By Linda Wisch-Davidsohn
It is good to see the sun shining after some dreary weekend weather. I’ve noticed that my neighbors are busy with their spring planting, and that there is already a “Yard of the Month” sign on one of my neighbor’s lawn.
Unfortunately, it is not mine, but I do have a goal to get there one of these days.
In the meantime, there are a lot of doings in Dallas — we are just a happening city.
Levine Endowed Lecture on Jewish Studies tonight at SMU
Dr. Nathan Katz will speak at 7:30 p.m., Thursday, April 10, at the McCord Auditorium in Dallas Hall at Southern Methodist University. This is the 16th installment of the Nate and Ann Levine Endowed Lecture on Jewish Studies. Katz will speak on “Balancing Identities — The Jews of Cochin, South India.”
“Are they Indian or are they Jewish?” is the obvious question for anybody who has ever encountered the Jews of Cochin or even heard about them. This talk will explore the question and explain why it doesn’t do justice to this very old, distinguished and creative community.
In Katz’s lecture, attendees will get an introduction to the people of “Jew Town” (sic) through the trained eye of a scholar who is widely recognized as the world’s authority on the subject.
Katz is a distinguished professor in the School of International and Public Affairs at Florida International University. Among his 15 published books are “The Last Jews of Cochin: Jewish Identity in Hindu India,” “Who are the Jews of India?” and “Spiritual Journal Home: Eastern Mysticism to the Western Wall.” Katz has also published hundreds of articles, book chapters and encyclopedia entries.
His research focuses on Indo-Judaic studies, an area that he helped pioneer. His publications concern Jewish communities in India, ancient world links between India and Israel, comparisons of themes within Judaism on the one hand and Hinduism, Buddhism or Jainism on the other, in addition to Hindu-Jewish and Buddhist-Jewish dialogue.
In 1990, Katz was invited to join a delegation of eight scholars and rabbis who met with the Dalai Lama at his palace in Dharamsala, India for extensive Jewish-Tibetan dialogue.
In 2009, he addressed the first quasi-official dialogue meeting held in the West between swamis and rabbis.
He has spent many years in South Asia (India, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan, Nepal) and was trained in the classical thought and languages of the subcontinent. Katz founded the world’s only program in the study of spirituality at FIU.
Two Dallas leaders named to national board of NCJW
The National Council of Jewish Women installed Joni Cohan of Dallas as vice president and Sue Tilis, also of Dallas, as member of the board of directors at the organization’s 46th national convention March 8. The delegates joined with nationwide members to celebrate the organization’s 120th anniversary in St. Louis, Mo. Nationwide leaders gathered to launch new anti-human trafficking initiative and continue commitment to reproductive rights.
The convention also laid out policy and advocacy goals for the 2014-2017 terms, elected officers, and honored national leaders who continue to make a difference on issues of concern to NCJW.
The “NCJW convention has brought together some of the best minds of our organization to share ideas and motivate one another moving forward,” said Cohan. “I look forward to continue working with my fellow board members and officers and upholding NCJW’s mission of social justice for women, children and families.”
Cohan has served on the national board for more than 10 years, and is now entering her second term as national vice president. During her time on the board, she served as the vice chair for the 2008 national convention. She has been the national co-chair for State Public Affairs Advocacy Network and president of NCJW, Greater Dallas Section. She was co-chair of Washington Institute 2013.
“We are fortunate to have Joni Cohan and Sue Tilis as members of NCJW’s newly elected slate of officers and board directors,” said NCJW President Debbie Hoffmann. “NCJW’s convention reinforced our commitment to today’s pressing issues which includes sex trafficking and reproductive rights. I know Joni and Sue will be strong leaders for NCJW’s mission of social justice for women, children and families.”
Tilis is chair of NCJW’s 46th national convention and previously served as national commissioner and president of NCJW, Greater Dallas Section and the New Orleans Section. She has served on the board of directors of the American Jewish Committee, the Dallas Jewish Historical Society, B’nai B’rith Youth Organization: Dallas, the Jewish Federation of Dallas, Vickery Meadow Learning Center and the Dallas Furniture Bank.
At the convention, attendees participated in a conversation on human trafficking with Bradley Myles, CEO of the Polaris Project; Malika Saada Saar, special counsel on Human Rights at The Raben Group; Holly Austin Smith, a survivor of child trafficking and an advocate against all forms of human trafficking; and Kimberly Ritter, an executive at Nix Conference & Meeting Management who spearheads the company’s corporate social responsibility (CSR) trafficking initiative, which is dedicated to combating child sex trafficking on hotel properties; and “Feminist Voices for Change” — a dynamic panel of women across different generations and disciplines who discussed the role of modern-day progressive social change leaders.
Additionally, NCJW honored Jezebel Founder Anna Holmes; military sexual assault litigator Susan Burke; abortion rights activists Dr. Julie Bindeman and Dana Weinstein; and later abortion provider Dr. Shelley Sella. The conference also briefed attendees on best practices for organizing in their own communities and lobbying local and state governments.
Pat Peiser of Dallas receives NCJW’s Enduring Leadership Award at St. Louis Convention
At the same convention, NCJW honored Dallasite Pat Peiser with its Enduring Leadership Award. This award honors women who have proven instrumental in moving their sections toward accomplishing the organization’s mission in a pioneering way for 10 or more years.
Peiser is a charter life member of the Dallas Section of NCJW. She previously served as NCJW section president and on NCJW’s national board. As section president she founded LIFT (Literacy Instruction for Texas), which serves more than 6,500 adults annually. Additionally she co-founded director of Safeguards for Seniors, and was its director. Safeguards for Seniors is a NCJW project promoting safe medication use. Peiser is also the co-founder and a past board member of Jacob’s Ladder, a welfare-to-work training program.
“We were very excited to honor Pat with our Enduring Leadership Award. Women like her, who demonstrate exceptional dedication and conviction, are the reason NCJW is able to actively effect change in our communities and nation,” said NCJW CEO Nancy Kaufman. “Pat is a change agent who makes it possible for NCJW to affect the lives of thousands in our communities.”
Good wishes to Kathi Wenrich, who has been promoted to chief advancement officer at the Volunteer Center of North Texas.
After leaving the Jewish Federation of Greater Dallas as major gifts officer in 2012, Wenrich joined the staff of the Volunteer Center of North Texas as the senior director of sales and business director.
The chief advancement officer is the senior development officer for the Volunteer Center of North Texas. Wenrich’s responsibilities include providing executive leadership for a comprehensive advancement program (annual giving, corporate and foundation giving, major and planned giving, and development research) and to increase the Volunteer Center’s visibility among key influencers, constituents and major donors.