Oro Valley to get Chabad rabbi and rebbetzin

Rabbi Ephraim Zimmerman with his wife, Mushkie, and daughters Devora (right) and Chana

Chabad of Tucson has appointed Rabbi Ephraim Zimmerman to be the first full-time rabbi serving the spiritual, religious and educational needs of Oro Valley Jews.

“This is a response to the growing Jewish population in the Northwest,” says Rabbi Yossie Shemtov, regional director of Chabad of Tucson.

Zimmerman and his wife, Mushkie, will establish and run Chabad of Oro Valley as a team, an approach often practiced in the Chabad-Lubavitch movement, considered the largest Jewish outreach and education network in the world. The center will be

financially independent.

Regular Shabbat services and meals will be offered, along with adult education classes, holiday and youth programs and visitation to the ill and elderly, says Zimmerman, who was ordained by Chabad in Atlanta in 2008.

This won’t be Zimmerman’s first foray as a Tucson educator. In 2007, the Chicago native spent a year teaching Judaic studies at the Yeshiva High School of Tucson and heading its extracurricular activities.

“I immediately fell in love with this gorgeous city,” says the father of two. “And when the opportunity was presented to return here, I was very happy to accept it, fulfilling a lifelong dream of helping others explore and experience our heritage.”

Oro Valley residents, says Shemtov, “have been calling on Chabad to establish a permanent presence and we couldn’t have chosen more suitable people than the Zimmermans.”

Zimmerman studied in yeshivas in France, New Jersey and New York and has done community outreach work in Montana, Lithuania and Safed, Israel. Mushkie grew up in Jacksonville, Fla., studied in New York and Australia, taught in California and France and was twice a head counselor of Chabad’s overnight Camp Emuna for girls in New York’s Catskills.

“We both knew as soon as we were married that this is what we wanted to do,” says Mushkie, who grew up helping her parents run Chabad Lubavitch of Northeast Florida.

Chabad has 22 permanent rabbi-rebbetzin couples around the Grand Canyon State. In Southern Arizona, in addition to Rabbi Yossie and Chanie Shemtov and Rabbi Yehuda and Feigie Ceitlin of Chabad of Tucson, there are Rabbi Yossi and Naomi Winner at Chabad at the University of Arizona and Rabbi Rami and Chani Bigelman of Chabad on River Road.

The Zimmermans will arrive in Oro Valley in June, in time to prepare for the 5773 High Holidays. They can be reached at 477-8672 or online at