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Saul Eugene Joftes, 89 Of Hampden-Sydney Dies Thursday

HAMPDEN-SYDNEY, Feb. 10 – Saul Eugene Joftes, 89, an internationally known educator and human-rights activist, died Thursday, February 5, 2004, in Farmville, near his home in Hampden-Sydney.

Born in New York City, he held academic degrees from Harvard University and Boston University, and law degrees from Northeastern University. Early in his career he taught government at Harvard and law at Boston University.

He became associated with the Jewish charitable and fraternal organization B'nai B'rith in 1947, as education director of its Anti-Defamation League. He served as one of its observers at the Nuremberg Trials in Germany in 1949. There he successfully negotiated the return of millions of dollars' worth of property confiscated by the Nazis. After seeing there what had happened to his people in Europe, he said he felt he could not go back to teaching, but pursued instead a career as champion of intellectual and religious freedom, seeking guarantees of tolerance, particularly for Jews, from governments around the globe.

As director of B'nai B'rith's European office in Paris and later of its Latin American office in Chile, Mr. Joftes founded many lodges of B'nai B'rith and was influenced in achieving official recognition for non-Catholics of all faiths. In 1953 he was appointed director of B'nai B'rith's International Affairs office, taking on the additional post of secretary-general of the worldwide movement's International Council six years later. In that capacity he traveled widely, meeting with such leaders as Willi Brandt of West Germany, Generalissimo Franco of Spain, and Pope Paul VI, who awarded him a medal for his contributions to Vatican II.

He was for nearly three decades a non-governmental representative to the United Nations, on behalf of B'nai B'rith and as a private individual, conducting fact-finding tours about religious and intellectual oppression from Russia to South Africa.

In 1969, Mr. Joftes was named director-general of the World Confederation of National Jewish Organizations. He retired in 1971, returning briefly to the practice of law. In 1976, he moved to Hampden-Sydney, where he was a familiar figure on the campus.

His first wife, Miriam Uretsky, whom he married in 1938, died in 1970. He is survived by his second wife, Gigi (Irene) Shorter Joftes; a step-daughter, Rita Berry, and son-in-law, David Lee Berry, of Richmond; a stepson, Randy Shorter, and daughter-in-law, Cheri Chumney Shorter, of Bethlehem, GA: and three beloved grandchildren, Angela Berry and Trae and Ryan Shorter.

At his request, there will be no memorial services. His remains will be cremated.

Shorter Funeral Home is in charge of arrangements.