Gratz Jewish Community High School Open House

Parents and their teens are invited to the Open House to learn about Gratz’s exciting lineup of programs for Jewish teens during the 2017-2018 school year, including the Jewish Community High School and two new programs: Jewish Creative and Performing Arts (JCAP) 

Jewish Startup Workshop (JSW).

For a preview of the exciting new programming at Gratz, see this article in this week’s Philadelphia Jewish Voice.


Registration not required.


Gratz College Appoints New Dean

guzofskyGratz College has announced that Rosalie Guzofsky, of Cheltenham, will become its new dean and vice president for academic affairs starting October 1.

Guzofsky has more than 20 years of managerial experience in higher education administration, as well as a business background and a personal and scholarly interest in Jewish studies. She has worked in private enterprise and earned a certificate in business administration from the Wharton School in an accelerated program for Ph.D. graduates.

Currently, Guzofsky is the interim executive director of the Drexel University Goodwin College of Professional Studies. During her six years at Drexel, she has not only developed and launched many new programs, but has also significantly increased enrollment in existing ones.

Before coming to Drexel, Guzofsky served as the director of professional programs and summer sessions at the University of Pennsylvania’s College of General Studies, where she launched three new professional master’s degree programs.

During the preceding 12 years, Guzofsky worked at Moore College of Art & Design, rising from tutorial coordinator to dean of the Center for Professional Development and Education. During her tenure, she established the continuing education program at Moore. As dean, she was responsible for program development and expansion, marketing, fundraising, budgeting and strategic planning.

Guzofsky has a personal and scholarly interest in Jewish education. Although she earned her Ph.D. from the University of Pennsylvania in Romance languages, she specialized in Sephardic folklore and literature. She hopes to expand Gratz’s course offerings to include programs in Sephardic studies. “My personal and professional passions, which have existed very separately in my life, can finally come together,” she said.

While working on her doctoral dissertation, Guzofsky made recordings of Jews from northern Morocco singing centuries-old Sephardic ballads, which had been passed down through generations. She made these recordings not only for academic purposes, but also out of a personal need to safeguard Jewish cultural life. Having lost virtually all of her maternal relatives in the Holocaust, Guzofsky is fervently committed to the preservation of Jewish culture.

Senator Casey to Speak at Gratz College Commencement

Gratz College’s 114th commencement ceremony on May 18 will honor a particularly high-profile degree recipient: Senator Robert P. Casey, Jr.

In addition to receiving an honorary degree from Gratz, Senator Casey will be presenting the commencement address during the graduation ceremony.

The ceremony will begin at 3 p.m. Members of the public interested in attending should contact Dodi Klimoff in email or at 215-635-7300 x 133 regarding seat availability.

More after the jump.
Casey is among the cosponsors of the Strengthening America’s Schools Act, which is on the Senate’s legislative calendar. Among its many provisions, the act includes a bill introduced by Casey to address the serious and prevalent problem of school bullying.

Casey is also a member of the National Security Working Group and a co-chair of the Weapons of Mass Destruction Terrorism Caucus.

Why I Sent My Kids to a Jewish School

Purim at the Gratz Jewish Community High School.

— by Shelley Szwalbenest

A first grader’s major school project is a leprechaun trap, while the hallways in his school are a sea of St. Patrick green. Meanwhile, his kindergartner sibling is learning that St. Patrick cured Ireland of its snakes, their second-grade sibling is receiving only Christmas homework, and the only seventh-grade trip of their other sibling is to see A Christmas Carol, which the principal defends as part of the school’s “culture,” and the Superintendent of Schools insists is not Christian.  

All of these happened to my children in the Bucks County public school system.

We are proud to be Americans. We thrive in our multicultural society. Our challenge is raising caring, committed and connected Jews.

More after the jump.
Now my children are all teens. Their bar and bat mitzvahs have passed. All of the memorizing and necessary, though not necessarily inspiring, learning of religious school is over.

Now, their education at the Gratz Jewish Community High School provides them with the gift of discussion, arguing a point, tackling the thorny moral issues of the day, and learning how to think.

Recently, one of my children received applause from his classmates while discussing a point in The Pit and the Pendulum. He has honed this skill not in a public school, which is busy getting through the curriculum preparing for standardized tests, but through his experiences at Gratz, where spirited discussion is encouraged and nurtured.

Though youth group activities are fine, is it not better to have your children meet other Jewish kids in a learning environment, that both expands their skills and is fun?

Yes, I hope that colleges will look upon my children’s Gratz experience favorably, but that is not the reason I have sent them there.

We are Jewish parents, raising children in a world where they may experience being the only Jew in their class or camp group, or at a social event. It is our job to empower them, to make them feel good about themselves, and to give them the tools to navigate the world. For me, their Gratz experience is doing just that.  

Poland: Exploring Jewish Life Past and Present

The recently restored Yeshiva of the Sages of Lublin, or Yeshivat Chachmei Lublin. Photo provided courtesy of Dr. Lawrence Schofer.

“The perception that Poland is just a cemetery with Jewish blood is a very incomplete picture,” says David Mink, participant in this summer’s Gratz College trip to Poland. And he should know because Mink and his 32 fellow travelers got the complete picture of Poland this summer through the travel-study tour led by Gratz professor Dr. Michael Steinlauf.

“This is going to be your challenge: You will be standing in a place where tens of thousands of Jews were murdered, and then you will learn that for many hundreds of years before, there was a flourishing Jewish community on that very spot. The challenge is to hold on to both.” Steinlauf raised this challenge, and then–with the support of the Taube Center for the Renewal of Jewish Life in Poland–gave the Gratz travelers the unique opportunity to meet it. The group delved into Poland’s robust prewar Jewish past, shuddered at haunting symbols of Nazi inhumanity and marveled at both the rebirth of Jewish life in Poland and the overall vibrancy of this country today.

More after the jump.

These are Jewish tombstones from the old cemetery in the small town of Szydlow, which was largely destroyed during World War II. Szydlow now has about a thousand residents. Photo provided courtesy of Dr. Lawrence Schofer.

Pictured above is Wawel, an ancient Polish castle in Krakow. Photo provided courtesy of Dr. Lawrence Schofer.

This is a sidewalk marker delineating the Warsaw Ghetto. Photo provided courtesy of Dr. Lawrence Schofer.

“The trip achieved an excellent balance. It was a moment-by-moment study in contrast,” explains Dr. Reena Friedman, trip participant and professor of Jewish history. For example, there was the concentration camp Majdanek–in all its horror–followed by a visit to the grand yeshiva in Lublin. Similarly, while the Jewish cemetery in Warsaw contained what Friedman describes as “layers and layers of Jewish history” and “tombstones that are so respectfully inscribed,” there was also a marker for the mass graves of those who perished in the Warsaw Ghetto. “Everywhere we went the contrast was very striking–going from a place of utter barbarity to a place of great peace and humanity,” says Friedman.

The Gratz group was able to witness the scope of Jewish history in Poland primarily because today’s Poles–both Jews and non-Jews alike–have been dedicated to uncovering and restoring their country’s rich Jewish past. As David Mink explains, “What excited me throughout the trip was to see the young people of this country enthusiastically reclaiming their history–Polish history and Jewish history because the two cannot be separated. We met some of the wonderful Poles who have been part of this renaissance, and that’s what really made this trip exceptional.”

People like Dr. Anna Sommer, the cosmopolitan young woman who led the group’s tour of Auschwitz. Sommer grew up in the town of Oswiecim, next to where the Nazis constructed the Auschwitz camp. Although she is not Jewish, her curiosity about what happened in her town led her to earn a Ph.D. in Jewish history. She has since relocated to the United States, but returns to Poland every summer to lead tours.

Then there was the respected historian Jan Jagielski. Beginning in the 1970s, Jagielski, a non-Jew, was among the first generation of people working to preserve the Jewish past in Poland. Dedicated to this effort for decades, he brought history to life for the Gratz group by sharing stories enshrined in thousands of tombstones in the Warsaw cemetery.

There were also the impressive young Jewish tour guides from the Taube Center’s Mi Dor Le Dor program, who directed the group on many legs of its journey throughout Poland. And there were the passionate people of the Grodzka Gate, a cultural center run by non-Jews, which has been dedicated for many years to restoring the memory of Jewish life in Lublin.

In addition to the restoration of Jewish sites in Poland, many Polish Jews themselves are in the process of discovering and exploring their Jewish heritage. After the Holocaust and four decades of Communism, there are Poles who have only recently uncovered their Jewish roots. Michael Schudrich, Poland’s chief rabbi, who was raised on the Upper West Side of Manhattan and who once served as chief rabbi of Japan, shared a particularly dramatic story of two skinheads who discovered that they both had Jewish roots. As a result of this discovery, they are now a married couple living as Orthodox Jews.

Stories like this one proliferate in contemporary Poland, Dr. Steinlauf stresses. Poland today is an amazing success story,” he says. “It’s modern, bright, airy and very youthful. The Poles have transformed their country and have created a place unlike what anyone expected.”

The interweaving of such modernity with Poland’s Jewish past will soon be prominently on display in the sleek new Museum of the History of Polish Jews, set to open next year. High tech and interactive, this grand structure on the footprint of the Warsaw Ghetto will be a “major site for Jewish remembrance,” according to Steinlauf.

With the new museum on the itinerary, Steinlauf is planning to lead another Gratz tour to Poland in the summer of 2014, giving other travelers an equally eye-opening view of Jewish life in Poland–both past and present.

A version of this article originally appeared in Gratz College’s electronic newsletter, The Gratz College Insider, and is reprinted here with permission. Located in Melrose Park, Gratz College is the oldest pluralistic college for Jewish studies in North America. Jodi Benjamin, the author of this article, is a freelance writer from Maple Glen, who can be reached at [email protected]

Gratz Now Offers On-line M.A. in Holocaust and Genocide Studies

— by Mindy Blechman

Gratz College launched a new Master of Arts degree in Holocaust and Genocide Studies, the only one of its kind that can be completed entirely online.

The new program is particularly aimed at teachers, for whom it will provide a tool for combatting racism and intolerance, often accompanied by violence, pervasive in our schools. Full-time public and private school educators will benefit from a substantial tuition discount. The program is also directed at museum educators, social workers, and members of secular and religious community organizations.

More after the jump.
The program consists of 36 credits (12 courses), including two required courses, and a guided thesis or final project. Courses may be chosen from among over 20 electives, including a study-tour of Jewish Poland in July, 2012.  An 18-credit Graduate Certificate in Holocaust and Genocide Studies is also available.

For more information, contact Mindy Blechman at 215-635-7300 x 154, or Professor Michael Steinlauf at 215-635-7300, x 144 or visit the Gratz website.

235 Years of Independence – An Occasion to Celebrate American Jewish Heroes

— by Ken Myers

How many Jewish heroes of the Revolutionary War (or earlier) can you identify? You probably know that Haym Salomon was a key figure in financing the Revolution. Did you know that Francis Salvador was the first Jew to die in the American Revolution, on August 1, 1776, following the signing of the Declaration of Independence? You might know that Philadelphian Rebecca Gratz founded the Female Hebrew Benevolent Society and other relief organizations. Did you know that her family was prominent among revolutionaries here?

It is well known that Benjamin Nathan Cardozo (1870-1938), was a member of the United States Supreme Court. His family already had a glorious record in America: David Nunez Cardozo (1752- ?) was a hero of the Revolution. He led the assault on British-held Savannah, Georgia, in which Count Pulaski was killed. Cardozo was taken prisoner by the British while defending Savannah, but was released at the end of the British stay in that area.

Forty-seven Jewish heroes of the Revolution and other major events in American history are listed and their achievements memorialized on the web site of the Florida Atlantic University Libraries, with credit to
Seymour Brody.

But his major opus is the book, Jewish Heroes & Heroines of America: 150 True Stories of American Jewish Heroism, by Seymour Brody with illustrations by Art Seiden. Spend some time during the Independence Day weekend examining the lives of Jewish heroes during and since our War of Independence.

Register now for late-Spring Gratz College Adult Jewish Learning

— Liz Zinbarg Nover, Director, Gratz College Florence Melton Adult Mini-School

Click below for a registration form containing descriptions for all courses.…

Prayer and Poetry with Rabbi Reba Carmel – at Gratz College, Thursday mornings, begins May 5 – register by April 15

Post-Madoff & the Wall Street Meltdown: Ethics of Money for 21st Century Jews with Rabbi Margot Stein – Lunch & Learn series at the AJC offices in Center City, Friday afternoons, begins May 6 – Register by April 15

Kabbalah of the Omer with Rabbi David Siff – at BZBI in Center City, Wednesday mornings, begins May 11 – Register by April 27…

Adult Jewish Learning Thrives in Greater Philadelphia

Gratz College Melton Adult Mini-School Graduates 11th Class, Gears Up for New Season.

— Liz Nover

“What we did this past year and the year before was no less than to forge a link in the chain of the immortality of our people… minds were opened, eyes were opened, hearts were opened!”  These were the words of Gloria Salmansohn, Gratz-Melton Class of 2010, addressing the graduates, their instructors and guests at the June 2 Commencement. Salmansohn and about three dozen others hailing from the five-county area were celebrating the culmination of two years of interactive text study together through the Gratz-Melton program.

The graduates, who reflect great diversity in their Jewish backgrounds and levels of observance, took four university-level courses over two years, giving them a broad and deep understanding of Jewish practice, beliefs, ethics and history, through exposure to classical and modern Jewish sources.  Theirs was the same curriculum that is used in the over 60 Melton sites around the globe, and its goal, well-accomplished according to fellow graduate Betti Kahn, is for students to recognize “how specific teachings [from our sages throughout history] are precisely applicable to our own and our families’ lives.”  In a unique Diaspora-Israel partnership, the Melton curriculum is developed and continually revised at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.  Students have the opportunity to continue their habit of weekly study in Gratz-Melton alumni and community courses that are designed both at Hebrew University and here in Philadelphia by the faculty members themselves.

Since 1998, the Gratz College Melton Adult Mini-School has been an integral part of Gratz College.  The Gratz-Melton faculty members, area residents who are scholars, rabbis, professors, and passionate laypeople, are as diverse as the students.  They bring their backgrounds, knowledge and practices to the table while embracing a pluralistic and tolerant perspective in a sophisticated, warm atmosphere.

The entire community is invited to Gratz College to “Experience Melton” during Camp Melton, August 2-6, with additional times and locations on the Main Line, in Center City and in Phoenixville.  “Campers” have a choice of morning, afternoon and evening sessions with Gratz-Melton faculty.  These sessions are illustrative of the type of classes taking place during the academic year.  Camp Melton offers an opportunity to learn about the program and ask questions with actual students, teachers, and the Director, Liz Nover.

Gratz-Melton will open its 13th season with locations in Elkins Park, Main Line and Center City.  Alumni and community courses on a wide variety of subjects will be offered at these locations, and in the Chester/Delaware County area as well.  For further information please contact the Gratz-Melton office, 215-635-7300, x143, or [email protected]