Gratz College Celebrates Those Who Give Back

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On May 15, Rabbi Steve Gutow will deliver the address at Gratz’s 116th commencement, where students will receive graduate degrees in Jewish education, Jewish studies, Jewish communal service and Holocaust and genocide studies.

Commencement season has begun, with colleges and universities across the Delaware Valley announcing graduation speakers and schedules.
Some heavy hitters will be in the area: President Barack Obama will speak at Rutgers, while Hamilton star Lin-Manuel Miranda will do the honors at Penn.
Gratz College, meanwhile, is bringing in its own star power — of the tikkun olam variety.
On May 15, Rabbi Steve Gutow will deliver the address at Gratz’s 116th commencement, where students will receive graduate degrees in Jewish education, Jewish studies, Jewish communal service and Holocaust and genocide studies.
The Texas native and 2003 Reconstructionist Rabbinical College graduate — who was thrice named one of the country’s most influential rabbis by Newsweek — was chosen, college officials said, because of his commitment to tikkun olam.
“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,” Gratz President Joy Goldstein said.
And indeed, the lawyer-turned-rabbi has a resume that might shame even his fellow community organizer/commencement speaker Obama, who appointed Gutow to the President’s Advisory Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships.
In that capacity, Gutow and colleagues address the issue of income inequality in the United States, a cause that has galvanized Gutow’s many years of activism, especially as president and CEO of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs.
During his 10-year tenure at the umbrella organization, Gutow spurred new progressive programming, including initiatives on poverty, hunger, immigration reform, genocide and environmental stewardship.
He was an organizing force behind the Food Stamp Challenge, which asked participants to live on the food budget of the average American food stamp recipient —$29.40 for one week.
He also launched the JCPA’s “Hunger Seder,” an interfaith event on Capitol Hill that draws members of both political parties and promotes awareness of food scarcity in the United States.
Last week, the founding executive director of the National Jewish Democratic Council was tapped to advise the political action arm of J Street.
Gutow will receive one of three honorary degrees on May 15. Others will go to Hazzan David Tilman and David Weinstein.
Tilman, a Julliard graduate, was hazzan at Elkins Park’s Beth Sholom for 36 years. He’s the director of the adult chorus of Reform Congregation Keneseth Israel and an adjunct associate professor at the Jewish Theological Seminary’s cantorial school. Tilman will sing “Hatikvah” at the graduation.
Weinstein, an attorney, is outgoing chair of the Gratz College Board of Governors. An honorary director of Temple Beth Hillel-Beth El in Wynnewood, Weinstein practiced law with an eye toward improving the public good, and received the Human Rights Award of the American Immigration Lawyers Association and the Public Justice Achievement Award of Trial Lawyers for Public Justice.
He also is one of four lawyers representing Holocaust survivors, victims and their heirs in a suit against Hungary and the Hungarian National Railway.
Weinstein joined the Gratz Board of Governors in 2010; his three-year term as board chair ends in June.
In addition to receiving an honorary degree, he’ll be celebrated by the school at the Gratz College Gala three days later.
The gala’s featured speaker will be Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Bret Stephens, the deputy editorial page editor of The Wall Street Journal and a regular panelist on Fox News’ The Journal Editorial Report.
He’ll speak to gala guests about the situation in Israel and the Middle East, as well as the upcoming elections.
The gala is at 6 p.m. on May 18 at the Hilton Philadelphia City Avenue.
Contact: lspikol@jewishexponent.com; 215-832-0747

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