Macon-Bibb County Commissioner Larry Schlesinger is stepping down as rabbi of Temple Beth Israel after 12 years as head of the congregation.
Schlesinger said he is retiring to spend more time with his family and to focus more on his role as a commissioner. The 65-year-old has served in local government since 2007 and says he intends to seek another term on the County Commission in May.
"Coming to serve Temple Beth Israel and its members has been the highlight of my rabbinic career," Schlesinger said. "I have nothing but great admiration for its members, its history, its presence in the community."
Schlesinger will continue to serve as rabbi until the synagogue finds another person to take over that position.
He moved to Macon in 2004 from Montgomery, Alabama, where he was rabbi of Temple Beth Or. He quickly asserted himself in the community, becoming a Macon city councilman in 2007. Schlesinger was then elected as county commissioner in 2013 after spending two terms on the council.
Mike Kaplan, a former Temple Beth Israel president, said members of the synagogue owe Schlesinger a "debt of gratitude."
"He and (his wife), Darrie, have been an asset to this community," Kaplan said.
After his retirement, Schlesinger will remain the temple's rabbi emeritus, which he said means "honored retired rabbi."
Temple Beth Israel is fortunate that Schlesinger is staying as rabbi until a replacement is found, said Betty Taylor, the temple's president.
"We've been very fortunate to have him," she said of his dozen years as rabbi.
Schlesinger always has been able to balance his duties as a rabbi and elected official. Everything he's done in his role with the city and county governments has reflected his Jewish values, Taylor said.
"Our congregation has always been fully supportive of him trying to make Macon a great place for residents," Taylor said.
To contact writer Stanley Dunlap, call 744-4623 or find him on Twitter@stan_telegraph.