Siegel, Morton K.

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SIEGEL, MORTON K. (1924– ), Jewish educator. Born in New York, he graduated from the Teachers Institute of Yeshiva University (1943) and received his B.A. from Yeshiva College and his Ph.D. from Columbia University (1952).

He began his career as educational director of Laurelton Jewish Center (1945–53) and then joined the staff of United Synagogue first as placement director of the Department of Education, and then as director for the Department of Youth Activities, where he led the dramatic growth of United Synagogue youth from 500 to 24,000 members. He initiated usy on Wheels, a tour of the United States for teenagers, and also the Israel Pilgrimage. Both programs have been in existence for more than four decades. He also launched atid, the college-age program of United Synagogue. usy became the entry point into Jewish life for an entire generation of Conservative Jews, who went on to Camp Ramah – Siegel directed Camp Ramah in Connecticut for a time – and then into the rabbinate and Jewish professional or academic careers. As the Conservative movement was expanding into the suburbs, its youth programming was the most significant teenage programming in the American Jewish community and enabled the Conservative movement to attract and nurture its own leadership. In 1964 Siegel became director of the Department of Education when Walter Ackerman became dean of the University of Judaism's Teachers Institute.

The Department of Education set standards for the United Synagogue religious schools and newly emerging Solomon Schechter (Jewish Day) Schools as well as congregation nurseries and high schools. Curricular material was published and the department supervised the regional educational commission.

Siegel was a founder and first secretary of the Jewish Educators Assembly and taught at New York University during the 1970s. As he aged, he created new ways of Jewish learning including Ḥazak, which is nicknamed "usy for Mature Adults."

Taking the cue from the ongoing successes of the Kadima and usy youth groups, Ḥazak offers membership in an organization that provides camaraderie, social interaction, intellectual stimulation, religious guidance, and fun.

He is the author of a manual for the congregational school board member, with text prepared by Morton Siegel and Pesach Schindler and a syllabus on Zionism.

[Michael Berenbaum (2nd ed.)]