of his life to service, both in and outside the Jewish community. Two years ago, he became an Israeli citizen, now splitting his time between Jerusalem and Philadelphia.
As part of his practice in complex commercial litigation, Weinstein has pursued cases imbued with the public interest. For their efforts, he and his legal team have received the Human Rights Award of the American Immigration Lawyers Association and the Public Justice Achievement Award of Trial Lawyers for Public Justice. Currently, Weinstein is also one of four court-appointed lawyers in a suit against Hungary and the Hungarian National Railway on behalf of both Holocaust survivors and the heirs of Holocaust victims.
Weinstein has been deeply and personally committed to Jewish education and has pursued his own path of study. He was affected by the experience of visiting Jews in the former Soviet Union, which reinforced for him the importance of education to the perpetuation of the Jewish People.
Believing that Jewish learning is “at the heart of leading a meaningful Jewish life,” Weinstein joined the Gratz College Board of Governors in 2010, and assumed the position of board chair three years later. With his chairmanship coming to a close, Weinstein will continue his work on the board, explaining, “Gratz College fits neatly into my own value system because I believe that ongoing Jewish education is a fundamental part of being Jewish.”
Because of his service to the institution, Weinstein will also be honored at the Jeffrey B. Plevan Annual Gratz College Gala in May. This event will feature as guest speaker Pulitzer-Prize-winning journalist Bret Stephens, The Wall Street Journal’s deputy editorial page editor and principal columnist on foreign affairs.
Gratz College educates teachers, academic leaders and non-profit professionals in a pluralistic environment rooted in Jewish values. Gratz is a leader in online graduate Jewish studies, reaching students across the country and around the globe. In addition to its graduate and undergraduate programs, the College runs a model Jewish supplementary high school and offers a wide range of adult Jewish learning programs.