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From Marsha Bryan Edelman, Ed.D.
Adjunct Professor of Music and Education at Gratz College
The Gratz College community mourns the loss of Dr. Rela Mintz Geffen who passed away Sunday, February 3, 2019. Rela joined the faculty at Gratz College in 1975. Widely read, with interest and ability in many areas, she was among the pioneers in the study of the American Jewish Community. Rela was instrumental in establishing the Gratz College Master's degree program in Jewish Communal Studies and Gratz's joint degree program in this field with the School of Social Work at the University of Pennsylvania. As the first woman to serve as Dean of Gratz College, a position she held for many years, her leadership raised academic standards and stimulated the creation of several new faculty positions. Through her active membership in the Association for Jewish Studies, her scholarly activities, and her popularity as a much-sought-after speaker, Rela always advocated for Gratz, supported Gratz students through a prize fund she established in her parents' name, and brought the College to a renown that extended well beyond the Delaware Valley.
From Jonathan D. Sarna, Ph.D.
H-Judaic is deeply saddened to learn of the passing of Dr. Rela Mintz Geffen (1943-2019), professor emerita of Sociology at Gratz College, where she taught for many years and coordinated the program in Jewish Communal Service; she was also former president of Baltimore Hebrew University (2000-2007). Granddaughter of the famed Rabbi Tobias Geffen of Atlanta, and daughter of Rabbi Joel S. Geffen of the Jewish Theological Seminary, Rela Geffen was educated at Columbia University, the Jewish Theological Seminary, and the University of Florida, where she received her Ph.D. She served at different times as president of the Association for the Social Scientific Study of Jewry and vice-president of the Association for Jewish Studies, and should be remembered as one of the pioneering women in the field of Jewish Studies. Prof. Geffen published more than 40 articles and book chapters and authored or edited four books including Celebration and Renewal: Rites of Passage in Judaism (JPS) and the Centennial Volume of Gratz College (co-edited with Dr. Marsha Bryan Edelman) entitled Freedom and Responsibility - Exploring the Challenges of Jewish Continuity Another book, Conservative Judaism: Dilemmas and Challenges, was coauthored with the late Daniel Elazar. Professor Geffen's major fields of interest were sociology of religion, the family, and gender roles. At the time of her death, she was engaged in a qualitative study of Jewish grandparenting. For years, even amidst ill health, Prof. Geffen was a familiar figure at Jewish academic gatherings; she was also active in the Jewish Book Council. Widely known, she will be greatly missed. May her memory be for a blessing.
The family asks that contributions in her memory be made to:
Camp Ramah in the Poconos, www.ramahpoconos.org.
Contributions may also be made to the Gratz College Rabbi Joel S. and Sylvia Mintz Geffen Prize in Contemporary Jewish Studies, which is awarded annually to an outstanding student.
Jewish Exponent Obituary