Scholar-in-Residence – Dr. Gary P. Zola
Gary Phillip Zola is the Executive Director of The Jacob Rader Marcus Center of the American Jewish Archives (AJA) andProfessor of the American Jewish Experience at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion (HUC-JIR) in Cincinnati. The AJA is the world’s largest freestanding research center dedicated solely to the study of the American Jewish experience. Professor Zola became the AJA’s second director in 1998, succeeding his teacher and mentor, Professor Jacob Rader Marcus (1896-1995), the prodigious scholar who founded the AJA in 1947 and defined the field of American Jewish history.
In 2011, President Barack Obama appointed Dr. Zola to serve as a member of the U.S. Commission for the Preservation of America’s Heritage Abroad, an independent agency of the Federal government. Establish by Public Law in 1985, the Commission exists to foster the preservation and protection of cemeteries, monuments, and historic buildings associated with the foreign heritage of United States citizens. With this appointment, Dr. Zola became the first tenured faculty member in the history of the College-Institute to serve on a standing Commission of the United States Government.
Prior to joining the Commission for the Preservation of America’s Heritage Abroad, Dr. Zola served as the organizer and chair of the congressionally recognized Commission for Commemorating 350 Years of American Jewish History, a consortium of leading research institutions established to promote the study of American Jewish history during the 350th anniversary Jewish life in America (2004-2005). In 2006, Dr. Zola became the first American Jewish historian to receive appointment to the Academic Advisory Council of the congressionally recognized Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Commission.
Professor Zola is a historian of American Jewry who specializes in the development of American Reform Judaism. His published volumes include The Americanization of the Jewish Prayer Book and the Liturgical Development of Congregation Ahawath Chesed, New York City (New York: Central Synagogue, 2008); A Place of Our Own: The Rise of Reform Jewish Camping in America (co-edited with Michael M. Lorge and published by the University of Alabama Press, 2006); The Dynamics of American Jewish History: Jacob Rader Marcus’s Essays on American Jewry (Brandeis University Press, 2004); Women Rabbis: Exploration and Celebration (HUC-JIR Alumni Press, 1996) and Isaac Harby of Charleston (the University of Alabama Press, 1994), a major biographical study on the life of one of the founders of the first organized effort to reform Judaism in the United States of America. He is currently completing a new volume on Abraham Lincoln and the Jews as well as a Primary Source Reader on American Jewish history. Dr. Zola also serves as editor of The Marcus Center’s award-winning biannual publication, The American Jewish Archives Journal.
In addition to these national activities, Dr. Zola has been actively involved in community relations in Cincinnati, Ohio. In recognition of his commitment to human rights and race relations, Dr. Zola received Cincinnati’s Martin Luther King Legacy Award from the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center in January 2012. In May of 2009, the Cincinnati Human Relations Commission conferred the Bishop Herbert Thompson, Jr. Outstanding Humanitarian Award on Professor Zola in recognition of his service to the people of the greater Cincinnati metropolitan area. The Jewish Federation of Cincinnati recognized Dr. Zola’s service to Cincinnati’s Jewish community in 2004 by awarding him its Distinguished Leadership Award.
Dr. Zola and his wife Stefi reside in Cincinnati, Ohio. They have four grown children: Mandi, Jory, Jeremy, and Samantha.