CINCINNATI (AP) -- An 11th-generation rabbi has resigned as president of Reform Judaism's leading seminary over accusations that he had inappropriate relationships with women before taking office four years ago.
The Hebrew Union College board accepted Rabbi Sheldon Zimmerman's resignation on Monday and appointed Provost Norman J. Cohen as acting president.
''We are profoundly saddened by this development and sorry for all the individuals involved,'' said Burton Lehman, chairman of the college's board of governors. ''Rabbi Zimmerman has been a dedicated and able leader.''
Zimmerman, 58, and his wife, Judith, said they were ''devastated'' by the allegations, WCPO-TV reported Wednesday. Zimmerman said the claims were old and he wasn't sure why they surfaced now.
The college, which has campuses in Cincinnati, New York, Los Angeles and Jerusalem, trains rabbis, cantors, religious school educators, Jewish communal workers and graduate and postgraduate scholars. It is the seminary for nearly all Reform rabbis, and ordained the country's first female rabbi in 1972. Zimmerman's son, Rabbi Brian Zimmerman, was ordained in 1993 at the New York campus.
At least one complaint involving Sheldon Zimmerman was made about two weeks ago to the Central Conference of American Rabbis, the New York-based professional organization for Reform rabbis ordained by Hebrew Union presidents.
The alleged relationships, which would violate the conference's ethics rules, preceded Zimmerman's arrival at Hebrew Union, college spokeswoman Jean Bloch Rosensaft said.
Zimmerman also was suspended from the rabbinate for two years by the central conference, which represents the 1,800 Reform rabbis in the United States. He was the group's president from 1993 to 1995.
The suspension was ordered by the 25-member CCAR board of trustees during a Dec. 4 meeting in New York.
Rabbi Paul Menitoff, CCAR executive vice president, refused to discuss the investigation. Rabbi Eric Yoffie, president of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations, told The Dallas Morning News that Zimmerman did not contest the charges.
According to the ethics code, rabbis' position as teachers of moral standards requires them to be models of moral behavior.
''We are expected by others, and we expect of ourselves and each other, to be scrupulous in avoiding even the appearance of sexual misconduct, whether by taking advantage of our position with those weaker than ourselves or those dependent upon us, or succumbing to the temptations of willing adults,'' the code states.
Zimmerman was ordained at Hebrew Union's New York campus in 1970. He served previously as senior rabbi at Temple Emanu-El in Dallas and, before that, Central Synagogue in New York. He and his wife have four children.
Zimmerman traveled to Poland with Vice President Al Gore to observe the 50th anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto uprising and was invited to witness the Middle East peace accords at the White House in 1993.
He has contributed to several books on alcoholism and the Jewish community and co-edited an article on mixed marriage. Zimmerman also has written three family prayer books for the Sabbath and Jewish festivals.
David Gordis, president of Hebrew College in Brookline, Mass., said Zimmerman is known for expanding Jewish education for members of the Reform community.
''He created a living bridge between the Ivory Tower and the pulpit,'' Gordis said. ''He stresses the reality of life in the synagogue to those in the seminary.''
On the Net:
Hebrew Union College: http://huc.edu
Central Conference of American Rabbis: http://ccarnet.org/
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