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Goldfeder, Fishel


GOLDFEDER, FISHEL (1912–1981), U.S. Conservative rabbi. Goldfeder was born in Pittsburgh, educated at Orthodox yeshivot in Brooklyn and Lithuania, and ordained at the Jewish Theological Seminary in 1944, the same year he earned a B.A. from New York University. After acting as substitute rabbi at Kadimah Synagogue in Springfield, Mass., while the permanent rabbi was serving as a chaplain during World War ii, Goldfeder became assistant rabbi at the "conservadox" Congregation Adath Israel in Cincinnati in 1945. In 1949, Goldfeder – whose philosophy was "the life of a rabbi's is the life of his people" – became senior rabbi, remaining in that post until his retirement 31 years later. In the 1950s, the congregation became embroiled in a very public dispute over whether the synagogue – which followed many Orthodox practices, but was affiliated with United Synagogue and was gradually adopting Conservative innovations – should move from separate seating to mixed seating; the case even reached the secular courts, and monopolized an entire issue (Fall, 1956) of Conservative Judaism. Goldfeder articulated his opinion that one of the raisons d'etre of the Conservative movement was precisely to provide houses of worship for Jews who wanted less strict interpretations of halakhah. His view ultimately prevailed: the disgruntled Orthodox minority departed and Goldfeder steered Adath Israel firmly into the Conservative mainstream. By the time Goldfeder was elected rabbi emeritus in 1980, the congregation had grown to 1,000 members, making it one of the largest in Cincinnati – a city whose Jewish community Goldfeder had served in many realms. He was instrumental in founding Yavneh Day School, Chofetz Chaim Day School, Jewish Culture and Art Series, and the first city-wide Jewish Youth Council. He served as president of the Board of Rabbis and of the Zionist Federation; chairman of the Soviet Jewish Committee and of the Southern Ohio Region of Israel Bonds; and co-chairman of the Jewish Welfare Fund. On a national level, he served on the Executive Committee of the Jewish Community Relations Council; the National Advisory Council of the United Jewish Appeal; the Israel Bonds National Rabbinic Cabinet; and the Executive Committee of the Rabbinical Assembly, as well as the ra's Committee on Jewish Law and Standards. Goldfeder passed away in Jerusalem less than a year after his retirement.


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

[Bezalel Gordon (2nd ed.)]

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