‘Saving Jewish lives’ – the legacy of Rabbi Joseph Feinstein

‘Saving Jewish lives’ – the legacy of Rabbi Joseph Feinstein

In 1966, Chaplain Rabbi Joseph Feinstein puts matzah into a soldier’s backpack.

This year marks the 25th yartzeit of Rabbi Joseph Feinstein, the father of Esther Katz and father-in-law of Elie Katz and a leader in the Los Angeles Jewish community. Though Mr. Katz never met his father-in-law, he continues to meet people who have been affected by him.

Rabbi Feinstein grew up in the Bronx and received his smicha and a master’s degree in social work from Yeshiva University. Afterward, he became an Army chaplain at Fort Jackson, S.C., and provided spiritual guidance to Jewish soldiers.

In l972, Rabbi Feinstein became the Hebrew principal of Hillel Day School in Los Angeles. He went on to become the head of kashrut for the Rabbinical Council of California, developing the RCC’s kosher symbol. He later joined the local Jewish federation and was put in charge of hiring teachers for the area’s day schools. Rabbi Feinstein’s legacy also includes L.A.’s Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, where he kashered its kitchen, created a kosher menu still in use today, and hung mezuzot around the building.

“There is that connection between Magen David Adom and saving lives and what Rabbi Feinstein’s mission was, saving Jewish lives,” Mr. Katz said.

Rabbi Feinstein didn’t just tend to spiritual needs, though. He donated blood four to five times a year at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, and encouraged other clergy to donate as well, Ms. Katz said.

“He encouraged others to make it a regular thing in their lives,” she said.

Rabbi Feinstein was diagnosed with cancer when he was 44, and he died three years later. His contributions to the Los Angeles Jewish community are still felt today, according to his daughter.

“It’s remarkable when Elie and I travel in L.A. and Israel, people come up to us and begin to talk about my father,” Ms. Katz said. “People still remember him. He helped so many people.”

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