Leo Phaff
Plant a Tree
Plant a Tree


Temple Israel, 600 New Scotland Avenue in Albany on Wednesday, November 21, 2018 at 11am


Temple Israel Cemetery in Guilderland, NY


Rabbi David Eligberg and Cantor Rogerio Marx

Obituary of Leo Phaff





Leo Phaff, 96, of Albany, NY, passed away on Monday, November 19, 2018, at the Eddy Village Green in Cohoes, NY.

Leo was born in Albany, the first child of Morris and Fanny Phaff.  He was a graduate of Albany High School and received his degree from the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania in 1943. After serving in World War II, Leo returned to Albany, launched National Business Promotions, and married his love Ruth Rosenfeld.

Leo was a unique pillar of the Albany Jewish community, constantly volunteering for causes including the Albany Jewish Community Council, Israel Bonds and his synagogue, Tifereth Yisrael. Shortly after Ruth and Leo wed, the synagogue merged with another conservative shul, Sons of Israel, forming the new Temple Israel.

In the early 1950’s through the efforts of Leo, his father and others in the synagogue, a large lot at 600 New Scotland Avenue was purchased and the present-day Temple Israel was built. For its dedication in 1956 a procession of rabbis and Torah scrolls, one carried by Leo, made their way up New Scotland Avenue from Partridge Street to the congregation's new home. To provide children with a year-round Jewish learning experience, the synagogue purchased a 250-acre parcel of land in East Berne which became Camp Givah, a Hebrew-speaking day camp.

Leo served twice as president of Temple Israel and spearheaded countless fundraising initiatives to ensure the durability of the temple and its education center.

In the early 1960’s, Leo worked tirelessly with others to launch a Solomon Schechter day school in Albany -- The Hebrew Academy of the Capital District, later known as Bet Shraga.

Decade after decade, well into his eighties, Leo continued to raise money for Israel Bonds, The Hebrew Academy, Temple Israel, The Jewish Federation of Northeast New York and a special project for the survival of a community newspaper, the Albany Jewish World.  

He sat on the boards of the Jewish Community Center and the Jewish Federation and was vice president of the Solomon Schechter Day School Association. He was honored at memorable gatherings by The Hebrew Academy, B'nai Brith, Maimonides Hebrew Day School, State of Israel Bonds, and Temple Israel.

Leo is survived by his sister, Ann Hirsch of Ponce Inlet, Florida, and by his six children: David Phaff (Debbie) of Albany, NY, Stephen Phaff (Gale) of Telze Stone, Israel, Ellen Phaff Shein of Herzliya, Israel, Dori Phaff (Dan Raviv) of Washington, DC, Judy Phaff Ledger (Lindsay) of Atlanta, GA, and Wendy Phaff of Queens, NY, as well as by 19 grandchildren and 39 great-grandchildren.

Leo was predeceased by his “beautiful bride”, Ruthie (z’l), who passed away on August 22, 2017.

Funeral services will be held at Temple Israel, 600 New Scotland Avenue in  Albany on Wednesday November 21, at 11:00 AM. Burial will follow at the Temple Israel Cemetery (the 1600 block of Western Avenue in Guilderland).  

Shiva will be at the home of David Phaff, 5 North Pine Avenue.  Hours for Shiva are Wednesday 6-9 PM, Thursday 10 AM-1 PM and 7-9 PM, Friday 10 AM-1 PM, Saturday 6-9 PM, Sunday 10 AM-1 PM and 2-9 PM, and Monday 10 AM-1 PM and 2-9 PM.

Minyan times:

Wednesday 3:50 PM

Thursday 9:00 AM / 3:50 PM

Friday 9:00 AM

Sunday 9:00 AM / 3:50 PM

Monday 8:15 AM / 3:50 PM

Tuesday 8:15 AM


The family requests that any donations be made to Temple Israel of Albany or Bet Shraga Hebrew Academy. A special scholarship fund has been set up in Leo and Ruth’s names,  donations can be made here:


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