It is with deep sorrow that the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion (HUC-JIR) community mourns the death of Edward M. Ackerman. Mr. Ackerman passed away on Saturday, October 1, 2016 in Dallas, TX.
Edward M. Ackerman was a member of Temple Emanu-El of Dallas for over fifty years. He was one of the founders of the Society for Classical Reform Judaism (SCRJ) and served on its Board of Directors. Mr. Ackerman was the founder and general partner of Ackerman Capital Management, Dallas' first hedge fund.
In 2014, the Edward and Wilhelmina Ackerman Foundation established the Edward M. Ackerman Family Distinguished Professorship of the American Jewish Experience and Reform Jewish History at the Cincinnati campus of HUC-JIR. Dr. Gary P. Zola, Executive Director of The Jacob Rader Marcus Center of the American Jewish Archives, was named the inaugural recipient of the Ackerman Professorship. In this capacity, Dr. Zola directs a wide range of programmatic initiatives augmenting HUC-JIR’s ability to promulgate the historical legacy of American Reform Judaism to its students and to the community at-large. At the inaugural ceremony on December 10, 2014, Mr. Ackerman said, “HUC-JIR will be capable of shedding new light on a shared heritage that belongs to all Reform Jews, while affirming the pluralism of interpretation and observance within the contemporary Reform Movement, by elucidating the core principles and liturgical traditions that continue to characterize the Classical tradition in American Reform Judaism.”
By creating the Edward M. Ackerman Family Distinguished Professorship, Mr. Ackerman significantly reinforced the College-Institute’s role as an international center for the study of Reform Jewish history. The Ackerman Professorship’s programmatic fund subsidizes academic seminars, liturgical resources, publications, prize essay contests, and student fellowships – all of which amplify the role that Reform Jewish ideology has played in the shaping of American Judaism.
“Ed Ackerman was simply a wonderful human being,” Dr. Zola observed, “and it was a privilege to have been one of his many friends. He was integrity incarnate – a truly kind man and philanthropic man.” At the memorial services held in Dallas on October 5, Dr. Zola added, “Ed was proud to be an American and proud of his Jewish heritage. He sincerely wanted to increase public awareness of vitally important role that American Jewry has played in compelling the nation to live up to the lofty, noble ideals enshrined in the nation’s founding documents.”
The Ackerman Professorship – in partnership with the SCRJ - has made it possible for the school to enhance study opportunities in Reform Judaism. In Jerusalem, annual seminars focusing on the heritage of Reform Judaism for first-year rabbinical and cantorial students as well as Israeli rabbinical students have been taking place over the past several years. The SCRJ also sponsors an annual public concert highlighting Classical Reform’s great musical tradition. Similar programming takes place at the Jack H. Skirball Campus in Los Angeles, and plans for expanding these offerings to New York are currently under consideration.
Edward M. Ackerman was born on July 23, 1928, in Dallas, TX. He was a graduate of Woodrow Wilson High School and the University of Texas. He served as a lieutenant in the Air Force, stationed in Japan during the Korean War. Following his service, he did post-graduate study in finance at New York University before joining Salomon Brothers, and later returning to Dallas as their regional manager. Mr. Ackerman founded Ackerman Associates, L.P., Dallas' first hedge fund, in 1969 and compiled an impressive track record of investment success until his retirement in 2007. He was the founder of Ackerman Capital Management, an investment advisory firm that continues to thrive today.
As a philanthropist, Mr. Ackerman had a significant impact throughout the Dallas community. Much of his time and resources were dedicated to HUC-JIR, the SCRJ, The Hockaday School, St. Mark's School of Texas, the UT Southwestern Medical Foundation, Temple Emanu-El, the Ackerman Center for Holocaust Studies at the University of Texas at Dallas, and the Dallas Holocaust Museum.
Mr. Ackerman is predeceased by his wife Helma Ackerman and is survived by his children Paula Ackerman Menendez (Douglas), David Ackerman (Caroline), Samantha Ackerman Simons, and Eddie Ackerman, Jr. (Beth); his grandchildren Phillip, Emma and Lilly Simons, Reid and Owen Ackerman, and Sam and Sarah Menendez; and his niece Vicki Berler Pepper (Ken).
Mr. Ackerman is remembered for his warmth, wisdom, humility, integrity, and generosity. He was a loving and beloved patriarch of his family, which he considered to be his greatest legacy.