Comedian Maniscalco to perform; Fleisher to receive award
By Deb Silverthorn
Special to the TJP
The Jewish Family Service will present a majestic evening of laughter and love to honor CEO Michael Fleisher on Thursday, April 27.
Comedian Sebastian Maniscalco will entertain, with doors opening at 6:30 p.m. The event is open to the public, with a VIP sponsor dessert reception after the show.
“With its roots in the Jewish community and with Jewish Federation as its most valued partner, Jewish Family Service has and always will bring together the Jewish people in our community,” said Gilian Baron who is co-chairing the event with her husband Steve, Fonda and Jay Arbetter, Beth and Larry Konig, Melissa and Bart Plaskoff, and Paige and Marc Sachs.
“We’re thrilled to present this magnificent night to honor both JFS, a source of help and a means by which we provide help to others for more than 66 years, and our dear Michael, the face and brilliant conductor of that work for 24 of those. He is an amazing man who has bettered tens of thousands of lives through his dedication, so deserving of gratitude and praise. He will be missed!”
The Just For Show event provides an opportunity to celebrate the work of JFS and the people that make it happen with Maniscalco, whose comic views on life connect with all ages, providing the entertainment. The sellout comedian at comedy clubs throughout the country, and also a popular choice for large corporate events, was named the 2016 Just For Laughs Comedian of the Year and was included on People magazine’s fall 2016 Ones To Watch list.
With an outstanding reputation in the broader Dallas community, both within the agency and its extensive donor and volunteer bases, and in the diverse groups of people it serves, JFS brings together people of all backgrounds, faiths, races, ages and religions.
“Just For Show is a night for our community to support and celebrate that mission, and Michael’s invaluable role in fulfilling it,” Baron said. “The deep commitment of all these people to helping others in need is a true inspiration and we hope the Just For Show event gives others the chance to learn more about JFS, have fun together, and share in that feeling of making a difference.”
At the heart of JFS is the work of the Jewish tenet of tikun olam, repairing the world. There isn’t a piece of paper, a stroke of a pen, a phone call, or a decision made by Fleisher during his tenure that hasn’t resulted in the betterment of someone, or many people’s lives. Leading the organization that provides wrap-around social and mental health services to those in need regardless of race, religion, ethnicity or ability to pay, Fleisher has done so with his whole heart.
“The cornerstone of how we operate, the great specialization and expansion of how we serve our community, as a distinguished agency and the continuum of comprehensive care we provide in one place, is something I could not be more proud of,” said Fleisher. “People come to us with multiple concerns and here, they are able to be serviced by so many incredible professionals and supported by a wealth of volunteers — from ages 2-102, who together form a team that can’t be beat. We are a nationally accredited organization with constant growth and that is what has, does, and will always make JFS a place where anyone — almost 11,000 lives touched each year — can come to get quality care.”
Born in Waterbury, Connecticut, the son of Bernice and Daniel and brother of Cary and Lisa, Fleisher is a graduate of the University of Vermont and Case Western Reserve School of Applied Social Sciences. He started his career as a social worker in a psychiatric hospital and then at the JFS in Cleveland, Ohio. He met his wife Martha, now an attorney at Southern Methodist University — first at a picnic, he remembers the bright yellow helmet — it took the two awhile to connect. That “while,” turned into over 30 years of marriage and produced a family of service-mindedness by children Ben, Johanna and Rebecca.
“A major factor in our moving to Dallas, my 23-year tenure at JFS, and all the developments that have taken place, is Martha’s belief in the mission of JFS and the importance of family, her dedication to, support of and caring for her children, our parents and me,” said Fleisher — also calling his beloved the more “always the more quickly perceptive of the two of us. Her committed work ethic, and her high social and moral values that permeate everything she does, are qualities that can be traced to and found in everything that has been our Dallas experience, including and especially JFS. It cannot be appreciated enough.”
Fleisher insists JFS’ future holds great opportunity to grow and develop current services and introduce new areas of concern.
“JFS continues to be an exciting place as we partner with health care, religious, education and other centers,” he said. “My role here has always been exciting and challenging and it would never be a good time to leave, and it’s difficult to think about doing so. My heart will always be with the people of every aspect of the organization.”
For Ethel Zale, an honorary co-chair with Linda and Dave Garner, who have worked with Michael since his association, it is a bittersweet bid adieu, albeit a professional one.
“Michael greatly inspired me over 20 years ago when we first worked together on the design of the JFS building at (the intersection of) Montfort and Arapaho (roads),” she said, noting no project — or aspect of JFS — has ever been too small or too trivial for his full touch and commitment.
“I learned of the enormous work that JFS does and I wanted to be involved with this great organization and this wonderful leader,” Zale said. “We all wish Michael health and happiness and fulfillment in the future and, while he has been the heart and driving force of JFS and we will miss his devotion and part in every endeavor, he has left a strong foundation and JFS will continue its success in all its causes.”
Cost for the evening include a drink ticket and kosher snacks for $150. There are a limited number of young adult seats available at $75.
For more information, visit jfsjustforshow.org.