1923 2

Dr. Rabbi Rudolph Isaac Coffee (July 24, 1878 – May 10, 1955) was rabbi of Temple Sinai from 1921 to 1933.

Coffee was also heavily involved in the efforts to establish Sequoia Park, which is now part of Joaquin Miller Park. He served as chairman of the "Save Oakland's Sequoias" (S.O.S.) campaign. In 1922 he was quoted in the Oakland Tribune:

"Look into the future fifty years hence and realize that Oakland will then be a city of a million souls, and you will find an obligation to your chlidren and your grandchildren, and obligation to vote for the 'Sequoia' Mountain park" 3

In 1925, he was appointed chaplain of the California Assembly, the first rabbi chosen as a chaplain for a state legislature. 11,12 He also served as a chaplain at San Quentin, Folsom, and Alcatraz. 1

Coffee was a charter member of the Human Betterment Foundation, an American eugenics organization in Pasadena, which advocated forced sterilizations, 'in order to keep what they diagnosed as a hereditary “mental disease” from being “transmitted to descendents.”' 6 This may be some of the other factors alluded to in "By 1933, though, the Great Depression and other factors led to Rabbi Coffee's resignation." 7 Coffee had also drawn the ire of some in the congregation when he publicly voice his opposition to amendments to the city charter. The board of directors said he was free to express himself as a private citizen. 9,10

Prior to returning to Oakland, Coffee had been a rabbi in Pittsburgh, PA, at the Tree of Life Synagogue (1906 – 1915), Temple Judea in Chicago (1917 – 1919*), and Collingwood Avenue Temple in Toledo, OH (1919* – 1921). 1,8*

* encyclopedia.com says 1920, 1 but a history of the Toledo Jewish community says 1919. 8

Family and Education

Coffee was born July 24, 1878 in Oakland, to Michael Coffee and Rosa Abrahamson (Coffee), the oldest of 5 children.

His obituary notes that he was a high school classmate of Jack London, class of 1896. 4 He received a B.A. from Columbia University in 1900, was ordained in the Jewish Theological Seminary in 1904, and received a Ph.D. from the University of Pittsburgh in 1908. 1

Sometime around 1910, Coffee married Doris Hirschfeld (Coffee) of Chicago, and they had two children, Roger Harry Coffee and Marian Leora Coffee (Sommers). Sadly, Doris died in 1916, leaving Rudolph with two small children. Coffee later remarried, marrying Minnie Jaffa (Coffee) in 1925.

Links and References

  1. Rudolph Isaac Coffee on encyclopedia.com
  2. The Policeman and The Public by Rudolph Coffee Douglas 20, Police Journal March 1923
  3. Oakland Lacking in Park Acreage, Reports Expert Oakland Tribune August 20, 1922
  4. Rabbi Coffee obituary Petaluma Argus-Courier May 11, 1955
  5. New Rabbi Is Given Welcome to Synagogue Oakland Tribune August 21, 1921
  6. How Proponents of Forced Sterilization Convinced Everyday Californians to Support Their Cause slate.com May 6, 2015
  7. History - Temple Sinai www.oaklandsinai.orgCindy Casey – Medium
  8. A History of the Toledo Jewish Community by David M. Noel
  9. Temple Sinai Avoids Part in Controversy Oakland Tribune April 14, 1933
  10. Rabbi Coffee to Resign From Temple Sinai Oakland Tribune June 21, 1933
  11. Rabbi Coffee Assumes Position Oakland Tribune January 6, 1925
  12. Rabbi Coffee Taken by Death Oakland Tribune May 11, 1955