On Tuesday, March 11, 2014, HUC-JIR's Jack H. Skirball Campus in Los Angeles observed Founders' Day with speaker Rabbi Isaiah Zeldin, founding Dean of the College-Institute's campus in Los Angeles, and founder of Stephen S. Wise Temple in Los Angeles.
Rabbi Zeldin led students, faculty, and staff on an exciting narrative of the campus's foundation with stories imbued with spirituality, emotion, and humor. He emphasized innovation and perseverance as the key to nurturing our Jewish institutions. "We are all fundraisers," he stated, underscoring the need for each one of us working in the Jewish community to be entrepreneurial and comfortable with "asking" for support.
Dr. Joshua Holo, Dean, Jack H. Skirball Campus in Los Angeles, stated, "Few guests — if we can call Rabbi Zeldin a guest — could have been more appropriate for Founders' Day. Not only did he regale us with stories and lessons from the campus' establishment, but he also described his relationship with Stephen S. Wise himself. Rabbi Zeldin's wit and tremendous personal experience brought Founders' Day to life."
Born in New York City, Rabbi Zeldin received his B.A. from Brooklyn College and his M.A. and Ordination from the Cincinnati campus of HUC-JIR. Upon Ordination, Rabbi Zeldin became the assistant rabbi of the largest Reform congregation in New Jersey, Temple B’nai Jeshurun, now in Short Hills. In 1953, Rabbi Zeldin came to California to serve in the dual capacity of Director of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations (now URJ), Western Region, and Dean of the Los Angeles College of Jewish Studies. One year later, he became Founding Dean of the Los Angeles branch of HUC-JIR. From 1958-1963, Rabbi Zeldin served as the spiritual leader of Temple Emanuel in Beverly Hills. In early 1964, he founded the Stephen S. Wise Temple, which has become one of the largest Jewish congregations in the world. Rabbi Zeldin was also the founder of Milken Community High School, the largest full-day Jewish high school in the United States.