top of page

Majorie N. Scharf

Marjorie Scharf_edited.jpg

Marjorie N. Scharf 

Has a Master of Public Health degree from the University of California – Berkeley. Marjorie began her career in Portland, Oregon where she trained preschool teachers to integrate age-appropriate nutrition education into their classrooms. Moving to Philadelphia, she shifted focus to the other end of the age spectrum, overseeing all community-based nutrition programs for older people under the aegis of Philadelphia Corporation for Aging. She then became the City of Philadelphia’s first Public Health Nutritionist in the Division of Child and Maternal Health. There, she utilized an innovative group engagement process to develop culturally and linguistically appropriate health education materials in English and Spanish. The written and video materials for pregnant mothers were officially adopted by the federal government, with millions of copies distributed nation-wide. She authored other resources addressing living with HIV/AIDS, breast cancer treatment and recovery, etc. Notably, she was the first person in Philadelphia civil service history to job-share while raising her young children. This right was not secured without a struggle with a recalcitrant bureaucracy.


She then brought her skills to the Food Trust, developing school-based programs to promote healthy eating. She convinced overworked high school teachers to integrate nutrition education into their classrooms by providing them with the resources to do so. Later, Marjorie sought to expand her professional horizons beyond healthcare in response to her growing interest to promote intergroup understanding. 


Marjorie came to the Interfaith Center of Greater Philadelphia (now Interfaith Philadelphia) in 2005 with an idea to start an interfaith service learning initiative for high school students. She investigated best practices and learned about the Chicago-based Interfaith Youth Core (now Interfaith America) which was, at the time, working with high school-aged students. She came on staff part-time and, with support of many organizational leaders, launched the Walking the Walk Youth Initiative, which she helped build and refine during her ten years as its first director. During her tenure, the Walking the Walk Youth Initiative grew to five networks and was recognized nationally as a flagship interfaith youth program. This program has reached almost 1000 participants to date, and Marjorie’s curriculum remains the driving force. 


She felt called once more to re-focus her energies, this time centered on immigrants. She became a CELTA-certified ESL teacher through an onsite training program in Mexico City. She taught English as another language to immigrants from around the world in a variety of community-based settings in Philadelphia. She currently leads English language conversation circles for newcomers through the Free Library of Philadelphia. 


While Marjorie’s four-decade career has focused on different groups of people through different avenues, the drive to help others live self-reliant, fulfilled lives has been constant. Along the way, she has had the privilege to meet and befriend people from all walks of life and from every corner of the globe right here in Philadelphia. She is also a mother, grandmother, wife, good friend, and occasional mosaic artist.

About the Dare to Understand Award

Interfaith Philadelphia’s Dare to Understand® Award honors individuals, communities, and businesses of distinction, that have championed the work of interfaith engagement and understanding across lines of difference. Awardees lead their communities by example, demonstrating humility, curiosity, and respect, qualities imperative in interfaith work.


View full list of previous honorees

For questions about sponsorship or this event, please contact Sara Zebovitz at: or (215) 222-1012 x5

bottom of page