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A New President, Plan for Gratz College

July 6, 2011 By:
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Joy Goldstein

Following the notion that a non-profit institution needs to be run with a business sensibility, the board of Gratz College has tapped a longtime Jewish communal fundraiser to be its next president.

Joy Goldstein on June 21 was officially named the 116-year-old institution's first female president and the 10th in its history. The selection of Goldstein, who had been serving as Gratz's interim president, comes two years after the previous leader stepped down.

It also follows by several months the adoption of a strategic plan that emphasizes fiscal soundness.

The new plan broadens the scope of the school's educational mission, stating that Gratz is rooted in Jewish values but can also serve the general community. This move places the college's secular master's degree in education, a program that over the past two decades has helped fund the Judaic initiatives, squarely within the framework of the school's mission, said Goldstein.

"I'm very gratified to be appointed president of Gratz," she said, adding that as an alumna, she understands "the impact that a Gratz education has in the Jewish community." As a youth, Goldstein, 52, attended the Jewish Community High School.

With her MBA credentials and 15 years spent at the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia -- where she served as vice president of policy, strategy and funding -- as well as more than a decade in hospital management, Goldstein represents a sharp departure from previous presidents, who were known more for their academic credentials than business-management skills.

Jonathan Rosenbaum, who stepped down in 2009 after an 11-year-tenure, is a noted scholar of ancient Judaism. He was named the school's president emeritus at the time.

Goldstein, a member of Lower Merion Synagogue, said that "a strong, ongoing partnership between the academic and administrative sides of the house will make Gratz College a stronger institution."

When Goldstein took over the reins of the school two years ago, Gratz had a $2 million deficit. But she was able to turn that around, school officials said, in part by making tough decisions like cutting the school's long-running cantorial program and by stepping up Gratz's fundraising efforts. The last fiscal year, Gratz broke even, according to board chair Bruce Holberg, who said he expects the same will happen this fiscal year when it ends in August. The school's budget is $4.97 million.

"We just basically formalized what she had been doing by giving her the official tittle," said Holberg. "It absolutely does signal a shift; we are in a new age."

Holberg also lauded Goldstein for managing to get the disparate elements of Gratz -- the college, the high school, the library, the adult education component -- to work in concert.

In recent years, as other traditional Hebrew colleges around the country have either closed or faced financial woes, Gratz has invested in online Jewish education and nowadays, the majority of students in Jewish studies complete most of their work online.

The strategic plan calls for the school to double its online enrollment in the next five years. At the same time, the document acknowledges that the building itself is often underutilized -- 21 courses were taught on campus in the Spring of 2010 -- and said the school should look for ways to lease more space.

According to Goldstein, Gratz currently has close to 900 matriculated students, 600 of whom are enrolled in its secular master's program in education. Gratz is looking into the possibility of introducing the program online.

About 280 are enrolled in Jewish studies coursework; about two thirds do so online. There are also about 3,500 non-matriculated students, which means professionals who are pursuing continuing education but are not working toward a degree.

The school's 4-year-old doctoral program in Jewish education currently has 16 students.

Last year, 325 lawyers earned credit through Gratz's continuing legal education program. Pennsylvania and other states require lawyers to take classes to maintain a license to practice.

The Jewish Community High School of Gratz College has slightly more than 600 students enrolled at sites throughout the Delaware Valley.

Both Holberg and Goldstein described the school's new mission statement as a major institutional reorientation:

"Gratz College provides a pluralistic education rooted in Jewish values and engages students in active study for personal and professional enrichment." Through a variety of means, Gratz "enables students everywhere to become leaders in their professions and communities."

Ernest Kahn, who served as Gratz's interim president in the 1990s and chaired its recent strategic planning committee, said that perhaps the most important part of the new plan is the mandate that Gratz must operate on a balanced budget.

"If you have an activity, a program, a course, if you want to offer it, you have to have a means of paying for it," he said.

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