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Rabbi Aaron Felder, 70, leader of B'nai Israel-Ohev Zedek synagogue

He was a revered scholar and interpreter of Jewish law.

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IN THE ORTHODOX Jewish community of Northeast Philadelphia, one of the most revered figures was Rabbi Aaron Felder.

He was not only a great scholar but also a loyal friend who was always available to help anyone, Orthodox or not, and he could tell a good joke.

Far from the kind of scholar who stays immersed in books, studying arcane texts, Rabbi Felder liked to get out of his synagogue and engage the life of the city.

"He was a man of the world," his longtime friend, Rabbi Solomon Isaacson, told the Jewish Exponent.

Felder, for many decades the spiritual leader of B'nai Israel-Ohev Zedek at Castor and Solly avenues in the Northeast, died Friday at age 70.

"No. 1, he was a scholar," Isaacson said. "Thousands from all parts of the country came to him for decisions in Jewish law.

"He reached out to everyone, not just the Orthodox. He had a terrific personality and loved to tell jokes. He was a man of the world."

Isaacson called him "a great man of wisdom and knowledge."

Felder learned much of that knowledge at the feet of the legendary Moshe Feinstein, a Lithuanian Orthodox rabbi, scholar and posek (interpreter of Jewish law). Felder served for several years as his top aide. Feinstein died in 1986 at age 91.

Felder founded the Orthodox Vaad of Philadelphia, which determines the kosher status of food items in groceries and restaurants. He joined Rabbi Dov Brisman to form Community Kashrus of Greater Philadelphia, a nonprofit kosher-supervision agency.

Felder was born in New York City, and grew up there and in Toronto before coming to Philadelphia.

He is survived by his wife, Ruth; eight daughters, Elisheva Rosenhan, Tzippy Weil, Hadassah Sperling, Chani Engel, Sari Bernstein, Brochi Siff, Nechama Kohn, and Shirah Felder; two sons, Yissochor Dov Felder and Eli Felder, and two brothers, Rabbi Yossi Felder and Rabbi Yacov Felder.

His body has been flown to Israel for burial in Eretz HaChaim Cemetery near Jerusalem.