Wednesday, December 06, 2000

Zimmerman quits as HUC president

Alleged ethics violations cited

By Ben L. Kaufman
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Hebrew Union College President Sheldon Zimmerman quit Monday after rabbinic colleagues confronted him over relationships with unidentified women.

        HUC's board accepted his resignation and appointed Provost Norman J. Cohen as acting president.

        Rabbi Zimmerman could not be reached Tuesday at his Symmes Township home.

        His fall began with one or more complaints to the Central Conference of American Rabbis (CCAR), the professional organization for Reform rabbis ordained by HUC presidents.

        Rabbi Zimmerman, 58, married and HUC president since Oct. 31, 1996, was accused of personal relationships that violated CCAR ethics rules.

        The CCAR investigated and suspended Rabbi Zimmerman from membership for at least two years. His ordination is not affected, but he is not to serve as a rabbi during suspension.

        Rabbi Zimmerman accepted the suspension and resigned as head of the seminary/graduate school that has campuses in Cincinnati, New York, Los Angeles and


        The unspecified relationships preceded his arrival at HUC, college spokeswoman Jean Bloch Rosensaft said. Because the CCAR probe was confidential, nothing more is being said, she said.

        His predecessor, Rabbi Alfred Gottschalk, would not comment Tuesday. Cincinnati lawyer Stan Chesley said he did not know the facts of the case, but the rabbi “did a phenomenal job ... and I am totally supportive of him.”

        Dick Weiland, vice president of the advisory Board of Overseers for the Cincinnati campus, said, “I'm certainly sorry that something like this happened.”

        Before coming to HUC, Rabbi Zimmerman was senior rabbi at Temple Emanu-El in Dallas and Central Synagogue in New York.

        Tuesday, the senior rabbi at Temple Emanu-El was not available.

        The senior rabbi at Central Synagogue was out of the country Tuesday and could not be reached.

        Rabbi Zimmerman was the seventh president of HUC. He apparently is the first to resign since the school was founded in Cincinnati by Rabbi Isaac Mayer Wise in 1875. Others have retired or died in office, she added.

        A search committee is being formed to find Rabbi Zimmerman's successor, said Burton Lehman, chairman of the board.

        “While Rabbi Zimmerman has been a dedicated and able leader,” Mr. Lehman said, HUC “has earned its outstanding reputation because many devoted individuals work so hard each day to maintain its standard of excellence.”

        An 11th-generation rabbi, Rabbi Zimmerman said at the time of his installation as HUC president, “I know I stand on the shoulders of giants ... I am overwhelmed by a sense of awe, by the exciting challenges which await, for the faith you have placed in me, for the trust and hope for the future.”

        Rabbi Zimmerman was born and educated in Toronto and ordained at HUC in New York in 1970. He was CCAR president from 1993 to 1995.

        The academic arm of the Reform Movement, HUC trains rabbis, cantors, religious school educators, Jewish communal workers and graduate and post-graduate scholars.

        Kristina Goetz of the Enquirer contributed to this report.


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