Federation set to raise almost $11M in
By Ben Tinsley
DALLAS — While the Jewish Federation of Greater Dallas enjoyed a fantastic year, one dark day in recent history cast a long shadow over the JFGD’s 105th annual meeting on Thursday, June 16.
One of the first things addressed at the meeting was the horror of the Sunday, June 12 deadly mass shooting in which 49 people were killed and 53 others injured at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida.
Later in the meeting, a top JFGD official discussed concerns about the security of the Jewish community.
The 7 p.m. gathering took place Thursday, June 16 in the Zale Auditorium at the Aaron Family J. It was chaired by Lisa and David Genecov and Kim and Rob Velevis.
Starting on a very somber note. Rabbi Daniel Septimus, University of Texas Hillel executive director, asked the audience for a moment of silence for those who were killed and injured during the Sunday, June 12 attack — considered the deadliest mass shooting in modern America.
“Tonight our thoughts and prayers continue to be with those who were killed in Orlando,” Rabbi Septimus said. “Our thoughts are also with the victims and families of those who were injured. … It was a dark day for our nation as we experienced another senseless act of terror.”
Quoting Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Rabbi Septimus added, “This was not only an attack on the LGBT community, but an attack on all of us, those who care about freedom, those who care about diversity and those who care about choice. We stand in solidarity with the LGBT community.”
Later in the program, Bradley Laye, JFGD president and CEO, Laye said the need for greater security for the Jewish community is a major concern.
Laye said he didn’t want to come across as a conspiracy theorist or an Islamophobe because he’s not worried that immediate danger to the Jewish community comes from al-Qaida or their brand of terrorism.
“I’m worried about the guy who decides, after losing his job or his wife leaves him, that somehow the Jews are responsible for all the trouble in his life … and he does something horrific,” Laye said.
Along those same lines, Laye said he also doesn’t want to experience the guilt that would come from knowing something could have been done to protect a synagogue or a JCC or other Jewish organization if they had put planning and money into better security.
Laye added that funds have been allocated and the Federation is working with local Jewish organizations and synagogues to develop a comprehensive community security plan.
Both Bradley Laye and Dan Prescott, JFGD board chair, discussed Israel during their respective presentations.
During his comments, Laye said the JFGD unequivocally supports the Jewish democratic state of Israel and believes in the two state solution for two peoples.
Prescott said the state of Israel has a complex society with difficult challenges — such as religious pluralism, which continues to be a challenge there.
The JFGD chair urged all Jews to pull together in support of Israel, regardless of whichever branch of Judaism they are a member.
“As Jews, we don’t have the luxury of deciding when we are going to support Israel and when we’re going to pull that support,” Prescott said. “It doesn’t work that way.”
Prescott said he believes it is the Jewish community’s sacred responsibility to do “everything in our power to leave a safe and secure Israel for our children.”
Family members never abandon one another, “and we must never abandon the people of Israel, the state of Israel,” Prescott said.
On a much lighter note, Prescott said the Jewish Federation of Greater Dallas has enjoyed great success and made great strides over the past year.
As an example he cited the Jan. 31 fundraiser featuring comedian, former SNL writer and Late Night host Seth Meyers as well as efforts to combat the Boycott Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, among other initiatives.
Prescott focused a significant portion of his remarks on the importance of the fight against BDS.
“I have seen how our students have stood up against BDS and anti-Israel rhetoric — how they build on relationships on campus that, believe me, are against great odds,” Prescott said.
Prescott said the JFGD’s 2016 campaign year, which began in September, raised close to $11 million (between restricted and unrestricted gifts), among the highest amounts ever generated. This includes a $500,000 increase in actual dollars raised since the previous year, he said.
“We continue to raise these dollars for the singular purpose of supporting the growing Jewish community,” Prescott said.
JFGD’s annual elections also were conducted during the evening.
Immediate Past Chair Cindy Sweet Moskowitz supervised the election, during which the incoming Federation officers and board members were unanimously voted into office by the audience.
These included Daniel J. Prescott, chair; Mark Kreditor, chair-elect; and Vice Chairs Lisa Genecov, Harold Gernsbacher, and A.J. Rosmarin. Also elected were Pam Hochster Fine, treasurer, and Eric Pinker, secretary.
Nominees elected to the board of directors included: Jeffrey Beck, Neil Beckerman, Lindsay Bendorf Epstein, Sharon Levin, Donna Weitzman (three-year terms); Jim Tolbert (two-year terms); Hylton L. Jonas, Robin Kosberg, Brian M. Lidji, Cynthia Spechler (two years of service remaining); and Alan Bernon, David Brickman, Betsy Kleinman, Brian Ratner, and Steven Davidoff (one year of service remaining).
Elected portfolio members include: Janet Beck, Russell Cooper, Stefani Eisenstat, Cynthia Feldman, Shelley Glazer, Carol Kreditor, Alan Shor, and Rabbi Stefan Weinberg.
In other business:
The Helen Gross Leadership Award was presented to Sandy Donsky, a longtime Jewish community lay leader who serves on the Jewish Federation of Greater Dallas board of directors, the planning and allocations committee, and is an annual campaign solicitor.
The Helen Gross Leadership Award was also presented to Bill Finkelstein, who has served the Jewish community as part of the UJA Young Leadership Cabinet, Akiba Academy, Dallas Kosher, Forest Lane Synagogue (Chabad of Dallas), Mount Zion United Jewish Cemetery and TTI Annual Dinner. He recently served as co-chair of the 2016 Israel Bonds event and is a frequent High Holiday Bond Appeal speaker.
The Bob Weinfeld Campaigner of the Year Award was presented to Cynthia Spechler. She has worn many hats for the Jewish Federation of Greater Dallas, including the Lion of Judah/Pomegranate Chair, the Women’s Philanthropy Chair, and, currently, the General Campaign Chair. She also chaired the building and structuring of the current Jewish Women’s Philanthropy Center, served on the JWPC board, and has been a solicitor since she and her family moved to Dallas. She volunteers at the Dallas Holocaust Museum and has been a docent for 18 years.
The Bess Nathan Young Leadership Award was presented to Staci Rubin, daughter of Florence and Howard Shapiro. She began her service to the Jewish Federation of Greater Dallas with involvement through the Young Adult Division. She continued by participating in the Young Adult Division’s Leadership Development Group (LDG) with her husband Paul, leading LDG, helping with the Women’s Philanthropy Rebuild, and currently serving as chair for the Younger Set Council. She recently completed the Wexner Heritage Program, a two-year intensive Jewish leadership program.
The I. Zesmer Young Leadership Award was presented to Avi Edwards, who relocated to Dallas with his family in 2008, served as outreach chair for two years, co-chaired a site for Mitzvah Day several times, made calls on Super Sundays and participated in the LDG program.
Last year Edwards was a venue director for soccer at the Dallas JCC Maccabi Games and has spent the last two years as the co-chair of campaign for YAD. In 2013, during his fourth trip to Israel, he co-chaired and competed for the USA Men’s 25+ Soccer Team in the 19th Maccabiah.