Milton Gralla, a longtime former member of the board of directors of The Jewish Week who died last week at the age of 84, combined his love of journalism and the Jewish people to make a lasting contribution to both. In addition to his leadership role at The Jewish Week, encouraging the staff to aspire to excellence, he served on the board of JTA, the global Jewish news service, and founded the Gralla Fellows Program at Brandeis University, which offered journalists in both the Jewish and secular media a deeper understanding of Jewish history and culture.
An outgoing man who combined a sense of purpose with a sense of humor, Gralla was the son of Jewish immigrants from Poland who settled in New York. He graduated from City College of New York in 1948 and launched his media career as a stringer for the New York Times, covering sports. He also worked at the Tulsa World before launching a business magazine company with his brother, Lawrence. It expanded to become Gralla Publications, which had 19 magazines before being sold in 1983.
Family members recalled this week that Gralla was grateful his father was able to leave Poland and come to America as a young man, and his son always felt the responsibility to “give back” to the community. He did that through a variety of philanthropic causes in the United States, Israel and the former Soviet Union, with an emphasis on Jewish education for young people. Gralla served on the board of directors of UJA-Federation of New York and numerous charitable and education Jewish organizations.
Perhaps his most satisfying association was with Russian Jewry. He and his wife of 62 years, Shirley, helped sponsor “Freedom Flight,” bringing 250 Russian Jewish immigrants on aliyah to Israel, and founded a school in Odessa. In addition, Gralla chaired a campaign to build or expand a number of Jewish schools in the Former Soviet Union, and served on the board of the Be’er Hagolah School in Brooklyn, with a large Russian Jewish enrollment.
He enjoyed sharing his story with both school children and adults, and conducted seminars in Moscow for journalists seeking to revitalize Jewish community weeklies. A highlight of the Gralla Program at Brandeis was his talk to the journalists there each year, offering encouragement and practical advice.
The board and staff of The Jewish Week will always be grateful for the passion, commitment and experience Milton Gralla shared with us, and with so many people in the extended Jewish community he loved.
May his memory be a blessing.