Forty years a rabbi: Rabbi Israel Zoberman

Sunday, June 1, 3 pm

Rabbi Israel Zoberman , founding rabbi of Congregation Beth Chaverim in Virginia Beach, will celebrate his 40th ordination anniversary at the synagogue next month.

Born in 1945 in Chu, Kazakhstan (USSR) to Polish Holocaust survivors who had met in Siberia, Rabbi Zoberman spent his early childhood in Poland, Austria and from 1947 to 1949 at Germany’s Wetzlar Displaced Persons Camp, American Zone. He grew up in Haifa, Israel and served in the IDF in the 1960s.

Rabbi Zoberman is the only rabbi to earn a doctorate in Pastoral Care and Counseling from Chicago’s McCormick Theological Seminary, affiliated with the Presbyterian Church U.S.A. He served three terms as president of Hampton Roads Board of Rabbis and Cantors and was the first rabbi to be president of the Virginia Beach Clergy Association. Rabbi Zoberman is a past member of the executive committee and board of the United Jewish Federation of Tidewater, a long-standing member of its Holocaust Commission and Community Relations Council. He served on the board of the Simon Family JCC and two terms on the board of Tidewater Jewish Family Service, chairing the Hospice committee and is on the Holocaust Grant Advisory committee. Rabbi Zoberman is a former member of Virginia’s Holocaust Advisory Committee and was national Interfaith chair for the Jewish Council for Public Affairs.

A frequent contributor to the Congressional Record, he is past contributing editor of the Jewish Spectator and his book reviews, editorials and poetry have been published in Jewish News, The Virginian-Pilot, Daily Press, the National Jewish Post and Opinion, Martyrdom and Resistance, the CCAR Journal: A Reform Jewish Quarterly on whose editorial board he served for five years, Poetica, The Poet’s Domain and Midstream.

A member of the Virginia Beach Human Rights commission, Rabbi Zoberman was honored in 2002 for “his dedication, and outstanding service in support of human rights in our community” he is a volunteer police chaplain with the Virginia Beach Police Department. Virginia Beach Mayor Meyera Oberndorf proclaimed April 23, 1999, as “Rabbi Israel Zoberman Day” in honor of his 25th ordination anniversary. On his 30th anniversary, he was honored by the Senate of Virginia Joint Resolution No. 134. He is the first clergyperson in Hampton Roads to offer a prayer in Congress, in the House of Representatives, sponsored by Congressman Owen Pickett on May 3, 2000. On July 7, 2004, he offered a prayer in the U.S. Senate sponsored by Senator George Allen. He has attended White House receptions hosted by President and Mrs. Obama and by President and Mrs. Bush.

In 1999, his alma mater, Hebrew Union College—Jewish Institute of Religion, awarded him the honorary Doctor of Divinity Degree. It reads, “Faithful Rabbi whose leadership is enduringly reflected in his love for his congregants and community, who has successfully utilized the resource of religion for action, and whose own life’s journey from Kazakhstan, to displaced persons camp, to Israel, to the United States, has inspired his devotion to the continuity of our people and the vitality of Zion.” In 1999 he received the Rabbinic Award from United Jewish Communities and in 2005 the Humanitarian Award from the Virginia Center For Inclusive Communities.

Rabbi Zoberman and his wife Jennifer have been married for 45 years and are the proud grandparents of Daniel and Andrew.

RSVP to or call 757-463-3226, preferably by May 16.