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The Jewish Theological Seminary will on Tuesday honor three rabbinical graduates from 50 years ago who made aliya and went on to excel in their fields of expertise.
Rabbi David Geffen, along with Professors Lee Israel Levine and Aaron Demsky will receive the Louis Finkelstein Award at the JTS-Schocken Institute for Jewish Research in Jerusalem.
Dr Beverly Gribetz, another JTS alumnus, will receive the Solomon Schechter Award for Jewish Education in recognition of her contributions to The State of Israel on Tuesday night as well.
Geffen, Levine and Demsky, were ordained by the JTS rabbinical school in New York in 1965.
Geffen served as the rabbi of the Beit Shalom Congregration in Wilmington Delaware from 1970 to 1977, during which time he also established the Jewish Historical Society of Delaware in 1974 and authored six books under its auspices.
Geffen emigrated to Israel in 1977 with his family. He writes for The Jerusalem Post, having published more than 350 articles and book reviews and another 75 in the World Zionist Press Service.
He also authored the “American Heritage Haggadah” in 1992 which in the context of the Passover Seder service described the history of Jews in the United States of America.
Geffen returned to the US in 1993 to serve as rabbi of the Temple Israel congregation in Scranton, Pennsylvania, a position he held until 2003.
Levine’s work focused on Jewish history and archaeology. He earned a PhD from Columbia University in New York, and was invited in the 1970s to teach at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem by the late archaeologist, politician and IDF Chief of Staff, Yigal Yadin.
Levine taught at the Institute for Archaeology at The Hebrew University and became a professor in 1985.
He wrote 13 books, edited another 12 works, and published about 200 academic papers.
He also founded the Tali network of schools and helped establish the Schechter Institute where he served as its first president.
Demsky made his way to Israel shortly after his ordination, where he also joined the academic community, becoming a member of the faculty of Bar Ilan University in 1968 where he taught biblical history in the Department of Jewish History until his retirement in 2007.
Demsky is well known for his research and publications on literacy in, and historical geography of ancient Israel. He was awarded the Bialik prize in 2014 for his work Literacy in Ancient Israel.
He made the study of names (onomastics) a recognized academic discipline in Jewish Studies.
Gribetz, an alumni of the JTS teachers college, will be honored with the Solomon Schechter Award for Jewish Education in recognition of her contributions to education in the State of Israel.
Gribetz, along with a group of parents founded Jerusalem’s groundbreaking high school for religious girls, Tehilla, in Jerusalem in 2007.
She has also served as principal of the Evelina de Rothschild School and director of Yeshivat Makor Chaim, founded by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz.
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