Rabbi Steven Lebow, now rabbi emeritus of Temple Kol Emeth after his retirement, was celebrated by his congregation at a festive “Opus” send-off. About 400 congregant families participated in the rescheduled event virtually July 18.
The event was hosted by CNN news anchor Holly Firfer and featured Jewish bluegrass group Nefesh Mountain, along with a number of other speakers from the synagogue, Rabbi Lebow’s family and the larger community.
“For 34 years, you and I have stood side by side, one person supporting the other. And that standing, as I have stood with you, is one of the reasons that people belong to a temple. If you belong to a synagogue, we all have to stand and hold each other up in times of joy and times of sadness,” Rabbi Lebow said at the virtual event.“Nothing can kill us when we stand together. Nothing can ever keep us down as individuals or as a congregation. Not if G-d has a plan for us. Not if G-d works through us. I can guarantee you that G-d works through Kol Emeth when we open up our hearts.”
Participants were able to pick up food and a lengthy comic book themed tribute book from the synagogue.
The tribute book included complimentary letters to Lebow by Jewish, community and political leaders, including the late Congressman John Lewis, who died the day before. “Rabbi Lebow, I commend you for your commitment to supporting people across our city and our wonderful state. Atlanta is truly a city that is striving to become the ‘Beloved Community.’ Your dedication to a better tomorrow is admirable,” Lewis wrote.
Former Sen. Johnny Isakson’s letter was also published in the tribute book. He said, “The members of Temple Kol Emeth have benefited greatly from your loyal and dedicated leadership over the past 33 years. Thank you for the many years you have devoted to your community.”
Former Gov. Roy Barnes said at the opus, “I particularly want to stress the fact that you’re the one that brought Leo Frank and the miscarriage of justice to the forefront with me, and it’s become a passion with me as it is with you. You gave me one of the greatest statements that I’ve used, and that is ‘There is never a statute of limitations on doing what is right.’ I hate to see you leave the synagogue, but I know you will continue to be a strong member of our community, and you will always be my friend.”
Other speakers included Monsignor Patrick Bishop, also known as “Father Pat,” former pastor of Marietta’s Transfiguration Catholic Church. He shared a quote by poet Ralph Waldo Emerson that reminds him of Rabbi Lebow: “To laugh often and much; to win the respect of the intelligent people and the affection of children; to earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends; to appreciate beauty; to find the beauty in others; to leave the world a bit better whether by a healthy child, a garden patch, or a redeemed social condition; to know that one life has breathed easier because you lived here. This is to have succeeded.”