Michael A. Morris is the owner and publisher of the Atlanta Jewish Times.
Executive Director Mark Jacobson (left) and Senior Rabbi Peter Berg have been close partners in leading The Temple from the time Rabbi Berg arrived — more than three decades after Jacobson got his start at Atlanta’s oldest synagogue.
When the Hebrew Benevolent Congregation (The Temple) held its 150th annual meeting Wednesday night, May 17, the board minutes were approved, the financial reports given, and the new trustees installed in record time to get to a celebration of a more personal milestone than the 150th anniversary of Atlanta’s oldest synagogue: It was 40 years to the day after Mark Jacobson began his tenure as The Temple’s executive director.
Lauren Grien, the president of The Temple, said she is the 21st president who has had the privilege and pleasure to work with Jacobson.
The past Temple presidents at the celebration included Larry Pike, Jackie Montage, Marvin Botnick, Joshua Brener, Jack Holland, Jay Schwartz, Valerie Needle, Jeff Levy, Jim Grien, Belinda Morris, Billy Bauman and Jonathan Amsler.
The theme of the evening was his warmth, patience, integrity and smile. He is responsible for everything but takes credit for nothing.
Senior Rabbi Peter Berg told his story of when he first met the executive director.
When Rabbi Berg arrived at The Temple for his first interview, Jacobson handed him an index card before he walked into the interview room and said: “On this card are the names of all the people on the search committee you are about to meet. The names are in order of how they are sitting at the table, and there is a brief description of their role at The Temple.”
Of course Rabbi Berg thanked him, and without missing a beat, Jacobson replied, “Peter, if you come to The Temple, this is the kind of supportive relationship I hope we will have every day.”
Rabbi Berg later during the celebration referred to Jacobson as his teacher and rabbi.
Jacobson has served in a variety of roles within the National Association of Temple Administrators, has taken leadership roles within the national pension plan for synagogue employees, is frequently called on by other synagogue executive directors around the country and is the longest-serving top synagogue administrator in Atlanta.
Rabbi Emeritus Alvin Sugarman shared a story about how he hired Jacobson in 1977.
They had passed each other at the intown Jewish Community Center while playing tennis. Rabbi Sugarman had met Jacobson as a college student a few years earlier and was impressed with him.
Rabbi Sugarman invited him to lunch. Jacobson had no idea that lunch was an interview and that he would shortly be offered the job of executive director.
The congregation presented Jacobson with a license for two seats to watch the Falcons at the new Mercedes-Benz Stadium, along with tickets to the opening season, continuing his tradition of going to the football games for over 20 years.
In his response, Jacobson credited the congregation. “It’s all about the members,” he said. “That is why I smile.”