By Harriet P. Gross
A good picture may be worth 1000 words, but don’t ever discount the value of good words!
The Dallas Jewish Historical Society has thousands of them, comprising more than 200 oral histories amassed from 1971 to this year. At first, individual interviewers took notes with pencil and pen. Later, they used tape recorders. Now, everything’s done with video.
And every one of those interviewees, including those who are no longer with us, will be honored on Sunday, April 26, when the Society presents its Andres Family Event, “Making Dallas Jewish History Come Alive.”
A noon luncheon at the Westin Galleria Dallas will be followed by a dessert reception and special program presentation highlighting the Society’s collection of pictures as well as words: Some of its treasured photographs will be seen in “A Dallas Jewish Journey,” local filmmakers Allan Mondell and Cynthia Salzman Mondell’s new documentary made especially for DJHS. It will premiere at the event and be available later for personal enjoyment and community education.
Dallas Jewish history actually began in the mid-1800s, but the Society itself didn’t start until more than a century later. In 1970, Ginger Jacobs was watching the razing of the old Temple Emanu-El in South Dallas. Suddenly she realized, “That’s my history they’re tearing down!” and quickly took up preservation of precious memories as her cause. She enlisted immediate help from the late Ruth Kahn, who “had a sense of history,” Jacobs recognized then, and remembers today.
Spreading the word that “today is tomorrow’s history,” the two women established their forward-looking venture into looking backward with one desk and two file cabinets in a corner of the Jewish Community Center’s library. A dedicated Archives Room was part of the Center’s 1978 facilities enlargement; later, expansion of the growing organization’s scope and purpose was recognized with the name change from Dallas Jewish Archives to Dallas Jewish Historical Society. As part of the most recent JCC remodeling, DJHS moved in 2007 into an expanded new office space that includes state-of-the-art, climate-controlled vault facilities, which both enhance the size of its preservation capabilities and safeguard its collections.
Jacobs’ and Kahn’s oral histories are included, with those of all other interviewees to date, in the Tribute Book that will be unveiled during “Making Jewish History Come Alive.”
“These interviews are a piece of our community’s story, and these people are part of the foundation of what Dallas is,” said Sheryl Fields Bogen, chair of the event. Committee members working with Bogen on the event include Roz Benjet, Lottye Brodsky, Saralynn Busch, Julie Lowenberg, Esther McKenna, Barbara Rose and Sue Tilis. Michael Waldman is current president of the DJHS board of directors, and Mandy Dossey is the Society’s archivist.
Commented Debbie Tobias, DJHS’s executive director, “We are thrilled to bring together the honorees and families whose histories have added a unique layer to the Dallas community. The careful preservation of our oral histories speaks to the very core of this agency’s mission: to save the precious past as a living legacy for the future.”
“Making Jewish History Come Alive” is the most ambitious project yet attempted by DJHS, a nonprofit under the umbrella of the Jewish Federation of Greater Dallas that draws most of its funding from memberships and contributions. All profits from the event, which is open to the public, will be used to further the Society’s ongoing archival and educational efforts.
“I’m proud to be associated with this little agency that said ‘I could,’” Tobias continued, with special thanks to Bogen as event originator and driving force: “The upcoming community-wide recognition of those who came before us, and whose contributions resulted in the growth and strength of Jewish Dallas, is due to the highly motivated group of volunteers led by Sheryl, whose vision and resourcefulness have brought us to this point. Undertaking this major project was the right thing to do, and I’m glad we said we could do it!”
Prime movers in making this event, its film and Tribute Book into realities are the Dave and Ruth Andres Family, the Sam and Ruth Ann Wolfson Family Endowment Fund (established by Rebecca Bruder, Patricia Fagadau and Linnie Katz to honor the legacy of their parents) and Waldman Brothers.
In the past, DJHS has presented three major events, two years apart, recognizing several individual community members in honor of the legacy of Ann Sikora, the local Federation’s first woman president and a founder of national MAZON, A Jewish Response to Hunger. After “Making Dallas Jewish History Come Alive,” the agency plans to resume its biennial schedule of fundraisers that include Sikora Awards presentations.
And, according to Bogen, “At that next event there will be another Tribute Book. Since our oral histories are ongoing, nobody should worry about being left out! But now, ‘Making History Come Alive’ is a stepping stone for our agency, and we’re hoping people will come out to support it.”
For those interested in attending: Registration will begin at 11:30 a.m. at the Westin Galleria, 13340 Dallas Pkwy., for the noon luncheon ($154 per person). The community dessert reception ($36 per person) will be at 12:30 p.m., followed by the program and film screening. Copies of the Tribute Book and DVDs of “A Dallas Jewish Journey” will be available for purchase at the event ($20 each, or both for $35).
To make reservations, call Sheryl Fields Bogen at 972-392-7957. Reservations can also be made by credit card by calling the DJHS, 214-239-7120. For more information on the Dallas Jewish Historical Society, visit www.djhs.org or call 214-239-7108.
By Harriet P. Gross