Rebecca Gratz Founds First Hebrew Sunday School
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Born into a wealthy Jewish family in Philadelphia, Rebecca Gratz (1781-1869) already was noted for her charity work -- helping start relief organizations for women and children -- when she turned her attention to the religious education of Jewish children.

In 1838, she oversaw the founding of the first free Hebrew Sunday school in America, open to all children, regardless of their ability to pay. The Philadelphia school held its first classes on March 4, Gratz’s 57th birthday.

With textbooks for Jewish children scarce, the school borrowed from Christian books (deleting unsuitable passages). Jewish women in New York and Charleston soon started similar programs.

Gratz served as superintendent of the Philadelphia school until 1864, when she was 83. After her death in 1869, her brother, Hyman Gratz, left money to build what is now Gratz College, the first independent college for Jewish studies in America, located just outside of Philadelphia.
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Religious Minorities (Non-Christian)
Women and Religion
Browse Related Timeline Entries
Religious Minorities (Non-Christian) in American History
Women and Religion in American History
Religious Groups
Timeline Entries for the same religious group Judaism Family
Judaism Family: Other ARDA Links


Rebecca Gratz painting- Wikimedia Commons

Rebecca Gratz portrait- Hathi Trust- from The Ladies' Review, vol 16 (1910)

Touro Hall, where Hebrew Sunday School classes meet- Internet Archive- from Fifty Years' Work of the Hebrew Education Society of Philadelphia
Book/Journal Source(s)
Richman, Julia, 1900. The Jewish School Movement in the United States. The Jewish Quarterly Review 12 (4): 563-601.
Web Source(s)
"Teaching America's Jewish Children," American Jewish Archives
Web Page Contributor
Sandi Dolbee
Affliated with: Former Religion and Ethics Editor, The San Diego Union-Tribune

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