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GEFFEN, LOUIS, 1904-2001.
Louis and Anna Geffen family papers, circa 1898-2010

Emory University

Stuart A. Rose Manuscript, Archives, and Rare Book Library

Atlanta, GA 30322



Permanent link: http://pid.emory.edu/ark:/25593/ffbn0

Descriptive Summary

Creator: Geffen, Louis, 1904-2001.
Title: Louis and Anna Geffen family papers, circa 1898-2010
Call Number:Manuscript Collection No. 651
Extent: 48.75 linear feet (93 boxes), 3 bound volumes (BV), 6 oversized papers boxes and 3 oversized papers folders (OP), 1 extra oversized (XOP), AV Masters: 1 linear feet (1 box and LP1), and 1.2 MB born digital material (8 files)
Abstract:The Louis and Anna Geffen family papers consist of personal, professional, and religious material, including correspondence, writings, printed material by and about the Geffen family, photographs and photograph albums, subject files, audiovisual materials, and memorabilia relating mainly to Louis and Anna Geffen, and their son Rabbi David Geffen.
Language:Materials in English, Yiddish, and Hebrew.

Administrative Information

Restrictions on Access

Special restrictions apply: Researchers must contact the Rose Library in advance to access audiovisual materials in this collection.

Access to processed born digital materials is only available in the Stuart A. Rose Manuscript, Archives, and Rare Book Library (the Rose Library). Use of the original digital media is restricted.

Terms Governing Use and Reproduction

All requests subject to limitations noted in departmental policies on reproduction.

Related Materials in Other Repositories

Tobias Geffen papers, American Jewish Historical Society; Louis Geffen family papers and Rabbi Tobias Geffen family papers, Ida Pearle and Joseph Cuba Archives and Genealogical Center.


Gift, 1989, with subsequent additions.


[after identification of item(s)], Louis and Anna Geffen family papers, Stuart A. Rose Manuscript, Archives, and Rare Book Library, Emory University.


Processed by Susan Potts McDonald, January 2014.

Born digital materials processed, arranged, and described by Brenna Edwards and Zhexiong Liu, 2019-2020. Born digital materials include files taken from one 3.5" floppy disk. For information as to how these materials were processed, see the processing note in the description of series 9, Audiovisual.

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Collection Description

Biographical Note

Tobias Geffen (1870-1970), was born in Kovno, Lithuania in 1870. He married Sara Hene Rabinowitz, the daughter of Aryeh Lieb and Gitel Rabinowitz, in 1898 in Kovno. In May of 1903, the young family immigrated to the United States settling first in New York City, then Canton, Ohio, before finally settling in Atlanta, Georgia in the fall of 1910. He became rabbi of the Congregation Shearith Israel in Atlanta serving until his death in 1970. Sara and Tobias Geffen had seven children: Lottie Geffen (1900-1991), Joel Geffen (1902-1988), Louis Geffen (1904-2001), Samuel Geffen (1907-2002), Bessie Geffen (1908-2005), Annette Geffen (1912-2001), Helen Geffen (1914-2003) and Abraham Geffen (b. 1916). Tobias Geffen died on February 10, 1970 and Sara Hene Geffen died on February 1, 1961, and are both buried at Greenwood Cemetery in Atlanta, Georgia.

Louis Geffen (1904-2001), son of Tobias and Sara Geffen, was born in New York City and moved to Atlanta with his parents in 1910. He attended Emory University (BA, 1923) and Columbia University Law School (JD, 1927), and then practiced law in Atlanta (1927-1989). From January 1941-March 1946, Louis Geffen served as a judge advocate in the United States Army (310th Military Government Group, 3rd Army), rising to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel. Most of his assignments were in the United States, but at the conclusion of World War II, he was sent as part of a military government team to join General Douglas McArthur in Manila and then in Japan. In Japan, he served as chief prosecutor at the Yokohama war crimes trials primarily preparing the prosecution of General Masaharu Homma, who instigated the Bataan death march. Upon returning to the United States, he helped found and served as Commander of the Jewish War Veterans Post 112. Louis was also involved in several organizations serving on the Atlanta Board of Education (1935-1937), as an officer in the Zionist Organization of America, as president of the Southeastern Region of Young Judaea, and for a number of years as pro bono counsel for Shearith Israel.

On December 26, 1934, Louis married Anna Birshstein (1906-2001), daughter of Cathriel (1884-1941) and Frieda Birshtein (1884-1963) of Norfolk, Virginia. The Birshstein's owned the Birshstein Furniture Store in Norfolk and had four other children: S. Joseph Birshstein (1904-1989), Mayer Isaac Birshstein (1909-1978), Oscar Brandeis Birshstein (1916-1997), and Hadassah Birshstein (1918-1925). Outside of her home life, Anna was involved in such organizations as the Junior Hadassah (Norfolk, Virginia), Textilettes (Atlanta, Ga.), the Atlanta and Southern Region of Hadassah, and the Shearith Israel Sisterhood (Atlanta, Georgia). Louis Geffen died on January 23, 2001 and Anna Geffen died on October 25, 2001 and are both buried at Greenwood Cemetery in Atlanta, Georgia.

David Geffen (1938- ), the only child of Louis and Anna Geffen was born in Atlanta, Georgia on November 1, 1938. He attended Emory University (BA, 1965), the Jewish Theological Seminary of America (MHL, 1963), and Columbia University (PhD, 1970). After becoming ordained as a rabbi in 1965, he served as a Chaplain in United States Army from 1965-1967, mainly at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, eventually reaching the rank of Captain. While working on his PhD at Columbia, he did part-time rabbinical work at Congregation Beth Shalom (Wilmington, Delaware). In 1970, he became Rabbi of Beth Shalom, serving from 1970-1977. In 1977, the Rabbi and his family moved to Israel, where he worked several jobs and did research in preparation of the publication of his book, American Heritage Haggadah (1992). While in Israel, he also served in the reserves of Israel Armed Forces. Returning to the United States in 1992, he served as Rabbi at Temple Israel (Scranton, Pennsylvania) from 1993-2004. As a young man he was involved with the Aleph Zadik Aleph Chapter of the B'nai B'rith Youth Organization and Emory University's Epsilon Chapter of the Alpha Epsilon Pi fraternity. He was also a founding member of the Jewish Historical Society of Delaware and was involved with the Masorti Movement in Israel; the Rabbinical Assembly of Conservative Rabbis, the Jewish Federation of Delaware, and the Zionist Organization of America. Along with his father, he helped prepare an English translation of the Jewish legal responsum authored in 1935 by his grandfather Tobias Geffen on the issue of whether "Coca Cola was kosher and kosher for Passover." The translation and a biography of Tobias Geffen appeared in the publication Lev Tuvia (1988) which was edited by Joel Geffen.

He married Rita Feld, the daughter of David and Frieda Feld of Rego Park, Queens, New York, on December 29, 1962. Rita received a BA from Queens College and an MA in school psychology from City College of New York. They have three children, Avram Baruch Geffen (b. 1966), Elissa Kathryl Geffen (b. 1966), and Tuvia Jeremy Geffen (b. 1970). In 2006, David and Rita Geffen moved to Jerusalem, Israel to be closer to their children and grandchildren.

Scope and Content Note

The Louis and Anna Geffen family papers consist of personal, professional, and religious material, including correspondence, writings, printed material by and about the Geffen family, photographs and photograph albums, subject files, audiovisual materials, and memorabilia relating mainly to Louis and Anna Geffen, and their son Rabbi David Geffen. The collection contains a small amount of material relating to Rabbi Tobias Geffen including biographical information, printed material, and photographs. Of particular interest is documentation relating to Rabbi Tobias Geffen's legal responsum which determined that Coca-Cola is kosher including multiple handwritten (in Hebrew) drafts and a galley proof of the same.

Materials relating to Louis and Anna Geffen include correspondence between family and friends; materials relating to the Emory University Class of 1923; his law school notebooks from Columbia University; photographs, correspondence from his military service with the 310th Military Government Group, 3rd Army, and as chief prosecutor at the first Yokohama war crimes trial (December 18-27, 1945); law files; and collected printed material.

Rabbi David Geffen's materials consist of correspondence, religious writings, school and college materials, and printed material. Also included are rabbinical materials from his service at Congregation Beth Shalom (Wilmington, Delaware) and Temple Israel (Scranton, Pennsylvania).

The papers of Abe (1897-1949) and Lottie (1900-1991) Simon of Spartanburg, South Carolina are mainly comprised of family correspondence, but also include some printed material, a scrapbook, and certificates. Of particular interest in the photograph album are images of Abe Simon while he served in the Jewish Legion (circa 1917-1921).

Arrangement Note

Organized into ten series: (1) Correspondence, (2) Family papers, (3) Writings, (4) Printed material, (5) Photographs and photograph albums, (6) Subject files, (7) Abe and Lottie Simon papers, (8) Collected material, (9) Audiovisual, and (10) Memorabilia.

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