Rabbi Schaalman became an outspoken advocate for civil rights and social justice, and he became very active in the Central Conference of American Rabbis (CCAR) which he served as president during the 1981-82 term. He remained active with the CCAR through 1991, serving on or chairing several committees faced with many sensitive issues, including mixed marriage, patrilineal descent of children and updating the rabbinical code of ethics.
The Jewish Council on Urban Affairs was another focus of Rabbi Schaalman’s efforts, especially after he retired from Emanuel, as was the Chicago Board of Rabbis and several interfaith and inter-religious organizations. He taught at Northwestern’s Garrett Theological Seminary from 1957 to 2014.
Rabbi Schaalman received the Interfaith Gold Medallion – Peace through Dialogue award from the International Council of Christians and Jews in 2005. The Chicago Theological Seminary established the Herman E. Schaalman Chair in Jewish Studies in 2008. The University of Chicago initiated the Herman E. and Lotte Schaalman Civilization Program for study in Jerusalem in 2012.
Rabbi Schaalman continues to teach and engage with members of Emanuel today, especially through Shabbat morning torah study which a few dozen adult students attend regularly. Begun in 1963 at the urging of several post-Confirmation students for after-school study, this practice has continued to the present, morphing to meet changing demands and new participants, and 52 years later some original students still participate, including some who went away and came back.