Howard D. Geller: Champion of Israel, congregations, education, and the elderly dies

Howard Geller served as the executive director of Garden View Home, and on the board of directors of the Illinois Council on Long Term Care. He passed away on March 10 at the age of 84.

 "Howard was deeply involved and committed to the Jewish community," said Steven B. Nasatir, JUF/JF President. "He was a thoughtful, kind and compassionate man who will be missed."

Geller was very active in JUF. He served as vice chairman of the Board, chaired its Contributor Account Relations and Social Welfare committees, and served on its Executive Committee. Over the years, Geller served on many other committees, ranging from Care for the Aged and Health & Human Services to Philanthropic Funds, Overall Planning & Allocations, and Legacies & Endowments, as well as the Task Force on Resettlement. Geller served on some committees for decades, serving on as many as 10 at once.

Midge Perlman Shafton, then JUF Board Chair, wrote him a personal note in 2005 regarding his dedicated service to JUF: "Your input and slant on things is always so valuable. You've made a very special contribution in your years of service."

Joel A. Stone, when he chaired JUF's Board a decade earlier, wrote Geller in 1996: "I am so happy to have gotten to know you so much better… you have demonstrated your willingness to commit your time and energy whenever asked."

Geller was also committed to Jewish education, and was a significant donor to JUF's Jewish Day School Guaranty Trust Fund. He was chairman of the Board of Arie Crown Hebrew Day School and president of Associated Talmud Torahs. He served as president of Hebrew Theological College, and was a board member and multiple honoree of that institution. Hillel Torah voted Geller and his wife, Rita "Grandparents of the Year."

Geller was deeply dedicated to the success of Chicago's congregations, and helping them integrate into the larger community. He chaired JUF's Congregations Division and its Synagogue-Federation Committee. He also served as president of Kehilath Jacob Beth Samuel, and was very active in Congregation Or Torah.

Geller was also a staunch advocate of Israel. He co-chaired the Jerusalem 3000 Mission in 1996 and also joined the Israel@50, Centennial, and Israel Solidarity missions to the Jewish homeland, traveling there again as an official JUF delegate to the 1998 General Assembly in Jerusalem. Back in Chicago, Geller served on JUF's Missions and Partnership 2000 committees. He chaired the Aliyah Council, served as chapter president of the Religious Zionists of Chicago, and was active in Friends of the IDF and Israel Bonds.

He is remembered as the husband of Rita (nee Cohen) and the father of Marc (Debbi) Geller, Dr. Steven (Barbara) Geller and Beth (Bradley) Alter. He was the grandfather of Aviva (Mikey), Rena (Zachary), Jeremy, Ariela, Zev (Hila), Tamar (Yair), Eliana, Matan, Raanan (Andrea), Daniel, Talia, Gabriela and Bayli, and the great-grandfather of Jordyn, Mya, Gabriel, Ella, Kailey and Lucy. Geller was the dear brother of Jerold (Judy) Geller, the late Rose (the late Wilmer) Goldstein, Rabbi Eugene (Helen) Geller and Pauline (Henry) Meyers. He was also an uncle to many nieces and nephews.

A memorial service was held at Congregation Or Torah, followed by interment at Shalom Memorial Park; arrangements were made by Chicago Jewish Funerals. In lieu of flowers, memorials can be made to AMIT, 3856 W. Oakton Suite B, Skokie, IL  60076.

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