Richard Siegel Appointed Director of the School of Jewish Communal Service at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion

Monday, August 17, 2009

Rabbi David Ellenson, President of Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion (HUC-JIR), has announced the appointment of Richard Siegel as Director of the School of Jewish Communal Service (SJCS) at HUC-JIR in Los Angeles.  As Interim Director since December 2007, Siegel has drafted a new strategic plan for the SJCS that envisions a dynamic center for Jewish professional leadership, both in the school's traditional masters degree graduate program, as well as in a newly conceived program of professional development for Jewish communal professionals already working in the field.

"Richard Siegel is a transformative force in the Jewish world, through his commitment to strengthening professional education, enhancing Jewish culture, and advancing contemporary Jewish identity formation," says Rabbi Ellenson.  "His expertise in non-profit management, entrepreneurial spirit, and creativity are vital resources for our School of Jewish Communal Service and its role as one of the premier centers of Jewish professional education."

Siegel has had a distinguished career as a Jewish communal professional, editor, and cultural entrepreneur.  From 1974 to78, he was the first Hillel Director at the State University of New York at Stony Brook, where he founded the Long Island Jewish Arts Festival, which became the model for similar festivals around the country.  He joined the National Foundation for Jewish Culture (now the Foundation for Jewish Culture) in 1978 to oversee the arts programming, and he became Executive Director in 1990.  

His work at the foundation is credited with putting Jewish culture, in general, and the arts, in particular, into the conversation about contemporary Jewish identity.  He created the Jewish Endowment for the Arts and Humanities to provide funding support for artists, scholars, and cultural institutions, and he initiated such programs as the Fund for Jewish Documentary Filmmaking, the Fund for New Play Commissions in Jewish Theater, and the 6-Points Fellowships in the Arts.  He also organized major national and international conferences and festivals in theater, dance, music, literature and visual arts, and produced several award winning National Public Radio programs.

Siegel received an M.A. in Contemporary Jewish Studies (now the Hornstein Program) at Brandeis University in 1972 and an M.A. in Jewish History from the Jewish Theological Seminary in 1974.  His master's thesis at Brandeis on "A Theoretical Construct for a Jewish Whole Earth Catalog" was subsequently developed into The Jewish Catalog (JPS, 1973), the best selling guide to the Jewish counter-culture of the 1960s.  His other books include The Jewish Almanac (Bantam Books, 1981) and The Writer in the Jewish Community: An Israel-North America Dialogue (Associated University Press, 1993).  He has written numerous chapters and articles on 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).

Among his awards and honors are the Bernard Reisman Award for Excellence in Jewish Communal Service from Brandeis University (2002) and the Jewish Cultural Achievement Award in Cultural Leadership from the National Foundation for Jewish Culture (2004).  Richard is married to Rabbi Laura Geller, Senior Rabbi of Temple Emanuel of Beverly Hills, and has two children, Andy and Ruth, and two step-children, Josh and Elana.  

For the past forty years, the HUC-JIR School of Jewish Communal Service has been dedicated to the education and training of outstanding Jewish professional leaders.  Founded in 1968 to address the need for more highly trained and Jewishly committed professionals in Jewish life, the SJCS has earned a distinguished reputation as a premier educational center for Jewish professionals.  Graduates of the SJCS have served and continue to serve as distinguished professional leaders in an array of Jewish communal institutions and agencies throughout the world.


Founded in 1875, Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion is North America's first institution of higher Jewish education and the academic, spiritual, and professional leadership development center of Reform Judaism. HUC-JIR educates men and women for service to North American and world Jewry as rabbis, cantors, educators, and nonprofit management professionals, and offers graduate programs to scholars and clergy of all faiths. With centers of learning in Cincinnati, Jerusalem, Los Angeles, and New York, HUC-JIR's scholarly resources comprise the renowned Klau Library, the American Jewish Archives, research institutes and centers, and academic publications. In partnership with the Union for Reform Judaism and the Central Conference of American Rabbis, HUC-JIR sustains the Reform Movement's congregations and professional and lay leaders. HUC-JIR's campuses invite the community to cultural and educational programs illuminating Jewish heritage and fostering interfaith and multiethnic understanding. www.huc.edu