MELROSE PARK, PA – On Thursday, September 29, Gratz College will present the Gratz Medal to Rabbi Lance J. Sussman, Ph.D., in recognition of his leadership and service. President Zev Eleff and the college leadership will honor Sussman as part of the Forum on Antisemitism in America program at Gratz College this fall.
Sussman is rabbi emeritus at Reform Congregation Keneseth Israel, Elkins Park, PA, and was formerly the rabbi of Temple Concord, Binghamton, and the former Temple Beth-El, Endicott. He was also an associate professor at Binghamton University, where he led the Judaic Studies Department.
“Rabbi Sussman represents the very best of Gratz College,” says Eleff. “He is a leader and gifted educator who has leveraged his erudition to support our community as a public scholar and as a generous ambassador of the Jewish people to the international community. The Gratz Medal, meant for commitment to community, leadership and learning, bears an emblem designed in 1900, but was, I believe, always intended to be attached to Rabbi Sussman’s legacy.”
Rabbi Sussman is the seventh recipient of the Gratz Medal.
Paul Finkelman, Gratz chancellor and distinguished professor of history, agreed with Eleff. “Lance Sussman is a major scholar of American Jewish history. His biography of Isaac Leeser, which came out a quarter of a century ago, is now a classic in the field. ‘New Essays in American Jewish History’ (2010), which he co-edited with Pamela Nadell and Jonathan Sarna, has helped set the direction for future scholarship in this field. His work on Jews in the Civil War is path breaking. Thus, as a scholar, teacher and leader of Gratz College, it is our honor to award this medal to Rabbi Dr. Sussman.”
The September 29 forum will be convened by Gratz’s Center for Holocaust Studies and Human Rights, home to the world’s largest graduate-level program in Holocaust and genocide studies. The forum will feature a panel discussion led by Sussman; Prof. Charles R. Gallagher, S.J., of Boston College; and Dr. Samantha Vinokor-Meinrath, senior director of Knowledge, Ideas and Learning at the Jewish Education Project. Gallagher is a former student of Sussman, and Vinokor-Meinrath is a recent Gratz alumna (Ed.D. 2021).
Moderated by Eleff, the three scholars will examine the history and contemporary challenges of American antisemitism. Sussman will share findings from his research on antisemitism during the U.S. Civil War; Gallagher will present his work on Nazi extremist groups in the United States during the 1940s; and Vinokor-Meinrath will discuss her research on the threat and impact of present-day antisemitism on Generation Z. Both Gallagher and Vinokor-Meinrath have authored recent monographs on these subjects.
“It is truly an honor to receive the Gratz Medal as part of this important forum,” says Sussman. “Gratz College continues to lead the way in critical dialogues on topics such as American antisemitism, and I am proud to engage in a scholarly exchange representing three generations of academic research.”
Sussman is a member of the Gratz faculty and the immediate past chairman of the Board of Governors. Under Sussman’s leadership during the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, Gratz’s enrollment grew by 40 percent and the college transitioned to fully online offerings.
“Rabbi Sussman is an exceptional leader, possessed with a keen understanding of the Jewish community and the arena of higher education,” says Gratz Board Chairwoman Kathy Elias. “His stewardship of academic affairs, in tandem with then-President Paul Finkelman, ensured that Gratz remained on very solid footing and expanded its programs and partnerships.”
Most recently, Sussman has taught within Gratz’s Center for Holocaust Studies and Human Rights, as well as in the college’s continuing education program. This past spring, he led a conversation with U.S. Rep. Madeleine Dean during Gratz’s annual Sol Feinstein Memorial Lecture on the Meaning of Freedom.
Sussman is the author of numerous books and articles including “Isaac Leeser and the Making of American Judaism” (1995). He has devoted much of his popular articles and public scholarship to the areas of Holocaust education and antisemitism awareness.
Gratz College is accepting tax-deductible charitable donations for the Rabbi Lance J. Sussman, Ph.D. Scholarship Fund. To learn more about making a gift, or to register for the Forum on Antisemitism in America, visit www.gratz.edu/news-and-events.