On Tuesday, March 10, 2015, HUC-JIR's Jack H. Skirball Campus in Los Angeles will observe Founders' Day with speaker Rabbi Gary P. Zola, Ph.D., Executive Director of The Jacob Rader Marcus Center of the American Jewish Archives (AJA) and Edward M. Ackerman Family Distinguished Professorship of the American Jewish Experience and Reform Jewish History at HUC-JIR's Cincinnati campus.
Rabbi Zola will speak during the Founders' Day tefillah and then host a luncheon during which he will discuss the rich resources maintained at the Archives. The AJA collect, preserve, and make available for research, materials on the history of Jews and Jewish communities in the Western Hemisphere, including data of a political, economic, social, cultural, and religious nature. Dr. Zola’s lecture will provide the Jack H. Skirball Campus in Los Angeles with an in-depth review of the nearly 8,000 linear feet of archives, manuscripts, nearprint materials, photographs, audio and videotape, microfilm, and genealogical materials.
Dr. Zola received both his rabbinical ordination (1982) and his Ph.D. in American Jewish History (1991) from HUC-JIR. Professor Zola became the AJA’s second director in 1998, succeeding his teacher and mentor, Professor Jacob Rader Marcus (1896-1995), the prodigious scholar who first defined the field of American Jewish history. It was Marcus who founded the AJA in 1947 and served as its director until his death in 1995. Under Professor Zola’s leadership, the AJA began a new phase in its development. Its renowned collection has grown and is housed in a world class complex of three interconnected structures including the Edwin A. Malloy Education Building. Zola’s interest in enlarging the public’s access to the AJA’s holdings has spurred dramatic growth in The Marcus Center’s programmatic activities, its website and online resources. Dr. Zola also serves as editor of The Marcus Center’s award-winning biannual publication, The American Jewish Archives Journal.
In April 2011, President Obama appointed Dr. Zola to the Commission for the Preservation of American Heritage Abroad. Dr. Zola is the first faculty member of HUC-JIR to receive such an appointment by a U.S. president. In 2006 Dr. Zola became the first American Jewish historian and the first American rabbi to receive appointment to the Academic Advisory Council of the congressionally recognized Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Commission.
Professor Zola’s published volumes include The Americanization of the Jewish Prayer Book and The Liturgical Development of Congregation Ahawath Chesed, New York City (New York: Central Synagogue, 2008); A Place of Our Own: The Rise of Reform Jewish Camping in America (co-edited with Michael M. Lorge and published by the University of Alabama Press, 2006); The Dynamics of American Jewish History: Jacob Rader Marcus’s Essays on American Jewry (Brandeis University Press, 2004); Women Rabbis: Exploration and Celebration (HUC-JIR Alumni Press, 1996) and Isaac Harby of Charleston (the University of Alabama Press, 1994), a major biographical study on the life of one of the founders of the first organized effort to reform Judaism in the United States of America. He is currently completing a new volume on Abraham Lincoln and the Jews as well as a Primary Source Reader on American Jewish history.