Sisterhood Blog

First African American Hebrew School Grad

By Chana Pollack

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Welcome to Throwback Thursday, a weekly photo feature in which we sift 116 years of Forward history to find snapshots of women’s lives.

In December 1933, 15-year-old Verlette Valentine, class valedictorian at Institutional Synagogue of New York, was featured in the Forverts as the first African American to graduate from a Hebrew school. At the time, Valentine reportedly said she was interested in pursuing further study at Yeshiva College (today’s Yeshiva University). Institutional Synagogue was founded in Harlem in 1917 and remained in existence until 1943. In 1928, a branch opened on Manhattan’s Upper West Side, and is currently known as West Side Institutional Synagogue.


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