Dec. 14, 2020
By STEVE ARNOLD
North America’s oldest Jewish studies college and a major Canadian university are teaming up to advance Holocaust studies.
The presidents of both schools signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) on Dec. 6 that opens the Holocaust archive at Gratz College in Melrose Park, just outside Philadelphia, to Carleton University in Ottawa, just as the Canadian school launches a strategic plan to seek out partnerships that provide diverse experiences for staff and students.
Possible ventures under the five year agreement include exchanges of faculty, staff and students and joint research projects.
“We are honored and excited to develop a partnership with one of the great universities in Canada,” Gratz College president Paul Finkelman said in a news release. “The collaboration will make Gratz and Carleton stronger institutions by complimenting each other’s programs and strengthening international cooperation in higher education.”
Carleton President Benoit-Antoine Bacon said the new deal will boost his institution’s international plans and its brand-new equity, diversity and inclusion action plan.
“This international partnership focused on Holocaust Studies will greatly benefit students and researchers at both Carleton University and Gratz College,” Bacon said. “As the world awaits the return of international travel and cross-border co-operation, we look forward to further engaging with the remarkable team at Gratz College.”
Under the deal, Gratz will work directly with Carleton’s Max and Tessie Zelikovitz Centre for Jewish Studies. Gratz faculty and students will have access to Carleton’s libraries and archives, as well as opportunities to join the Zelikovitz Centre as research affiliates.
In exchange, Carleton faculty and students will have access to Gratz’s Holocaust Oral History Archive. It houses one of the largest collections of audiotaped testimony in the U.S. and is a contributing organization to both the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C. and Yad Vashem in Israel.
“As a small institution, Gratz values academic partnerships that can enrich our students’ learning opportunities in significant ways,” said Ruth Sandberg, director of Gratz’s Jewish-Christian Studies Program.
“We are eager to take advantage of what Carleton has to offer us, including ways in which our students can interact with each other, ways in which our faculty members could partner with each other, and ways in which Gratz can become regular participants in the many notable lectures and discussions offered through the Zelikovitz Centre.”
The virtual signing ceremony set the tone for the partnership, said Karen Schwartz, associate vice president of research at Carleton and the university’s international liaison officer.
Ahead of the ceremony, faculty members and administrators from both institutions began collaborating by joining each other’s online lectures and discussions.
“Due to the COVID pandemic, it has become even more important – regardless of how challenging – to not only keep in touch with our pre-existing international partners, but to continue establishing new ones as well,” Schwartz said. “Holding a virtual MOU signing is certainly not the same as an in-person event on campus, but it is the next best thing. And so, in this spirit, we are excited to make official our partnership with Gratz College. It will allow students and faculty from both institutions to share academic resources and conduct joint research to advance Holocaust education.”
Gratz College, a private, non-profit institution, was founded in 1895. It’s the oldest independent college for Jewish studies in North America.
It offers blended and fully online degrees, including the world’s only online Doctorate in Holocaust and Genocide Studies and a Doctorate in Education Leadership.
The matriarch of the family, Rebecca Gratz (1781-1869), created the Hebrew Sunday School Society in Philadelphia in 1838, which launched all Jewish congregational education in North America.
She was also instrumental in the creation of the Female Hebrew Benevolent Society, a Jewish foster home; the Sewing Society; and more.
According to the school, she was also rumored to have been the model for Rebecca, the heroine in Sir Walter Scott’s Ivanhoe. Gratz College was founded by Rebecca’s brother Hyman, who joined with the Hebrew Education Society of Philadelphia to fund a teachers’ college of Jewish education in 1856 that eventually grew into the college.
Carleton University educates more than 30,000 students from every province and more than 100 countries around the world in programs including public affairs, journalism, engineering, high technology and international studies.