Etz Chaim Hires Lewis’ Successor

Etz Chaim Hires Lewis’ Successor

Congregation Etz Chaim has found the replacement for the man who has led it through most of its 40-plus-year existence.

The Conservative East Cobb congregation announced Wednesday, Feb. 17, that it has hired Rabbi Daniel Dorsch to succeed Rabbi Shalom Lewis as senior rabbi, effective in July.

“Rabbi Dorsch is passionate about the role of the shul in creating meaningful Jewish experiences. His energy is infectious and his ability to connect is uncommon,” Todd Surden, the president of Etz Chaim’s board of trustees, said in an Etz Chaim press release. “Rabbi Dorsch will be tireless in his efforts to engage all members of our community by exemplifying a spirited love of Jewish observance and Torah.”

Rabbi Dorsch is the associate rabbi at Temple Beth Shalom in Livingston, N.J., where he has served since earning ordination, as well as a master’s degree in synagogue school education, from the Jewish Theological Seminary in mid-2010. He was awarded the Reverend Zvi Hirsch Masliansky Prize for Homiletics upon graduation.

The native of Perth Amboy, N.J., who grew up in Marlboro, N.J., and Wynnewood, Pa., said he is excited and humbled by the opportunity to work with the team at Etz Chaim.

“During our visit we were really impressed with the high level of warmth, kindness, and I guess you would say Southern hospitality that exuded from everyone we met,” said Rabbi Dorsch, who visited with his wife, Amy, and toddler son, Zev, during the Martin Luther King Day weekend. “We were just completely blown away by the people we met when we were interviewing.”

Etz Chaim’s choice of Rabbi Dorsch came after a nearly yearlong search conducted by a committee of congregants led by former Etz Chaim President Scott Rittenberg, with whom Rabbi Dorsch said he clicked from the start.

“There’s just a wonderful feeling about the way of life in the South that we very much appreciate,” he said.

The rabbi earned his bachelor’s degree in history, Talmud and rabbinics, and modern Jewish studies through the joint program between Columbia University and the Albert A. List College at JTS. Rabbi Dorsch serves on the board of MERCAZ USA, the Zionist arm of the Conservative movement.

He also writes a roughly monthly column for’s Rabbis’ Round Table. His latest, published in December, responds to Israeli Chief Rabbi David Lau’s criticism of Conservative Judaism ( subscription required to read the column).

Rabbi Lewis, who has led Etz Chaim for more than 38 years, will remain at Etz Chaim in an emeritus role after Rabbi Dorsch’s arrival. He announced his retirement plans in September 2014.

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