Isabelle Grotta Kaufmann, 72, active for many years in philanthropic work here, died of cancer Wedneday at her home in Washington.

She was the widow of Cecil D. Kaufmann, chairman emeritus of the Kay Corporation and earlier president and chairman of the Kay Jewelry Stores Inc. He died in 1976.

Mrs. Kaufmann was born in Reading, Pa. She came to Washington with her husband in 1924.

She had served several times as chairman of the United Jewish Appeal here, and was a permanent trustee of the Kaufmann Camp for Washington Boys and Girls in Prince Frederick, Md.

She had done volunteer work with the American Red Cross and George Washington University Hospital. She has been active in Hadassah, the Jewish Community Center and the Jewish Social Service Agency. She belonged to the Washington Hebrew Congregation.

On her 50th birthday, leaders of the Washington community honored Mrs. Kaufmann with a testimonial dinner.

She is survived by two daughters, Jean Carol and Cora Lee Kaufmann, both of Chevy Chase; a son, Edmund I., of Rockville and six grandchildren. b

The family suggests that expressions of sympathy be in the form of contributions to the American Cancer Society, or to the Kaufmann Camp for Washington Boys and Girls Inc.