Ari Shlomo Zymelman of Chevy Chase, a Washington attorney whose ties in the Jewish community spread across five synagogues and two Jewish day schools, died of lymphoma on Sunday, Sept. 15, at the age of 50.
Deeply devoted to his daughter, Talia, 13, and son Yossi, 11, the pride and joy that Mr. Zymelman felt at being a father more than doubled nearly two years ago, when he married Beth Gansky of Owings Mills and became stepfather to her three children, Benjamin, 24, Mollie, 21, and Sophie, 14.
Mr. Zymelman was a partner at Williams & Connolly, the Washington, D.C., law firm where he had practiced since completing a clerkship with Chief Judge Frank H. Easterbrook of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit in 1989. His colleagues described him as a meticulous and highly strategic litigator, who specialized in issues involving technology or government contracting, especially related to national defense.
One highlight of his legal career was a victory defending a private contractor in lawsuits that arose out of the disclosures of misconduct at the Abu Ghraib military prison. Mr. Zymelman prevailed in arguing that the government, rather than the private contractors that they hired, were liable for whatever wrongdoing had occurred.
Mr. Zymelman loved being a lawyer. But as his partner Robert A. Van Kirk said during his eulogy at Ohr Kodesh Congregation on Monday, “nothing was more important to him than his family.”
“As excited as he was when he won a big motion or case, he never brightened up more than when he was telling you about what Talia or Yossi had done at school or when he was showing you the latest picture or drawing on display in his office,” Mr. Van Kirk said. “His pride in each of them was so apparent and his hopes for them so real.”
Mr. Zymelman was born in Newton, Mass., the first child of Manuel and Nancy. His sister, Naomi, was born four years later. The family eventually moved to Rockville, where Mr. Zymelman was a member of one of the first graduating classes of the Charles E. Smith Jewish Day School.
He graduated cum laude from Yale University in 1984, majoring in economics (with distinction). After college, he worked for one year at MITRE Corp. before law school at the University of Chicago, where he graduated with honors in 1988. Mr. Zymelman’s marriage to his first wife, Kerry Abrams, ended in divorce.
Mr. Zymelman and Ms. Gansky were members of Kesher Israel Congregation, Adas Israel Congregation, Ohev Sholom/The National Synagogue, Ohr Kodesh and Beth Israel in Owings Mills. In addition, Mr. Zymelman was a longtime supporter of the Jewish Federation and the Jewish Primary Day School of the Nation’s Capital, where Yossi is in sixth grade. Talia graduated JPDS-NC in 2012 and attends the Charles E. Smith Jewish Day School.
“His faith influenced his every action and every thought,” close friend Jeff Lang said in his eulogy. “Not only the technical issues, whether a food was kosher, or if it was time to light Shabbat candles, but more deeply — what would my God think of me? That was his unspoken but daily guiding force.”
Mr. Zymelman loved the kitchen, and though he rarely had time to make dinners during the week, he was known for planning and cooking elaborate Shabbat meals and inviting friends to share them.
He met Ms. Gansky in 2007, and they were married on Oct. 30, 2011. In addition to his wife, children and stepchildren, parents and sister, he leaves three brothers-in-law, two sisters-in-law, eight nieces and nephews and a host of other relatives and friends.
“Ari took his role as a stepparent very seriously, in addition to his favorite role, which was being Talia and Yossi’s Dad and Abba,” Ms. Gansky said during the funeral. “I knew I had struck gold when I saw how Ari interacted so lovingly with his children – his world revolved around them.”
The family has launched the Ari Zymelman Annual Lecture Series on Parenting Education at JPDS-NC in Mr. Zymelman’s memory. Donations may be made online at www.jpds.org or by sending a check to JPDS-NC, 6045 16th Street N.W., Washington, D.C. 20011.