DJHS certainly ‘house that Ginger built’

Ginger Jacobs’ middle name should have been “History.”
She took a lot of it with her when she died June 16, but she left even more behind, because she was the founder of the Dallas Jewish Historical Society.
As she used to tell it, when our community started its trek northward, she stopped in her tracks at the sight of old South Dallas demolitions and exclaimed, “That’s my history they’re tearing down!” Her passion, her mission, became its preservation.
I first became involved in Ginger’s “baby” when it occupied a small room behind the JCC’s old first-floor library. There was a desk, a chair and a filing cabinet, not much else. Now it’s still in the J, but as a full-scale operation, with a director, an archivist, state-of-the-art storage for papers and artifacts. That baby has grown up to be one of the agencies under our Federation’s umbrella. And Ginger was with it all the way.
She was a physical education instructor when a young man with the same profession arrived in Dallas, the sole survivor of a large Polish family decimated by the Nazis. He didn’t speak much English then, but he told me that on first seeing Ginger, his reaction was “That’s my girl!”
And she was! They married, had four children (son Mark followed his mother’s lead and served himself as president of the DJHS), and the family expanded to include four grandchildren and two great-grands. Ginger wrote her own book about Jewish education in the old South Dallas days, then helped husband Mike compile his recollections of Triumph over Tragedy, and accompanied him everywhere while he spoke in many places, here and across oceans, to spread the good word. As Ginger left a permanent mark on a community institution, so did Mike: He was a founder of the Dallas Holocaust Museum/Center for Education and Tolerance. He passed away just two years before her.
But Dallas probably knows Ginger best for her tours. A phenomenal guide, she took busloads of people on trips, sponsored by the Society or other community groups, talking about Dallas sites of historic Jewish importance. Even when she was pointing out places where demolition had been total, she had a way of bringing what used to be there back to life.
And now, others who’ve worked with her will pick up where Ginger left off. She will live on as the tours live on, because the Jacobs family has requested that memorials be made to something very specific, and very special: The Ginger Chesnick Jacobs Historical Tour and Outreach Fund. Of course! Where else, what else, could better perpetuate her memory? This will be a wonderful combination of a concrete remembrance in the form of a much-requested community service.
For your information: Ginger was not this feisty woman’s given first name, although she never went by anything else. She started life as Jenny, but was a firebrand at such an early age that her family began calling her Ginger, and it stuck. So future historical tours will be forever associated with the spicy name of the prescient woman who saw things changing, and although she couldn’t do anything to stop the tearing-down of buildings she had known and loved in her growing-up years, she did what any born historian would do: found a way to preserve them. Certainly not in brick and mortar, but in mind and memory. Forever.
If you’d like to arrange a bus tour for a group, or take one yourself, please contact the Dallas Jewish Historical Society for possibilities. Call 214-239-7120. Better yet, visit the Society in its headquarters on the first floor of the Aaron Family Jewish Community Center, 7900 Northaven Road, and see for yourself the legacy Ginger Jacobs has left behind. Best of all: make a donation to that new fund in her name, for a lasting contribution to the important work of the historic “House that Ginger Built.”

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