Dropsie College for Hebrew and Cognate Learning

Dropsie College for Hebrew and Cognate Learning or Dropsie University, at 2321–2335 N Broad St., Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, was America's first degree-granting institution for post-doctoral Jewish studies. Funded by the will of Moses Aaron Dropsie (1821–1905), it was chartered in 1907, and its first building was completed in 1912. It ceased to grant degrees in 1986.

Dropsie University Complex
Dropsie University Complex
Dropsie College for Hebrew and Cognate Learning is located in Philadelphia
Dropsie College for Hebrew and Cognate Learning
Dropsie College for Hebrew and Cognate Learning is located in Pennsylvania
Dropsie College for Hebrew and Cognate Learning
Dropsie College for Hebrew and Cognate Learning is located in the United States
Dropsie College for Hebrew and Cognate Learning
Location2321–2335 N Broad St., Broad and York Streets
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Coordinates39°59′20″N 75°09′18″W / 39.98889°N 75.15500°W / 39.98889; -75.15500
Area2 acres (0.81 ha)
Architectural styleBeaux Arts, Renaissance
NRHP reference No.75001661[1]
Added to NRHPJanuary 17, 1975

The Dropsie University Complex's buildings were placed on Philadelphia's roster of historic buildings as of November 30, 1971.[2] The Dropsie University Complex was named a national historic landmark (NRHP) on January 17, 1975.[3]

After a brief period as the Annenberg Research Institute (1986–1993) Dropsie ceased to be an independent organization, and became part of the University of Pennsylvania. Its name changed several times and it was relocated, becoming the Katz Center for Advanced Judaic Studies.



Dropsie College for Hebrew and Cognate Learning was founded in 1907. Its main benefactor was Moses Aaron Dropsie (1821–1905),[4][5] a wealthy man whose father was Jewish and mother was Christian but who self-identified as Jewish from the age of 14. In 1905, Dropsie left his entire fortune for the establishment of a Jewish college along broad lines, offering instruction "in the Hebrew and cognate languages and their respective literatures, and in the rabbinical learning and literature." Estimated at $800,000, the amount of this bequest was the largest sum that had been made available for the promotion of Jewish studies.

Dropsie College may have been designed by Lewis Pilcher[6] or by Abraham Levy.[7] It was built at Broad and York Streets. It was near the historic Spanish and Portuguese Congregation Mikveh Israel, Philadelphia's first Jewish congregation, then at 2321 N Broad Street. The first three presidents of Dropsie (Mayer Sulzberger, Cyrus Adler and Abraham A. Neuman) were worshipers there.[8]: 188  They were instrumental in establishing the college and its library.[8]: 191–195  Dropsie College sought to be grounded in the values, history, and "Science of Judaism."[8]: 187–188 

On November 9, 1981, a fire ravaged the school's building at Broad and York Streets. In December 1983, the school moved to Temple Adath Israel of the Main Line in Merion where it was welcomed rent-free.[9]

Dropsie granted more than 200 Ph.D.s between its inception and its closing as a degree-granting institution in 1986. Dropsie was also the publisher of the Jewish Quarterly Review, which was at the time the most respected journal on the subject.

The faculty at Dropsie included scholars from outside the United States, including Benzion Netanyahu, who came from Jerusalem with his young sons, Yonatan (Yoni) and Benjamin (Bibi), who there had their first true exposures to American culture, which would become a touchstone for later interactions with the American public for Bibi.[10]

Notable people


Dropsie students


Dropsie faculty




By 1980, Dropsie College was near failing, its building in need of repairs and many of its books missing. On November 9, 1981, newly elected president David M. Goldenberg was notified of an arson attack, taking place on the forty-third anniversary of Kristallnacht. Attempts to put out the fire irreparably damaged the library and its contents, including rare books and ancient cuneiform tablets.[8]: 199–201 

Goldenberg launched an extensive campaign to recover and restore the library, while board member Albert J. Wood worked to transform the college into a post-graduate research center. Wood attracted the support of philanthropist Walter Annenberg. Wood became the founding chairman of the board of the briefly renamed Moses Aaron Dropsie Research Institute, followed by Walter Annenberg as of September 13, 1985.[8]: 199–202 

As of September 1986, Dropsie College ceased to be a degree-granting college.[8]: 199  Also in 1986, Dropsie was renamed the Annenberg Research Institute.[11] Annenberg funded the construction of a new building, to which the institution moved in 1988. The new location was just three blocks south of the new location of congregation Mikveh Israel, as well as the National Museum of American Jewish History. The proposed goal of the new institution was to support dialogue among the monotheistic faiths of Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Its directors were Bernard Lewis (1986–1990),[12] Eric M. Meyers (1991–1992),[13] and as acting director, David M. Goldenberg (1992–1993).

In 1993, the Annenberg Research Institute ceased to be an independent organization. It became part of the University of Pennsylvania, as the Center for Judaic Studies. In 1998, it was renamed the Center for Advanced Judaic Studies,[14] and in 2008, the Herbert D. Katz Center for Advanced Judaic Studies.[15][16] It is part of the Penn library system.[17]



The institutional records and library collections of Dropsie College are now part of the collections of the Herbert D. Katz Center for Advanced Judaic Studies, which is part of the University of Pennsylvania's library system.[8]


  1. ^ "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. January 23, 2007.
  2. ^ "Dropsie University". Philadelphia Architects and Buildings.
  3. ^ "Dropsie University Complex". NPGallery Digital Asset Management System. National Park Service. Retrieved 24 April 2019.
  4. ^ "Dropsie, Moses Aaron" The Jewish Encyclopedia website
  5. ^ "Dropsie, Moses Aaron" Encyclopedia.com website
  6. ^ "Dropsie University Complex". Historic Resource Information. Retrieved 24 April 2019.
  7. ^ Saffron, Inga (August 7, 2015). "Good Eye: Dropsie College's elegant temple". The Philadelphia Inquirer. Retrieved 25 April 2019.
  8. ^ a b c d e f g Kiron, Arthur (2000). "The Professionalization of Wisdom: The Legacy of Dropsie College and Its Library" (PDF). University of Pennsylvania. p. 20.
  9. ^ Shaffer, Michael D. (December 31, 1983). "A new home – and new hopes: Dropsie College moves towards rejuvenation". Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. p. 3–B. ProQuest 1849678029.
  10. ^ Moyer, Justin (March 3, 2015). "Why Benjamin Netanyahu is so tough: He's from Philadelphia". The Washington Post. Archived from the original on April 2, 2015. Retrieved March 5, 2015. Few are aware that Israel's prime minister — due to address Congress in a historic joint session today — spent four years in the City of Brotherly Love as a teenager. Netanyahu's father Benzion moved from Israel to Cheltenham, Pa., in 1963 to teach at Dropsie College, America's first center for post-doctoral Jewish studies... With Benzion came his children, including Yonathan and his younger brother "Bibi," the future prime minister.
  11. ^ Lewis, Bernard; Goldenberg, David M. (1986). "Annenberg Research Institute for Judaic and Near Eastern Studies: Statement of Purpose". The Jewish Quarterly Review. 77 (1): 1–4. JSTOR 1454442.
  12. ^ Aronson, Emily (May 22, 2018). "Bernard Lewis, eminent Middle East historian at Princeton, dies at 101". Princeton University. Retrieved 24 April 2019.
  13. ^ "Carol & Eric Meyers Collection". Lanier Theological Library. 2018. Retrieved 24 April 2019.
  14. ^ "History of the Jewish Studies Program at the University of Pennsylvania". University of Pennsylvania. Penn Arts & Sciences. Retrieved 25 April 2019.
  15. ^ Marks, Jon (October 11, 2016). "$2M Eleanor Meyerhoff Katz Endowment Established to Promote Jewish Innovation". Jewish Exponent. Retrieved 25 April 2019.
  16. ^ "About Us". Herbert D. Katz Center for Advanced Judaic Studies. Retrieved 25 April 2019.
  17. ^ "Library at the Katz Center for Advanced Judaic Studies & Penn Libraries Judaica – collections". University of Pennsylvania. Penn Libraries. Retrieved 24 April 2019.

See also