Joseph Katz was born on March 20, 1932 in Guxhagen, a community in Schwalm-Eder district in Hesse, Germany. He grew up in a very Jewish Orthodox family with his two parents and grandmother. His father was a shoe salesman and his mother was a homemaker. As an only child, Katz spent a lot of time alone, for Jews were separated from non-Jews in his neighborhood. The Nazis destroyed Joseph’s house during Kristallnacht in November of 1938, and kept his father in Buchenwald, a concentration camp, for four months. Once released, Joseph’s father relocated his family to Kassel, where he worked in a nearby factory and Joseph attended school. Joseph’s aunt and mother then emigrated to the United States. Fearing that it would be impossible to raise an orthodox Jewish child in the States, Joseph’s father kept his son in Europe. The two later traveled to Stuttgart to request immigration papers. After being held up for a year and a half, Joseph and his father in 1941 boarded the train for Berlin. From there, they traveled to France and Spain before getting on a ship in Portugal to sail for Brooklyn, New York. They arrived on Labor Day.
Joseph graduated from high school, Hebrew school, and attended Brooklyn College where he got a degree in psychology. He was ordained as a rabbi and ultimately attended graduate school at Columbia University. He met his wife in Queens, New York. They moved to Kingston, Pennsylvania where Joseph spent 24 years as a teacher and principal. The Katzs later moved to work at a school in Annapolis, Maryland. This led him to spend 5 years on the board of Jewish Education and 17 years with the Jewish College Services at Goucher, UMBC, and Towson University. He returned to Germany for the first time in 1978.
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