Rabbi Samuel Cook
Rabbi Samuel Cook, who built the youth affiliate of American Reform Judaism into a national force with 20,000 members in about 500 branches around the country, died at the Brookwood retirement community in suburban Cincinnati. He was 91.
He led the teen-age movement of the Reform Jewish Union of American Hebrew Congregations for 21 years. The group, known as the North American (formerly National) Federation of Temple Youth, began in 1939.
Rabbi Cook, an Army chaplain in World War II, was invited to become the federation’s director in 1946 and led it until retiring in 1967. He started its regional conferences, national camp leadership institutes, study retreats, arts festivals, publications and international exchanges, particularly with Israel.
Samuel Cook was born in Philadelphia. He graduated Phi Beta Kappa in 1927 from Haverford College and was student president at Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati, where he was ordained and received a doctor of divinity degree in 1934.
That year he was named director of the new B’nai B’rith Hillel Foundation at the University of Alabama. Before becoming an Army chaplain, he filled rabbinical assignments in Philadelphia and Altoona, Pa.
As the head of the Reform Jewish youth group, whose members range in age from 15 to 18, he fostered links with Reform congregations throughout North America. The group engages its members in worship, Hebrew study, other education, community service and social activism. It also offers semesterlong student exchanges among the United States, Canada and Israel. Under his leadership the group was also involved in projects with Christian youth groups at the local level.