Photo credit: Nachum Segal Network
You may not know him, but chances are you know his voice. It was a voice that launched his career as a Jewish radio host during his time at Yeshiva University on the campus radio station. Over the past four decades, as host of JM in the morning (short for “Jewish Moments in the Morning”), Nachum Segal has become a trusted voice on issues fruit the community cares. On the show, which now airs exclusively on the Nachum Segal Network, the online and app-based platform he built, he interviews manufacturers and chewers, features daily news and debuts the latest in Jewish music; the network also offers a range of other programs.
Unfortunately, shortly before Passover, a fire engulfed Segal’s studio on the Lower East Side, a few blocks from his home. Despite the challenges and the need to improvise – who better to do that than a live hosting veteran? – Segal’s show hasn’t missed a day on the air, and he’s committed to rebuilding space.
The Jewish press spoke with Segal about the ordeal, his inspiring attitude and the secret to his success.
Tell us about how you’ve managed to keep your show going since the fire. Where is your temporary nerve center?
Having all the equipment, paperwork, memories and so much nostalgia completely destroyed in an instant is very difficult to deal with and poses many challenges. The workshop burned down on a Sunday. The next morning, my colleague Mayer Fertig welcomed JM in the morning and I called to discuss this [had] come. Tuesday morning we set up a makeshift studio in our New York apartment and I was hosting JM in the morning. We didn’t miss a minute of programming despite our trip as we were. About a week later, we built a makeshift studio in Teaneck, NJ. This has been our main headquarters as we rebuild our old space.
How did you find out what happened for the first time and what that moment was like?
At 1pm we learned that our youngest child had passed his driving test and we were celebrating at home. Ten minutes later we got a call saying the studio was on fire. We ran to discover the chaotic scene of a street filled with firefighters and personnel.
The moment was surreal. You don’t even believe this is happening.
Have you ever considered giving up – walking away from this amazing platform you’ve built?
All possible strategies seemed to cross my mind that day and the following days. I don’t think I ever considered giving up, but I thought about how hard it would be to start from scratch and rebuild.
You have inspired many people with your positive attitude and your determination to pick up the pieces after the fire. What do you attribute your inspiration and positivity to?
Many people pointed out the luck [I and my team] were that no one was in the studio and that Gd took his anger out on things and not on people. It’s hard not to be somewhat positive when this perspective keeps repeating itself. We stayed on the air during power outages, [Hurricane] Sandy, blizzards and through many tough times. It’s no different. We have to put the pieces back together, no matter how difficult.
Your show has always been partly about fundraising. Now you need more funds than ever to be able to rebuild. How is this campaign going?
Our campaign was very successful and attracted participants from all over the world. The outpouring was welcome and overwhelming.
Tell us about your plans for the new studio. Where is it going to be? Is there anything different you want to incorporate into the space?
Our studio was built in 2002. We are looking to build a new one in the same space that will reflect 2022 technology.
You have worked in the Jewish media sector for more than three decades. For better or for worse, what has changed since your debut and what hasn’t changed?
Technology has changed the way we reach people and it has allowed us to have a global audience. We are no longer a local radio show. What hasn’t changed is listeners’ thirst for good and inspiring programming. People want to be entertained, informed and inspired.
The proliferation of media and platforms, including Jewish ones, can make anyone’s head spin. What do you think attracts listeners to listen to your programs?
They know they will always have a live, reliable and current broadcast. We’re a tried and tested commodity, a comfortable shoe if you will. People won’t quickly drop a show that continues to satisfy their streaming needs.
Your show focuses a lot on Israel and the connection between American Jewry and the Jewish state. Why is this important to you?
I think it is essential that we constantly remind the Jewish Diaspora that Israel is the center of the Jewish world. It is a sea of change from the last 2,000 years of the Diaspora-centric Jewish world. Furthermore, the constant reminder that “the future of the Jewish people is in the State of Israel” is essential. We constantly preach it and hope that listeners anticipate the eventuality of living there.
How do you measure your success and impact on the community?
Listener response over 40 years indicates that we have had and continue to have a great impact on the entire Jewish community. I think we’ve sparked a lot of discussion in the community about things like chesedIsrael, inclusion and many more.
I imagine you’ve had your share of backlash from those who have different views on some of the issues you’re talking about. How do you handle this?
At this point, people know my positions and appreciate the consistency behind them. When you have the opportunity for decades to display genuine sincerity behind what you have to say, and listeners see that you don’t stray from your core beliefs, they become much more tolerant and more appreciative of your opinions.
Favorite interview of your career?
Prefer? That’s a question I’m never ready to answer. There’s too much !
As a master investigator, how does it feel to be on this side of the conversation?
I really like when people want to know about my career or my positions on subjects.
JM in the morning airs weekdays from 6-9am EST and is archived daily on nachumsegal.com and the NSN app, which also features other Jewish programming of interest. There is also a call option: (602) 562-4400. To support the campaign to rebuild the studio, go to https://campaigns.causematch.com/donatefjb-fire.