Volunteers honored for work, receive more than $130K in grants
By Judy Tashbook Safern
Special to the TJP
The Dallas Jewish Community Foundation’s scholarship program is one of the best-kept secrets in philanthropy. That modest cover was blown Monday night, May 22, when an enthusiastic crowd assembled at the JCC to celebrate as 48 extraordinary students gratefully received more than $130,000 toward their pursuit of higher education.
Jewish community volunteers — 34 this year — dedicate hours evaluating scholarship applications, reviewing grades, reading essays, marveling over recommendations and, in some cases, considering financial need.
Julie Lowenberg, the community involvement chair, who has served on the DJCF scholarship committee for more than 20 years said: “This is one of my favorite volunteer activities.”
Ann Kahn, who is among 10 other new scholarship committee members, echoed the sentiments shared by many of her peers: “I am thrilled to death to be on this committee.”
“Thank goodness these scores are due before Pesach because my dining room table is full of applications,” laughed one committee member too modest to be named.
“Our committee works very hard to narrow down the award-winning applications,” said Mona Allen, DJCF’s director of scholarships and programs. “Some of these students are just amazing…perfect scores, perfect grades, incredibly dedicated to community service. They would be an intimidating bunch, but they are all so nice!”
It’s clear DJCF takes great pride in the college scholarship program the agency administers. Students of any and all faiths are encouraged to apply, and then each student is put in the pool for whichever scholarship he/she is eligible. Dallas Jewish Community Foundation college scholarships are open to eligible students from Dallas, Denton and Collin counties. The Foundation awards specialty scholarships to students studying in Israel, at SMU, University of Oklahoma and Texas A&M; as well as Jewish students from Texas towns with two or fewer congregations.
Scholarship Committee Co-Chairs Michael Kottwitz and Brad Roth explained that since the applications are anonymous to insure a fair evaluation process, the content of the application is what sets the DJCF scholarship process apart from other academic awards. Indeed, Roth says, because the awards process was completely anonymous, this year there were five repeat award winners and a pair of siblings who received scholarships, happy accidents of a blind system that judges applicants simply on their merits.
Students soon realize that while it is an honor to receive the scholarship, the value conferred isn’t simply in the money, it lies within the association they now have with the scholarship’s namesake.
“We are delighted for the opportunity to sponsor this scholarship reception,” said David Fida, vice president and Business Development officer for First United Bank. “‘Spend life wisely’ is more than a tagline for us. As a financial services firm committed to philanthropy, we at First United salute this evening’s donors for their generosity and their vision. There is no better investment than education. Our prayer for these scholarship recipients is that they spend life wisely and emulate the great people in whose honor their scholarships are named.”
When complimented on DJCF’s reputation for integrity in action, Mona Allen said: “We are the only organization that does not fundraise. We don’t raise money, we raise community. We are here for the entire community and are committed to doing whatever we can to help the community grow. These deserving scholars will contribute much to that growth and we look forward to seeing their accomplishments.”