RENE LEHMANN, an attorney and Jewish community leader, died on April 21, 2020, in New Orleans. He was 94.
A New Orleans lawyer for over 70 years, specializing in tax law, Lehmann joined his father-in-law Herman L. Midlo’s firm to form Midlo and Lehmann, later renamed as Lehmann, Norman and Marcus. Among his pro bono work was helping refugees and Holocaust survivors to seek reparations. For many years he was an adjunct instructor at Tulane Law School in the fields of real estate and succession law.
Born in Karlsruhe, Germany, Lehmann spent his childhood with his parents and brother in Leipzig, Germany, from where they fled the Nazis first to Nice, France and then to Sao Paolo, Brazil before landing in New Orleans at age 15 where he lived ever since.
Lehmann was educated in New Orleans schools and graduated from Alcee Fortier High School. He received his bachelor’s degree in arts at Tulane University, where he was selected as a member of the Phi Beta Kappa honors fraternity. After college, he taught economics at Southwestern Louisiana University and served as an educator in the U.S. Army before returning to Tulane to earn his law degree, where he was selected as a member of the Order of the Coif in 1949.
Lehmann was a founding member of the New Orleans Friends of Music in 1955 and a charter member of The Conservative Congregation of New Orleans, which was later renamed Tikvat Shalom and is now the present Shir Chadash Conservative Congregation following its merger with Congregation Chevra Thilim in 1999. Lehmann served as president multiple times under different entities. The Jewish Endowment Foundation of Louisiana honored him with its 2013 Young Family Award for Professional Excellence and Tzedakah Award.
He was a fluent and voracious reader in several languages and was a self-taught Judaic scholar, mentor and companion to generations of rabbis and lay people of the New Orleans Jewish community. His Friday noon Talmud class, examining many aspects of classical Jewish law, met in his law offices for many years.
Lehmann lost his Lakewood South home following the flooding associated with Hurricane Katrina, but he returned to New Orleans a few short weeks after the storm’s passage and the waters had receded. He moved into an Uptown home and resumed his Jewish, legal and cultural activities. Late in life he became a regular at the fitness center at the Uptown JCC, where he inspired younger people by his regular exercise regimen.
He was married to the late Razele Midlo Lehmann for almost 55 years and is survived by his children Lawrence Lehmann (Dashka Roth), Rabbi Allan Lehmann (Joanne Schindler) of Newton MA., Barbara Lehmann (Richard Stocker) of St. Paul, MI. and Carolyn Karesh (David) of Houston; sisters-in-law Gwendolyn Midlo Hall of Guanajuato, Mexico and Elizabeth Lehmann of Palo Alto, CA,; four grandchildren and many great-grandchildren.
Memorial donations are suggested to Shir Chadash Conservative Congregation or the Jewish Endowment Foundation of Louisiana.
A memorial service was live streamed from Shir Chadash prior to private interment at Chevra Thilim Memorial Gardens. Lake Lawn Metairie Funeral Home was in charge of arrangements.