By Amy Sorter
When Mark Kreditor took the reins as Jewish Federation of Greater Dallas board chair in 2017, one of his goals focused on the importance of outreach. This goal, however, has its roots in Kreditor’s family background.
When his uncle, Louis Kreditor, arrived in Dallas during the 1940s, he was enthusiastically welcomed by the area Jewish community. “He’d tell his relatives that they needed to move to Texas as soon as they could, because the nicest people in the world lived here,” Mark Kreditor said.
Fast-forwarding about 70 years after Louis Kreditor’s arrival, an estimated 144,000 new people relocate to Dallas each year. Assuming that at least 1 to 2 percent of the migrants are Jews, “we need to be doing everything we can to welcome them,” Mark Kreditor said.
That need became the basis for the Federation’s recently announced Outreach and Engagement initiative. The initiative’s goal is to connect Jewish newcomers in North Texas to institutions, agencies and activities throughout the Dallas-Fort Worth area. The program, however, goes beyond encouraging Jews who are new to the area to attend their local synagogues. Said the Federation’s President and CEO Bradley Laye: “If you are new to the area and attend a synagogue for the first time, ‘Shabbat shalom’ from an usher is not enough.”
Laye noted that the outreach discussion began when, in 2014, Toyota Motor announced the move of its U.S. headquarters to the Legacy West area of Plano. Then, “When Mark became board chair, it was one of his priorities that outreach and engagement would move from passion to practical programming,” Laye remarked.
To that end, the Federation has assembled an Outreach and Engagement committee, chaired by Stefani Eisenstat and Ben Weinstein. Furthermore, the Federation recently hired Peta Silansky as head of the initiative. Silansky served as a consultant to the Federation for years, so stepping into the outreach role full time on Nov. 1 wasn’t too difficult.
“Peta is not originally from Dallas, she’s been here a long time and she integrated herself so well in the Jewish community,” Laye said. “She’s so welcoming, delightful and knowledgeable; she has no agenda but to help people who are coming here and to help them in a caring fashion.”
Connecting Jews to area synagogues is a small part of the outreach. The initiative’s goal is to leverage the plethora of programs already offered by Jewish agencies, institutions and organizations throughout North Texas, communicate that information to area Jews, then determine the best fit for individuals and families.
“Between new member programs, young adult programming, to empty nesters and baby boomers, there is no shortage of programs,” Laye commented. “If we can connect and market it all to the people who need them, there is no shortage of programming to bring them in.”
Silansky’s goal is to incorporate her own connections and knowledge. For the past 27 years, since she and her family arrived in Dallas from South Africa, Silansky immersed herself in the Jewish community. “I’ve been involved in multiple and diverse congregations across the community,” she said. “That’s put me in a good place for this (outreach) position. I want to help families find their best fit with what is offered.”
To her, such outreach goes beyond providing a list of programs and moves into finding the programs with the right fit. “The focus here is on all age demographics; there is something here for everyone,” she said. “We are trying to assist people in finding the direction they’d like to travel on their Jewish journey.”
As such, Silansky is also building relationships with real-estate agents, recruitment agencies and relocation companies — those who are on the ground when it comes to moving people into North Texas.
Meanwhile, the Federation is working on producing specially branded materials, as well as creation of an outreach-specific website. The goal is to have “that website tab on every Jewish organizational website in 2019,” Laye said. A social media plan is also in place to help better connect individuals with each other, as well as appropriate programming.
In terms of specific activities, a community-wide Shabbat, involving several congregations, also is in the works. The Federation will have a presence at the event at the five synagogues involved, representing the kick-off of the outreach initiative.
Additionally, Laye is interested in what he calls “capacity building for area organizations.” In other words, providing advice on how synagogues and agencies can welcome newcomers and direct them to various programs throughout the community. The entire focus, he indicated, is cohesiveness and communication.
Kreditor said that, since the days when his Uncle Louis came to Dallas, the North Texas Jewish community has proved to be a very tight-knit one. “The effective priority was to find better ways to connect the community to the Federation and the Federation to the community,” he said, adding that the average Jew in North Texas might not be aware of all that is available beyond congregational activities.
As such, the outreach and engagement initiative has, as its goal, boosting awareness as to the benefits available to the Jews of North Texas. That, and focusing on the spirit of welcome, as touted by Louis Kreditor.
Nephew Mark Kreditor acknowledged that the initiative is a long game that has just been launched. He is, however, eyeing the potential lasting effects. “I hope that, in the years to come, the best way we will be evaluated is by our incredible Jewish community,” he said.