Celebrating 50 years since Israel mission trip
Photo: Art Weinberg
Participants in the 1974 Federation mission to Israel and spouses gathered at the home of Janice Sweet Weinberg and Arthur Weinberg, May 4, 2024, to celebrate 50 years since their momentous and lifechanging experience. From left, front row: Hank Pollack, Andrea and Loren Weinstein, Larry Schoenbrun, Howard Cohen, Joanie Weinstein, Eileen Kreisler, Charis Aronson, Aaron Kreisler, Herb and Donna Weitzman; middle row: Janice Sweet Weinberg, Sheila Lerer, Sheldon Weinstein, Ynette Hogue, Allan and Gail Gilbert, Naomi Goodell, Ellen Lasser; back row: Tommy Kaye, Jim Hogue, David Goodell.

Participants were ‘forever changed’

By Deb Silverthorn

It’s been 50 years since a group participated in the Jewish Federation of Greater Dallas’ first mission trip to Israel. Twenty-four of the original 40 participants gathered for a reunion May 4 at the home of Janice Sweet Weinberg and Art Weinberg.

“While we didn’t realize it at the time, the Yom Kippur War in October 1973 was the impetus for this trip,” said Sweet Weinberg. “We wanted to do something more than only send money. Arnie, of blessed memory, said we had to touch the land and our brothers and sisters in person.

“We had been to Israel in 1972 and knew we wanted to go back. Now we had to go back,” she added. “In those two weeks, we were greatly motivated. We returned with many of us becoming leaders of almost every Jewish organization and many congregations in town. For so many of us, for our families and for so much of our community, that mission influenced and determined the course of our lives.”

Joining the Sweets on the 1974 tour were the following people,, 14 of whom have since passed away: Charis and Arnie Aronson; Howard Cohen; Linda and Lenny Comess; Terry and Alan Eberstein; Gail and Allan Gilbert; Naomi and David Goodell; Terri Green; Karen Stern and James Greenstone; Miriam and Stanley Harris; Harriet and Gary Hoffman; Ynette and Jim Hogue; Eileen and Aaron Kreisler; Ellen and Jon Lasser; Sheila and Richard Lerer; Hank and Harlan Pollack; Celia and Larry Schoenbrun; Susan and David Shusterman; Susan Solomon; Janice and Arnie Sweet; Joan and Steve Ungerman; Andrea and Loren Weinstein; Joanie and Sheldon Weinstein; and Genie and Herb Weitzman.

Sharing with the group by video from Israel was Rabbi Irving “Yitz” Greenberg, who helped inspire the group to make the trip and whose own rabbinate was inspired by those connections and the experience. The Sweets met Greenberg at a B’nai B’rith family retreat near Austin in 1972; forever their lives, and then those of an extended group, were changed. As the trip was in development, Greenberg came to Dallas to speak to the group and ultimately guided them through the planning and experience of a lifetime.

“This mission and these people changed the trajectory of all of our lives. Our paths were stimulated and inspired as American Jewry was opening up. We could become more involved in our Jewish communities and our communities overall or we could assimilate. They chose the former,” Greenberg told the TJP, saying he wished he and his wife Blu could have been in Dallas for the reunion in-person. “I chose to continue living the Orthodox life I had and knew but I wanted to be a rabbi, not to one part of Judaism but to all Jews.

“I realized the key to the Jewish people couldn’t only be going to synagogue, but reaching the organizations, the federations and the lay people in our communities,” said Greenberg. Among his professional experiences in the aftermath of the mission in 1974 was founding CLAL – The National Jewish Center for Learning and Leadership with Elie Wiesel and Rabbi Stephen Shaw.

Greenberg has written many books. In August, he will release “The Triumph of Life: A Narrative Theology of Judaism,” about the relationship between God and humanity as expressed in the Jewish journey through modernity, the Holocaust, the creation of Israel and the birth of Judaism’s next era.

“We remain emotionally and personally deeply connected. The people from this mission are a part of me and all that I am. For my family and for me professionally, our relationship has influenced how I live all parts of my life. It’s been a 50-year journey that continues today for all of us and the generations who have learned from us,” said Greenberg.

“Dallas was and remains with a respected and successful Federation and community. It has long been looked to from around the country for how to implement experiential forms of Judaism,” he added.

During the 1974 mission, the group traveled far and wide, meeting with many dignitaries including Rabbi David Hartman (who later founded the Shalom Hartman Institute), then Jerusalem Mayor Teddy Kollek and Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz (founder of the Aleph Society as well as creator of the “Global Day of Jewish Learning” and the Aleph Society’s “Daf Yomi).

“The mission was absolutely life-changing. We were a young couple with a young family and traveling to Israel wasn’t on our radar, but Arnie said we had to go,” said Ynette Hogue, who with her husband Jim made the trip then with a zero-interest loan from the Federation. “It was a phenomenon then and it remains so today for the relationships and the bonding that happened between us all and between us and Israel.

“Every time we’ve returned, when it’s time to leave, we’ve left another piece of our hearts behind,” said Hogue, who most recently traveled on a Dallas Federation Pacesetter Mission Trip in 2023 to the United Arab Emirates and Israel. “It all stems from that first trip, which began for us a never-ending and always-growing connection to Israel, to our Judaism and to our community.”

Naomi and David Goodell were among the charter members of Temple Shalom. Despite moving to Phoenix in 1978, they still count the friends from the mission trip among their family. The couple returned here for last month’s reunion.

“I still look at our group as ‘kids who went to camp’ together. It’s that familiarity of our youth and the spirit and excitement we had then — it hasn’t changed through the years,” said Goodell, who served as a Jewish communal professional for decades, first in Dallas and then Phoenix. “Israel and her people — our people — showed us a beautiful way of life and the mission opened us all to new avenues of thought.”

The 1974 mission was the first of more than a dozen in the last 50 years.

“The mission trips give an opportunity to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with our Israeli family. We credit the amazing people who took the first steps,” said Igor Alterman, Dallas Federation president and CEO. “They, and anyone who has made a mission trip since, have returned engaged, changed and wanting to give more to Israel and the Jewish community-at-large in so many ways.”

  • Post category:News
  • Post comments:0 Comments

Leave a Reply