Simon, Ralph

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SIMON, RALPH (1906–1996), U.S. Conservative rabbi. Simon was born in Newark, New Jersey, and received his B.A. from New York's City College in 1927. In 1931, he was ordained at the *Jewish Theological Seminary, and served as rabbi of Congregation Rodef Shalom in Johnstown, Pennsylvania (1931–36), and the Jewish Center of Jackson Heights in Queens, New York (1937–43). He was appointed rabbi of Congregation Rodfei Zedek in Hyde Park, Illinois (1943–1996; emeritus in 1987). Under Simon's leadership, Rodfei Zedek became one of the leading Conservative synagogues in metropolitan Chicago, boasting a Hebrew high school and model adult education institute. Simon served as president of the Chicago Board of Rabbis (1952–54), on the Board of Directors of the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago (1954–66), and as general chairman of Metropolitan Chicago's Israel Bonds Organization (1965–66). He was also vice chairman of the Illinois Board of Mental Health Commissioners (1955–62) and a member of the Chicago Commission on Human Resources (1958–71) and the Chicago Youth Welfare Commission (1956–63).

Simon is credited with one of the greatest initiatives of Conservative Judaism: the establishment of the first Camp *Ramah, in Wisconsin in 1947, the progenitor of a series of Hebrew-speaking, religiously oriented summer camps operating under the auspices of the Conservative movement. In 1968, he was elected president of the *Rabbinical Assembly (1968–70), where he worked to strengthen the Masorati movement in Israel and launched a program for the conversion of non-Jewish spouses of intermarried couples. He also brought his ecumenical activism as former president of the multi-racial Hyde Park–Kenwood Interfaith Council to the national post, inviting the still-controversial Martin Luther King to address the ra. In 1974, he was nominated to the Board of Directors of the *World Council of Synagogues.

Simon wrote The Talmud for Every Jew (1942) for the National Academy of Adult Jewish Studies and Challenges and Responses, a collection of his sermons (1985). His son Matthew was also a Conservative rabbi of B'nai Israel in Rockville, Maryland.

[Bezalel Gordon (2nd ed.)]