Middle East Expert David Makovsky Speaks at Gratz Gala

The crowd of 260 that attended Gratz College’s Jeffrey B. Plevan Annual Gala must have left the event with a spring in their step. From the videos during the cocktail hour to the accolades for the honorees – board member Leon Levy, retiring professor Dr. Saul Wachs and former College President Joy Goldstein – the whole event was supercharged with gratitude, positivity and optimism. Even the keynote speaker, David Makovsky, the Ziegler Distinguished Fellow at The Washington Institute, offered a rather upbeat assessment of Israel and its relationship with its Arab neighbors, a topic more often described in terms of deep-rooted problems. [Read more…]

Prof. Saul Wachs Retiring After 42 Years at Gratz College

Dr. Saul Wachs, the Rosaline B. Feinstein Professor of Education and Liturgy, is retiring at the age of 85, after 42 years of teaching at Gratz College. Described as a legend within the field of Jewish education, Dr. Wachs will be honored with a tribute at the Gratz annual gala, an honorary doctorate at commencement and a scholarship prize created in his name. He has also been granted emeritus status by the Gratz College Board of Governors.

Dr. Saul Wachs

Dr. Saul Wachs

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Texas Synagogue Steps Up When Local Mosque Falls Victim to Arson

The Muslims of Victoria, a small city in southern Texas, have experienced the healing power of kindness in the face of devastating cruelty. Their mosque, the Victoria Islamic Center, was destroyed by an arsonist on January 28, the morning after President Trump issued his original executive order banning immigration from seven predominantly Muslim nations. While the investigation into the fire continues, officials are not yet able to call the arson a hate crime. [Read more…]

Refugee Ban With Holocaust Parallels

“An America which turns away refugees is not America. We forgot that during the Holocaust. Let’s never again forget who we are,” writes Mark Hetfield, president and CEO of HIAS. Hetfiled was one of many to point out a compelling coincidence: President Trump issued his controversial refugee ban on International Holocaust Remembrance Day. [Read more…]

Rocking and Rapping the Hanukkah Story With the Musical Group Six 13

Tonight we offer a double musical treat for Hanukkah from Six 13, a nationally renowned, all-male Jewish a capella group. An internet sensation, the group has also performed on national TV and radio, and in venues across the country and around the world. As described on their website, their music is “fueled by thumping beatbox, intricate arrangements, and soulful harmonies” with the goal of “connect[ing] Jews around the globe with their heritage through music.” The lyrics in Six 13’s Hanukkah videos below are impressively creative and thoroughly entertaining.

Here is their 2014 parody of the Taylor Swift song “Shake It Off”:

Six 13’s most recent Hanukkah song, which they performed at the White House for the president and the first lady, is a parody of the show “Hamilton”:

Boathouse Row Transformed Into a Mammoth Menorah

This year, a Hanukkah greeting appeared on one of the boathouses for the first time. Photo credit: NBC10.com

This year, a Hanukkah greeting appeared on one of the boathouses for the first time.
Photo credit: NBC10.com

One of the most magical sights in Philadelphia is Boathouse Row at night, when the riverbank rowing houses are illuminated with a beckoning glow, reflecting on the still waters of the Schuylkill River. For Jews celebrating Hanukkah this season, this visual delight has taken on a new significance: for the first time, the boathouses have been converted into what Mayor Kenney’s office describes in a press release as “one of the largest representations of the menorah in the nation.” [Read more…]

Spreading the Message of Tolerance — One Sign at a Time

An example of one of the signs created by North Park Neighbors, Chicago, Illinois.

An example of one of the signs created by North Park Neighbors, Chicago, Illinois.

“Hate has no home here” — powerful words written by two elementary school students in North Park, a neighborhood in Chicago characterized by its diversity. The students’ message — in English and five other languages — is now plastered on posters throughout their school, and, thanks to a small group of community members, on yard signs throughout the North Park neighborhood. The signs are red on one side and blue on the other, denoting that the message crosses party lines. [Read more…]

Michelle Portnoff: Second Woman in Gratz College History to Chair Board of Governors

Michelle Portnoff, Esq.

Michelle Portnoff, Esq.

Gratz College welcomes the new academic year, not only with new students and new programs, but also with many new faces on the Gratz College Board of Governors. In the last year alone, eight new people have joined the board, bringing the total number of members to 25. And this summer, board member Michelle Portnoff became only the second woman in Gratz College history to assume the role of board chair. [Read more…]