By Deb Silverthorn
Ahava, the Hebrew word for love, could have been the subtitle of the Jewish Federation of Greater Dallas 1979 Teen Tour Reunion. The 30th anniversary event brought together close to 40 of the original 60 or so participants in the program. Amongst the memory makers at the June 20 event at Two Rows Restaurant in Addison were Vicki and Paul Friedman, Marcia and Larry Levine, and Ruth and Mark Schor, all of whom met through the Teen Tour and subsequently married.
Ruth Solomon and Mark Schor were madrichim (counselors) on the 1978 program — Mark, a W.T. White graduate; Ruth, from Israel. In the year that followed, a lifetime ago without Facebook and e-mail, the two exchanged snail-mail letters across the Atlantic. “I would write to Ruth and, because her English wasn’t too strong at the time, she and a friend would translate them together and the friend would help her write back,” said Mark, then a North Texas University graduate student. “When I made arrangements to return on the ‘79 tour, she did the same.”
Ruth, the longtime director of the Learning Center at Congregation Beth Torah, came to visit Mark in Dallas, and on Nov. 24, 1979 the two were married. Parents of Julian, Aviv (who as little ones returned with their parents when Mark led the Teen Tour in 1989 and 1992) and Adam, the couple had a special time attending the reunion. “For us to grow further into our adulthood over 30 years was one thing, but when we walked into the restaurant, and saw a room full of 16-year-olds now 46, it was something else,” Mark said. “Once we looked into their eyes, though, we saw the kids who witnessed our courtship and with whom we shared a great summer. It was really beautiful.”
When 16-year-old Vicki Small went on the 1979 Teen Tour, she went with jitters created at a pre-trip orientation. “We all sat around in a circle and did an icebreaker where we had to talk about the person next to us,” said the future Mrs. Paul Friedman, who now lives in Rochester, Minn. “When it was Paul’s turn to talk about me he had one thing to say: ‘She’s got the most beautiful brown eyes I’ve ever seen.’ I went home that night and told my mom I’d met the man I was going to marry.”
Perhaps forethought, perhaps wishful thinking — but in fact Vicki and Paul did marry in 1985 and go on to create a family that includes Lindsay, Hannah and Maddy. The family has lived in Rochester for 15 years and has been instrumental in the building of the new B’nai Israel Synagogue and Dan Abraham Jewish Cultural Center.
“We’ve always made sure to be connected to the Jewish community, even here where it’s very small, and we’ve done so on purpose,” Vicki said. “Our daughter Hannah spent part of her high school career at the Eisendrath International Exchange, a high school exchange program in Israel, and our Maddy committed to a bat mitzvah project by working with ‘A Package from Home’ (www.apackagefromhome.org), which sends letters and supplies to Israeli soldiers. Our oldest, Lindsay, went on Birthright in January and, while it’s new, is now dating someone she met through that program. Who knows what her future will bring?
“The camaraderie of climbing Masada, of being in the Dead Sea, of praying at the Kotel — this was an amazing part of our life. That we share it together forever, and had the chance to ‘go back’ in memories with so many friends, was something very special.”
Marcia Prager was a year younger than her future husband, Larry Levine, but the two first traveled together on Teen Tour and later had their own reunion at UT-Austin, where they began dating. Married in 1985, the couple also has three children: Jennifer, who has participated in Birthright Israel; Lindsay; and Carly.
“When Jennifer went on Birthright I couldn’t help but reminisce about our Teen Tour,” said Marcia, who coordinated the reunion with Steve Berger, Deborah Hacker Lashefsky and Larry Taub.
“It was an incredible summer with great people and a great experience. A few people had stayed in touch through the years but it was really cool for those who were able to come together with people living all over the country including Dallas, Minnesota, New York, Phoenix and San Diego. I can tell you it won’t be another 30 years before we do it again!”
“I believe that a trip to Israel is one of the strongest factors in the continuation of American Jewry,” Mark Schor said. “To have Jewish people come together in marriage as a result of a trip to Israel is an added mitzvah.”