On September 10, 2015, Richard Siegel, former Director of the Zelikow School of Jewish Nonprofit Management, received a career achievement award from the Jewish Communal Professionals of Southern California (JCPSC). Richard culminated an incredible career through his work with HUC-JIR, making this a well deserved award. In the following recommendation letter, his former students and colleagues praise his career.
As his colleagues and former students, we are honored to nominate Richard Siegel for the JCPSC Career Achievement Award on the eve of his retirement. Richard has dedicated over four decades to strengthening Jewish American life as an educator, an author, an advocate of Jewish culture and arts, and as a leader.
Richard was the Executive Director of the National Foundation for Jewish Culture (renamed the Foundation for Jewish Culture) for 16 years and served 28 years at the organization. He was fundamental in raising the visibility of the arts in Jewish life, including his creation of the Endowment for Jewish Arts and Humanities. During his tenure he organized major national and international conferences and festivals in theater, dance, music, literature and visual arts. Prior to that, he was the first Hillel Director at the SUNY at Stony Brook, where he founded the Long Island Jewish Arts Festival, which became the model for similar festivals around the country.
In 2007, Richard joined HUC-JIR as the Interim Director and strategic planning consultant for the School of Jewish Communal Service. Richard navigated the School through the economic crisis when it was under threat of closure, and thanks to his leadership, the program is now stronger than ever. In August 2009, Richard was appointed the Director of the School. He stewarded tremendous fundraising success, facilitating an endowment gift resulting in the renaming of the School to the Zelikow School of Jewish Nonprofit Management. As a teacher and a mentor for countless students, Richard has played a pivotal role in ensuring the Jewish future by helping to foster the next generation of Jewish leaders.
Richard received an MA in Jewish Education from Brandeis and an MA in Jewish History from the Jewish Theological Seminary. His master’s thesis The Jewish Whole Earth Catalog was subsequently developed into The Jewish Catalog (1973), the bestselling guide to the Jewish counter-culture. His other books include The Jewish Almanac (1981) and The Writer in the Jewish Community: An Israel-North America Dialogue (1993). He has written numerous chapters and articles on aspects of contemporary Jewish culture, as well as several strategic plans and field studies, including The Commission Report on the Future of Jewish Culture in America (2002).
Richard’s diverse career and lifetime of impact to the field comes from a belief in our vocation as “sacred work.” In Richard’s 2008 article titled, Thoughts on Jewish Communal Service as a Calling, he states:
[We] have the opportunity to expand and enlarge the Jewish experience, shaped and tagged by our own world view, values, attitudes and practices… We are proponents of a vision that asserts that these are the best of times for the Jewish people and that we have the extraordinary challenge and privilege to figure out how to flourish in an open society, unfettered by fear, isolation, hostility and suspicion. That is our calling. That is our vocation. That is Jewish communal service.
We hope you will honor Richard this year for his lifetime of accomplishments in the field and to his impact to the development of the profession.
Steven Windmueller, Ph.D
Mandi Richardson, MAJCS, MSW ‘97
Stephanie Bressler, MAJCS, MCM ‘07
Ronnel Conn, MAJCS, MPA ‘07
David Harris, MAJCS, MPA ‘09
Jenna Fields, MAJNM, MSW ‘10
Rachel K. Slaton, MAJNM, MPA ‘11
Jessica Lebovits, MAJNM, MAJE ‘12
Rabbi Lisa Berney, certificate MAJNM ‘13
Natalie Farahan, MAJNM, MPA ‘13
Michelle W. Malkin, MAJNM, MPA ‘14
Mariela Socolovsky, MAJNM ‘15