2009-04-08 / Local News

Lecture & dedications at TBS memorialize Rabbi Albert Lewis

By DAVID PORTNOE Voice staff

Sarah Lewis and Rabbi Steven Lindemann with a bust of Rabbi Albert L. Lewis that sits outside the clergy and executive offices at Temple Beth Sholom. The congregation recently dedicated the wing in memory of Lewis. Sarah Lewis and Rabbi Steven Lindemann with a bust of Rabbi Albert L. Lewis that sits outside the clergy and executive offices at Temple Beth Sholom. The congregation recently dedicated the wing in memory of Lewis. After Rabbi Albert L. Lewis became rabbi emeritus of Temple Beth Sholom, he sat with the congregation instead of on the bimah. He always sat in the same seat in the back row on the aisle. After he passed away last year, a plaque was placed on the back of the seat. No one else sits there.

"The people who sit around that chair are very protective of it," said Rabbi Steven Lindemann, who succeeded Rabbi Lewis at the Cherry Hill synagogue in 1992. Lindemann said that if someone comes for a bar or bat mitzvah from out of town or is simply not familiar with the tradition surrounding the Rabbi Lewis seat, and sits in the chair, congregants will gently ask the person to find another seat.

The respect accorded the late rabbi's memory is indicative of what he meant, and still means, to TBS. "There is no way to overstate his importance to the life of Temple Beth Sholom," said Lindemann. He added that TBS is known throughout the Conservative movement as Rabbi Lewis's congregation. "There is total identification of congregation and rabbi."

On Feb. 28, a year after Lewis passed away, TBS held it's first annual Rabbi Albert L. Lewis Memorial Lecture. It featured noted author Mitch Albom, who grew up attending TBS and who is currently writing a book on faith that will feature memories of Lewis. In addition to the lecture, the evening also saw the dedication of a plaque outside the sanctuary and "The Rabbi Lewis Memorial Collection" in the refurbished wing leading to the offices of the synagogue's rabbis and cantor. The "Memorial Collection" will house Lewis's books, papers, and personal items.

"There was a deep need in the congregation to perpetuate his memory and continue his presence," said Lindemann of the man who served as rabbi of TBS for 60 years. He said that synagogue members tell Rabbi Lewis stories all the time and the clergy quote him and his books. "People feel his presence."

Sarah Lewis said that after her husband passed away, she kept getting letters from people describing the influence her husband had on them and the love they felt for him. "It buoyed me up."

"I'm overwhelmed by what the synagogue is doing to perpetuate his memory," said Lewis. She added that her husband had a good relationship with the congregation and loved coming to shul.

"This is something important for the synagogue to do because of how important he was, how important he still is to the synagogue's history, and how important he will always be," said Eric Jacobs, current executive director of TBS and a president of the synagogue who served during Lewis's tenure as rabbi. He said that not too many rabbis serve 60 years in one place. .

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