Morton L. Kemper, 89, national Jewish leader


Morton L. Kemper, founder of a company that manufactures metal storage furniture and former national Reform Jewish leader, died of bone cancer Thursday at Sinai Hospital. The Pikesville resident was 89.

Mr. Kemper was born and raised in West Baltimore and graduated from Polytechnic Institute in 1931. He earned his bachelor's degree from the Johns Hopkins University in 1935, and also a law degree that year from the University of Baltimore.

After briefly practicing real estate law, Mr. Kemper began a career as a homebuilder in the late 1930s. During World War II, he established a company that furnished ships being built at Bethlehem Steel Corp.'s Key Highway shipyard with metal furniture.

After the war, he founded Lee Metal Products in Locust Point, which manufactured metal household storage cabinets.

Mr. Kemper, who retired as chairman in 1994, remained as a consultant to the family-owned business, which is now located in Hanover, Pa.

He was a member for many years of the Baltimore Hebrew Congregation, where he had served as president of the congregation's brotherhood. He also became active on the national level with the National Federation of Temple Brotherhoods, the Reform Jewish brotherhood organization.

Mr. Kemper served as first vice president and chancellor of the Jewish Chautauqua Society from 1970 to 1972, and was elected president of the National Federation of Temple Brotherhoods, serving from 1972 to 1974. He later became honorary president of the renamed North American Federation of Temple Brotherhoods.

Interested in the expansion of liberal Judaism worldwide, Mr. Kemper became active in the World Union of Progressive Judaism. In his role as chairman of the organization's executive committee of the North American Board, he helped endow liberal congregations in Israel and the former Soviet Union.

He was a member of the Suburban Club and an avid golfer.

Services will be held at 1 p.m. tomorrow at Baltimore Hebrew Congregation, 7401 Park Heights Ave.

He is survived by his wife of 62 years, the former Leah Hament; a son, Richard F. Kemper of Baltimore; five grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren. Another son, Dr. Bennett I. Kemper, died in 1987.

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