Temple Kehillat Chaim celebrated the career of its founding rabbi, Harvey Winokur, on Saturday night, May 5, less than two months before Rabbi Winokur becomes the Roswell congregation’s rabbi emeritus.
Rabbi Winokur will make the move June 30 but will work on special projects as he continues to serve the congregation where he has spent 36 of his 42 years in the pulpit.
He founded Kehillat Chaim (Community of Life) in 1982 to provide a permanent home for his philosophy of inclusion. In 36 years, Rabbi Winokur has overseen its growth from a storefront congregation to a modern synagogue complex with more than 200 families.
The congregation is multigenerational and diverse.
“At celebrations and festivals, you find people coming together from all backgrounds and all life stages,” he said. “The temple isn’t the building; it’s the people.”
Rabbi Winokur has served as the president of the Atlanta Rabbinical Association and of the Southeast Association of the Central Conference of American Rabbis. He spent time on the boards of the United Way of Greater Atlanta and American Jewish Committee’s Atlanta Chapter and was on the advisory board of the Drake House, a shelter for homeless single mothers in north Atlanta.
Rabbi Winokur advised the temple board of his plan to step back from day-to-day responsibilities over a year ago to allow for a smooth transition. Rabbi Jason Holtz will succeed him July 1.
During the gala May 5, Alan Abrams, who co-founded the synagogue and was its first president, said of Rabbi Winokur, “What he’s done is truly revolutionary — creating a community from so many diverse elements that honors ancient traditions but still feels modern.”
Current President Lori Dreffin said: “The rabbi is so unassuming, and maybe that’s the secret to his success. The congregation is not about him alone, but all of us together.”
Michelle Erste, an adult congregant who grew up in the community, said: “Rabbi Winokur is the only rabbi I’ve ever known as a person. It’s a real blessing. There are few people like him.”
In addition to serving Kehillat Chaim in an emeritus capacity, Rabbi Winokur will continue his work as a certified spiritual director and as a trainer and facilitator for both Prepare-Enrich (relationship assessments) and the Mussar Institute.