Retiring rabbi prepares for move to Israel


When Rabbi Ephraim Zimand of Traditional Congregation, along with his wife Esther, retires this summer, he will fulfill what he calls “a lifelong dream to settle in Israel” during his aliyah.

“My wife and I have been Zionist from when we were very young, and Israel is the Jewish homeland. It’s a place for Jews to move and live and resign,” Zimand said.

Aliyah is widely accepted as a fundamental concept of Zionism, and for many Jews, is seen as a return to the Holy Land and a fulfillment of God’s biblical promise to the descendants of Abraham, Issac and Jacob. As part of Israel’s Law of Return, aliyah permits any Jew the legal right to assisted immigration and settlement in Israel and citizenship.

Zimand, 70, will retire from Traditional Congregation after serving there 26 years and for 46 years total as a rabbi. Rabbi Seth Gordon from Long Island, NY will replace Zimand Aug. 1.

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Zimand and his wife will join two of his six children and nine of his nineteen grandchildren who live in Israel. Splitting his time between his family in Israel and the United States will be tough for him, Zimand said.

“Israel is the only place on the planet where Jews are the majority. It’s a different feeling being part of the majority, instead of part of the minority,” he said.

At Traditional, Zimand has parted the teachings of the Torah to countless youth and adults. “I am pleased with the Torah education to adults I was able to share in the pulpits and the classrooms,” Zimand said.

However, teaching children is what he will miss the most. “Of all the times I’ve been asked to teach, I’ve never turned down studying with a child. I always made the time,” Zimand said. “It will be hard to keep up with each other over email. It’s not the same as the day-to-day contact,” he said of missing the children he taught.

“Those younger people have gone on to read the Torah for us on a weekly basis,” said Jerry Chervitz, Traditional Congregation board president.

Steve Sorkin, administrative director of the St. Louis Rabbinical Association, has known Zimand personally about 12 years. Sorkin said Zimand was instrumental in developing education programs, such as the Super Sunday of Jewish Learning, held on the Sunday after the Super Bowl.

In addition to education, Zimand also oversaw the building of the new sanctuary on Ladue Road. “It was a small congregation when he came here in physical size of the plant. He was instrumental in our being able to get the funding to construct the new building and expand its facilities,” Chervitz said.

“He brought to the congregation a spirit of what it means to be Jewish in a modern traditional way,” Chervitz added.

Sorkin agreed with Chervitz’s thoughts, adding, “Any rabbi will tell you he has a strong focus on Jewish education and he crossed denominational lines, whether it was Orthodox, Reform or Traditional.”

“I feel that these 26 years at Traditional Congregation have been a really great, to use the analogy of a Broadway show, a great run,” Zimand said.

So, what willl Zimand miss most about St. Louis, besides the congregation?

“The Cardinals, and the work I’ve done with the Jewish Fund for Human Needs,” he said.

A banquet will be held in honor of Zimand and Esther Sunday, June 10 at 5:30 p.m. at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Clayton, located at 7750 Carondelet Ave. Banquet tickets are $100 each. Contact Laura Young at Traditional Congregation during normal business hours at 314-576-5230.