Memories of Rabbi Ephraim Zimand, z"l

Ha-Makom yinachem etchem b'toch she'ar aveilei Tzion v'Yrushalayim. 

May God sustain and comfort you among all the mourners of Zion and Jerusalem.  

July 02, 2018

I Learned About Judaism Because of Him

Many years ago I worked as the office manager at Traditional, and after me my wife did so for awhile.  That was one of the most pleasurable jobs either of us had.  Rabbi Z (as we called him) was the singularly most important reason why we both loved it there so much.  Neither of us are Jewish, although my wife was raised by a Jewish stepfather.  Because of him I learned more about Judaism in that short time than I have throughout all my travels and degrees.  We kept in touch via e-mail for many years.  He often invited me to his children's religious classes to explain Catholicism to his students.  On more than a few occasions I was asked questions by the children that put me in an uncomfortable position of either not knowing the answer, to my own religion, or being fearful of offending theirs.  Without fail Rabbi Z always came to my rescue.  One of those times a child asked me how I could believe in something my religion held true when it would seem to be impossible.  While I stumbled for an answer, Rabbi Z saved me with a single word, Faith.  Such a simple answer from a man of God.  He, and his answer that day, will stick with me all of my life.  I will miss him and remember him always.  His passing is truly a loss.

June 04, 2018

I Could Have Learned From Him for Decades

I grew up in a Reform synagogue, but when I arrived in St. Louis in 1996 I was almost desperate for something more.  By "accident" I arrived on a summer Friday afternoon and by "accident" I chose to come to Traditional on Friday night.  R. Zimand greeted me and spoke with me for some time (while Joseph and his friend who tagged along waited with growing impatience) and I knew this was no accident.  I didn't know it at the time, but I only had two short years under his tutelage -- I could have learned from him for decades, just watching how he carried himself as much as from our discussions.  What he gave me in those two years was enough to change the whole arc of my life.  For the next 19 years I was more or less on my own until I moved to Milwaukee and found a wonderful frum community to be part of.  Spiritually, he saved my life.  Whatever merits I may have acquired are as much his as they are mine.  May he enjoy eternity in Gan Eden.

 

Rafi Rabinoff

April 03, 2018

Our Special Friend and Teacher

There are no words to properly express the depth of our feelings upon the passing of our special friend and teacher, a kind and understanding support in our personal lives, the perfect mentor of Talmud, whose wisdom and kindness taught us Judaism and changed our lives.  Our memories of his knowledge, kindness, humor, and effortless charm will never fade.

Nancy and Bob Taxman  

March 24, 2018

Rabbi Father

I worked at Traditional Congregation.  I am reminded of Rabbi Zimand in so many ways. A wonderful person who helped me to understand the Jewish religion because I was Catholic. I would say Yes Sir or No Sir and he did not like it so I told him that was the way I grew up. Then I would say Yes Father but then we settled on Rabbi Father. I enjoyed my years with Traditional very much. I worked as the secretary of the synagogue. I have a lot of great memories of those years. I still kept in touch with him, email on his birthday and Holy Days too.

 

Laurie Sievers

March 18, 2018

A True Mensch

Chad, precious son, thank you for expressing your feelings in such a beautiful, heartfelt way. A way in which we all can relate, we who all adored and respected this beautiful human being, who was a true mensch, and a tanfastic spiritual leader. I, too, would question the existence of Hashem, to our beloved Rabbi Z (so I know where you got your thoughts from), and he would always respond, “The questions are always way better than the answers.”  To this day, it is my go-to response to so many of life’s events. So your dad and I and our little family, as well as many others are probably asking, WHY did this happen, and I am, once again, remembering what I was told many years ago by one of the wisest man I have known. “And it is perfectly okay to ask those questions.”  Our sympathy, strength, hugs and love to our dear Esther, and the entire Zimand family. To all our Traditional friends, and to the many others who are feeling so sad, may we all find some comfort and peace in the memories we are all sharing together. ❤️

Zeta & Jerry Chervitz

March 15, 2018

Observance with Sensibility and Compassion

Rav Zimand was a true example of halachic Judaism. He blended observance with sensibility and compassion.

He said something to me once that I have repeated to so many people and especially to my children.

I was talking to him about a foolish choice I had made and how much I regretted it.

He said, "we make the best decisions we can, at the time, with the information given.''

 

That simple advice was a word fitly spoken.  Today I tell people about this and always mention how much it helped me.

David Snellen

March 14, 2018

He Meant So Much to So Many

It has taken me a few days  of reflection, and tears, to respond in writing  when learning  the news of Rabbi Zimand’s death in Jerusalem.  Meantime, I have read the wonderful, articulate rendering of feelings and memories  on this blog.  He meant so much to so many, and his words and teachings left an indelible impression on us all.  He was an approachable, caring person.  He imparted wisdom, gave us laughter,  always there when we needed  him.  And he could not have done all these things without the love and support of his Esther. She has these special qualities as well, and both have been so very important to us as congregants and to our community.

 

I don’t wish to repeat all the accolades already written, but I do want to share a unique perspective regarding my relationship with Rabbi Zimand.  He was my great mentor and good friend. He introduced me to my career in Jewish Education by offering me to teach at the Jewish Heritage Center. ..a Jewish Womanhood class for the Bat Mitzvah girls, and soon after, the  7th grade  program.  I was with the school 17 years, culminated by  five years as Education Director/Principal.

 

Rabbi Z worked with me in many aspects of programming and planning, but more than that, he had a special relationship with the students.  They loved him! He would visit the classrooms to answer questions and encourage dialogue. He introduced the Tuesday afternoon student minyan, whereby the students conducted the service entirely by themselves, each class rotating assignments. Rabbi would give a Dvar Torah,  raise questions,  motivate discussion. And it was fun …  for me, the best part of the school week. I think the kids would have agreed.

 

Rich and I have been members of Traditional Congregation since 1973. Our three children attended the JHC, and Rabbi Z officiated or participated in our simchas.  Rich and I took many classes with Rabbi Z,  I studied Pirkei Avot with the Monday class for eight years.  Rabbi  Z would call us by our  “sacred names,” in our case –  I was Yo for Yosefa, Rich was Yak for Yakov.  We were Yak and Yo.  He always called me Yo.

 

I was fortunate that in the years since Rabbi and Esther made aliyah, that I could visit with them in Israel several times.  In June of 2016 we had dinner together, last December I spoke to him by phone.  I regret not seeing him then, circumstances didn’t allow. But I always knew I could reach him with email.  Until now.  And I am very sad. I miss him .

 

I will miss being Yo.       

 

Joyce Becker 

March 14, 2018

Meeting Everyone on Their Terms

I fondly remember Ephie as a rabbi who met everyone on their own terms, was never judgmental, and respected many different viewpoints, as long as they were logical and ethical.  He was a great teacher, always soliciting other points of view.  Finally, he had that twinkle in his eye, a very wry, self-deprecating  sense of humor, and could laugh at a joke, even if it was on him.  Glad Traditional had him for as long as it did.

 

Alan Rosenberg

March 13, 2018

"Make it a Good Day!"

So many beautiful and true things have already been said expressing our thoughts as well. One saying we use often that stems from Rabbi Zimand:  “Make it a good day!” (instead of “Have a good day.”)
All our days are better for having known him.

Our deepest and sincere sympathy to the the Zimand and Traditional families.

 

Joan, Jules, Neil and Fred Stiber and families

March 13, 2018

Our Friend and Teacher

Rabbi Zimand was not only our Rabbi, but also our friend and our teacher...and then there was his sweet smile and infectious laugh.    He was such an approachable person..nonjudgmental and comforting when necessary. Kenny and he enjoyed punning together. RebZim would share a pun newsletter with Kenny. We will miss him, but he will never be gone from our hearts and thoughts. 

 

Annabelle and Kenny Chapel

March 12, 2018

Rabbi Ephraim Zimand, ז״ל

Rabbi Ephraim Zimand like most, perhaps all American pulpit rabbis, dedicated his life to strengthening the Jewish identity of his congregants and Jewish life in America.  It has been a daunting challenge for Traditional rabbis in these generations.   Assimilation and trends to the left and the right took American Jews to other places and shrank the size of those dedicated to the UTJ’s motto: “אמונה צרופה וישר דעת” -- “genuine faith with intellectual integrity.”  He served proudly and with significant accomplishment.

 

Rabbi Zimand served four congregations in Sarnia, Canada; Toledo, Ohio; and Albany and Schenectady, NY before his longest tenure, 26 years, at Traditional Congregation in Creve Coeur / St Louis, MO until his retirement nearly 11 years ago.  He passed on to olam ha-ba, the next world, after living more than a decade in Arnona, Yerushalyim.  His wife, Esther, was always by his side, and his six children were his blessing.  As his successor at Traditional, I offer a few words about some of his work at Traditional, in St Louis, and for the UTJ.

 

Rabbi Zimand loved to learn and teach.  He enriched many in classes and other forums at Traditional Congregation, and in community classes, including in the Melton Curriculum.  I inherited several of his classes.  The students spoke fondly of him and often learned with him many years.

 

His favorite source was Pirke Avot, the section of the 1,800 - 2,000-year old Mishnah which primarily gently deals with ethical behavior.  Many of his classes continued for years, exploring and applying Pirke Avot to life and the personal lives of his students.  In writing he often would aim to connect other elements of Torah and general wisdom to teachings from Pirke Avot.

 

Another of Rabbi Zimand’s interests was collecting writings for supplemental congregation use.  Several years before I arrived, he had, with support from other congregants, collected excerpts and published an in-house supplementary booklet of well more than 100 pages of readings for Rosh HaShanah and Yom ha-Kippurim.  Some of these modern readings augmented existing piyyutim (traditional poems) and others were used in place of those which had less relevance for the worshipper.  Similarly, an additional reading was and is still included each Shabbat, as is a brief printed excerpt from general wisdom.  Rabbi Zimand also permitted women to assume limited public religious roles that did not violate halachah.

 

Rabbi Zimand was also active in the St Louis Jewish community.  A musmach (ordainee) of Yeshivah University, he supported non-Orthodox rabbis as a member of the SLRA (St Louis Rabbinic Association), and worked on educational programs.  One included a Reform Rabbi coming to Traditional to teach and he going to his congregation for the same; he taught in their community-wide program.

 

He was a founding member of FTOR (Federation of Traditional Orthodox Rabbis), which felt that more moderate positions were rejected or dismissed by organizational Orthodoxy.  FTOR later merged with UTCJ from the Conservative movement, which felt Conservative Judaism had drifted too far left, not adhering to halachah.  This new group became the UTJ and eventually its rabbinic group, Morashah.  As evident, Rabbi Zimand was not fond of extreme trends, yet he would work broadly with others.

 

Rabbi Zimand was a proud Zionist, which was punctuated by his retirement in Israel where two of his children and several grandchildren live.  He and Esther joined us to celebrate the wedding of one of our sons in Yerushalyim in 2016. 

 

When I interviewed for Traditional, I asked him dozens upon dozens of questions so that I could make an informed decision.  He answered them all.  In the early years I needed to consult him on a few matters of Traditional’s history -- his decisions, issues, and people, and he answered them all.  Finally, he adopted a personal custom to write “I” as “i” to emphasize humility. 

 

I close with Pirke Avot 4:21, even as I do not know his commentary on this teaching:  

 

“Rabbi Ya’akov” (who offered some particularly bold teachings), “taught:  This world is like a prozdor, a corridor, before olam ha-ba, the future world.  Prepare yourself in the prozdor so that you may enter the palace.”  As a dedicated rabbi to Torah, its rituals and ethics, to Israel and the the Jewish people, and to his congregants and the American Jewish community, it is evident that Rabbi Ephraim Zimand prepared himself for olam ha-ba.”  הנצב״ה

 

Rabbi Seth D Gordon

March 12, 2018

A Wonderful Example for My Children

Rabbi Zimand was warm and welcoming from our very first visit to Traditional when we were "shul-shopping."  He supported me through my tribulations trying to have children and my son's bris celebration was the very first one held in the new Jewish Heritage Center  (a memory that makes me wince, but oh well).  Our daughter slept through her naming where the rabbi finally expressed a little impatience with my looong presentation about her name.

As a direct descendant of the Gaon of Vilna, he felt he had to keep both feet firmly on the ground; but sometimes we both wanted to discuss metaphysical things, like reincarnation and genetic memory, and he was happy to talk to me about them.  He was supportive through my divorce and endeavored to keep me on the right track.

 

I was equally fond of Esther.  She was a great educator and very patient, though she hadn't ever intended to be a "rebbetzin."   

They were both deeply ethical and expressed strong Jewish values:  a wonderful example for my children to grow up with.  We will miss Rabbi Zimand forever.

Anonymous

March 12, 2018

He Knew Everyone's Name

I enjoyed very much reading Chad's remarks. To add to that weekend when we interviewed the Rabbi for his position, the following happened to me: As a member of the board I was one of the people in the room during our first interview with him. Each one of us stated their name as we went around and around. It was quite a room full of people. After that Rabbi Zimand introduced himself formally to us. He spoke about his view on Judaism and how he intends to lead our congregation. He particularly spoke at length about the celebration of Shabbath. He mentioned a little booklet that he had published as a guide to Shabbath observance at home. That booklet was passed around for us to see. Then we spoke about the observance of Shabbath in the congregation and how to enhance it. We spoke about the educational part in the Heritage center as well as adult education. People starting asking questions. When it was my turn I asked about the Shabbath observance booklet which looked to me like a  mini Haggada. After more questions the Rabbi shook our hands and left.

 

A week later I received a call from Traditional informing me that I had received a small package from Rabbi Zimand. I picked up my package. In it I found the Shabbath guide booklet. I was amazed that he even knew my name. During the years that he was with us I was astonished at his ability to walk in to a room full of people and call everybody by their name, including little children.

 

The last time he visited Traditional my son Benjamin had moved back to St. Louis and was frequently helping with Torah reading. On a weekend when we came to services we saw the Rabbi and started walking towards him. He looked up and saw Leib, Benjamin and myself. He called out "Benjy!" and with a beaming face embraced Benjamin. I will always remember his care, warmth and compassion and wish him to rest in peace.

Esther Abramson Krut

March 11, 2018

He Taught Me From the Very First Day

I found out today that my beloved Rabbi during my formative years, Rabbi Ephraim Zimand passed away. I feel like a part of me has died along with him. Not that I got to see him that often over the past 10 years — as he lived in Israel and I’m still here in NYC. In fact, I really only got to see him on the couple of special times that our visits to St. Louis overlapped. And not that I even kept in touch with him enough over email either, as well, you know how life goes. But not seeing him or speaking to him did not mean for me that he wasn’t there. And it certainly didn’t mean that I couldn’t or wouldn’t ever see him or speak to him again. For whenever I did get to see him, I always felt like I was my younger self again. I felt more spiritual than I do in my current adult years. I always felt like a student who still had so much to learn from his sage teachings. And knowing that these feelings, because this mensch of a man has left our world yesterday, will be just a little bit harder to come by…well, that’s what aches right now.

As a kid (and certainly still now), I never really believed that the God depicted in the stories of the Old Testament really existed (exists?). “Take your son up to Mt. Moriah and kill him just to prove your faith in Me”? What kind of narcissist commands that? Nor did I ever really believe all those Hebrew words I chanted when I lained part of the Torah on most weeks at my synagogue. But those didn’t matter to Rabbi Zimand. It didn’t matter that I had these doubts about God and would often express them to him in the Hebrew school class he taught for us or in private when we’d hang out in his office to talk about life things. It didn’t matter that I didn’t believe in the precise words of the Torah. Or that my family belonged to this Orthodox synagogue but wasn’t nearly as observant as for what Orthodoxy dictates. What mattered to him was that we believed in the spirit of Judaism — that we questioned things, that we respected those with whom we did not agree with, that we felt connected in some way to the heritage of our religion and to the heritage of our community. That’s what Rabbi Zimand always conveyed to us thru his patience, his teachings and of course, his actions shown to me, shown to our little synagogue and shown to the community of St. Louis as a whole.

He taught me that from the very first day I can remember meeting him. In fact, it was at his audition — a Friday night Shabbat dinner where he was the guest of honor at our synagogue that was looking to replace a departed Rabbi. I couldn’t have been more than about 10 years old. After our main course, he went up on the bimah to give us a D’var Torah (commentary on the week’s chapter). Part way through it, a slew of younger kids came running up around his feet and on the steps and were making noises as young kids do. Their parents were mortified and rushed to try to corral the kids. But he put his hands up (like Moses I thought to myself) and wove to the parents that they should not worry. Though I can’t remember his exact words, he said something to the effect that, “It’s completely fine to have the kids up here and to be enjoying themselves. After all they have some good things to say, too”. As a Rabbi with 6 kids of his own, I’m sure he was used to that kind of chaos. But even with kids not his own, he didn’t show any cause for concern — just pure love and respect for all the chaos and kids at his feet. I remember thinking right then that I hope he got the job. Now a cynic might have thought that he said this because he was on his audition. But, no, this was who Rabbi Zimand was at his core. He showed his love and respect for so many people time and time again, even when he was ostracized a bit trying to push the interpretations of Orthodoxy into some more forward-looking, egalitarian thought. Well, I feel very lucky and am so very thankful that I wasn’t the only one who must have felt that same way about him that night (and thankful that the cynics were not in charge of hiring).

So, Rabbi Zimand, while I will miss not ever hearing your hearty laugh again, not being a recipient of one of your bear hugs, not hearing you exclaim that you’re doing “Tanfastic”, I will never forget any of them. Just like I will never forget to honor and remember the humanistic side of your Judaic and life teachings to me. And I’m pretty sure that I won’t be the only one feeling like this today. Now rest comfortably in your EZ chair, Rabbi. You done good.

Chad Chervitz

March 11, 2018

Goodness and Life Lessons

I am so appreciative of all of the goodness and life lessons I received from Rabbi Zimand; he will be dearly missed by all whose lives he touched.


Marilyn Ratkin

March 11, 2018

"Go a Little Farther"

With deep sadness I share a favorite memory our family has with Rabbi Zimand. 

He would always say, “Stretch yourself to become more than you think you can. Like a rubber band, you can always go a little farther.”

We try and apply that philosophy to our lives as often as possible. 

What a wonderful, caring, sensitive and intelligent man. He will always be remembered fondly by our family. 

Marilyn and Marty Levison

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Rabbi Ephraim Zimand z"l, who was Rabbi of Traditional Congregation for 26 years until he retired and made aliyah in 2007, passed away on March 11, 2018.  A memorial service was held at Traditional Congregation on Monday, June 4. 

We are posting memories of Rabbi Zimand on our site.  If you would like to share a memory, please send it to tradcong@sbcglobal.net.  Our deepest condolences to his wife, Esther, and to all of their children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

Video of the Memorial Service

Photos from our

Memorial Service

Contact Us:

Traditional Congregation

12437 Ladue Rd

Creve Coeur, MO 63141-8100

Tel: (314) 576-5230

Email: tradcong@sbcglobal.net

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