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Segal, Bernard


SEGAL, BERNARD (1907–1984), U.S. Conservative rabbi, administrator. Segal was born in Lipno, Poland, and immigrated to the United States in 1922. He received a B.S. from Columbia University in 1931 and was ordained at the *Jewish Theological Seminary in 1933, earning a D.H.L. there in 1950. He served briefly as rabbi of the Patchogue Jewish Center on Long Island, n.y. (1933–34), before becoming rabbi of Queens Jewish Center (1934–40). He was the first Jewish chaplain in the United States to be called to active duty in World War ii, serving as chairman of the Chaplaincy Availability Board (1943–46) and co-chairing the Conservative movement's Wartime Emergency Commission (1944–45). He was discharged in 1945 with the rank of lieutenant colonel, staying on in the Army reserves as founding president of the Association of Jewish Chaplains of the Army and Navy of the United States (1945–47).

Returning to civilian life, Segal assumed the first of a series of leadership positions in the Conservative movement, becoming the first executive director of the *Rabbinical Assembly (1945–7) as well as director of the Joint Placement Commission of the Rabbinical Assembly and the Jewish Theological Seminary. In 1947, Segal was appointed executive vice president of the Rabbinical Assembly, where he continued to oversee placement of rabbis during the post-war growth years. In 1949, he moved from the Rabbinical Assembly to jts, first as assistant to the president (1949–51) and then as executive vice president (1951–53). Recognizing the need for Jewish educators, he encouraged graduates to pursue careers in Jewish education. He also directed the National Ramah Commission (1950–54).

In 1953, Segal was appointed executive director (executive vice president from 1970) of the United Synagogue of America, now the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, where he spent the next 23 years, until his retirement, supervising the expansion of the organization, creating new departments, and hiring more professionals. He emphasized education, creating programs for synagogue members of all ages, developing curricula for congregational schools, publishing educational materials, establishing Solomon *Shechter day schools in numerous communities, launching the Burning Bush press as the imprint of the National Academy of Adult Jewish Studies, and distributing the El Am Talmud. Striving always to foster unity in the Conservative movement, he led the United Synagogue into joining with the Rabbinical Assembly and the National Women's League in forming the Commission on Social Action (1954). In 1957, he was instrumental in founding the World Council of Synagogues and implementing uniform standards for synagogue practices. He also brought the United Synagogue into the membership fold of umbrella organizations of American and world Jewry, such as the *Conference of Presidents of the Major American Jewish organizations and the *World Zionist Organization.

Outside of the Conservative movement, Segal was a member of the Board of Directors of the Committee on Religion in American Life (1954–56), the New York City Mayor's Commission on Housing (1954–58) and the New York Association for Middle Income Housing (1960–68). Following his retirement in 1977, he moved to Jerusalem, Israel.


P.S. Nadell, Conservative Judaism in America: A Biographical Dictionary and Sourcebook (1988).

[Bezalel Gordon (2nd ed.)]

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