Joel S. Kaufmann, 68, a retired treasurer of the Kay Jewelry Stores Corporation who was active in community, charitable, and Jewish organizations, died Wednesday at Georgetown University Hospital. He had emphysema and a heart ailment.

Mr. Kaufmann worked in the family business, Kay Jewelers, for more than 30 years before the family sold the enterprise in the late 1970s. At the time of his death, he was president of the Kaufmann Company, an investment firm.

He was named 1958 "Man of the Year" by the Jewish National Fund Council of Greater Washington. In 1971, he was given an outstanding community service award by Brandeis University. He also had been honored by the Washington Hebrew Congregation and the Society of Fellows of the Anti-Defamation League.

Mr. Kaufmann, who lived in Washington, chaired the Greater Washington United Jewish Appeal campaign three times during the 1950s and was a past president of the organization. He was president of the Jewish Community of Greater Washington in the early 1960s.

He was the first vice president and trustee of the Washington Hebrew Congregation.

He had served on the national board of directors of the American Committee of the Weizmann Institute of Science. In recent years he had been a fellow and member of the President's Council of Brandeis University. b

He served on the board of the Hebrew Home of Greater Washington, was a founder and past president of the Kaufmann Camp for Washington Boys and Girls, and had been president of the Foundation for the Hebrew Academy.

Mr. Kaufmann was born in Toledo, Ohio, and moved to Washington at the age of 12. He was a graduate of old Central High School and attended George Washington University. He served in the Navy during World War II, attaining the rank of lieutenant commander and earning the Legion of Merit.

Survivors include his wife, Bernice, of Washington; two sons, Richard D. and Lee S., both of Washington; a brother, Aron, of Washington and New York City, and four grandchildren.

The family suggests that expressions of sympathy be in the form of contributions to the endowment fund of the Washington Hebrew Congregation.