Five golden decades and still going strong
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Five golden decades and still going strong

This year is a significant one for Judy and Marty Lebson. Not only will they be celebrating their golden wedding anniversary in August, but on Rosh HaShanah, the Tenafly residents will have been members of Temple Emanu-El, now in Closter, for 50 years. On March ‘4 the Lebsons will be honored by the congregation to commemorate this long and fruitful relationship.

Marty and Judy Lebson.

The couple both grew up in New York — Judy Fatel in Crown Heights and Marty Lebson in Washington Heights. Marty graduated from Adelphi University and then went into the army. In 1955, once he’d been discharged and begun working in the insurance business, an old college friend from Adelphi fixed him up with one of his sister’s friends from Russell Sage College in Troy, N.Y. Marty and Judy arranged the date during the summer break — and then didn’t see each other again for a whole year. "I guess you could say we weren’t instantly smitten," Judy admits. But when they got together the following summer, after she’d graduated, something really clicked. "We went into the City," Judy says. "But I don’t remember what we did."

"You were wearing a yellow dress," Marty points out.

Judy smiles. "See, he remembers."

That fateful date turned into a whirlwind courtship. They were engaged several months later and were married in 1957. Afterward, the Lebsons moved to an apartment in Englewood, where Judy began teaching fifth grade. Three years later the couple found the house in Tenafly where they still live. "When our kids Steven, Daniel, and Jim came along we just added onto the house," Marty says. Judy stopped teaching while their children were small, but when Daniel started law school, Judy made a major decision. She entered Benjamin Cardozo School of Law at Yeshiva University to study law as well. She is a partner at Lebson, Prigoff, and Baker in Englewood.

Before their marriage, Marty had opened his own insurance office in New York, but once they started a family, he moved the office to Englewood so he could spend more time with the kids. Over the years, he merged with Leo Popkin and Bruce and Mike Bergstein, and then with Capacity Coverage in Mahwah, where he is vice president.

Marty’s firm has recently branched out into international insurance. As a consultant to Chubb’s office in Shanghai, Marty was able to take Judy on two trips to China, where they got to see the Great Wall and the Forbidden City. They also spent a week enjoying Japan.

Their affiliation with Temple Emanu-El began when they were both young adults. "I remember when we were the youngest couple in the congregation," then in Englewood, Judy says. "Arthur Hertzberg was the rabbi back then, and he was a brilliant and inspiring man."

Marty got involved first; he joined the men’s club, was on the board of trustees, acted as membership chairman, and eventually became president. A lifetime member of the board, he was involved in the congregation’s move to Closter and is still active in fund-raising.

Judy was on the synagogue’s school board and was chair of the adult education committee and vice president of the sisterhood. She also organized a lecture series for the the congregation’s 50th anniversary featuring Yitzak Rabin, Abba Ebin, and Shimon Peres. "Both Rabbi Hertzberg and Cantor Kurt Silbermann had a profound affect on our lives," she says. "And we continue to learn from our present clergy, Rabbi Geoffrey Haber and Cantor Israel Singer."

Two of their children live close by, Steven in Tenafly, and Daniel in New York, while Jim and his wife Janet live in Woodland, Wash. They will all be attending the synagogue’s party honoring their parents, along with another favored guest, Joan Landesman — the sister of Marty’s friend who helped get them together — and her husband. "We’re still close to both of them," Judy says.

After so many years as husband and wife, the Lebsons have some definite ideas about how to keep a marriage working. "You need a sense of humor," Judy says.

"And a certain amount of luck," Marty observes. "And you need to like each other as well as love each other."

Judy nods. "We’ve really always been best friends."

Nancy Butler is the author of 1′ Regency romances, three nonfiction titles (including "The Quotable Lover," Lyons Press), and three novellas, and has twice won the prestigious RITA from the Romance Writers of America.

Did you and your bashert — Yiddish for "intended" — meet in an interesting or unusual way? Do you have a love story to tell? Write to editor@jewishmediagroup.com, and your story may be included in this column.

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