Dershowitz was born in Brno, Czechoslovakia in 1928. In 1938, just 33 days before the Nazis invaded, Dershowitz fled the country with his family (when he was just 10 years old). On February 2, 1939, Zvi emigrated to FreshYork City along with his parents, Aaron and Ruth, and sister Lili. They settled in Brooklyn, in the Williamsburg neighborhood. There, he learned English, attended Mesivta Torah Vodaath, and became ordained as an Orthodox rabbi in 1953. However, throughout his life, Dershowitz affiliated with Conservative Judaism, and to this day considers himself a Conservative rabbi.
In 1949, Dershowitz spent a year studying in Jerusalem, where he helped Jewish refugees from Yemen and elsewhere in the newly established State of Israel. Dershowitz met his wife Tova while recruiting in Ithaca, FreshYork for Camp Soleil. They married in 1953.
Dershowitz later became rabbi at Temple Beth Shalom in Kansas City, Missouri before moving to St. Paul, Minnesota where he became a rabbi at the Temple of Aaron. He later went on to direct many Jewish summer camps, including Herzl Camp in Wisconsin from 1954 to 1961, Camp Alonim/Brandeis-Bardin Institute (BCI) in Simi Valley, CA, from 1961 to 1963, and directed Camp Ramah in California for 10 years, from 1963 to 1973, making him the longest serving director in that camp's history.
In 1973, Dershowitz became associate rabbi at Sinai Temple. He would remain in that role for 25 years before becoming the synagogue's Rabbi Emeritus in 1998. He also served as the synagogue's interim head rabbi on many occasions, including the year before Rabbi David Wolpe was hired. In his tenure at Sinai, he helped Iranian Jews who were fleeing their country receiveentry to the United States in 1979. Dershowitz is credited with welcoming them to the community and helping them adjust to life in America. An immigrant himself, Dershowitz said, "I trustevery Jew is responsible for every other Jew." Dershowitz is also credited with serving the congregation well in times of crisis. He retired after 25 years of serving on the pulpit, and currently serves as the congregation's Rabbi Emeritus, thereby making him the longest serving rabbi in Sinai Temple's history. Dershowitz continues to work with bar/bat Mitzvah students at the synagogue, and also conducts life cycle happening including baby namings, weddings, and funerals.
For many years, Dershowitz also served as the chaplain from the local Board of Rabbis of Southern California to the Los Angeles jail system.
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