You might not know him, but chances are you know his voice. It’s a voice that launched his career as a Jewish radio host back in his Yeshiva University days on the campus radio station. Over the last almost four decades, as host of JM in the AM (short for “Jewish Moments in the Morning”), Nachum Segal has become a trusted voice on matters the frum community cares about. On the show, which now airs exclusively on the Nachum Segal Network, the online and app-based platform he built, he interviews makers and machers, presents the day’s news, and debuts the latest in Jewish music; the network also features an array of other programming.
Unfortunately, shortly before Pesach, a fire gutted Segal’s Lower East Side studio, located just blocks from his home. Despite the challenges and need to improvise – who better to do that than a veteran of live hosting? – Segal’s show hasn’t missed a single day on the air, and he has vowed to rebuild the space.
The Jewish Press chatted with Segal about the ordeal, his inspiring attitude, and the secret to his success.
Tell us about how you’ve been managing to keep your show going since the fire. Where is your temporary nerve center?
Having all the equipment and paperwork and mementos and so much nostalgia completely destroyed in an instant is very difficult to deal with and poses many challenges. The studio burned down on a Sunday. The next morning my colleague Mayer Fertig hosted JM in the AM and I called in to discuss what [had] happened. By Tuesday morning, we put together a makeshift studio in our apartment in NYC and I was hosting JM in the AM. We have not missed a minute of programming despite being displaced the way we were. About a week later, we built a makeshift studio in Teaneck, NJ. That has been our main headquarters as we rebuild our old space.
How did you first discover what had happened, and what was that moment like?
At 1 p.m. we got the news that our youngest child had passed his road test and we were celebrating at home. Ten minutes later we got a call that the studio was on fire. We ran over to discover the chaotic scene of a street filled with fire engines and personnel.
The moment was surreal. You don’t even believe that it’s happening.
Did you ever consider giving up – walking away from this amazing platform you built?
Every possible strategy seemed to go through my mind that day and during the subsequent days. I don’t think I ever considered giving up, but I did think of just how difficult it would be to start from scratch and rebuild.
You’ve inspired a lot of people with your positive attitude and determination to pick up the pieces after the fire. To what do you credit your inspiration and positivity?
A lot of people pointed out how lucky [I and my team] were that no one was in the studio and that G-d took out His anger on stuff and not people. It is hard not to be somewhat positive when you have that perspective being repeated constantly. We have stayed on the air during blackouts, [Hurricane] Sandy, blizzards, and through many challenging times. This is no different. We have to pick up the pieces, as difficult as it is.
Your show has always relied partly on fundraising. Now you need more funds than ever to be able to rebuild. How is that campaign going?
Our campaign was very successful and had participants from all around the world. The outpouring was welcome and overwhelming.
Tell us about your plans for the new studio. Where will it 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’ve been in the Jewish media business for over three decades. For better or worse, what has changed since you started out and what hasn’t?
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 program. What has not changed is the thirst listeners have for good and inspiring programming. People want to be entertained, informed, and inspired.
The proliferation of media outlets and platforms, Jewish ones included, can make anyone’s head spin. What do you think keeps listeners tuning in to your programs?
They know that they will always have a live, dependable, and current broadcast. We are a proven commodity, a comfortable shoe if you will. People will not quickly give up a show that continues to satisfy their broadcast needs.
Your show focuses a lot on Israel and the connection between American Jewry and the Jewish State. Why is that important to you?
I feel that it is essential that we constantly remind Diaspora Jewry that Israel is the center of the Jewish world. That is a sea of change from the past 2,000 years of the Jewish world being Diaspora-centric. Also, the constant reminder that “The future of the Jewish people is in the State of Israel” is critical. We are constantly preaching it and hoping that listeners plan for the eventuality of living there.
How do you measure your success and your impact on the community?
Listener response over 40 years indicates that we have had and continue to have a great impact on the greater Jewish community. I think we have caused much discussion in the community on issues like chesed, Israel, inclusion, and many more.
I would imagine you’ve been subjected to your share of backlash from those with different views on some of the issues you speak about. How do you deal with that?
At this point, people know my positions and appreciate the consistency behind them. When you have an opportunity for decades to display true sincerity behind what you have to say and listeners see that you are not wavering from your core beliefs, they become much more tolerant and appreciate your opinions more.
Favorite interview of your career?
Favorite? That is a question I am never prepared to answer. There are too many of them!
As a master interviewer, how does it feel to be on this side of the conversation?
I very much enjoy it when people want to know about my career or my positions on matters.
JM in the AM airs weekdays from 6-9 a.m. EST and is archived daily on nachumsegal.com and the NSN app, which also features other Jewish programs of interest. There’s also a dial-in option: (602) 562-4400. To support the campaign to rebuild the studio, go to https://campaigns.causematch.com/donatefjb-fire.