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Zimmerman, Sheldon


ZIMMERMAN, SHELDON (1942– ), U.S. Reform rabbi, administrator. Zimmerman was born in Toronto, Canada, and received his B.A. (1964) and M.A. (1965) from the University of Toronto. In 1970, he was ordained at *Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, which awarded him an honorary D.D. in 1995. Following ordination, he was appointed assistant rabbi of New York City's Central Synagogue, where he was elevated to the position of senior rabbi in 1972 (1972–85). He was also a member of the faculties of Hunter College (1966–69), Fordham University (1971–74) and the New York campus of huc-jir, where he taught liturgy and rabbinics (1980–85). Reaching out to those in need, he organized an interfaith coalition of churches with his synagogue and founded the first feeding program for the homeless in the mid-Manhattan area; he also welcomed the first Alcoholics Anonymous group ever to meet in a synagogue. In addition, he served on the national rabbinic cabinets of the United Jewish Appeal, the Jewish National Fund, and State of Israel Bonds, as well as on the boards of the World Center for Jewish Unity and the Synagogue Council of America. He was religious news commentator for the radio station wor and moderator of the Message of Israel radio broadcasts started by Rabbi Jonah *Wise.

In 1985, Zimmerman became senior rabbi of Temple Emanu-El in Dallas, Texas (1985–96), where was also adjunct professor at Southern Methodist University and Perkins Theological Seminary (1986–89). His civic involvement included serving as chairman of the Interfaith Commission of the Jewish Community Relations Council and on the Committee on Institutional Ethics at Baylor University Medical Center as well as on the boards of Children's Medical Foundation, Jewish Federation of Dallas, and the Chaplains Advisory Board of smu. He also served as alumnus in residence at huc-jir's Los Angeles (1985) and Cincinnati campus (1989).

In the Reform movement, Zimmerman served as president of two of the three cornerstones of Reform Judaism: the *Central Conference of American Rabbis and huc-jir. After serving as a member of the executive committee and board of trustees of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations, president of huc-jir's Rabbinical Alumni Association and co-chairman of the uahc-ccar Joint National Commission on Outreach, he was elected vice president (1991–93) and then president (1993–95) of the ccar. During his term of office, he was selected by President Clinton to be part of a delegation accompanying Vice President Gore to Warsaw to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto uprising and was invited to Jerusalem by President Ezer Weizman to participate in a conference of leaders of world Jewry.

In 1996, Zimmerman was named the seventh president of Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion. He was credited with restoring prominence to huc-jir's faculty; also during his tenure, the Los Angeles school began ordaining rabbis – prior to that students could begin their studies on the West Coast – and would have to complete them in New York and Cincinnati. He resigned in 2000 after an investigation into his conduct as a rabbi several years earlier led to his suspension by the Central Conference of American Rabbis, which never made public the accusation but merely the verdict. Soon thereafter, he was appointed executive vice president of *Birthright Israel in 2001. In 2003, he became vice president of *United Jewish Communities' Jewish Renaissance and Renewal. He returned to the world of academia in 2006, teaching rabbinics at huc-jir.

Zimmerman is the author of three family prayer books for Sabbath and the festivals and co-editor of The Threat of a Mixed MarriageA Response. 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 – which were informed by his pioneering efforts as a founder of the Federation Task Force on Jewish Alcoholism and the support group jacs – and for which he received the first Marshall Hochhauser Memorial Award. He was also a member of the advisory board of Jewish Lights Publishing and of the publication committee of the Jewish Publication Society of America.

[Bezalel Gordon (2nd ed.)]

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