Konvitz, Joseph

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KONVITZ, JOSEPH (1878–1944), Ereẓ Israel and U.S. rabbi. Konvitz was born in Kaisiadorys, Kovno province, Lithuania. He joined the Kneset Israel Yeshivah in Slobodka at the age of 12, and was already recognized for his scholarly ability when he was 19. He was one of the ten students at the yeshivah selected to form the nucleus of the new yeshivah at Slutsk founded by Rabbi Jacob David *Willowski (the Ridbaz), whose daughter he subsequently married. After serving as rabbi of Shadov (Seduva) from 1902 to 1903 and of Kowarsk from 1903, both in the province of Kovno, he immigrated to Ereẓ Israel in 1906, settling in Safed, where the Ridbaz had established a yeshivah, and serving as rosh yeshivah and rabbi there until 1914. In that year he was visiting the United States on behalf of the Safed yeshivah when the outbreak of World War i made it impossible for him to return to his home. He settled in the United States and was appointed rabbi of the united Orthodox congregations of Elizabeth, N.J. (1915–19), Trenton, N.J. (1919–24), and several leading congregations in Newark, N.J. (1924–44). Konvitz was soon recognized as a leading Orthodox rabbi, both on account of his scholarship and of his ability to mediate and settle communal disputes. He was president of the Union of Orthodox Rabbis of the United States and Canada (Agudat Harabbonim) from 1933 to 1939, and honorary president until his death. He was closely identified with Orthodox institutions in Jerusalem and with the rescue of rabbis and scholars from Europe and the transfer of yeshivot from Europe to Israel during World War ii. In addition to his halakhic contributions to rabbinical periodicals, his selected responsa, novellae, and sermons, Divrei Yosef, have been published (vol. 1, 1947, vol. 2, 1948). After his death, the Yeshivah Rabbi Joseph Konvitz, an all-day modern Orthodox school on New York's East Side, was established in his memory.


J. Konvitz, Divrei Yosef, ed. Ch. Karlinsky (1947).