Rabbi Judah Nadich (May 13, 1912 – August 26, 2007) was the rabbi of the Park Avenue Synagogue in New York City from 1957 through August 30, 1987 (and Rabbi Emeritus thereafter until his death in 2007). During World War II he served as an Army chaplain, initially in Fort Bragg, North Carolina, then spending three and one-half years in the European Theater of Operations as the senior Jewish chaplain with the American army and as Deputy to the Theater Chaplain. After the German concentration camps were captured, he was appointed General Eisenhower's advisor on Jewish affairs. In this post, he quickly became appalled by the conditions Holocaust survivors faced in the displaced person camps set up by the Allies.
In his book "Eisenhower and the Jews" (Twayne Publishers, 1953), Rabbi Nadich told of entering the Feldafing displaced persons camp outside Munich on August 29, 1945, finding the situation incomprehensible. As many as 40 survivors were crammed into rooms designed for 6 people, food supplies were insufficient, few could receive passes to leave the camp each day.
Roofs leaked and the thin walls of the wooden barracks were not insulated. And, most distressing, the survivors were surrounded by barbed wire, just as they had been in the concentration camps. In contrast, Rabbi Nadich wrote, "The conquered Germans had complete freedom."
The Allies had instituted a policy requiring the survivors to return to their native countries. But their homelands "had been soaked through with the blood of their parents and children," Rabbi Nadich wrote, and to return "was unthinkable."
After receiving this information from Rabbi Nadich, Eisenhower issued an order on August 22, 1945, changing that policy. Rabbi Nadich wrote that this order "laid the groundwork for a new American policy toward Jewish displaced persons and for an entirely new attitude toward them, at first by the Supreme Headquarters and gradually filtering down to the lower levels of command." General Eisenhower responded to Rabbi Nadich's many reports by significantly easing and improving the conditions in the displaced persons camps.
Rabbi Nadich retired from active duty in 1946 with the rank of Lieutenant-Colonel. He received several American decorations and honors, the French Croix de Guerre and the Order of the British Empire. The government of Israel decorated him with the Ittur Lohamei Hamedinah for his service during wartime in the creation of the State of Israel. The Federation of French War Veterans honored him in 1994 for his services in the liberation of France fifty years earlier.
Following World War II, Rabbi Nadich spent one and one-half years on an extended speaking tour, addressing Jewish communities in the U.S. and Africa on behalf of The United Jewish Appeal and the Joint Distribution Committee, to raise funds for the displaced persons. He also served as Special Advisor to the Chairman of the United States Holocaust Memorial Council and was a member of the New York City Holocaust Commission. He and his wife were guests of the government of Poland in 1980 in a tour of the Nazi concentration camps of that country. In
October, 1981, he was a member of the United States Delegation to the International Liberators Conference at the State Department in Washington. Rabbi Nadich, a leader of Conservative Judaism, was the author, editor, and translator of many books and a contributor to numerous magazines and publications. He served as President and Trustee of many Jewish, rabbinical and social service organizations, including The Rabbinical Assembly of America (for which he served as President). He was an honorary member of the Board of Directors of The Jewish Theological Seminary of America and a member of the Jewish Historical Institute Museum of Warsaw, Poland.
He was married to the former Martha Hadassah Ribalow and was the father of three daughters, Leah Nadich Meir, Shira Nadich Levin (who served as a board member and an honorary board member of the Heschel School and as a president of the board) and Nahma Nadich. Shira's husband, Jim, also served in many positions in supporting Heschel. Rabbi Nadich and Mrs. Nadich were the grandparents of eight grandchildren. Two of Rabbi and Mrs. Nadich's grandsons, Benjamin and Gideon, graduated from the 8th grade of the Heschel School (before there was a Heschel High School), and Gideon is now a teacher in the Second Grade.
Rabbi Nadich, who served as a trustee of the School, and his wife, Hadassah, were deeply involved in and committed to The Abraham Joshua Heschel School from its inception. It was Rabbi Nadich who obtained permission from Sylvia Heschel (the wife of Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel) to name the school after her late husband.