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Miller, Israel


MILLER, ISRAEL (1918–2002), U.S. Orthodox rabbi, communal leader, and university administrator. Miller was born in Baltimore and educated in New York, where he earned his B.A. from *Yeshiva College in 1938 and his ordination from the Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary of Yeshiva University in 1941. He received an M.A. from Columbia University in 1949 and a D.D. from Yeshiva University in 1967. Immediately after ordination, Miller became rabbi of the Kingsbridge Heights Jewish Center in the Bronx, New York, becoming emeritus in 1968, with a brief interruption to serve as a United States Air Force chaplain (1945–46). In 1968 Miller began a second career at Yeshiva University, as a professor, vice president, senior vice president, and senior vice president emeritus, until his aliyah to Israel in 2000.

Miller was president or chairman of nearly every major Orthodox or American national Jewish organization; in fact, he was one of the founders of several of them, including the American Jewish Conference on Soviet Jewry, serving as its first chairman (1965–67); the American Zionist Federation (successor to the *American Zionist Council, of which he was chairman from 1967–70, and precursor to the *American Zionist Movement), serving as its first president and then honorary president (beginning 1970 and 1974, respectively); and the New York Jewish Community Relations Council, serving as its first vice president (1976). Miller was elected president of the *Rabbinical Council of America in 1964, and led the rca's first mission to the Soviet Union and the Moscow Great Synagogue under kgb scrutiny in 1965.

From 1969 to 1976, Miller was vice chairman and chairman of the *Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations. He was an advisor to presidents of both Democratic and Republican administrations: President Johnson appointed him to the National Citizens Committee for Community Relations to help implement civil rights legislation; he received a citation from President Ford; and President Reagan consulted him prior to his Geneva summit with Mikhail Gorbachev and dispatched him on a fact-finding mission to South Africa.

For the last 20 years of his life, Miller was president of the *Conference on Jewish Material Claims against Germany (and the Claims Conference against Austria), overseeing the disbursement of $2 billion to 400,000 Holocaust survivors and $500 million in institutional allocations. In this capacity, he negotiated with world leaders, including German Chancellor Helmut Kohl, and visited thousands of survivors personally to ensure that they were living their final years with dignity. In addition to serving as president of the Association of Jewish Chaplains of the Armed Forces, honorary chairman of the Jewish National Fund, and vice president of the Religious Zionists of America, Miller sat on the executive committees or boards of directors of many organizations, including the World Zionist Organization, National Jewish Welfare Board, and American Israel Public Affairs Committee.

Miller received numerous awards, not only from the organizations he led, but also, for instance, from Yeshiva University and the Boy Scouts of America. The greatest honor, however, came from the accolades and votes of confidence of his colleagues, who elected him repeatedly to the highest leadership positions on account of his gentility, grace, integrity, and wisdom, rather than as a result of vigorous campaigning for office.

[Bezalel Gordon (2nd ed.)]

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