Halpern, Harry

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HALPERN, HARRY (1899–1981), U.S. Conservative rabbi. Halpern was born in New York City and earned his B.A. at City College (1919) and his Orthodox ordination from Yeshiva University's Rabbi Yitzhak Elchanan Theological Seminary (1922). While serving as rabbi of the Jewish Communal Center of Flatbush (1922–29), he earned his L.L.B. (1925) and J.D. from Brooklyn Law School (1926). He was ordained a second time, in 1929, at the *Jewish Theological Seminary, where he earned a D.H.L. in 1951. That year, he became rabbi of the East Midwood Jewish Center, one of the largest synagogue-centers in Brooklyn, where he was to spend his entire 48-year career. An early champion of intensive Jewish day school education, he founded the Rabbi Harry Halpern Day School, housed in his congregation's building, and was a guiding force behind the expansion of the Yeshivah of Flatbush, chairing its Board of Education. He was also president of the Brooklyn region of the *Zionist Organization of America (1947–49) and a member of its National Executive (1954–56).

Halpern rose to the highest positions of rabbinic leadership in metropolitan New York and nationally. He was a director of the Rabbinic Cabinet of the United Jewish Appeal of Greater New York, a founder and life trustee of the Commission on Synagogue Relations of the Federation of Jewish Philanthropies, and president of the New York Board of Rabbis (1961). He also served on the executive committee of the New York Division of the National Conference of Christians and Jews and was instrumental in organizing the Metropolitan New York Region of the *Rabbinical Assembly. His efforts led to his election as national president of the ra (1945–6), where he revived the quarterly Conservative Judaism, oversaw the publication of the Rabbinical Assembly ketubbah (as amended by Saul *Lieberman), and established a Committee on Tenure and Related Matters. His ambitious attempt at establishing a national bet din together with the Orthodox Rabbinical Council of America was rebuffed, however. Upon leaving office, Halpern became an activist chairman of the Joint Commission on Social Action of the Rabbinical Assembly and the United Synagogue (1956–61), lobbying against federal aid to private and parochial schools.

Halpern remained deeply connected with the Jewish Theological Seminary, as chairman of the Rabbinic Cabinet (1951–53), co-chairman of the Seminary Planning Commission, and a member of the Seminary's Board of Directors (1951–53). One of the founders of the institution's pastoral counseling program, he taught pastoral psychology and homiletics at the Seminary. In 1974, Halpern published From Where I Stand, a collection of columns he had written for the synagogue bulletin.


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

[Bezalel Gordon (2nd ed.)]