Adler Joins Etz Chaim as Assistant Rabbi
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Adler Joins Etz Chaim as Assistant Rabbi

Rabbi Jonathon Adler is a fan of the arts and plans a needlepoint club as one of his connection points. He already has ties to Georgia and the Cobb County congregation.

After 37 years with the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and now with the AJT, , Jaffe’s focus is lifestyle, art, dining, fashion, and community events with emphasis on Jewish movers and shakers.

Rabbi Jonathon Adler, recently hired as assistant rabbi for Congregation Etz Chaim, holds a master’s degree in sacred music.
Rabbi Jonathon Adler, recently hired as assistant rabbi for Congregation Etz Chaim, holds a master’s degree in sacred music.

Rabbi Daniel Dorsch, Senior Rabbi at Congregation Etz Chaim, welcomed Rabbi Jonathon Adler, who brings musical acumen and a somewhat unusual background in customer service.

Adler grew up in Toledo, Ohio, and attended Rice University in Houston, where he earned a BA in art and art history. He moved to New York City in 1998 where he worked as a concierge at the prestigious St. Regis Hotel in Manhattan until 2019. In 2005, he was awarded the Big Apple Star Award from the Hotel Association of New York City, given to the best hotel employee in the city.

Adler said, “People think that’s a really crazy transition, from hotel concierge to rabbi, but I think at the core, both professions are really about helping people. That’s what I love to do, and now I get to do it in an incredibly special and sacred way.”

Maybe it’s not coincidental that Adler landed in the South as his family roots from Rome, Ga., date back to the 1890s. His great-great grandfather, David Esserman, was the rabbi in the Rome congregation from 1898 (when he came over from the “old country”) until his death in 1917. Adler noted, “My grandfather was the synagogue president there. My mother was born in Rome and lived there until 1963, when she moved to Cincinnati.” Adler was raised in a culturally Jewish home and attended an Orthodox synagogue.

His interview process at Congregation Etz Chaim began with an introduction from a director of rabbinic placement from the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism. Last May, the director informed Adler that a synagogue in Marietta was looking for an assistant rabbi.

Adler said, “We thought they might be willing to take an intern that they could then hire for a permanent position after ordination. I had a telephone meeting with the shul president, then a telephone meeting with Rabbi Dorsch, then I got the offer and accepted immediately.”

He came for his first visit on Shavuot, then visited a few more times over the summer, for the High Holidays, and then twice a month until Feb. 29, when he moved here.

When asked if he has had time to experience the city, he mused, “Honestly, finishing school and trying to set up my house has been enough of a project. I haven’t had that much time to explore Atlanta. I’ve gone to a comedy club, Braves game, and a few performances by The Atlanta Opera, which have all been a lot of fun. I know the traffic can be terrible, but lucky for me, I don’t usually have to deal with it, since I live very close to the synagogue. I’m really enjoying the convergence of Jewish welcoming with Southern hospitality, while also loving that Atlanta is a really cosmopolitan city.”

Adler is a big fan of aquaria and is planning to join the Georgia Aquarium. He’s looking forward to exploring The Breman Museum and its Cuba Family Archives where there is a file from his family within that collection.

Another very meaningful connection is his previous internship during rabbinical school at Temple Beth Hillel-Beth El, in Wynnewood, Penn., which is where Rabbi Dorsch grew up. As such, the pair both learned from Rabbi Neil Cooper there.

Rabbi Adler intends to use his other skills and adds, “Music is one of my areas of concentration, as well as pastoral work. I love giving sermons and teaching students of all ages. I’ll be co-teaching sixth grade in religious school here this coming year, as well as working on a project with post-B’nai mitzvah students where we’ll learn about the Civil Rights movement.”

On the personal side, Adler loves opera, performing arts, knitting, and needlepointing. He’s starting a “stitch and kvetch with the rabbi” in July. Adler has cats: Figaro, and Sir Isaac Newton (Yitzie), and noted, “They really like Chanukah candles, but they do not enjoy airplanes!”

Dorsch summarized, “It’s astonishing that every few weeks we meet a ‘new cousin’ in the congregation who is related to Rabbi Adler. His appointment to Etz Chaim is truly a joyous homecoming for the Jewish community in Georgia. He earned a master’s degree in sacred music, has a wonderful voice, and plays the piano.”

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