July 19, 2019

Jewish Author and Communal Professional Richard Siegel Dies At 70

Richard Siegel, the director emeritus of Hebrew Union College – Jewish Institute for Religion (HUC-JIR)’s Zelikow School of Jewish Nonprofit Management, died on July 13 at the age of 70 after dealing with cancer over the past couple of years.

Siegel authored several books, including The Jewish Catalog, a do-it-yourself book for young Jews to partake in various Jewish traditions, as well as The Jewish Almanac and The Writer in the Jewish Community: An Israel-North America Dialogue. He and his wife, Rabbi Laura Geller of Temple Emanuel of Beverly Hills, had written a book called Good at Getting Older: A Practical Catalog Grounded in Jewish Wisdom that is on its way to being published.

Siegel also established various financial entities, including the Jewish Endowment for the Arts and Humanities, to provide funding to Jewish cultural initiatives.

During his tenure directing the Zelikow School, Siegel was able to broaden the school’s focus from a communal service program to a program of professional leadership in the nonprofit realm.

Additionally, Siegel served as the executive director of the National Foundation for Jewish Culture for 16 years and was the State of University New York Stony Brook’s first Hillel director.

HUC-JIR praised Siegel for being “a transformative force in the Jewish world.”

“Richard Siegel always exhibited the highest qualities of character, vision, and menschlichkeit,” HUC-JIR Interim President Rabbi David Ellenson said in a statement. “His contributions to American Jewish life and culture as Hillel Director, as author of The Jewish Catalog, as head of the National Foundation of Jewish Culture, and as Director of the Zelikow School of Jewish Nonprofit Management were legendary. The College-Institute was blessed by his leadership. He will be sorely missed.”

Siegel leaves behind Geller and their four children, Andy, Elana, Josh and Ruth.