Rabbi Joel H. Zaiman was the standard bearer for excellence. Every decision he made as a rabbi was reflected through the prism of the highest pedagogical foundations always based in Torah principles and fully validated, with halachic arguments on both sides exhaustively explored. As a teacher he masterfully made the most complicated rabbinic concepts accessible to laypeople.
He was peerless in his uncanny ability to select the right staff person for the right position. He supported his staff members unconditionally and expected no less or no more from them than he expected from himself. His definition of workload and work ethic surpassed the long established working definition.
He gave with an overflowing measure to his calling. With Rabbi Zaiman the “calling” was never a job. His staff felt that it was an honor and privilege to work with “The” master teacher and role model.
He pastorally counseled as a shepherd, caring for every congregant in his large flock with focused attentiveness and unbridled compassion. His laser-piercing, psychoanalytic suggestions were transmitted spiritually and therapeutically.
Rabbi Zaiman was a rabbi’s rabbi.
He embraced and lived the tenants and teachings of Torah. We, the rare ones, who really knew him on a personal level experienced the biblical proportions he had achieved but what humbled us all was his emphatic demanding that he not be honored or specially recognized. If he was referred to as a scholar in any setting whether at ICJS (Institute for Christian and Jewish Studies) or with acclaimed (and self proclaiming) rabbinic scholars; he swiftly corrected the notion that he, the real scholar, must not be afforded that well deserved honor.
On a personal note, during evolving “seasons” over a 54 year span, Joel H. Zaiman was my rabbi, my teacher, mentor, colleague, role model and a man that I admired and loved as a cherished friend.
Sharing social time with Ann and Joel was sacred and gifted time. Rabbi Zaiman was determined to never be a burden on anyone for any reason. The measuring stick of Rabbi Zaiman as a father and grandfather has to be the respectful voluntarily cloned choices of his children and grandchildren that reflected the moral and ethical values he espoused and lived.
The prosperous era of intensive, devoted Torah based learning has suffered an irreparable blow. Rabbinic and clergy of all faiths marveled at his command of Torah knowledge and his unstinting commitment to ecumenicism.
The brilliant mind of our beloved teacher is no longer with us but his brilliance will live on forever.
I conclude with sending love, respect and awe for my teacher and rebbe and with heartfelt condolences to his beloved Ann and their devoted children.
With endless gratitude, and with perfect faith I will forever envision my late father, Hazzan Ivan E. Perlman, Rabbi Joel H. Zaiman and me standing together as co-partners on the bimah of life and learning.
Hazzan Emanuel C. Perlman was co-clergy with Rabbi Zaiman from 1997-2004 at Chizuk Amuno Congregation. Rabbi Zaiman also served with Hazzan Perlman’s late father Hazzan Ivan E. Perlman as co-clergy from 1964-1979 at Temple Emanuel in Providence, R.I.