A community of communities

Philadelphia Jewish Life

When did a “Jewish community” emerge in Philadelphia?  Are we still part of a community?  Come explore key periods and expressions of Jewish life in Philly, from the early history of its Jewry to how Philly became a center of moderate traditional Judaism. We will start before WWI, looking at mass immigration, then discuss “Americanization,” neighborhood life, the rise of Conservative/Reform Judaism, new roles for women, and responses to the rise of Nazism.  We will end with a modern look at Philly Jews, changes in neighborhoods, religious life, and concerns with Israel and Soviet Jewry. The class is comprised of four interactive class sessions and two field trips.  Register for the entire six sessions ($120/GJC member, $135/non-member), or come on the field trips (each $20/GJC member, $35/non-member) for an engaging journey into Philadelphia!

The Classes

Session 1 (Tues., May 9 at 7pm):  Early history of Philadelphia Jewry, from the colonial period to late 19th century. Why did Philadelphia become a center of moderate traditional Judaism? 

Session 2 (Tues.,  May 16 at 7 pm):  The period of mass immigration from Eastern Europe to Philadelphia, in the late 1800s until World War I. 

Session 3 (Tues., May 23 at 7pm):  The period between the two world wars. How did Philly Jews respond to “Americanization,” the Great Depression, and the rise of Nazism?

Session 4 (Tues., June 6 at 7pm):  Philadelphia Jews since World War II, including changes in neighborhoods, religious life, and concerns with Israel and Soviet Jewry. 

The Field Trips

Field Trip 1 (Sunday, May 21 at 10:30am):  Join the journey to the oldest  local synagogue building in continuous use, Bnai Abraham in Society Hill.

Field trip 2 (Tuesday, May 30 at 10:30am):  Built in 1901, the Frank Memorial Synagogue, located in the Albert Einstein Medical Center, is on the National Register of Historic Places.

The Instructor

Rabbi Robert Tabak, PhD, wrote his dissertation (Temple University) on Philadelphia Jews between 1919-1945.  He has lectured and written on Philadelphia Jewish history, and revised the article on Philadelphia for the 2007 second edition of the Encyclopaedia Judaica.  He is a graduate of the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College, has served as a hospital chaplain at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, and taught at St. Joseph’s University and Cabrini University.  He is a member of Minyan Dorshei Derekh.