On Sunday, May 19, 2019 at 6:00 pm, Congregation Etz Chaim of Marietta, GA will host its annual gala, an evening of celebration, honoring Rabbi Shalom J. Lewis as he prepares for his retirement in July. The celebration will take place at the Westin Atlanta Perimeter North, 7 Concourse Parkway, Atlanta. For information, call 770.973.0137, or visit etzchaim.net/event/celebrate2019.
“I have known Rabbi Shalom Lewis since 1987 when my family became members of Congregation Etz Chaim,” says Bob Bachrach, Etz Chaim Past President. “Over the past 32 years our relationship has grown from one typical of a rabbi and congregant to a close and sincere friendship where we are confidants, each other’s sounding boards and where we enjoy a special camaraderie that has created an everlasting bond.”
“Not many people can say they have had the same Rabbi their whole lives,” reflects Dani Oren, life-long member, Congregation Etz Chaim. “I am so lucky along with a handful of others to have had the same Spiritual Leader – Rabbi Lewis – guide me from the time I was about 4 years old until today. Rabbi Lewis has been a part of my life for over 40 years as well as all my Jewish milestones for not just me but also now my kids. He officiated at my baby/Hebrew naming (when I was 5), my Bat Mitzvah, our wedding, the bris of both sons, and the naming of our daughter. He has since officiated at the Bar and Bat Mitzvah of my two older children.”
“When Etz Chaim first started, we were all so young, including Rabbi Lewis,” explains Linda Weinroth, a longtime Etz Chaim congregant. “In 1978 when Rabbi Lewis became our full-time Rabbi, we finally had kids old enough for us to start a Hebrew School, and he taught our very first class of afternoon students ranging in age from 7 to 12 years old. Rabbi Lewis knew every child. As he stood with the Bar/Bat Mitzvah on the Bimah each Shabbat, his message and words to them were heartfelt because of his connection to each family.”
Rabbi Lewis was born in Camden, New Jersey, living there through fourth grade. His family then moved on to Philadelphia, where he eventually graduated from Temple University. He continued his graduate studies at Temple, getting his Master’s in Secondary Education. This was followed by Rabbinical School at The Jewish Theological Seminary, where he was ordained with a Rabbinic Degree in 1978.
Rabbi Lewis began his career with Congregation Etz Chaim as a student pulpit rabbi in 1977 and moved to Etz Chaim full time in 1978 after his ordination at JTS. Rabbi Lewis has served as the President of the SE Region of the Rabbinical Assembly, as the President of the Atlanta Rabbinic Association, and on the national board of the Rabbinical Assembly. He has served on the boards of numerous secular organizations, both local, national and international, as well as being very involved in interfaith activities and dialogue. Many of Rabbi Lewis’ writings have been quoted and reprinted in assorted Jewish publications and journals, while many of his sermons have gone viral and received international recognition.
“I love listening to Rabbi Lewis’ sermons. He was born to be an orator,” says Allison Saffran, Etz Chaim President. “He has an amazing command of the English language and can combine and deliver words in a truly meaningful way. He challenges people to think beyond what they see at first glance.”
“I have had the privilege of knowing Rabbi Lewis for a number of years now and I bring to him the blessings and congratulations of our St. Ann Catholic Church Community on the occasion of his retirement,” says Father Ray Cadran, St. Ann Catholic Church. “Rabbi Lewis has been instrumental in helping us join together as communities of faith in prayer and study. We have been enriched by his warmth of personality, his respect and caring to bring our communities into fruitful, life enhancing dialogue that continues to grow through his inspiration.”
“Pirkei Avot (Ethics of our Fathers) famously teaches that when one ‘acquires for himself a teacher, he acquires for himself a friend,’” says Etz Chaim’s Rabbi Daniel Dorsch. “In this respect, it has been a true joy to work with my mentor, friend, and teacher, Rabbi Shalom Lewis, for the past three years. He has been a constant source of support, an unfailing ally “behind the scenes”, and a personal teacher of Torah. I am overjoyed to join along with the Etz Chaim community in honoring our founding rabbi for his remarkable 42 years of continued service to our community.”
Rabbi Lewis and his wife Cindy have four children between them, Jill, David, Hadley and Ashley. They also have three grandchildren, Harlow, Sloane, and Noah. After 42 years with Etz Chaim, Rabbi Lewis will retire in July, becoming Rabbi Emeritus.
Congregation Etz Chaim was established in the fall of 1975 to meet the needs of the expanding Jewish community of north metropolitan Atlanta. An affiliate of the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, Etz Chaim is a modern Conservative synagogue committed to blending tradition and change.
Etz Chaim’s May 19th gala celebration includes dinner and dancing. The 2019 Celebration is chaired by Janis and Peter Greenfield, Bonnie and Neil Negrin, Ellen and Pip Spandorfer, and Linda and Michael Weinroth. For additional information or to purchase tickets, please contact the Etz Chaim Office at 770.973.0137, or visit etzchaim.net/event/celebrate2019.