Cook, Samuel

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COOK, SAMUEL (1907–1998), U.S. Reform rabbi. Cook was born in Philadelphia, ordained at Hebrew Union College in 1934, and received an honorary D.D. from huc-jir in 1959. He was director of the B'nai B'rith Hillel Foundation and a member of the faculty at the University of Alabama (1934–36) before assuming positions at congregations in Philadelphia and Altoona, Pennsylvania. After serving as U.S. Army chaplain in the Pacific (1943–46), Cook became director of the youth department at the Union of American Hebrew Congregations. In this capacity, he officially founded the National Federation of Temple Youth (nfty), an organization he had conceived in 1941 in Pennsylvania, where he had formed and combined Reform youth groups of neighboring cities. His innovation had laid the cornerstone of the Middle Atlantic Federation of Temple Youth and marked the beginning of the regional structure system for nfty (later renamed the *North American Federation of Temple Youth). Cook spearheaded the building of a summer camp system that grew to number 12 camps across the United States and Canada. He introduced experiential travel programs for teenagers to Israel, cementing a Reform commitment to Zionism for generations. Cook also instituted international exchange programs and social action projects. He chose a motto from the prophet Joel for the movement: "Your old shall dream dreams and your youth shall see visions" (3:1). In 1967, Cook was named executive director of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations Department of College Education, a position he held concurrently with the nfty directorship until his retirement in 1973. In 1999, in recognition of his contributions the Reform movement established the Rabbi Samuel Cook Award for Outstanding Achievement in Youth Work, which is presented by the Central Conference of American Rabbis annually.


K.M. Olitzky, L.J. Sussman, and M.H. Stern, Reform Judaism in America: A Biographical Dictionary and Source-book (1993).

[Bezalel Gordon (2nd ed.)]