Sept. 28 honors to Jeri Finkelstein, Liz Liener and Marilyn Pailet
By Deb Silverthorn
The Dallas Jewish Historical Society (DJHS) will rock around the clock, at least from 5:30 to 9:30 p.m., Thursday, Sept. 28, at Temple Emanu-El, recognizing Ann Sikora Humanitarian Award honorees Jeri Finkelstein, Liz Liener and Marilyn Pailet. The trio, each with deep roots in Dallas’ Jewish community, have planted their own seeds through their families, synagogues and numerous organizations. The fruits of their dedication will blossom for generations.
“These beautiful ladies, inside and out, are going to be toasted, loved on and honored like never before. It’s going to be a fun night dedicated to all that they are,” said Jeanette Pincus, president of the DJHS board.
The evening, co-chaired by Steffani Siegel Bailin and Robyn Rovinsky Mirsky, will include an open bar, a menu of short ribs or salmon, vegetables, salad and a delectable dessert catered by Simcha Kosher Catering — all favorites of Ann Sikora. Dan Prescott is emcee of the night with music and dancing to the beats of the Rolling Stones’ tribute band The Stoneleighs. Silent and live auction items include stays in Broken Bow, Oklahoma, at The Ritz-Carlton Dallas and more.
Finkelstein, Liener and Pailet actively live their respect for the Dallas Jewish community with the passion of Ann Loeb Sikora, of blessed memory, the humanitarian award’s namesake.
Sikora was married to the late Dr. David Sikora and was the mother of Daniel and Sam (of blessed memory). She was the first woman president of the Jewish Federation of Greater Dallas. In addition, she served on the boards of United Way of Metropolitan Dallas; Community Council of Greater Dallas; Greater Dallas Community Relations Commission; American Jewish Committee; Council of Jewish Federations; National Council of Jewish Women; Congregation Shearith Israel; and Golden Acres–Home for the Jewish Aged, among others. She served each organization with all of her resources, benefiting no less than a dozen entities.
Jeri Finkelstein is a third-generation Dallasite, the daughter of the late Lois and Bob Goldberg and the sister of Kenny (Sherry) and Neil (Lisa). A Jennie Zesmer BBG member, she was raised at Congregation Shearith Israel and now belongs to Chabad of Dallas and Congregation Shaare Tefilla, with affiliations at congregations around the community.
She graduated from The University of Texas at Austin, where she was a member of Alpha Epsilon Phi. After graduation, she taught early elementary school in Atlanta, Waco and Dallas.
Jeri has been married for 51 years to Bill Finkelstein, whom she met at the start of her freshman year. Their three daughters and their families, living in the Dallas area, are: Robin (Evan) Stone and their children Katie, Lexie and Jack; Lisa “Lele” (Armand) Sadoughi and their children Asher and Ivy; and Shana (Sam) Bygott-Webb and their children Evie, Charlie and Leo.
Since the 1995 reformatting of Dallas Kosher (DK) as the nonprofit Vaad Hakashrus of Dallas, Inc., Finkelstein has served twice, totaling more than 25 years, as DK’s executive director and is now DK board president. Her devotion to the community’s kosher supervisory organization has been evident throughout her service.
“I learned from my parents to serve the Jewish community, about which I care deeply,” she said. “When I was in junior high, I told my dad that ‘everyone’ at Hebrew school but me was going to Benjamin Franklin. Less than a month later, Daddy bought a house near the J and for our whole extended family, 44 of us, Dallas is home.”
Finkelstein added, “The Dallas Jewish Historical Society is the keeper of our treasures and our community’s rich history. I remember listening while my parents were interviewed. The life stories are jewels and I hope everyone in Dallas tells their story too.”
Finkelstein has served in leadership for the City of Dallas Health and Human Services, Israel Bonds, the JCC, Jewish Federation of Greater Dallas Women of Philanthropy, Jewish Women International (formerly B’nai B’rith Women) and National Council of Jewish Women.
Thirty years ago, Finkelstein was appointed by the State of Texas as the first chairperson of the Charitable Bingo Committee of the Texas Lottery Commission. More than $3.5 million of the proceeds from Charitable Bingo have supported organizations that benefit the well-being of women, children and families including Akiba Academy (now Akiba Yavneh Academy), DJHS and the Jewish Family Service of Greater Dallas Special Needs program and also the Jerusalem Hills Therapeutic Center in Israel for abused and emotionally challenged children.
Liz Liener, the daughter of Audree, of blessed memory, and Alan Meyer, is a third-generation Dallasite. She is the sister of Ruth (Michael) Sacks and Dr. Joseph (Theresa) Meyer and was raised at Congregation Shearith Israel. She was a member of Jennie Schepps BBG and graduated from Hillcrest High School. A graduate of The University of Texas at Austin, she worked at Ericsson Telecom as a software engineer and systems designer.
Liener and her husband of 36 years, Robert, are parents of Aaron, Benji and Sarah. The family belonged to Congregation Tiferet Israel and now, for many years, have been members of Congregation Shaare Tefilla.
Liener was board chair at Akiba Yavneh Academy, board and executive board member of the DJHS and also board member of the Aaron Family JCC for many years. Now, she is chair of Legacy at Home and on the board of The Legacy Senior Communities.
Holding onto and sharing history at the same time, in 2012 Liener wrote and published “Markus, Planter of Trees,” a memoir about Marcus Rosenberg, of blessed memory.
“The Dallas Jewish Historical Society is a small agency with a huge mission,” said Liener, who, like her co-honorees and more than 750 others, has granted an interview to the DJHS’ Morton Rachofsky Oral History Archive. “It deserves all the attention, commitment and support.”
Marilyn Pailet, whose grandfather Jacob Donsky came to Dallas from Poland in 1895, is second-generation born. The daughter of Frances and Ervin, of blessed memory, she is the sister of Dr. Michael (Barbara), Howard (Sandy) and Gayle (Jeffrey) Borovay.
The former Jennie Zesmer BBG chapter and Young Judaea member is a graduate of Highland Park High School, was raised at Congregation Shearith Israel and attended United Hebrew Schools of Dallas. She was confirmed in the last Shearith class before the synagogue moved to its current location — where the next two generations of her family have been involved.
Pailet graduated from Newcomb College of Tulane University, where she was a Sigma Delta Tau sorority member and president of Hillel. She and her husband, Harrell, who in June celebrated 60 years of marriage, spent two years in Mannheim, Germany, when he served in the U.S. Army.
When they returned stateside, Pailet worked in her family’s Sterling Jewelers, ultimately as the company’s secretary/treasurer. Upon the store’s closing, after 43 years, Pailet began a career as a real estate agent with Ebby Halliday. She is celebrating her 30th year with the company. She has been honored several times by D Magazine as a Best Real Estate Agent and on the 2022 lists of both Texas Monthly Best Realtors and D Magazine Best Realtors.
The Pailet family tree extends now to their sons and their families: Eric; Jeffrey (Summer) and their sons Brennan, Asher and Jaden; Kevin (Mahra) and their children Bella, Ethan and Miller; and David (Sarah) Elias and Lila.
“My parents, and theirs, were dedicated to this community going back to when my grandfather was the founding president of Agudas Achim in the 1920s, “said Pailet. “Flash forward, my father was the last president of that congregation before it closed as the community was moving north. With Harrell, and now our children and theirs, it is very special to continue to help in the growth of this wonderful community.”
Pailet has received the Frances Donsky Achievement and Helen Gross Leadership awards of the Jewish Federation of Greater Dallas; with her family’s four generations, she was presented the State of Israel Bonds’ L’Dor v’Dor Award.
Now on the DJHS board, with a history on its executive committee, Pailet has been a member or served on the boards of Akiba Academy PTA, AIPAC, B’nai B’rith Women, Congregation Shearith Israel, Hadassah, Jewish Women International, Levine Academy (her parents were among the founders of Solomon Schechter Academy), National Council of Jewish Women, National Hillel, North Texas Hillel and Shearith Israel Sisterhood, the last-named of which honored her and her sister-in-law Sandy Donsky with 2013 Torah Fund honors. She chaired the Jewish Federation of Greater Dallas’ Teen Tour and the Federation’s Women’s Division.
Chair Robyn Rovinsky Mirsky said the trio of honorees have shown no signs of slowing down when it comes to dedicating themselves to the Jewish community.
“I have known these ladies for most of my life and appreciated the absolute care and heart with which they serve our community. This is going to be a celebration like none other and we’re going to rock it like the rock stars Jeri, Liz and Marilyn are,” said Rovinsky Mirsky.
For 53 years, DJHS’ monthly programs through its oral history project, its archives and guidance to community members preserve the precious past as a living legacy for a community whose history is written each day by every one of its residents. Finkelstein, Liener and Pailet are among those who have set the bar high.
“Jeri, Liz and Marilyn’s dedication to our community inspires us all,” said Siegel Bailin.
For more details, to participate in sponsoring or to RSVP for the event, visit djhs.org.