Dorph, Sheldon

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DORPH, SHELDON (Shelly ; 1941– ), U.S. Jewish educator. Dorph was born in Philadelphia and completed undergraduate degrees from Temple University and Graetz College. After receiving rabbinical ordination from the Jewish Theological Seminary of America (jts) in 1969, he was named director of Camp Ramah in the Berkshires, where he served for four years. He also served as principal of the Los Angeles Hebrew High School (1971–81) and as founding headmaster of the Golda Meir Day High School (1977–85). He published texts on biblical studies for high school students and edited the influential Shalav Hebrew textbook series for Behrman House Books. He earned a doctorate in religion and education from Teachers College, Columbia University, in 1976. He married Gail Zaiman Dorph, an important Jewish educator in her own right.

Dorph served as director of the Pacific Southwest Region of United Synagogue (1987–89) and helped guide the development of some 59 synagogues. But he was best known for his years as national director of the Ramah Camps, a position he held from 1989 to 2003. During that time Dorph oversaw a period of exceptional growth in the Ramah camping system, expanding to eight overnight camps and seven day camps in Canada, the U.S., and Israel and accommodating over 6,000 campers and 1,500 staff members each summer. While serving in the Ramah position he also taught in the education department at jts.

In 1996 Dorph received the Shazar Prize from the Joint Authority for Jewish Education in the Diaspora for his work in Jewish education and Hebrew language. In 2004, Dorph received the Janice Coulter award for excellence in informal education from the North American Alliance for Jewish Youth and the Jewish Educators Assembly–Behrman House Books Award for Lifetime Achievement in Jewish Education.

[Barry W. Holtz (2nd ed.)]