Obituary: Rela Mintz Geffen

Obituary: Rela Mintz Geffen

Professor Rela Geffen died in Philadelphia Feb. 3, 2019.

Professor Rela Geffen died in Philadelphia Feb. 3, 2019. She is survived by her sister and brother-in-law Lisa and Jimmy Schlesinger; sons, Uri Monson, the chief financial officer of the Philadelphia School System, and Amiel Monson, a well-known Jewish educator, graduate of Gratz College in Philadelphia; five grandchildren and two daughters-in-law.

Jonathan Sarna, president of the Association of Jewish Studies, (association of North American Judaica scholars) noted that professor Geffen was professor emerita of sociology at Gratz College. She was the former president of Baltimore Hebrew University from 2000 to 2007. Her father, Dr. Joel Geffen, director of field activities at the Jewish Theological Seminary of America for 40 years, was one of the first Jewish students at Emory University 100 years ago in 1919, and she was the granddaughter of the famed Rabbi Tobias Geffen of Atlanta.

Professor Geffen had six cousins, grandchildren of Rabbi Tobias and Sara Hene Geffen, who have made aliyah during the last 50 years. Dr. Steve Adler, retired president of National Labor Court of Israel and the late professor Dov Levin (z’l), a survivor from Kovno, are among her cousins with whom she was very close. After completing a double Bachelor of Arts program at Columbia University and the Jewish Theological Seminary of America, she received her doctorate from the University of Florida.

According to Sarna, professor Geffen published more than 40 articles and authored or edited four books: “Celebration and Renewal: Rights of Passage in Judaism;” she co-edited the “Centennial Volume of Gratz College: Freedom and Responsibility;” and co-authored with the late Daniel Elazar, “Conservative Judaism: Dilemmas and Challenges.” “Her family in Israel heard her give a spirited and scholarly lecture in Jerusalem on grandparenting, which was her most recent field of study.”

Professor Geffen was an avid participant with her 17 cousins in maintaining the heritage of the Geffen family, which began in Kovno, then Slobodka, Russia, and continued in Atlanta for 60 years. Her great uncle was the Telzer Rav, Rabbi Chaim Rabinowitz.

A close friend of professor Deborah Lipstadt, Rela spent three weeks in London daily attending the Lipstadt-Irving trial.

In February, she would have celebrated her 76th birthday.

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