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Geffen, Joel


GEFFEN, JOEL (1902–1988), U.S. Conservative rabbi. Born into a distinguished rabbinic family (his father was Tobias *Geffen) in Kovno, Lithuania, Geffen came to the United States when he was a year old, where he was raised in Atlanta. He graduated from Emory University in 1944 and was ordained by the Jewish Theological Seminary four years later. His first pulpit was in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, where he organized the congregation of 200 families. In 1929 he moved to Temple Beth El in Troy, New York, where he again built the congregation and organized a community talmud torah along with adult education and youth groups. He joined the Jewish Theological Seminary in 1944 as director of the Department of Field Activities and Communities Education, a position that he served in for four decades until his retirement. He was involved in the establishment of Leadership Training Fellowship, an elite training program for Conservative youngsters, and also in the establishment of Camp Ramah in Wingdale, New York. For four decades he was the unpaid but exceedingly dedicated spiritual adviser of the National Federation of Jewish Men's Clubs during years of significant growth. For a dozen years he also directed the Metropolitan New York region of United Synagogue, the congregational arm of the Conservative movement and edited with, Milton Berger and M. David Hoffman, Roads to Jewish Survival (1967). He also contributed to the American Jewish Historical Quarterly.


P.S. Nadell, Conservative Judaism in America: A Biographical Dictionary and Sourcebook (1988), 95–96.

[Michael Berenbaum (2nd ed.)]

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