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Home Community Harriet Bograd, 79, Dies; Mentor to Jewish Communities Around the World

Harriet Bograd, 79, Dies; Mentor to Jewish Communities Around the World

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Under her command, the organization, whose Hebrew name means “all of us,” raised funds to build synagogues in Uganda and Zimbabwe; a Jewish-themed primary school in Uganda that is open to Christians and Muslims; and a mikvah — a ritual bath — in Tanzania. With a budget of around $500,000, Kulanu has also provided rabbinical training and advanced classes in Judaism at American seminaries for community leaders and distributed prayer books, Torah scrolls, prayer shawls and other ritual items.

Kulanu’s work has not been without controversy. While Jews in Ethiopia have been recognized by the Orthodox authorities in Israel as authentically Jewish, those in other parts of Africa have not been. Efforts by Conservative rabbis to formally convert some Africans to Judaism have encountered challenges because the Orthodox establishment in Israel does not recognize the legitimacy of Conservative rabbis. Bonita Nathan Sussman, Kulanu’s new president, said that many Africans also reject conversion, arguing, “Who are you to tell me I’m not Jewish?”

On the other hand, Ms. Levine said, Ms. Bograd “met them at the level where they are.”

She was active in Jewish causes in New York as well. In the early 1980s, she and other parents partnered with educators to found the Heschel School, a Jewish day school in Manhattan that now enrolls about a thousand students. And at the West End Synagogue, a Reconstructionist congregation, she was known for the warm way she greeted newcomers, an act congregants affectionately called “Bograding.”

Harriet Mary Bograd was born on April 6, 1943, in Paterson, N.J., into a Conservative Jewish home. Her father, Samuel Bograd, owned an upscale furniture emporium with an uncle. Her mother, Pauline (Klemes) Bograd, sometimes helped him with his business and was a leader in a local chapter of Planned Parenthood.

Harriet attended a special high school operated by Montclair State Teachers College (now Montclair State University) and graduated from Bryn Mawr in 1963 with a degree in political science. The summer she graduated, she arranged for a group of nine white Bryn Mawr students to teach at Livingstone College, a historically Black college in Salisbury, N.C., so they could absorb the impact of the growing civil rights movement.

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