Stampfer, Joshua

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STAMPFER, JOSHUA (1921– ), U.S. Conservative rabbi, historian. Stampfer was born in the Jewish Quarter in the Old City of Jerusalem and was brought at the age of two to the United States, where he grew up in Akron, Ohio. He earned his B.S. from the University of Chicago in 1943 and his M.S. from the University of Akron in 1945. He returned to Jerusalem to study at the Hebrew University and volunteered to fight with the *Haganah in Israel's War of Independence. He was ordained at the *Jewish Theological Seminary in 1949 and received a D.H.L. from the *University of Judaism in 1972. In 1987, he was awarded an honorary Ph.D. from Pacific University. He served as rabbi of Congregation Tifereth Israel in Lincoln, Nebraska (1949–53) before becoming rabbi of Congregation Neveh Shalom in Portland, Oregon (emeritus since 1993). Under his leadership, Neveh Shalom grew to more than 1,000 families, to become one of the leading Conservative synagogues in the Pacific Northwest. Influenced by his teacher Mordecai *Kaplan, Stampfer initiated egalitarian changes, encouraging women to read the Torah and counting them in the minyan long before it became more commonplace within the movement.

A past president of both the Oregon Board of Rabbis and the Pacific Northwest Region of the *Rabbinical Assembly, Stampfer brought dynamism to the greater Oregon Jewish community as well. In addition to developing innovative educational programs at his own synagogue, Stampfer was instrumental in founding the first Jewish day school in the city, Hillel Academy (now the Portland Jewish Academy). He established and chaired the Oregon Jewish Historical Society, the Oregon Holocaust Resource Center, the Oregon Jewish Museum, and the Oregon Israel Jubilee Committee. In 1983, he founded the Institute for Judaic Studies, sponsoring symposia and conferences (in conjunction with the University of Oregon and Portland State University, where he serves on the faculty) that bring Jewish scholars to an area of the country considered remote. Remembering the influence of Shlomo *Bardin's Brandeis Camp on his own life, Stampfer founded and directed Camp Solomon *Schechter, the only Conservative Jewish summer camp in the Pacific Northwest.

Stampfer created and nurtured organizations beyond the boundaries of Oregon as well. His travels and contacts with the remnants of the ancient Jewish community of Kaifeng, China, and the Converso families of Belmonte, Portugal, led him to become the founding president of the Society for Crypto-Judaic Studies, to support research on the vanishing traces of the *Diaspora. He was also an organizer and the first vice president of the Sino-Judaic Institute.

Stampfer has maintained close personal and professional ties with Israel. He spent his sabbaticals working for and teaching at the fledgling Center for Conservative Judaism in Jerusalem. He encouraged support for Israel at home and led more than a dozen community and clergy tours to Israel. He was a co-founder of Oregonians for Peace Now and a member of the national board of Americans for Peace Now.

Stampfer was a long-standing appointee to the Oregon Government Ethics Commission and was actively involved in interfaith dialogue with Muslim and Christian leaders. He was the author of Pioneer Rabbi of the West: The Life and Times of Julius Eckman (1984), and a volume on ancient history, Cradle of Civilization in the Middle East (n.d.). In addition, Stampfer edited six books: Prayer and Politics: The Twin Poles of A.J. Heschel (1985); Dialogue, the Essence of Buber (1986); The Sephardim: A Cultural Journey from Spain to the Pacific Coast (1987); All Its Paths Are Peace (1987); Islam and Judaism, 1400 Years of Shared Values (1988); and The Last Crypto Jews of Portugal (1990). A biography of Stampfer's life, To Learn and to Teach (by David Michael Smith) appeared in 2003.

[Bezalel Gordon (2nd ed.)]