Gary Phillip Zola is the Executive Director of The Jacob Rader Marcus Center of the American Jewish Archives (AJA), the world’s largest free-standing research center dedicated solely to the study of the American Jewish experience. Zola is also the Edward M. Ackerman Family Distinguished Professor of the American Jewish Experience & Reform Jewish History at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion (HUC-JIR) in Cincinnati. He received both his rabbinic ordination (1982) and his Ph.D. in American Jewish History (1991) from HUC-JIR.
Professor Zola is also known as a historian of American Jewry who specializes in 19th-century American Judaism and the history of American Reform Judaism. Since 1998, Zola has been the editor of The Marcus Center’s award-winning biannual publication, The American Jewish Archives Journal. His own published volumes include We Called Him Rabbi Abraham: Lincoln and American Jewry (Southern Illinois University Press, 2014); American Jewish History: A Primary Source Reader (co-edited by Marc Dollinger and published by Brandeis University Press, 2014); among several others.
On a national level, Dr. Zola was appointed by President Barack Obama to serve as a member of the U.S. Commission for the Preservation of America’s Heritage Abroad, an independent agency of the federal government. Prior to that Zola served as the organizer and chair of the congressionally recognized Commission for Commemorating 350 Years of American Jewish History, a consortium of leading research institutions established to promote the study of American Jewish history during the 350th anniversary of Jewish life in America (2004-2005). Additionally, in 2006, Dr. Zola became the first American Jewish historian to receive appointment to the Academic Advisory Council of the congressionally recognized Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Commission.
In addition to these national activities, Dr. Zola has been recognized for his commitment to the betterment of community life in Cincinnati, OH. Thomas More University conferred a Doctor of Humane Letters. degree, honoris causa, on Dr. Zola for his “dedication to the principles that are the foundation of our nation” in September of 2018. Lighthouse Youth Services of Cincinnati gave its “Beacon of Light Humanitarian Award” to Dr. Zola in 2016. In 2012, he received the “Distinguished Service Award” from BRIDGES for a Just Community (formerly the National Conference of Christians and Jews). The National Underground Railroad Freedom Center gave him its “Martin Luther King, Jr. Legacy Award” that same year. In recognition of his service to the citizens in the Greater Cincinnati metropolitan area, the Cincinnati Human Relations Commission gave Dr. Zola the “Bishop Herbert Thompson, Jr. Outstanding Humanitarian Award” in 2009. In 2004, the Jewish Federation of Cincinnati conferred its “Distinguished Leadership Award” on Zola for his service to Cincinnati’s Jewish community.