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Matthew H. Simon, z"l


Rabbi Matthew Simon was elected Senior Rabbi of B’nai Israel Congregation in March, 1973, with a dual assignment. He was to move the Congregation to a suburban location, and raise the funds to build a new synagogue complex.

Rabbi Simon found a fourteen acre site close to the buildings of The Jewish Federation, with a pond and a cow barn, with cows on site. The B’nai Israel complex was created and dedicated in 1976.

Before Rabbi Simon retired in August, 2002, an educational complex was planned, built, and funded containing an early childhood campus, Hebrew school classes, auditorium, and additional spaces for prayer and study, completing the B’nai Israel campus.

He was a past president of The Jewish Federation of Greater Washington, and served as its Campaign Chairman and Treasurer. He was chairman of the Legacy Society of the United Jewish Endowment Fund of The Jewish Federation,  and was Chairman for four years of The Jewish Federation of North America’s Interagency Forum on Aging.

He is a life member of the Board of the Jewish Social Service Agency, was the founding Chairman of Jewish Vocational Services, and was an advocate for its Chaplaincy and Hospice programs. In 1988 JSSA presented him with their Lehrman Pikser Award for outstanding volunteer activity.

In 2004, The Jewish Community Center of Greater Washington awarded him the Ourisman Memorial Civic Award, and in 2009 he merited the First Humanitarian award presented by the Jewish Council for the Aging.

Rabbi Simon attended the University of Chicago and California State University, Northridge. He earned a Master of Political Science, a M.H.L. in Hebrew Literature, and a D.H.L. He was ordained by the Jewish Theological Seminary in 1958, which awarded him an Honorary Doctor of Divinity Degree in 1984. Following his ordination, he served as a U.S. Navy Chaplain in Japan, and retired from the Navy as a Captain after 28 years of Naval reserve service. He now serves as a volunteer rabbi to the Walter Reed Military Medical Center, in Bethesda.

From 1960 to 1967, Rabbi Simon served congregations in the San Fernando Valley of Los Angeles, he then became the Director of the United Jewish Appeal in Jerusalem. He is a founding member of Mercaz, the Zionist Movement of Conservative Judaism, and was its president; he was also president of Masorti, its international synagogue organization. For the Masorti Movement’s Bar/Bat Mitzvah program for Children with Special Needs, the Simon family sponsored its prayer book, Yehoshua Hazak, in memory of their son, Rabbi Joshua Rubinow Simon.

He served as Chairman of the Joint Retirement Board for Conservative Judaism three times, and a board member for over forty years. Twice he was the National Chairman of the Rabbinic Cabinet of the United Jewish Appeal. He was an honorary president of the Rabbinic Cabinet of The Jewish Federations of North America, and was Chairman for five years of its National Funding Councils. He was Chairman of the Jewish Welfare Board – Jewish Chaplains Council. He was a past national president of ZBT Fraternity, and a past president of the Washington Board of Rabbis.

Rabbi Simon is survived by his wife Dr. Sara Rubinow Simon. Their children are Ethan Simon, who has two children, Molly and Ezekiel; Betsy, who is married to Colonel Jeffrey L. Cowan, USAF, and have two children, Maggie and Buddy; and the late Rabbi Joshua of the Actors Temple of Manhattan, who was married to Dr. Miriam Bensimhon; their twin sons are Dylan Rafael and Marley Reuven.

Click here for a list of selected sermons given by Rabbi Matthew Simon.

Thu, September 28 2023 13 Tishrei 5784