Rabbi Sheldon Zimmerman was inaugurated as the seventh President in the history of Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion (HUC-JIR), the academic and professional leadership center of Reform Judaism, on October 31, 1996 at 2 pm at CincinnatiUs Isaac M. Wise Temple / K.K. BUnai Yeshurun Plum Street Temple. The Inauguration Service, attended by the leadership of the Reform movement from across North America, Israel and abroad, and leaders of academic institutions, seminaries, and national communal organizations, featured the participation of alumni, faculty, and students. Rabbi Zimmerman was inducted into office by Stanley P. Gold, Chairman of HUC-JIRUs Board of Governors. The Inauguration Committee was chaired by Robert M. Blatt, Vice-Chair of HUC-JIRUs Board of Governors and Co-Chair of HUC-JIRUs Cincinnati Board of Overseers.
As President of the College-Institute, Rabbi Zimmerman heads the four-campus, international seminary which educates men and women for service to American and world Jewry as rabbis, cantors, educators, communal service workers and offers graduate and postgraduate degree programs to scholars of all faiths. Rabbi Zimmerman succeeds Dr. Alfred Gottschalk, Chancellor after heading HUC-JIR for twenty-five years.
"We are proud that Rabbi Zimmerman will be leading the College-Institute into the 21st century,S commented Mr. Gold. "His passionate commitment to Judaism and the Jewish people is a source of inspiration.S
"I am greatly honored to be called to serve as the President of the College-Institute," stated Rabbi Zimmerman. "So much of the future of the Reform movement and Judaism depends upon the College-Institute's vision and accomplishments, and those whom it motivates and trains to lead our people in partnership with the Union of American Hebrew Congregations and the Central Conference of American Rabbis. We are at a critical juncture in Jewish history and I pray for God's blessing in the tasks ahead."
Rabbi Zimmerman was ordained at the College-Institute's New York School in 1970 and represents the eleventh generation of rabbis in his family. He most recently served as the Senior Rabbi of Temple Emanu-El of Dallas, Texas (1985-1995), and formerly served as Senior Rabbi (1972-85) and as Assistant Rabbi (1970-72) of Central Synagogue in New York City (1972-85).
A prominent national leader of the Reform Movement and American Jewry, Rabbi Zimmerman has served as President of the Central Conference of American Rabbis (CCAR) and as Vice President of the World Union for Progressive Judaism. He was a member of the Executive Committee and Board of Trustees of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations (UAHC). He has served on HUC-JIR's Board of Governors, as President of HUC-JIR's Rabbinic Alumni Association, as a member of the CCAR's Committee on Responsa, as Co-Chairman of the UAHC's Joint National Commission on Outreach, and as Chairman of the UAHC's Committee on Drug and Alcohol Abuse. His leadership has extended to the National Rabbinic Cabinets of the United Jewish Appeal, the Jewish National Fund, and State of Israel Bonds. He has served on the Boards of The World Center for Jewish Unity and of the Synagogue Council of America.
Rabbi Zimmerman has served as Adjunct Professor at Perkins Theological Seminary, Southern Methodist University (SMU), Dallas, as Adjunct Professor of Religious Studies at SMU (1986-89), as Lecturer in Liturgy and Rabbinics at HUC-JIR's New York School (1980-85), as Lecturer in Theology at Fordham University (1971-74), and as Instructor in Philosophy at Hunter College (1966-69). He has served as Alumnus-in-Residence at HUC-JIR's Los Angeles School (1985) and HUC-JIR's Cincinnati School (1989).
Rabbi Zimmerman's extensive civic involvements in Dallas included his service on the Boards of Children's Medical Foundation, Jewish Federation of Dallas, the Chaplain's Advisory Board of SMU, and the AIDS-ARMS Advisory Council. He has served on the Committee on Institutional Ethics at Baylor University Medical Center and on the Advisory Board of The Women's Center of Dallas. He is past Chairman of the Interfaith Commission of the Jewish Community Relations Council and Greater Dallas Community of Churches.
During his tenure in New York, Rabbi Zimmerman held leadership and advisory positions with UJA-Federation of Jewish Philanthropies, the Anti-Defamation League, B'nai B'rith Youth Organization, the American Jewish Committee, ARZA, ORT, American Jewish Congress, American Zionist Federation, the New York Board of Rabbis, Histadruth Ivrith of America, and the American Israel Friendship League. He was Religious News Commentator for WOR Radio and moderator of the Message of Israel radio broadcasts, founded by Rabbi Jonah Wise.
In April 1993, Rabbi Zimmerman was invited by President Clinton to be part of a sixteen-person delegation accompanying Vice President Gore to Warsaw to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising. In June 1994, he was invited by President Ezer Weizman to participate with leaders of Israeli and world Jewry in a two-day dialogue at the home of Israel's President.
Rabbi Zimmerman is co-editor of The Threat of Mixed Marriage - A Response and has been widely published in the CCAR Journal, Judaism, Keeping Posted, Dialogue, Brotherhood Magazine and Moment Magazine. He has contributed to a number of books, including Alcoholism and the Jewish Community, Twelve Jewish Steps for Recovery, and Healing of Soul, Healing of Body. He is the author of three family prayer books for Sabbath and the festivals. He has been honored by numerous awards for his communal service, and has been a distinguished lecturer and scholar in residence at synagogues and churches throughout the United States and Canada.
Born in Toronto, Canada, in 1942, Rabbi Zimmerman received his Honors B.A. (1964) and M.A. (1965) in Philosophy from the University of Toronto and pursued post graduate studies in Philosophy and Hebrew studies at New York University. He received his Bachelor of Hebrew Literature (1969), Master of Arts in Hebrew Literature (with honors) (1970) and Doctor of Divinity (honoris causa) (1995) from HUC-JIR. Rabbi Zimmerman and his wife Judith are the parents of Rabbi Brian Zimmerman (ordained at HUC-JIR's New York School in 1993), Kira, David and Micol, and the parents-in-law of Mimi Platt Zimmerman.