Last Word: Glenn Segal Shows Lifelong Commitment to Israel Bonds

Glenn Segal is a white man with short, grey hair wearing a white button down shirt and smiling at the camera.
Glenn Segal | Courtesy of Glenn Segal

Glenn Segal has not only been passionate about Israel Bonds the entirety of his adulthood, but also the entirety of his Jewish adulthood.

In 1967, during Israel’s Six Day War, Segal’s father took a 10-year-old Segal to their Wilmington, Delaware synagogue Congregation Beth Emeth, where Segal later became bar mitzvah. The synagogue was holding an Israel Bonds appeal, asking congregants to consider buying bonds to support the budding nation-state.

“That was my first exposure to bonds, when people were standing up in pledging and buying bonds during the war,” Segal said. “There was such excitement. People wanted to help. There was also worry; people wanted to do what they could.”

Six years later, the now-65-year-old Chabad Lubavitch of Montgomery County member would purchase his first Israel bond at a similar appeal event at Reform Congregation Keneseth Israel in Elkins Park. The bond was for $1,000.

“That was probably my whole life savings,” Segal said.

Forty nine years later, Segal’s passion for Israel Bonds hasn’t waned. He’s the Israel Bonds chair for the Philadelphia Region, where he’s served for the last 15 years, and a board member of Israel Bonds on the national level, a position he’s held for nearly two decades. In addition to his board positions, Segal is the president of closeout remarketing company Glenn Distributors Corp.

Since being involved in Israel Bonds, also called the Development Corporation for Israel, Segal has visited Israel about 30 times, he said. He’s hosted numerous prime ministers at his Huntingdon Valley home; Bibi Netanyahu attended his children’s b’nai mitzvahs. Since coming of age, Segal’s six children have also purchased Israel bonds.

Growing up in a Conservative Jewish family in Northeast Philadelphia, Segal was used to his father talking about the Holocaust and the need for a Jewish state, but Segal’s father did not became passionate about Israel until he recognized the volatility of the young Israel.

“In the Six Day War, he really woke up to Israel,” Segal said.

Segal’s father’s views transformed to seeing Jews as defenseless during the Holocaust to becoming heroic through the growth of the nation-state.

“Nobody came to our aid during the Holocaust,” Segal said. “And then he would contrast that with the [Battle of] Entebbe, when Jews were captured in the middle of Africa: Nobody came to their aid, but nobody needed to come to aid because the long arm of the [Israeli Defense Forces] was there.”

Since 16, when Segal bought his first Israel bond, he continued to buy bonds, initially using money he earned selling wares at flea markets. Though $1,000 was also he was able to contribute at the time, others at the Keneseth Israel bonds appeal offered $100,000, the equivalent of about $670,000 today, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Segal didn’t have to pay that sum to feel like he was making a difference. At 21, he joined the board of Israel Bonds in Philadelphia. 

“From that day onward, I always encouraged people to buy bonds,” he said.

After his initial investment, Segal has felt swells of pride during moments of Israeli history, especially when the Israeli Air Force airlifted Ethiopian Jews to Israel as part of Operation Solomon. During a recent trip to Israel, Segal visited an air force base and met with a 21-year-old woman who was an F-16 fighter pilot; her grandmother was a survivor of Auschwitz. He recently donated a Torah to the IDF in his father’s memory.

Along with Israel’s success, Israel Bonds has experienced success as well. Last year, the national goal for Israel Bonds was for $1.1 billion; the Philadelphia region goal was $80 million, and both were able to meet their respective goals, which has happened every year in Segal’s experience. During 2020, because of the pandemic, Israel raised its requisition for bonds from $1.1 billion to $1.6 billion; buyers rose to the occasion.

Changing times have meant that the bonds appeals process has changed as well. No longer campaigning at synagogues or community centers, Israel Bonds forms affinity groups among real estate agents, health professionals, young professionals and women. This year, the real estate group raised $42 million.

“We’re the backbone of Israel,” Segal said.

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