Etz Chayim hires rabbi to replace retiring Ari Cartun

Congregation Etz Chayim in Palo Alto has hired a new rabbi.

Chaim Koritzinsky will become the unaffiliated synagogue’s rabbi in July, succeeding Rabbi Ari Cartun, who will retire at the end of June after 19 years with the congregation, which followed 21 years with Hillel at Stanford.

Rabbi Chaim Koritzinsky

Koritzinsky, 41, will be arriving from Santiago, Chile, where he was the founding rabbi of Ruaj Ami, an independent congregation of 130 families. The native of Madison, Wisconsin, has lived in Chile with his family since 2008.

“There aren’t liberal synagogues in Santiago,” said Ellen Bob, Etz Chayim’s executive director. “He called women to the Torah, which was pretty scandalous.”

Koritzinsky will become only the second full-time rabbi in Etz Chayim’s history, Bob said. And like Cartun, he will bring experience in transdenominational Judaism to the bimah; Etz Chayim melds Reform and Conservative traditions with elements from across the spectrum of Judaism, according to its website.

Koritzinsky was ordained at the pluralistic Hebrew College Rabbinical School outside of Boston. The hiring committee did extensive networking to find candidates, Bob said, and did all first-round interviews through videoconferencing, making it easier for a candidate living in South America.

“It would have been so much harder before Web 2.0,” Bob said.

Koritzinsky, a one-time Jewish community organizer in the former Soviet Union, will officially take his place as rabbi on July 20. It will be a new era for the congregation that now has more than 300 member families.

“I remember when Ari came [to Hillel at Stanford] in the ’70s, he was this great young rabbi,” Bob said. “He now has the longest tenure in the South Bay.” — drew himmelstein

Drew Himmelstein
Drew Himmelstein

Drew Himmelstein is a former J. reporter who writes about education, families and Jewish life. She lives with her husband and two sons.