By Sharon Wisch-Ray
I am happy to report that beloved TJP columnist Harriet Gross is back home after a rehab stay at The Legacy Preston Hollow to mend her broken femur and ankle. Though not totally back on her feet, Harriet was able to share with us some background on Beth Torah Sisterhood’s Torah Fund honorees, Marilyn Guzick and Roberta Lazarus, who will be honored next weekend at a noontime luncheon at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Addison. Cost of the event is $32 with an additional $18 minimum donation for the Torah Fund.
Checks for the lunch are to be made out to “Beth Torah Sisterhood” and the donation is a separate check made out to “Torah Fund.” To RSVP contact Elaine Scharf ASAP at 972-307-3521.
Social Action: that is Marilyn Guzick’s middle name — or maybe a synonym for her vital role in the synagogue that she and husband Larry joined in 1990, when they moved to Dallas with two preschoolers.
The pair loved the congregation’s interactive participation, and Marilyn quickly became active on its Holiday Committee, then moved up to serve on the synagogue board. Five years ago, she was asked if she and Larry would co-chair Karen Leynor Mitzvah Day, Beth Torah’s annual tribute to former Rabbi Jeffrey Leynor’s wife, who died in 2004 at age 38.
The Guzick household was busy then with preparations for the bat mitzvah of their third child, but Marilyn credits her husband for saying “Let’s do it!” The two worked together to build this event from a one-day affair involving 150 people to a day of community service for almost 300 volunteers and over 20 activities. Social Action also now has year-round projects on a monthly (and sometimes more often) basis.
The initial positive response “felt good, and it was fun,” according to Marilyn, who was soon back on the board as Social Action Committee chair, and has since taken over spearheading social action for the Sisterhood as well.
Although money is necessary to accomplish some of her projects, Marilyn says of her efforts at both synagogue and Sisterhood levels, “I try to keep the primary focus on action. I ask for their time, to spend it together on projects that interact with those we’re actually helping. How many lives we’ve touched as a community over all these years! And they are just like us!”
Marilyn’s mother was pregnant with her when the Mimuns immigrated to San Antonio from their home in Tunisia. Most of the family is now in Austin, where Marilyn and Larry met on a blind date and married in 1984; the oil business took them to Houston and Midland before bringing them to Dallas six years later. Their children are Shana, 27, a writer/editor for Chabad in New York; Jared, 25, a wine representative in Dallas; and Alana, 17, now a junior at J.J. Pearce High School.
A physical therapist by profession, Marilyn keeps her own body fit with yoga and walking the family dog. She began a Jewish journey in Beth Torah’s 1996 adult b’nai mitzvah class. She is currently in her second year of studying Biblical Hebrew and is also thoroughly enjoying her study of Mussar, the Jewish soul traits. Today she feeds her family healthy food and home-baked challah, enriching both the soul and synagogue as a regular Torah reader.
For Marilyn Guzick, “It’s all come together,” she says, “and it’s a great feeling!”
For Roberta Lazarus, education is a way of life. Teacher trained in her native New York, she and her husband Robert came to Dallas in 1976, when their first child was 10 months old. They enrolled him in a Jewish preschool at age 2, and Roberta went into the classroom herself as a teacher there.
Beth Torah didn’t have its own pre-school then, but the Lazaruses joined the synagogue 28 years ago, when Adam was ready for its Learning Center. And that’s when Roberta’s attention first shifted to adult education.
The family moved into its Plano home in 1979, and “it was a culture shock for me,” Roberta recalls today. Like many New Yorkers, she had taken her Judaism for granted, breathing it in with the air of the Boro Park neighborhood where she taught. But life in suburban Dallas made her acutely aware of their religious identity and brought her to the realization that she had to become active in her synagogue.
Roberta says, “I’m really a shy person, so it took a lot for me to get involved, but I finally decided to take the leap.” She jumped right into education, always a major interest, and found a very warm welcome from Mark Siegel, then chairing Beth Torah’s Adult Education Committee. (After his death in 2002, the synagogue named its annual Scholar in Residence program in Siegel’s memory.)
The committee members were not only welcoming, they gave Roberta more and more responsibility, which ultimately included joint chairmanship (with the late Mark Siegel’s wife, Nancy) and representing adult education on Beth Torah’s board of directors. And her synagogue involvements expanded to include working with its Social Action program in efforts benefiting an array of agencies, from Jewish Family Service to East Plano’s City House for at-risk teens.
But education never lagged behind. Roberta has continued to further her own Jewish studies in the Melton Program offered at the Aaron Family Jewish Community Center; she has served on the Melton board, and on those of both BBYO and North Texas Hillel.
Through it all, Roberta works with her husband in his risk management firm, RWL Group. And she is mom to firstborn Adam, now 37, a criminal defense attorney; in the middle is insurance man Brett, father of their granddaughter; and their youngest, Shane, currently a student.
Now, Roberta hopes to become even more involved with the area’s larger Jewish community. Her goal? “I’d like to have the energy and presence of mind to be as involved in 20 years as I am today!”
New JSI program on tap
The Jewish Studies Initiative of North Texas broadens the horizon of interreligious dialogue with its new series called Faiths in Conversation. Rabbi Hanan Schlesinger, the executive director of JSI, has long been involved in dialogue with Christians and Muslims. This new series is intended to take interfaith dialogue to a whole new level of seriousness and depth.
The first installment in the series will take place at 7 p.m., Thursday, Feb. 7, at the Northway Christian Church, 7202 W. Northwest Hwy., Dallas. The session will be devoted to the possible tension between divine authority and personal conscience, and will grapple with the question: As a submissive servant of God, should the religious person ever think or act according to his own moral understanding?
Jewish, Christian and Islamic perspectives will be shared, respectively, by Rabbi Schlesinger; the Rev. Dr. Douglas Skinner, senior minister of the Northway Christian Church; and Ustadh Nouman Ali Khan, founder and CEO of the Bayyinah Institute.
Rabbi Schlesinger invites the community to “Join us, think deeply, and expand your mind.”
In addition to the Jewish Studies Initiative, the Northway Christian Church and the Bayyinah Institute, this series is sponsored by the Memnosyne Foundation and the Perkins School of Theology at SMU.
The second event in the Faiths in Conversation series will take place at 7 p.m., Wednesday, April 10. The topic will be “How I Pray — As a Jew, Christian, or Muslim.” The venue is to be announced.
For more information please contact Rabbi Schlesinger at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Incidentally, Rabbi Schlesinger will serve on an interfaith panel at 7 p.m. Feb. 6, as part of the Southern Methodist University’s Association of Student Counselors at Perkins School of Theology, Prothro Hall, Room 106, 5901 Bishop Blvd.
The discussion is titled “Service as a Universal Prescription for Well-Being” and will explore how service has been beneficial to communities across cultural and religious traditions over the centuries, linking up to the current researched benefits of being of service as a therapeutic model.
The idea of service in the mental health profession began with the works of the 19th-century psychiatrist Alfred Adler, whose idea of treating the individual within one’s social construct was paramount in healing, forming the scientific foundation for the benefits of service to mental health.
AJC program will explore immigration reform
Among the hottest topics right now is immigration reform. At 7 p.m., Thursday, Feb. 7, at the Aaron Family JCC, Richard Foltin, AJC director of legislative affairs, and Mark Hetfield, executive director of HIAS (Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society) will discuss this issue and other legislative agenda items. The event is free and open to the public. For more details contact email@example.com or 972-387-2943.
Congratulations to the following stellar students:
• Sixth-grader Bear Steinberg, son of Laurie and Marc Steinberg of Dallas. Bear won the McCulloch Intermediate School Geography Bee.
• Leigh Kellner, daughter of Marci and Mark Kellner of Dallas, earned a Bachelor of Science in advertising at UT Austin in December. Leigh graduated from J.J. Pearce High School in 2009.
• Eliana Gershon, daughter of Raquel and Rabbi William Gershon of Dallas. Eliana was awarded the 2013 North Campus MLK spirit award at the University of Michigan. This award recognizes students whose leadership and service exemplifies the spirit of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. The award was presented on Jan. 21 at a banquet in the Gerald R. Ford presidential library.