When fellow second-graders were focusing on research projects about the Minnesota Twins and the Chicago Bears, Jordan Ottenstein was learning about the Holocaust and Israel, so it’s not surprising that he grew up to become a rabbi.
Now he is the fourth senior rabbi at Congregation Dor Tamid, which hired him after a yearlong nationwide search.
Originally from Minnetonka, Minn., Rabbi Ottenstein grew up in a family where Judaism was always at the forefront of life. His mother was his kindergarten teacher at religious school, and he forged a relationship with Rabbi Norman Cohen, fostering his passion for Jewish studies.
“Judaism is something I have always been connected to and known, which inevitably led to my greater involvement in community,” Rabbi Ottenstein said.
Throughout adolescence, he was active in Jewish youth groups, including BBYO and NFTY, and he attended the Alexander Muss High School in Israel before moving to the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where he pursued Hebrew and Jewish studies.
“My journey has always led me on a path to becoming a rabbi,” he said.
After college, he went to work at Central Reform Congregation in St. Louis, where he held multiple education positions before becoming the director of lifelong learning. He also earned a master’s in teaching from Webster University and was certified by the Association of Reform Jewish Educators.
In 2009, he entered Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion to become a rabbi, starting with a year in Jerusalem alongside wife Marni Phon and finishing at the HUC campus in Cincinnati in 2014.
Rabbi Ottenstein served three years as an assistant rabbi at Beth-El Congregation in Fort Worth, Texas. He served on the board of the local Jewish Education Association and as a staff chaplain for the Tarrant County Sheriff’s Office. He also made visits to the low-security federal prison and minimum-security prison camp 200 miles away in Texarkana, Texas
“I really enjoyed the opportunity to work with the prisoners and provide pastoral counseling as well as teaching,” Rabbi Ottenstein said. “I think it’s a segment of the Jewish community that is often underserved, as there are currently few rabbis conducting active work in the prison system, yet it remains an important issue for Jews to have access to rabbis when they are needed.”
Rabbi Ottenstein learned about the opportunity at Dor Tamid from the Central Conference of American Rabbis. “I felt that the congregation was a good fit both on paper and in person and believe the synagogue prides itself on being a warm and open community with a focus on lifelong learning and social justice, two aspects I am very passionate about.”
He said hopes to expand the Johns Creek congregation’s educational offerings for members young and old. The religious school, which has 180 students, this fall will include Play Tamid, offering parents and children up to age 4 religious classes taught by Rabbi Ottenstein once a month. Other efforts to connect families to the congregation include tot Shabbat services and a young families program.
Dor Tamid, formed from the merger of Temple Shir Shalom and Congregation B’nai Dorot in 2004, was led by Rabbi Ron Herstik for its first nine years, but Rabbi Ottenstein is the third rabbi to serve the congregation since 2013.
“Stability is always a benefit to the strength of the congregation, and I hope to provide that while challenging individuals to grow,” Rabbi Ottenstein said. “Building relationships is important, and the benefit of being a rabbi is that in some way, shape or form you get invited to the lives of your congregants. That is something I treasure and look forward to enhancing within the community in the journey ahead.”
The rabbi said Dor Tamid’s North Metro location can help it develop strong bonds among Jewish community members. “Atlanta has a lot of opportunities for the Jewish community, and although it may not be as concentrated as further south, the challenge and the opportunity lie in our members’ access with the Jewish community and our ability to engage individuals with various endeavors.”