Welcome to our first “Leadership Spotlight” article, where Jewish Federation of Macon and Middle Georgia recognizes the achievements and talents of our outstanding community members.
To start, “Spotlight” will focus on the service of our many women Presidents who’ve successfully managed and led the congregations of both Temple Beth Israel and Congregation Sha’arey Israel.
Letty Ashbach Kaplan, a native of Chicago, IL , married Macon native Leonard P. Kaplan in 1948, a member of a the family who founded Macon’s Congregation Sha’arey Israel. Together the Kaplans raised four children in Macon, two of whom are prominent Middle Georgians by their own right: Jaime, a former tennis pro/current tennis instructor and renowned philanthropist, and Mike, an insurance company executive.
Letty Kaplan served as President of Temple Beth Israel from 1987-1988, after the terms of two other women Presidents, Freda Kaplan Nadler, ‘77-79, and Joyce Oberdorfer Hapt, ‘81-83.
Kaplan tells us a particularly difficult challenge during her tenure as President was the conflict that came when the contract was not renewed for the Rabbi that year and Rabbi Jay Heyman was hired instead. “Working together with Rabbi Heyman, along with the patience, understanding, and determination of the entire congregation, helped to heal the divisions,” Kaplan says. “Those who left because they were upset and hurt returned, and, ultimately, [Temple Beth Israel’s] numbers grew.”
Kaplan says the Macon and Middle Georgia community has always been very welcoming and accepting of her. In return, Kaplan has shown love and commitment to the community beyond her service as President at the Temple. Kaplan was a member of the Macon Lions’ Club and President of B’nai B’rith. She has been very active in support of the local arts as well, including past service as Vice President of Macon Little Theater and as Chair of the Macon Ballet Guild. Kaplan says her participation in clubs and organizations gave her direction and purpose. She encourages young people to do the same in order to strengthen the community.
Lastly, when asked about whom she admires, Kaplan says local couple Dr. David Frolich and wife Terri have earned her respect because of their “loyalty and responsibility, and their desire to keep us all communicating,” she says. “They are the backbone of the [Macon and Middle Georgia Jewish] community.”