Once married, the Schaalmans went off to Temple Judah in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, a town Herman had visited with a friend and saw as sort of the end of the world. Thus, he launched his new career from what felt like ground zero, in a strange place with no friends nor family, just himself and his wife and a congregation of 32 members. Though he felt unprepared and inadequate to the challenge, the congregation welcomed him heartily and he remained there until 1949.
Lotte quickly showed her true colors. She became president of Hadassah in Cedar Rapids, taught in the Temple Judah Sunday school and became a member of the Sisterhood. Once established at Temple Judah, Herman quickly became a member of the Kiwanis, and soon he was teaching at both Coe and Cornell colleges. His career as a staunch ecumenical leader had begun.
The Schaalmans came to Chicago in 1949, when Herman became central region director of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations (forerunner of the URJ, Union for Reform Judaism). His duties were quite varied, ranging from adult education and helping strengthen congregations to starting a summer camp program for youth.
Through his work, Rabbi Schaalman got to know many people and organizations in Chicago, and he had the good fortune to help found Olin-Sang-Ruby Union Institute (OSRUI), in Oconomowoc, WI. Several generations of Chicago area Jewish youth have spent summers there and learned more about their religion, an experience Rabbi Schaalman deemed a necessity. In 1956, Herman became the rabbi at Emanuel.
Soon the Schaalmans were like the mother and father of a huge, congregational family. Lotte quickly became active with the Sisterhood. She was the hostess par excellence wherever she went. She attended every special event--bris, baby naming or shiva. She made sure that everyone had torah honors, especially new members. She was the hostess at onegs and at Rabbi’s Current Events classes and at every event help at the Union Institute, where many family retreats were held there and the Schaalmans were like everyone’s mother and father. Lotte’s warm and welcoming presence was felt at every Shabbat for decades.
Together, they fostered a very active role for members in directing the life of the congregation, as it remains today. Throughout his career at Emanuel, Rabbi Schaalman has participated in a broad range of ecumenical activities in the Edgewater community and throughout the Chicago area. He has had profound friendships with many clergy in the area, particularly the late Cardinal Joseph Bernadin.