Brandeis, Louis D.
Lehman, Herbert H.
Levy, Uriah P.
Magnes, Judah L.
Santangel, Luis de
Seixas, Gershom M.
Singer, Isaac B.
Straus, Isidor & Ida
Torres, Luis de
by Gerta Ries Wiener (1981), Rebecca Gratz, Philanthropist.
Gratz (1738-1801) emigrated to America from Poland -- via England
-- in 1754. Along with other merchants, he signed Non-Importation
Agreements to boycott British goods during the Stamp Act and Townshend
Act crises prior to the Revolution. The Gratz family wholeheartedly
supported the American patriots, and supplied goods to the Continental
Army. Bernard and his younger brother Michael helped found one
of the first synagogues in America, which in 1773 evolved into
Philadelphia's Congregation Mikveh Israel. After the War, the
Gratzes became involved in a successful struggle for equal rights
in Pennsylvania. Michael's son Hyman founded Gratz College, but
it was his daughter who is the "jewel of the Gratz dynasty."
Gratz achieved literary immortality when, after hearing of her
charm, beauty and goodness, Sir Walter Scott introduced a Jewish
female character into the work that was then in progress. He even
named the heroine (of Ivanhoe) "Rebecca." While she never married,
Rebecca made a home for her unmarried brothers, and reared the
nine orphaned children of her sister Rachel Moses. In her twenty-first
year, she became secretary for the Female Association for the
Relief of Women and Children in Reduced Circumstances, and in
1815 Rebecca was a founder of the Philadelphia Orphan Society.
But, perhaps her most significant accomplishment was the founding
of the Hebrew Sunday School Society, the first of its kind in
America, and the model for all Jewish education in America. When
she died in 1869, at the age of 88, Rebecca Gratz was mourned
as one of the foremost women in America. Rabbi David Philipson
wrote in the introduction to the Letters of Rebecca Gratz: "All
accounts agree in praise of this unusual woman. Beautiful in face
... noble of soul and pure of heart, she is not unworthy of having
applied to her the exquisite words used of a rare woman by George
Elliot, that 'were all virtue and religion dead, she'd make them
newly, being what she was.'"
Here to Take Rebecca Gratz Quiz
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