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February 4: The First Jewish Sunday School

February 3, 2013

Rebecca Gratz established and became superintendent of the Philadelphia Hebrew Sunday School, the first Jewish supplemental school in America, on this date in 1838. The school offered tuition-free weekly classes to both boys and girls, from early childhood to the early teens, and provided Jewish women with a key role in the public education of American Jewish kids. Gratz (1781-1869) headed the school for twenty-five years and helped develop its curriculum. By the end of the nineteenth century, the Hebrew Sunday School had served over four thousand students and had been emulated in New York, Georgia, South Carolina, Maryland, and other states. Gratz also played a lead role in the founding of the Philadelphia Orphan Asylum and the Female Hebrew Benevolent Society, among other charitable institutions. She was the preeminent Jewish educator and female philanthropist of her time.

"That which you call the misfortune of single ladies is in my case converted into a blessing." —Rebecca Gratz