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|James Lee "Jimmy" Kessler|
December 10, 1945|
Houston, Texas, United States
James Lee "Jimmy" Kessler (born December 10, 1945), the founder of the Texas Jewish Historical Society, is the first native Texan to serve as rabbi of Congregation B'nai Israel in Galveston, Texas.
Early life and education
Kessler was born in Houston, Texas. After attending local schools, he earned his BA from the University of Texas in Austin. He earned the first doctorate in Texas Jewish history, at the Hebrew Union College Jewish Institute of Religion in Cincinnati, where he was also ordained as a rabbi.
Kessler first served as director of the Texas Hillel, which serves the students attending the University of Texas. While there, Kessler taught very popular courses in the Religious Studies programs at UT and served on several committees at the request of the University president.
Based on his long interest in Texas Jewish history, Kessler founded the Texas Jewish Historical Society in 1980. Today the society has grown to more 750 members and has sponsored and supported research for scholars and students of Texas Jewish history.
In 1976, he was called as rabbi of Congregation B'nai Israel in Galveston, Texas, serving them for five years. He returned as rabbi in 1989, and has led the congregation since then. This is the only Reform Jewish congregation on Galveston Island. In 2008 they held a Yom Kippur observance outdoors.
Kessler's strong dedication to education and youth has continued: he serves as campus minister to Jewish students at the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston (UTMB), and teaches philosophy at Galveston College. He also serves as Jewish chaplain for patients at UTMB's hospitals.
Academics and leadership
Kessler has been engaged in numerous public activities: he was appointed as the first Chairman of the Church-State Relations Advisory Board of the Texas Department of Human Resources, and as board member for the Central Conference of American Rabbis.
He has participated in the management of foundations, such as director of the Harris & Eliza Kempner Fund, trustee for the Abe and Anne Siebel Fund, and director of the Abe and Peggy Levy Fund. He was a 25-year member of the Institutional Review Board of the University of Texas Medical Branch. He is a member of the Human Research Committee at the Transitional Learning Center, and founding chair of the Community Liaison Committee for the Galveston National Laboratory.
In July 2009, Kessler became the first rabbi in the 171-year history of Texas freemasonry to be named the presiding officer of a Masonic lodge, when Harmony Lodge of Galveston installed him as its new leader. Harmony Lodge was established in 1839.
Legacy and honors
- Kessler, with Cathy Schechter and the Texas Jewish Historical Society, wrote Deep in the Heart: The Lives and Legends of Texas Jews : A Photographic History. (1990) 
- Songs for the Soul: Selections from Psalms(1995) 
- Henry Cohen: The Life of a Frontier Rabbi. (1997) 
- "HUC-JIR News Founders Day", Hebrew Union College, 12 March 1997, Retrieved on 2012-03-13.
- Kessler, James L. "Temple B'nai Israel, Galveston". Handbook of Texas Online. Retrieved 2007-10-24.
- "Rabbi Jimmy Kessler, DHL, DD". Temple B'nai Israel. Archived from the original on 2007-08-18. Retrieved 2007-10-24.
- "Main Page". The Texas Jewish Historical Society. Retrieved 2010-07-09.
- "80(R) Senate Resolution 709 – Enrolled Version – Bill Text". The Texas State Senate. Retrieved 2007-10-25.
- KARKABI, BARBARA (October 8, 2008). "Helping others keep the faith: Isle's only rabbi will hold outdoor Yom Kippur event". Houston Chronicle. Retrieved 9 July 2010.
- "Jimmy Kessler". University of Texas MB. 2007-09-25. Retrieved 2007-10-24.[dead link]
- Joint Commission For Sustaining Rabbinic Education, Hebrew Union College, Retrieved on 2012-03-13.
- Texas State Historical Association – The Handbook of Texas Online – New Handbook of Texas Editorial Advisory Board at the Wayback Machine (archived July 9, 2008). Tshaonline.org (1920-03-12). Retrieved on 2012-03-13.
- Rice, Harvey. "Glitch prompts shutdown of biohazard lab at UTMB". Houston Chronicle. Retrieved 2010-07-08.
- Microsoft Word – FallWinter2003.doc[dead link]
- [dead link]
- Cousins, Rick. "Kessler attains unique status among Texas Masons". Galveston Daily News. Retrieved 2010-07-08.
- Kessler, Jimmy; Schechter, Cathy; Society, Texas Jewish Historical (July 1990). Deep in the Heart: The Lives and Legends of Texas Jews : A Photographic History. Eakin Press. p. 272. ISBN 978-0-89015-759-6. Retrieved 2007-10-31.
- Kessler, Jimmy (1995-05-01). Songs for the Soul: Selections from Psalms. Ledero Pr. p. 32. ISBN 978-0-9627775-5-4. Retrieved 2007-10-31.
- Kessler, Jimmy (1997-06-01). Henry Cohen: The Life of a Frontier Rabbi. Eakin Press. p. 60. ISBN 978-1-57168-199-7. Retrieved 2007-10-31.
- Review of Rabbi Kessler's Book
- Rabbi Kessler's Book Release in time for Temple B’nai Israel's 136th year