Shalom to Rabbi of Ten Years

Zimmerman departs, Franklin takes over
Rabbi Sheldon Zimmerman will retire after 10 years. Rabbi Joshua Franklin will take his place. Irene Silverman

Relatives, friends, board members, and congregants of the Jewish Center of the Hamptons, at least 200 altogether, overflowed the center’s sun-filled sanctuary on Saturday to bid a fond farewell to Rabbi Sheldon Zimmerman, who is leaving East Hampton after 10 years to return to Dallas, where he will lecture in the department of Jewish studies at Southern Methodist University.

Rabbi Zimmerman, formerly senior rabbi of a Dallas temple with one of the largest Jewish congregations in North America, comes from a rabbinical family going back many generations. He is an 11th-generation rabbi, and his son, Brian, who is senior rabbi of a synagogue in Fort Worth, Tex., is following in his footsteps.

In a commemorative booklet published by the Jewish Center for the occasion, three past and present presidents of the center, Linda Heller Kamm, Michael Salzhauer, and Harry A. Katz, recalled that “at the time of Rabbi Zimmerman’s arrival 10 years ago, the Jewish Center was facing serious challenges.” (The former rabbi had left amid dissension, and the center lost about a third of its membership in the aftermath.)

“We sought a leader to bring a fractious community together and renew our sense of our common purpose,” they wrote. “To our great fortune we found a leader, healer, scholar, and teacher. Shelly restored a sense of common mission and joy to our community. . . . His legacy is indelible in our congregation and in the broader East Hampton community.” Among other undertakings, Rabbi Zimmerman served on the East Hampton Town Ethics Committee, led the Jewish Center’s outreach to the homeless and hungry, and had a leading role in the East Hampton Clericus. Members of the Clericus who were present on Saturday included Msgr. Donald Hansen of Most Holy Trinity Catholic Church, the Very Rev. Denis Brunelle of St. Luke’s Episcopal Church, and the Rev. Gerardo Romo-Garcia, of St. Luke’s East End Latino ministry.

State and local officials were in the pews as well, among them Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr., East Hampton Village Mayor Paul F. Rickenbach Jr., and East Hampton Town Councilwoman Kathee Burke-Gonzalez. Mr. Thiele presented Rabbi Zimmerman with a proclamation from New York State, and Ms. Burke-Gonzalez, representing Supervisor Larry Cantwell, who could not attend, gave him one from the town. Finally, on behalf of Representative Lee Zeldin, the rabbi was presented with the American flag that had flown over the Capitol on his 75th birthday, Feb. 21, 2017.

The center’s new rabbi, Joshua Franklin, is 31 years old. Hired following a wide-ranging search, he graduated magna cum laude from Clark University in Worcester, Mass., and also earned a master’s in history from Clark. He was ordained at Hebrew Union College and served as assistant rabbi for four years at a temple in Wellesley, Mass., before coming here. He is married to Stephanie Whitehorn, and they have a young daughter, Lilah.

Rabbi Franklin has “a passion for music, technology, and creative forms of Jewish education,” according to the center, and also enjoys “golf, cycling, snowboarding, photography, wine-tasting, beer-brewing, and cooking with his wife.” He and his family are living in East Hampton.