PETEGORSKY, DAVID W.

PETEGORSKY, DAVID W.
PETEGORSKY, DAVID W. (1915–1956), political scientist, administrator. Born in Ottawa, Canada, to Leon and Beckie (Wolinsky) Petegorsky, he was valedictorian at his graduation from Yeshivah College, 1935, and was ordained rabbi in 1936 at the age of 21, receiving the highest level of ordination (yore yore; yadin yadin) from Dr. Bernard Revel. He earned a Ph.D. in Political Science at the London School of Economics in 1940 and was in London during the first year of the war. Petegorsky taught government at Antioch College in Ohio, 1940–1941. From 1942 to 1945, he returned to his native Canada for wartime service, first on the National Film Board and then as director of the industrial division of the Canadian Wartime Information Board. In 1945, he went to New York as executive director of the American Jewish Congress at the age of 30, supervising an experienced staff, many of whom were much more his senior in both age and experience and tested by the war years. In this capacity he refined the Jewish position on civil rights, created imaginative ways to apply modern social research to intergroup relations, and charted new directions for the fight against antisemitism at a time in the immediate postwar period when, seemingly inexplicably, antisemitism was on a sharp decline and young American Jews, who had fought as Americans for their country expected full participation in American society. He wrote books and articles on history and political science, including Left Wing Democracy in the English Civil War (1940), Strategy for Democracy (with J. Donald Kingsley, 1942), Combatting Racism (1947), and The Jewish Community (1948). Petegorsky died July 15, 1956, just months after his 40th birthday. He was considered one of the most brilliant products of the first generation of Yeshiva College alumni (which was only established seven years before he received his degree) and among the most constructive minds in American Jewish public service. An endowed chair in the Political Science department at Yeshiva University was established in his name by many of the men with whom he went to college. (Matthew Schwartz (2nd ed.)

Encyclopedia Judaica. 1971.

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