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Rebecca Gratz
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Philanthropist
    (March 4, 1781-August 27, 1869)
    Born in Lancaster, Pennsylvania
    Jewish-American religious educator, charitable worker, and nurse
    Daughter of prominent American merchant, Joseph Simon (1712-1804)
    Founder of the Philadelphia Orphan Asylum
    Founder of the Jewish Foster Home, in Philadelphia
    Founding member of the Female Hebrew Benevolent Society (Nov. 1819)
    Helped established America’s first independent Jewish women’s charitable organization, the Hebrew Sunday School (1838)
    Served as secretary of the board for the Philadelphia Orphan Asylym for forty years
    Allegedly the model for the character of Rebecca of York, the Jewish heroine in Sir Walter Scott's novel, 'Ivanhoe' (1820)
    Namesake for Gratz College, a teachers college in Philadelphia, financed by her brother Hyman, in 1885
    She criticized Reform Judaism.
    She was unsuccessful in her attempts to become a poet.
    Her advocacy extended to founding the Philadelphia 'Sewing Society.'
    The claim that she was the real life inspiration for the Rebecca character (or the extent to which she was) has been heavily disputed.
    The legend had its roots in a 'Century' magazine article published near the end of her life, titled 'The Original Rebecca of Ivanhoe.'
    She spent her entire adult life living with her three brothers (all but one of whom she outlived).
    She never married because she believed that few men would make for 'an agreeable companion.'
    She received proposals from several wealthy gentiles but turned them all down - always on religious grounds.
    In addition to her charities, she was known for her extreme beauty.
    She was descended from a long line of respected rabbis.
    She was the first Jewish female college student in American history.
    She was open about her faith and insisted on its being respected by her friends.
    She had a lifelong career as a nurse which began after her father suffered a stroke, resulting in her becoming his caretaker.
    At 20, she was in charge of raising funds to aid families who had lost loved ones in the Revolutionary War.
    She originated the concept of applying the Sunday school format to Jewish/Hebrew education.
    She organized the first non-synagogal Jewish charity in the United States, the Female Hebrew Benevolent Society (1819).
    She not only maintained organizational records for her various charities founded, but also annually addressed the managing boards on policy at the end of each fiscal year.
    She advocated on behalf of Jews’ rights to be treated as equal citizens under Constitutional law.
    When her sister died unexpectedly in 1817, leaving behind six children, she took them into her home and raised them as her own.
    She and her family were close friends with Washington Irving, and she tended Irving's fiancee, Matilda Hoffman, on her deathbed.
    Legend has it that Irving related the story of her compassion to Sir Walter Scott during a visit, allegedly giving him the idea to create a strong Jewish heroine (he later sent Irving a copy of 'Ivanhoe' with an inscription mentioning Gratz).

Credit: BoyWiththeGreenHair


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