Following the tradition of TKE as a “Big Tent” congregation Rabbi Lebow welcomed congregants of all different backgrounds, from interfaith couples, to lifelong Reform Jews, to members who had grown up in Conservative congregations who were looking for a Reform congregation open to traditional practices. At the conclusion of Rabbi Lebow’s first year he “shepherded” TKE to become a formal member of the UAHC/Union of Reform Judaism, in the summer of 1987.
During the late 1980’s and early 1990’s Rabbi Lebow concentrated on managing Kol Emeth’s rapid growth from the smallest Atlanta Jewish congregation to its fast-growing synagogue. During his first five years in Marietta land was bought and the first of Kol Emeth’s buildings were built.
In 1993 Rabbi and Madeline served on the original steering committee of The Davis Academy and their daughter Shira (now 26) became the first kindergartner ever enrolled at The Davis Academy. In 1994, two year before the Olympics came to Atlanta, the Cobb County Commissioners passed their famous “Anti-Gay Proclamation”, announcing that gays and lesbians were antithetical to the “health, safety and welfare of Cobb County”. At Madeline’s encouragement, Rabbi Lebow approached his fellow clergy in Cobb to promote a statement that “Cobb County welcomes all its residents, irrespective of race, color, religion, sexual orientation, and gender.” By the spring of 1995 the major business organizations in Cobb, from The Home Depot to the Chamber of Commerce, joined Rabbi Lebow in asking for a spirit of tolerance in the community. In the summer of 1995 Rabbi Lebow, joined by fellow clergy and main-stream business leaders, called for a massive demonstration of support on the Marietta Square. Attended by several thousand protesters, it was the first Pro-Gay rights demonstration ever held in Cobb. At that rally and for five years afterwards Rabbi Lebow was accompanied by a security detail whenever he spoke in public. Temple members had learned that the Rabbi and his family had had their lives repeatedly threatened and had quietly arranged for “body guards” for the young Rabbi.
For his leadership in Atlanta during the 1990’s the Rabbi was recognized by the Reform movement by recognizing him with its “Irving Fain Social Action Award”. Between 1996-1998, Rabbi Lebow received the “Award for Courage” from the Cobb Citizens Coalition, the “Social Justice Award” from the Metropolitan Churches of America, “The Martin Luther King Award for Social Courage” from Citizens and Clergy United and “Clergyman of the Year” from Creative Loafing magazine.
Subsequent to that Rabbi Lebow was honored as the “Atlanta Clergyman of the Year” by the National Conference of Christians and Jews and in 2002 as “Humanitarian of the Year” by the State of Georgia Holocaust Commission.
In spite of his support for many Republican candidates, Rabbi Lebow was honored by the Democratic Party of Cobb County in 2007 for his role in bringing a progressive approach to politics in the South.
Rabbi Lebow’s work and life have been chronicled in the New York Time and the Washington Post, the San Francisco Chronicle and the Denver Post, CNN and NPR. His role in bringing Judaism and progressive politics to Georgia has been profiled in a number of standard history works; “Dixie Rising” (Applebome, 1996), “How Individuality Became the New Conformity” (Nieddzvicki, 2006), “Marietta Revisited” (Kirby and Guarnieri, 2009), “American Reform Judaism” (Kaplan, 2003) and “Sunbelt Rising” (Nickerson and Dochuk, 2011).
His role in vindicating Leo Frank, falsely convicted in 1913 who was murdered by a Marietta mob in 1915, has been featured in numerous national articles and in the books “Murder in the Peach State” (Jordan, 2000), “Screening A Lynching” (Bernstein, 2009) and “An Unauthorized Guide to the Klu Klux Klan” (Hockfield, 2010).
In the fall of 2012, Rabbi and Madeline purchased a home only a few blocks from the Frank lynching site and down the street from his 1995 Civil Rights rally. He now lives peacefully in the very heart of Old Marietta.
At the age of 40 TKE expressed its support for Rabbi Lebow by extending a “life tenure” contract to him. “I was honored that TKE wanted to promote this long term relationship with me,” says Rabbi Lebow. “Every day I realize how lucky I am. Most clergymen never get the chance to spend their entire professional careers in one congregation.”
Rabbi Lebow has turned the reigns of social action over to his colleague, Rabbi Erin Boxt, and he currently concentrates on spirituality and teaching up to three (sometimes four) Torah study classes a week.
Rabbi Lebow has been married for thirty years to Madeline Sable, a former psychotherapist and now realtor with Berkshire Hathaway Home Services in Atlanta. They are the proud parents of Shira-Rose Sable Lebow, an executive with the internet support company “Cater2me” and Julia Rena Sable Lebow, a student in the department of “Film and Television Writing” at Emerson College in Boston.
“Being the Rabbi of TKE for three decades has been the honor of my life,” he says. “But being the husband of Madeline and the father of Shira and Julia… those are things that mean the most to me.”
Rabbi Lebow continues to focus on growing and sustaining TKE into the next decade.
Contact Rabbi Lebow at: 770-973-3533 ext. 228 or email@example.com