By Ben Tinsley
FORT WORTH — It appeared like Rich Hollander was presenting an award rather than receiving one.
Hollander was called up to the podium at the Mira Vista Country Club dinner ceremony Sunday night to receive the “2015 Jewish Person Of The Year” award.
This is easily one of the most prestigious accolades B’nai B’rith’s Isadore Garsek Lodge No. 269 has to offer. And the identity of this award recipient is kept secret until presented.
But it was absolutely no secret how huge a B’nai B’rith fan Hollander is.
Saying virtually nothing about himself, Hollander took the opportunity to sing its praises, noting how B’nai B’rith International is committed to combating anti-Semitism and bigotry and protecting the security and continuity of the Jewish people and the State of Israel.
B’nai B’rith is the oldest Jewish service organization in the world, he said.
“It’s the oldest Jewish congregation of any kind,” Hollander said. “It’s older than the shul. Older than the temple … Ours is one of the top 10 active chapters of B’nai B’rith in the country.”
Hollander, originally from New York, has a wife, Terri, and two children. He is involved with the congregation at Ahavath Shalom and has held numerous leadership positions within B’nai B’rith.
As his demeanor indicated, Hollander is a die-hard B’nai B’rith member — attending nearly every function and volunteering services whenever needed.
He has coordinated programs, helped raise funds, and generally been an incredibly spirited member.
Plus, according to the introduction speech read by Harry Kahn, master of ceremonies, and others, Hollander is an excellent bagel maker.
Rabbi Andrew Bloom gave the invocation, effectively starting the ceremony.
At the end of the ceremony, Hollander accepted his award in full recruit mode.
He urged the dinner attendees to apply to join the lodge if they haven’t already.
He pointed out B’nai B’rith is a leader in humanitarian aid for the Jewish community throughout the world.
“We want you to have the opportunity to wake up in the morning after one of our events and feel tired — and know that is a good thing,” Hollander said. “It’s the kind of tired you feel when you’ve had a worthwhile day.”
Moving from water shortage
Hollander’s award was preceded by guest speaker Daniel Agranov, the deputy consul general of Israel to the Southwest United States. He discussed how Israel has moved away from its water shortage.
“Today I want to tell you the remarkable story of Israeli independence — not the regular independence — independence from water,” he began.
In recent years, Agranov noted, Israel overcame its much-publicized water shortage through a program of conservation, desalination and reuse.
“It was a very impressive project,” Agranov said during his presentation. “… We are very strong, have a strong economy and with your help we will continue. We have a surplus of water and I don’t think we will have a problem in the future.”
Incidentally, Agranov, whose post is in Houston, was deeply affected by recent flooding there. He and his family had to relocate to a hotel while their home is being repaired.
At the end of his speech, Agranov was asked by audience members his take on the ongoing conflict between Israelis and Palestinians.
“I try to speak about different stuff other than the conflicts but you always go there,” he said, kidding. “… We see a lot of incitement from the other side. For over 100 years they have claimed we are trying to ‘destroy the mosque.’… There are a lot of misconceptions and a lot of lies. There is no other way to call what comes from the Palestinians.”
Bottom line, Israel is ready to defend itself, Agranov said.
“You need two for tango,” he said. “You can’t dance without that other partner. … But we are strong. I can tell you that very proudly. I don’t think anything can destroy us.”