Gratz College expands to Philadelphia’s Main Line

The new site will host public programming and serve as a cultural center and gathering space.

The Levering Mill House in Bala Cynwyd, Pa. Credit: Courtesy of Gratz College.
The Levering Mill House in Bala Cynwyd, Pa. Credit: Courtesy of Gratz College.

Gratz College has entered into an agreement to purchase the Levering Mill Tribute House, located at 382 Bala Ave. in Bala Cynwyd, Pa. The campus, currently owned by the Merion Foundation, also includes the Levering Mill House, located at 327 Levering Mill Road.

The expansion to the Main Line will complement Gratz’s public programming on the Mandell Campus in Melrose Park, Pa. Built in the 1920s by the noted architect Fred A. Havens, the light-filled, stately buildings will comprise the sixth campus in Gratz’s 130-year history.

The new Gratz campus will host public programming and serve as a cultural center and gathering space for Gratz’s constituents and neighbors. The campus, complete with two buildings and gardens, will provide ample area for community education, large events and a co-working space for coffee-sippers.

Planning is already underway to create a Holocaust Education Digital Lab that will feature the Elie Wiesel Digital Archive and the USC Shoah Foundation’s Dimensions in Testimony interactive technology.

Kathy Elias, chair of the Gratz Board of Governors, said of the board’s decision to move forward, “We enthusiastically support this move as we respond to the expansion of our educational programs and needs for the future.”

The Levering Mill campus is a fitting home for Gratz College. The campus was constructed over a hundred years ago by the Women’s Club of Bala Cynwyd, an organization established to champion suffrage, fair labor, and other social rights. As a nonsectarian institution founded in the Jewish tradition and in the image of the peerless philanthropist, Rebecca Gratz, Gratz College shares a like-minded heritage with the Women’s Club.

“The new campus will empower Gratz to further accomplish its mission to advance Jewish wisdom and education,” said its president, Zev Eleff. “On the Main Line, just as in Melrose Park, Gratz will be a major incubator of culture and learning. Our faculty and staff are eager to synergize our significant resources and abilities with the needs of the Lower Merion community, Jewish and otherwise.”

Eleff added that Gratz has received an enthusiastic welcome from municipal officials, the Lower Merion School District, and synagogue and Jewish nonprofit leaders.

State Rep. Mary Jo Daley (D-148 District) said, “I am delighted to welcome Gratz College to Bala Cynwyd and look forward to engaging with this historic institution as an inspirational presence to our community. Gratz’s mission as a leader in human rights, Holocaust education, and antisemitism awareness is timeless and essential. We will all benefit from having them as a neighbor!”

Gratz’s senior leadership anticipates wide use of its large auditoriums, kitchen and library building—the first public library in Lower Merion—that will be reimagined as a pluralistic beit midrash learning site for people of all types to learn and draw from Jewish wisdom through engagement in text study and Jewish history, to participation in cultural programs, conferences and festivals convened in partnership with local organizations.

“In this post-pandemic period, we have seen a movement among Jewish organizations to take big bets on physical space,” said Eleff. “In Jewish communities such as Boston and Detroit, we have seen creative amalgam sites that coalesce Jewish learning with hospitality, Jewish gathering with coffee-drinking. We’re going to cultivate our own fresh model, in a way that fits the needs of our local community.”

The college will close on the property this summer. The Gratz College main office will remain in Melrose Park, where it will continue to serve the local community.

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Gratz College, a private non-profit institution based in the Philadelphia area, is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE). Founded in 1895, Gratz College is the oldest independent college for Jewish studies in North America. Today, Gratz enrolls a diverse population of students from around the world in graduate-level programs that reflect its historic focus on Jewish studies and education. An early adopter of online education, Gratz's premiere programs include Doctorates in Holocaust/Genocide Studies and Education Leadership, as well as the only Master’s in Antisemitism Studies in the United States.
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