By Sharon Wisch-Ray
I love hearing when “ourtowners” receive accolades, reach milestones and begin new endeavors. I’m even more thrilled when our dear readers pass the info along to include in these pages.
Read on to learn what Rabbi Michael Rovinsky, a.k.a. the “flying mohel,” philanthropist Joy Mankoff, and hospice expert Elise Power among others have been up to of late.
St. Louis federation honors Rabbi Rovinsky
Dallas native Rabbi Michael Rovinsky, director of the Jewish Student Union, founder and director of Camp Nageela Midwest in Indiana and St. Louis’ community mohel, is the recipient of the Jewish Federation of St. Louis’ 2012 Fred A. Goldstein Memorial Service Award for professional excellence.
When notified of the Goldstein honor, Rovinsky said he felt “blessed to have the greatest job I could imagine. Working with youth and their families to strengthen their Jewish identity and connection to Israel is beyond gratifying. At this stage, it defines everything I do. In many ways, I am paying forward what was done for me by my teachers and youth leaders when I was exploring and determining which direction I was going to go Jewishly.”
Rovinsky grew up in Dallas in a home deeply committed to Jewish community and identity. His parents, Shirley and Irv Rovinsky, were past presidents and executive board members of several Jewish Federation agencies in Dallas. Rabbi Rovinsky was charter president of his AZA (BBYO) chapter and active in USY. He was on the national board of NCSY, and through that organization, was actively involved in efforts to get Jews out of the Soviet Union. He spent two years in Ohr Sameach Yeshiva in Jerusalem.
He holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in education from Adelphi University and a Master of Business Administration from Johns Hopkins University. He received rabbinic ordination from Kol Yaakov Torah Center and a second rabbinic ordination along with a master’s in Talmudic law from Ner Israel Rabbinical College. Most recently, he received a master’s degree in counseling from University of Missouri in St. Louis and is finalizing a license in professional counseling.
Before coming to St. Louis, he was a teacher and a Jewish studies principal at Akiba Academy in Dallas. In his current role as director of JSU, he works with more than 700 teens in nine public and secular private high schools throughout St. Louis to address contemporary issues from a Jewish perspective.
Rovinsky is passionate about contributing to the future of the American Jewish community.
“With the rates of intermarriage and assimilation continuing to move upward, it is incumbent upon all of us to inspire the next generations to remain culturally, socially and spiritually connected to their Jewish heritage,” he said. “I cannot begin to say how excited I am with the strategic plan of the Federation to try to stem the hemorrhaging of our people through targeted support of quality youth and young adult Jewish identity strengthening programming. I believe it plays a critical role in our battle against assimilation and Jewish apathy.”
Rovinsky is married to Selina Rovinsky and they are the parents of Saara (Moshe) Moskowitz, Avi (Lizzy) Rovinsky, Ariella and Yossi.
Joy Mankoff honored by Dallas Women’s Foundation
The Dallas Women’s Foundation presented Joy S. Mankoff with the Power of The Purse Philanthropist Award during its luncheon Nov. 8 at the Hilton Anatole. The award is bestowed annually to a woman who has made a significant difference in women’s lives through charitable contributions, leadership and support of women’s issues.
“Joy Mankoff is an extraordinary champion of women’s issues and an architect of the vision for women’s philanthropy and social change that created Dallas Women’s Foundation 27 years ago and continues to drive our growth and impact,” said Roslyn Dawson Thompson, president of the Dallas Women’s Foundation. “We are honored to recognize Joy for changing women’s lives through her generosity and leadership here in our community and across the nation.”
Mankoff was one of the Dallas Women’s Foundation’s 19 founders, and her husband, attorney Ronald Mankoff, wrote the first articles of incorporation and bylaws for the organization. Together, they chaired the advisory council and later served as honorary luncheon chairs.
Today, Joy continues her support as an active member of the advisory council. She was instrumental in the success of the Dallas Women’s Foundation Comprehensive Campaign from 2007-2011, by creating a charitable remainder trust benefiting the organization.
Joy was also one of the first of the 27 Dallas Women Moving Millions donors who made a gift of $1 million or more to benefit women and girls.
An advocate for a number of causes locally and nationally, Joy has served as president of organizations including the Dallas section of the National Council of Jewish Women, Planned Parenthood of North Texas, Women’s Council of Dallas County and the Dallas Summit, as well as vice president of the Boys and Girls Club of Greater Dallas. She was founding president of the Women’s Issues Network and the Older Women’s League, and she is currently vice chair of the Dallas Opera Board.
Mankoff received Southern Methodist University’s Women in Leadership Award, the American Association of University Women’s Award, the Women Helping Women Award and the National Council of Jewish Women’s Hannah G. Solomon Award. She and her husband were given Planned Parenthood’s Gertrude Shelburne Humanitarian Award and the American Jewish Committee’s Institute of Human Relations Award. The Mankoffs are the key benefactors of the P.J. Library through Jewish Federation of Greater Dallas’ Center for Jewish Education.
Meet Elise Power, VITAS Community Liaison
“Everybody has a story,” Elise Power said. “Everybody has a journey. When my mom was terminally ill, I helped her and my dad through their difficult journey. Mom’s legacy lives on; I want to continue to make a difference in people’s lives.”
Power has worked in home care and hospice for 30 years, first in New Jersey and now in Dallas. Today she is a VITAS community liaison, educating clinicians and the community about how hospice is compatible with the Jewish faith.
“The rabbi is held in high regard to many Jewish families, sometimes more highly regarded than the patient’s own physician,” Power said. “So I see educating rabbis and Jewish leaders on the benefits of hospice as a way to reach so many patients and families in their time of need.”
She offers a story from her own experience: She was approached by a family regarding their mother, a Holocaust survivor. The son was a rabbi and didn’t understand the benefits of hospice. Fortunately, he was willing to learn about what hospice is — and isn’t. He chose hospice. When his mother died several months later, he gave the eulogy, acknowledging how hard her life had been and how grateful he was that she had hospice.
“VITAS reinforces Jewish traditions,” Power said. “VITAS is accredited by the National Institute for Jewish Hospice. When people are dying, they tend to go back to their culture and roots; there is a re-awakening of tradition. I am here to walk that journey with them.”
VITAS has rabbis on staff and works closely with Jewish Family Service.
Power works with religious and community-based organizations as well as residential care facilities to educate about hospice and palliative care, advance directives, ethics and other issues that arise at the end of life. She educates physicians, hospital staff, ALFs, CCRCs and LTCs about compassionate end-of-life care, Jewish culture, sensitivity, practices and the benefits of hospice care.
“My passion is seeing the possibilities and making things happen,” she said. “When patients and families tell me, ‘I couldn’t have done this without you,’ I know we are making a difference.”
Power can be reached at Elise.Power@VITAS.com or 214-424-5600.
• DATA will hold its annual scholarship dinner at 6:45 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 4 at the Renaissance Hotel Dallas Richardson. Yana and Yury Mintskovsky will be honored with the Community Builder Award, Richard Greenfield with the Community Leadership Award and Jared Green with the Young Leadership Award. For reservations call DATA at 214-987-3282.
• Jeremy Reichman, who grew up in Plano and recently graduated from the University of Texas School of Law, passed the bar exam with the top score over more than 4,000 attorneys taking the test. Jeremy, who is employed with the Dallas office of Vinson Elkins, addressed the court and all the new bar members that were sworn in Nov. 12 at the Erwin Center in Austin.
• Susan Candy Luterman was elected president of the International Association of Jewish Free Loans at the organization’s annual conference on Oct. 16 in Phoenix. This will be her second term. Susan is following a family tradition: Her husband, Allen, was international president from 2001 to 2003.
• The annual meeting of the Dallas Hebrew Free Loan Association is scheduled for 10 a.m. Sunday, Dec. 9 at Prestonwood Country Club. The event is free to members, and $15 for guests. Contact Deborah Dana at 214-696-8008 no later than Wednesday, Dec. 5 to RSVP.