Obituary: Leo Phaff

Obituary: Leo Phaff

Leo Phaff, 96, of Albany, N.Y., passed away Nov. 19, 2018, at the Eddy Village Green in Cohoes, N.Y.

Leo Phaff, 96, of Albany, N.Y., passed away Nov. 19, 2018, at the Eddy Village Green in Cohoes, N.Y.

Leo was born in Albany, the first child of Morris and Fanny Phaff.  He was a graduate of Albany High School and received his degree from the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania in 1943. After serving in World War II, Leo returned to Albany, launched National Business Promotions, and married his love, Ruth Rosenfeld.

Leo was a unique pillar of the Albany Jewish community, constantly volunteering for causes, including the Albany Jewish Community Council, Israel Bonds and his synagogue, Tifereth Yisrael. Shortly after Ruth and Leo wed, the synagogue merged with another conservative shul, Sons of Israel, forming the new Temple Israel.

In the early 1950s, through the efforts of Leo, his father and others in the synagogue, a large lot at 600 New Scotland Avenue was purchased, and the present-day Temple Israel was built. For its dedication in 1956, a procession of rabbis and Torah scrolls, one carried by Leo, made their way up New Scotland Avenue, from Partridge Street to the congregation’s new home. To provide children with a year-round Jewish learning experience, the synagogue purchased a 250-acre parcel of land in East Berne, which became Camp Givah, a Hebrew-speaking day camp.

Leo served twice as president of Temple Israel and spearheaded countless fundraising initiatives to ensure the durability of the temple and its education center. In the early 1960s, Leo worked tirelessly with others to launch a Solomon Schechter day school in Albany, The Hebrew Academy of the Capital District, later known as Bet Shraga.

Decade after decade, well into his 80s, Leo continued to raise money for Israel Bonds, The Hebrew Academy, Temple Israel, the Jewish Federation of Northeastern New York and a special project for the survival of a community newspaper, The Jewish World of Albany. 

He sat on the boards of the Jewish Community Center and the Jewish Federation and was vice president of the Solomon Schechter Day School Association. He was honored at memorable gatherings by The Hebrew Academy, B’nai B’rith, Maimonides Hebrew Day School, State of Israel Bonds, and Temple Israel.

Leo is survived by his sister, Ann Hirsch of Ponce Inlet, Fla., and by his six children: David Phaff (Debbie) of Albany, N.Y.; Stephen Phaff (Gale) of Telz Stone, Israel; Ellen Phaff Shein of Herzliya, Israel; Dori Phaff (Dan Raviv) of Washington, D.C.; Judy Phaff Ledger (Lindsay) of Atlanta; and Wendy Phaff of Queens, N.Y.; as well as 19 grandchildren and 39 great-grandchildren. Leo was predeceased by his “beautiful bride,” Ruthie (z’’l), who passed away on Aug. 22, 2017.

Funeral services were held at Temple Israel in Albany, Nov. 21. Burial followed at the Temple Israel Cemetery.

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