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Isaiah Zeldin


1920 - 2018 Obituary Condolences
Isaiah Zeldin Obituary
July 11, 1920 - January 26, 2018 Isaiah Zeldin, revered rabbi and beloved husband, father, grandfather and great-grandfather, passed away at age 97. He was the founding dean of the California School of Hebrew Union College, the founding rabbi of Stephen S. Wise Temple, and the founder of the Milken Community Schools. Born in Brooklyn, New York, in 1920 to immigrant parents, Isaiah (affectionately known to family and friends by his Hebrew nickname "Shy"), was raised speaking Hebrew as his first language. He graduated from Brooklyn College and went on to be ordained at Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati. While a student at HUC, he spent a year serving as chaplain in Stockton, California, an experience that was to pave the way to his future. He met his beloved wife Florence at Camp Achvah where he was the athletic director and she was the head counselor. They married in 1943 and moved to California a decade later. Rabbi Zeldin moved west to found the California branch of the Reform movement's rabbinical seminary, Hebrew Union College, and to serve as regional director for the 11 western states of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations. He left those positions to serve as senior rabbi of Temple Emanuel of Beverly Hills. When he left that post in 1964 he gathered together with 35 families to start Stephen S. Wise Temple which grew into what was at one point the largest Reform temple, serving over 2,500 member families. Under his leadership, the temple started a nursery school and the first synagogue-based parenting center. In 1978, he started the temple's day school which became the largest Reform day school in North America. At age 70, he expanded the temple's educational offerings to include a full-time high school which eventually became the Milken Community Schools. At one time, on every school day over 2,000 children were receiving their full-time secular and Jewish education at the Bel Air campuses of Zeldin's temple. Rabbi Zeldin was a teacher and mentor to many. He had difficulty saying "no" to his members and friends, and they in turn could not say "no" to him. He was a builder, a leader, and the conscience of his community. To those who knew and loved him, he was a great person. Isaiah Zeldin is survived by his children, Joel and Karen, and Michael and Terry; his brother Bernard Zeldin; his grandchildren, Sivan and Igor, Sasha and Dustin, Oren and Noga, Gabe, and Noam; and his great-grandchildren, Eytan, Ilan, Alina, Liam, Stav, Evan and Ido. Services will be held at 11:00 AM on Monday at Stephen S. Wise Temple, 15500 Stephen S. Wise Drive, Los Angeles, CA 90077. In lieu of flowers, please make donations to Stephen Wise Temple and Schools to establish the Rabbi Isaiah Zeldin Rabbinic Chair to honor his visionary leadership and support the continuation of his legacy; or to Hebrew Union College to establish the Rabbi Isaiah Zeldin DeLeT Scholarship Fund to honor his abiding belief in the power of day school education and to support the preparation of a new generation of day school teachers.
Published in the Los Angeles Times from Jan. 28 to Jan. 29, 2018
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