Daniel Zemel



Since his arrival to Temple Micah in 1983, Rabbi Daniel G. Zemel has woven his open-minded, creative approach to Judaism into the culture and worship of our community. He feels his primary role as rabbi is grappling with the challenge of “translating” the inherited Jewish past into a theology and practice that speaks to today. A graduate of Brown University, Rabbi Zemel received his rabbinic ordination from the New York campus of Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in 1979. Over the years, he has been involved in numerous community and Jewish organizations but derives greatest satisfaction from being a founder of Micah House, a group home for formerly homeless women in recovery from addiction. His twenty year involvement with Synagogue 2000 was instrumental in shaping his vision of synagogue life and the role of rabbi. Rabbi Zemel has written many articles and essays on a wide variety of Jewish topics; he contributed an essay to each volume of the Prayers of Awe series, a multi-volume commentary on the High Holy Day liturgy edited by Rabbi Larry A. Hoffman. Rabbi Zemel published “A Time to Speak,” a book of his sermons and writings, in 2019. Rabbi Zemel is blessed with a loving family that is the center of his life. When not at Micah, he is either with family, visiting Israel, reading, studying, thinking, or dreaming of his beloved Chicago White Sox playing in the World Series.

CLICK HERE to see an online collection of Rabbi Zemel’s sermons from 2018 – present.

On January 9, 2024, Rabbi Daniel Zemel informed the Temple Micah Board of his plan to retire on June 30, 2025. Our entire Micah community is tremendously grateful to Rabbi Zemel for his visionary leadership, passion, wisdom, and care for the past 40+ years, and we look forward to honoring and celebrating him over the coming year and a half.

CLICK HERE to learn more about Rabbi Zemel’s retirement plan.

A Time to Speak: Selected Sermons and Writings from 1983-2019

Order Rabbi Zemel’s book, A Time to Speak: Selected Sermons and Writings from 1983-2019. This collection of twenty-five sermons and writings encapsulates Rabbi Zemel’s innovative leadership over the years, and reminds us all of how he led Micah through so many temple celebrations, national storms, and baseball seasons, with wisdom, vision, and humor. The book was edited by Martha Ransohoff Adler, designed by congregant Rob Sugar, and introduced by Rabbi Lawrence A. Hoffman.

To order a copy, please contact Jeannelle D’Isa.

The Human Project

Embedded in the very meaning of Judaism is an expression of social justice and action, and what it means to be human. The Jewish story is one of human history’s longest-running, powerfully dramatic, and wise explorations about our shared humanity. Part of the work of our Jewish lives in our time is to reanimate this Jewish story that gives life to the Human Project as the defining soul of Judaism.

Developed by Rabbi Daniel Zemel and used to guide his leadership of the Micah community, the Human Project states that we are part of a shared humanity, and that to be human is to:

  • Engage in a thoughtful approach to life
  • Struggle to understand the self, others, and the relationship between them
  • Demand that we be morally scrupulous, ethically demanding, passionate for justice, and willing to both listen deeply and act courageously
  • Have and act on our responsibilities to each other and the larger community
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