Rabbi Emeritus Joel H. Zaiman, who led Chizuk Amuno Congregation, a Conservative synagogue in Pikesville, from 1980-2003 passed away on July 31. According to the synagogue’s Senior Rabbi Joshua Z. Gruenberg, Rabbi Zaiman had some “health challenges,” but his death was unexpected.

Rabbi Zaiman’s funeral will be private and shiva arrangements are in progress.

Born to Rabbi Solomon and Ruth (Levy) Zaiman in Chicago, Ill. on March 10, 1938, Rabbi Zaiman earned a bachelor of science degree at DePaul University in 1957. In 1959, he married Ann Shanok and the couple had four children. Rabbi Zaiman was ordained by the Jewish Theological Seminary where he also earned a master of Hebrew letters in 1962.

Prior to coming to Chizuk Amuno, Rabbi Zaiman served as senior rabbi at Temple Emanu-El in Providence, R.I., for eleven years. The author of multiple articles, Rabbi Zaiman also contributed chapters to books by Judaics scholar Professor Jacob Neusner.

During his tenure at Chizuk Amuno, Rabbi Zaiman was active in many Jewish and interdenominational organizations including the Associated: Jewish Federation of Baltimore, the United Synagogue Commission on Jewish Education, the Institute of Christian and Jewish Studies, and the Baltimore Jewish Council. In 2014, Rabbi Zaiman received a Doctor of Divinity Honoris Causa from St. Mary’s Seminary and University.

“Rabbi Zaiman’s leadership of the Baltimore Jewish Council in the mid-1990s reflected his commitment and passion for social justice and building meaningful, lasting relationships across different communities,” said Howard Libit, Executive Director of the Baltimore Jewish Council. “His work with leaders of other faiths continues at the Council today as we collectively strive to build a better Baltimore.”

Under Rabbi Zaiman’s spiritual leadership, Chizuk Amuno grew to become an institution that prioritized lifelong learning. The rabbi was instrumental in founding Krieger Schechter Day School in 1981 and the Stulman Center for Adult Learning in 1996.

Said Rabbi Gruenberg: “In any given week, over 900 learners enter our building from ages 2 years old to 90 years old. That is a legacy of Joel.

“Our community is vibrant, active, people want to learn here; people want to connect to Judaism — that is so much because of Joel. He created a community rich in learning, rich in social action; a community committed to Jewish living in every shape and form which is amazing,” said Rabbi Gruenberg.

“The Baltimore Jewish community lost one of its iconic leaders today,” said Marc B. Terrill, President of The Associated: Jewish Community Federation .  “For decades, Rabbi Zaiman led his congregation and our community in meaningful ways. He served as the chair of The Associated’s Baltimore Jewish Council and was a voice for social justice, building bridges between communities of various faiths and ethnicities. While he will be truly missed, his legacy will carry on at Chizuk Amuno and throughout Jewish Baltimore,” Terrill added.

“We have a lot of leaders in our community, be they Jewish or non-Jewish. A lot of people want to take the mantle of leadership, but not many do it for the right reasons — to serve others and make the community better. Rabbi Zaiman was that kind of leader,” Rabbi Gruenberg said. “In a world where selfless service is a lost commodity, Rabbi Zaiman was the epitome of a selfless leader.”

Rabbi Zaiman is survived by his wife, Ann Zaiman (nee Shanok), children, Rabbi Elana Zaiman (Seth Rosenbloom), Sarina (Stuart) Davis, Ari (Heller) Zaiman, siblings, Dr. Gail (Rabbi Shelly) Dorph, Dr. Fredelle (Dr. Steven) Spiegel, and grandchildren, Gabriel Rosenbloom, Mikayla, Adiel, Ziva, and Liam Davis, and Zachary, Aaron, and Clara Zaiman. Rabbi Zaiman was predeceased by his parents, Rabbi Solomon and Ruth Zaiman, a son, Rafael Zaiman, and a brother-in-law, Charles Ivan Shanok.