The local Jewish community is mourning the death of Rabbi Isaiah Zeldin, who founded Los Angeles’ Stephen Wise Temple and guided it as it grew into one of the world’s largest Reform congregations.
Zeldin died of natural causes Friday evening at age 97.
“It is with profound sadness that Stephen Wise Temple announces the loss of our beloved Founding Rabbi Isaiah Zeldin,” the temple announced on its website Saturday. “Rabbi Zeldin passed away peacefully at age 97 just as Shabbat entered last evening. He was surrounded by family at his home in Palm Desert.
“We mourn the loss of our founder, our Rabbi, our teacher, and our friend. We give thanks for the incredible legacy he leaves behind and for the blessings of his many contributions to our community, to the Jewish People, and to us personally.”
A native New Yorker, Zeldin moved to Los Angeles in 1954 to establish the California branch of Hebrew Union College. In 1964, he and 35 families founded Stephen Wise Temple on an 18-acre mountain site between West Los Angeles and the San Fernando Valley.
The temple is a complex of 12 buildings that includes various educational programs for children, from nursery and elementary school through middle and high school. The congregation and school system includes about 4,800 members and students, and is guided by five rabbis and two cantors.
According to Tom Tugend of the Jewish Journal, Zeldin retired as senior rabbi at the temple in 1990, but remained actively involved with the congregation.
His wife of 68 years, Florence Zeldin, died in 2012.
Zeldin’s funeral will be held at the temple Monday at 11 a.m. Rabbi Eli Herscher, his immediate successor as senior rabbi, will deliver a eulogy. Interment will be at Eden Memorial Park.
Shiva will be held at Monday at the Temple at 7 p.m., followed by services and a reception.
Zeldin is survived by his children Joel Zeldin (Karen) and Michael Zeldin (Terry); brother Bernard Zeldin; five grandchildren and seven great- grandchildren.
In lieu of flowers, mourners can donate to Stephen Wise Temple and Schools to establish the Rabbi Isaiah Zeldin Rabbinic Chair.
—City News Service
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