Jonathan Jackson to become Dothan’s rabbi

Rabbi Jonathan Jackson was selected as the new rabbi for Temple Emanu-El in Dothan.

For the past year, Rabbi Michael Shields of Tallahassee has been the interim rabbi, since the retirement of Cantor Neil Schwartz in the summer of 2022.

Shields said Jackson “has a spectacular reputation” and he is happy for the congregation.

In a release, Emanu-El President Stefan Zweig “brings to us an outstanding academic back-ground, and a special ability to invigorate membership, to provide congregants with a unique spiritual journey, and to develop interfaith relationships and community activities.”

He is expected to start on May 1.

A Boston native, Jackson earned a degree in religion from Hendrix College in Arkansas, and a master’s in theological studies at Harvard.

Jackson was a cultural anthropologist and lecturer in world religions and Jewish studies at Ithaca College in Ithaca, N.Y., and was a social science instructor at Delaware Valley University in Doylestown, Pa.

He started his rabbinic training at the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College, finishing at Hebrew Union College, where he was ordained in 2021. During his training, he served communities in Oneonta, N.Y., Philadelphia and Cincinnati. He had an emphasis on interfaith families, LGBTQ families and those looking for a place within Judaism.

After ordination, he became the rabbi of Temple Beth Israel Sha’are Zedeq in Lima, Ohio. He also has been teaching Judaism and Biblical Hebrew at Xavier University in Cincinnati.

Jackson said it is an exciting time to be coming to Dothan because of dynamic growth in the area, and he sees the Jewish community also growing.

He said “Emanu-El in Dothan is a special community, even down to our very name,” which means “God is with us.” The name “reminds us that we together are the hope of the Jews — in the South, in America, and in the world as the people of Temple Emanu-El.”

He has two Catahoula dogs, Oscar and Wendell, and said that after a recent minor blizzard, they quoted Genesis in telling him “Let us go to Dothan.”