Farewell to a Tiferet mainstay

Today’s column is a thank-you to someone who’s done much for one of our area’s Jewish institutions without asking for any recognition. Next Monday, Jennifer Williams will cover her typewriter for the last time and lock the door to Tiferet Israel behind her.
Jennifer has been the linchpin there for more than nine years. Her title was “office manager,” but her position covered far more than that. She brought to the shul many organizational and creative skills that she used daily, while she also learned much about something that was new to her: Judaism.
When I asked how she ever found this job, Jennifer said she just read an ad, and cold-called; soon, after an interview with Rabbi Shawn Zell and the congregation’s president, she received a quick callback. What matched most for Tiferet was her previous work at the community newspaper in White Hall, Arkansas, her hometown; there, her title was also office manager, but “I did a little of everything,” Jennifer told me, “from office work to selling advertising to designing ads, to community engagement. And I loved it!”
Then I asked her about the high points of her years at Tiferet. “I learned so much in my time here,” she said. “I loved planning for the High Holy Days, and attending services to ensure the days went well — a special opportunity to meet with so many of our members in one place. But of course, the highlight of any year was the Dallas Kosher Chili Cook-off. How could it not be? For at least one day of the year, 3000 people or more joined together in community and friendship, with a little friendly competition. To be a part of making that happen was a huge honor for me.”
She cites working with Rabbi Zell as “being a bigger education than I ever received in a classroom. With him, I have sat in on bar mitzvah training, wedding planning, funeral arrangements, Yiddish classes and more,” she said, “acting as a sounding board and checker of details. I also had the opportunity to work with his wife. It takes an incredible woman to be a Rebbitzen, and Shirah Zell certainly lives up to that standard.”
In close to a decade, Jennifer has also worked with five Tiferet presidents, and “No two were alike,” she said. “Each brought a different flavor to my position, and I admire them all; each selflessly served the synagogue and their community in hopes of making differences in the lives of others.”
The day-in, day-out tasks — repetitive ones, like tracking and ordering supplies and keeping the calendar and photo wall displays up to date — are “really no different from any small business or nonprofit,” she said. “What’s made the difference for me is the members. When I interviewed for Tiferet, I spoke about how working in a small community is really like building a family, and I feel that’s exactly what’s happened. These relationships have been incredibly meaningful for me, and I’m going to miss them all, very much.” Jennifer also notes that particularly because both the Cook-off and the Community Mikvah are there at Tiferet, “I’ve had the unique opportunity and pleasure to serve the entire Dallas Jewish community. I will definitely leave a piece of my heart behind.”
So the day of goodbyes is next Monday; Jennifer will leave soon after to join husband David, who’s already started a new job in Aurora, Colorado, where she’ll also be looking for a new job of her own. “I’ve heard there’s a very active Jewish community in Denver, which is quite near,” she says, “so perhaps there might be a place for me there?”
She’s already trained her successor, Teresa Baldwin, who’s held a similar position at a church. “She’s going to be a great fit for Tiferet,” Jennifer promises. I asked her to remind the “newby” to keep a stock of Hershey’s Kisses on hand for visitors like me…

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