Ziona Zelazo

Ziona, the daughter of Holocaust survivors, was born and raised in Haifa, Israel. She served in The Israeli Defense Force as an electronic intelligence sergeant during the War of Attrition (1969-1971). After that she worked as an office manager for the Ministry of Defense. Ziona was a student of Biblical archaeology in Tel Aviv University, where she participated in archaeological digs and learned Hittite and ancient Hebrew languages.

Ziona immigrated to Milwaukee, Wisconsin in 1977 after her marriage to Ron. While raising three children, she completed her BA and an MA in Cultural Anthropology from the University of Wisconsin. As an anthropologist, she has participated in expeditions to Egypt, Eastern Turkey, Kenya and Tanzania. Her love of travel also brought her to Japan, India, Jordan, and Korea. She researched the acculturation process of five Ethiopian families who immigrated to Israel with Operation Moses. In New Jersey, Ziona established her career as an adjunct professor of cultural anthropology in Montclair State University. After 14 years of teaching, she embarked on her journey to complete her rabbinic studies at AJR.

Prior to her enrollment in AJR, Ziona practiced different kinds of meditations and participated in metaphysical studies with teachers of all faiths. She taught meditation and conducted healing services. Her desire to acquire esoteric knowledge so that she could teach it to others led to her decision to become a rabbi. She found the hidden treasures of the Jewish tradition igniting the fire within.

At AJR, she served as the chair of the Mishpachah (family) program at three annual retreats and served as coordinator of the mentor program for new students for three years. Her studies at AJR culminated with her rabbinic thesis presentation, ‘Kissing the Torah scroll ‘ Idol Worship or Concrete Divine Connection?’ Ziona served as the rabbinic intern at Temple Avodat Sholom in River Edge, New Jersey and completed a unit of Clinical Pastoral Education at Valley Hospital in New Jersey

Ziona is currently working as an associate chaplain at Valley Hospital in Ridgewood, New Jersey. She is also involved in community service: she is a trustee and board member of UJA, is on the committee of the Synagogue Leadership Initiative, serves on the Bioethics Committee at St. Joseph’s-Wayne Hospital and is a trustee of the Washington Institute for the Near East Policies. In the past, she chaired the Israel Program Center at UJA.

Ziona acknowledges the fact that her life’s accomplishments would not be possible without the support and nourishment of her family. She thanks her parents, Shoshanah and Akiva (Z’L) Macagon, her brother Shai and sister-in-law Racheli, and her husband, friend and teacher, Ron (aka The Rebbitzen). Ziona’s children, Dan, Maya and Eyton deserve a special Thank You, as they patiently watched their mom write papers and take exams in her old age.

There is much praise to be given to God for putting shining gifts and blessings on Ziona’s rabbinic path. Her beloved teachers are one of those blessings. They are the supporting columns and foundation for Ziona’s spiritual development as a person and as a rabbi. As the real journey for Ziona is actually just about to begin, she will forever be indebted to them and will consider them as influential models in her new endeavors. It was also a gift to study and interact with her fellow students, without whose love and compassion, Ziona would have not been able to persevere. May their being a blessing in my life become theirs.