Zimands honored at community event


Rabbi Ephraim Zimand and his wife Esther Zimand, who will soon be fulfilling a long-standing dream of making aliyah to Israel, were honored last week in a communitywide celebration attended by more than 260 people at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Clayton.

Rabbi Zimand is retiring as spiritual leader of Traditional Congregation after 26 years, and his wife, Esther Zimand is also retiring after 20 years as director of Adult Education at the Central Agency for Jewish Education. Leaders of Traditional Congregation, CAJE, the Jewish Federation, other rabbis, educators, professional colleagues, friends and family members joined in the festive tribute to the couple.

In a joint statement, Dr. Heschel Raskas, president, and Barry Rosenberg, executive vice president of the Jewish Federation, said the Zimands would be missed

“For more than 25 years, the Zimands have been at the core of the St. Louis Jewish community, providing leadership and inspiration in many arenas of Jewish life,” the statement said. “Rabbi Zimand, who has been president of the St. Louis Rabbinical Association, has made a profound impact on Jewish learning in our community. He serves on the boards of the Saul Brodsky Jewish Community Library and Solomon Schechter Day School, and also chairs the Jewish Community Relations Council’s Jewish Fund for Human Needs.”

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Continuing, Raskas and Rosenberg said that Esther Zimand, “has been at the forefront of Jewish education in our community. She has taught Judaics in the middle school at H.F. Epstein Hebrew Academy and has been involved in the development of the Florence Melton Adult Mini School, both at the international headquarters at Hebrew University in Jerusalem and at the national headquarters in Chicago. We extend a hearty mazel tov to them both and wish them many happy years in their new life in Israel.”

Dr. Martin Bell, who served as master of ceremonies for the tribute banquet, and has been a longtime member of Traditional Congregation and friend of the Zimands, compared the event “to a commencement ceremony, like those we are observing at colleges and universities. We are expressing our appreciation to Rabbi Zimand and Esther for more than 50 years of combined service to Traditional Congregation, to our schools and Jewish education and to the entire Jewish community.”

Dr. Bell unveiled a color photographic portrait of Rabbi Zimand, “which will be placed in an appropriate place at our synagogue so that we can keep him in mind and he can still keep an eye on us.”

Jerry Chervitz, president of Traditional Congregation, also offered words of tribute.

“The Rabbi and Esther have not only been our spiritual leaders who guided us to greater and greater understandings of what it means to be a traditional Jew in this modern world during these past 26 years, they have been our teachers, our mentors, our psychologists and our counselors,” he said. “They have made us laugh on many occasions, and they have cried with us when life dictated that we needed to shed tears. Perhaps most importantly, they have been our friends.”

Sonia Dobinsky, interim director of CAJE, said “our agency’s new logo contains the words, ‘Live, Love, Learn Jewish,’ and this ceratainly describes Rabbi and Esther Zimand. For the past 19 years since Esther joined the CAJE staff, she has directed Adult Education, directed our Professional Excellence Program and has directed the largest Florence Melton Adult Mini-Class in the United States. In addition, Rabbi Zimand has been the backbone of our Melton program,” she said. “I and my colleagues at CAJE will miss Esther and Rabbi Zimand, but we know they will continue to “Live, Love and Learn Jewishly” in the State of Israel.”

Jay O’Brien, an aspiring cantor and a member of Traditional Congregation mentored by Rabbi Zimand, peformed a musical selection requested by Rabbi Zimand, L’Dor VaDor, arranged by Cantor Moshe Koussevitsky. Mark Drazen, another longtime friend of the Zimands, offered a lesson on the Gematria, dealing with the Hebrew numerical value of the Zimands’ names, which described their many qualities of service to Jewish education, congregational and community leadership.

Guest speakers for the evening included Rabbi Jeffrey Rappaport, of the Union for Traditional Judaism and Pearl Borow, a longtime friend with her husband, Rabbi Aaron Borow, former rabbi of Nusach Hari B’nai Zion, who made aliyah to Israel several years ago. Pearl Borow is an admired teacher and has frequently lectured on Jewish books and other topics.

Recalling a challenging time in his personal life, Rabbi Rappaport expressed appreciation to both Esther Zimand and Rabbi Zimand for being comforting friends. “During that period, Esther came over to me, gave me a big hug, and said, ‘God certainly understands.’ A year later, when I broke down as I stood at the Kotel (the Western Wall in Jerusalem) and suddenly burst into tears, Rabbi Zimand simply came over and give me a big bear hug and transmitted to me enough energy to let the lights come back on inside of me.”

In her remarks, Rebbetzin Borow said, “Not only do I join with you in wishing Rabbi Ephraim and Esther Zimand well as they prepare to make aliyah, but I will be in the neighborhood in Jerusalem, just a few blocks away, eager to welcome them.” She added that on a more personal note that her son married the Zimands’ daughter, “so that when you brought the Zimands to Traditional, you also brought my daughter-in-law.”

An original musical presentation, called The Scroll of Ephraim and Esther, modeled after the Megillah of Esther and Purim, was presented by Stan and Jean Estrin. Stan Estrin chanted the humorous and affectionate text in Hebrew and Jean Estrin sang out the English translation, which traced the entire personal and professional lives of the Zimands, much to their amusement and satisfaction as well as the attendees.

Warm family remembrances were offfered by two of the Zimand children, David Zimand and Elana Zimand Pearl, who spoke on behalf of their entire family of their great love, respect and gratitude toward their parents for modeling and living and teaching a lifestyle based on Jewish values and mitzvot.

Dr. Isaac Boniuk, longtime member of Traditional Congregation, also offered words of tribute and announced that the congregation has arranged to deliver a new computer to the Zimands in Israel so that they can continue their close contact with their congregants, students and many friends in St. Louis.

In her remarks, Esther Zimand said, “These 26 years have been very good and we hope we have enriched you just as all of you have enriched us…There are so many people to thank, but I want especially to thank our wonderful family and a special thanks to Marti Pearl (of the CAJE staff), whom I love, adore and appreciate, and who worked so hard for this event, along with Cindy Levy and so many others.”

Rabbi Zimand, “This event brings to mind the image of a coin, which has two sides. On the one side Esther and I are fulfilling our dream of living in Israel. On the other side, there is the sadness that we feel in leaving all of you. The relationships we have developed with all of you is so, so special, I don’t know how to describe it. It is part of the same coin, both sides; you cannot have one without the other.”