By Ben Tinsley
DALLAS — Members who attended the 2016 annual meeting of Jewish Family Service of Greater Dallas on Tuesday, May 24, welcomed a new JFS president — as well as new and returning board members.
But they also started saying farewell to Chief Executive Officer Michael Fleisher, who recently informed the JFS board he intends to retire within the year. Because of that, Fleisher is not expected to be at the helm for next year’s annual meeting. A search committee is being established to select his ultimate replacement, JFS Vice President Louis Zweig confirmed.
JFS Board Member Bruce Katz was the first of many to salute Fleisher for his service to JFS at the beginning of this year’s annual meeting at Temple Shalom, which was titled “Building Community.”
“We appreciate your enormous contribution to Jewish Family Service over the years and the positive indelible mark you have left,” Katz said to Fleisher. “No doubt, your legacy will be felt for many years to come. You are going to be a very tough act to follow.”
Fleisher, who has worked at Dallas JFS for 23 years, told the TJP afterward that his departure will not be immediate but that he does not expect to stay until next year’s annual meeting.
“I have given them (the board) 12 months to find a replacement,” Fleisher said during a Thursday, May 26 interview. “When we get closer to that time I’ll have an exact date.”
As many as 200 people were there at the May 24 meeting to hear the “Building Community” keynote speech by Dallas City Council Member Lee Kleinman.
During his remarks, Councilman Kleinman emphasized the importance of the JFS mission to help address major community needs such as mental health and social services.
“It’s so important to give people a hand up — to help them — and give them the opportunity to help themselves,” Kleinman said. “They in turn can help others when they get back on their feet.”
JFS Vice President Louis Zweig was the evening’s master of ceremonies. Referring to himself as “LL Cool Z — Your DJ Extraordinaire,” Zweig provided ’80s-centric humorous commentary as the meeting progressed.
In remarks to the audience, Dan Prescott, board chair of the Jewish Federation of Greater Dallas, said the work of JFS saves lives.
Prescott said it’s an honor “to partner with them on this most sacred mission.”
Because it was the JFS annual meeting, there were two elections held.
The first was for the JFS Foundation board of directors.
JFS Foundation President Joel Litman presided over that brief meeting, during which:
- The membership unanimously approved the nominations of Irv Munn, Jay Oppenheimer, and Linda Garner as incoming foundation board members.
- The membership also approved a proposed new slate of foundation officers: Joel Litman as president; Robin Sachs as vice president; Ruthy Rosenberg as secretary/treasurer; and William N. Noth as immediate past president.
- A list of continuing board members were approved by the audience — David Birk, David Fields, Larry Kohn, Stan Levenson, and Bert Romberg.
- After the foundation meeting came the JFS board of directors election, with Cara Mendelsohn, JFS past president presiding.
- The following nominated slate of officers was elected unanimously: president, Randy Colen; president-elect, Michael Kaufman; vice presidents, Julie Liberman, Louis Zweig and Eric Goldberg; treasurer, Clive Miskin; and secretary, Jeri Lyn Sebert.
- Various “at large” members were also elected to office unanimously. These include: Dr. Patricia Evans, Christopher Green, Weezie Margolis, Dr. Robert Gross, Melanie Rubin, Beth Konig, Justin Henry, Sue Mintz and Steven Berger.
- Members continuing into second terms also were unanimously elected. These include: Gilian Baron, Harlan Davis, Beverly Goldman, Bonnie Halpern, Bruce Katz, and Jeffrey Landsberg.
- Also, Linda Garner was unanimously elected as a lifetime member of the board.
After the election, new JFS president Randy Colen immediately thanked his predecessor — outgoing JFS Board President Cheryl Halpern — for her hard work.
“Your tireless commitment and service to this agency have been nothing but extraordinary,” he said.
Delivering her presidential report, Halpern reviewed the agency’s accomplishments over the previous year. She defined a “community” as a social unit that shares common values — as JFS does by respecting the individual and providing quality and accessible services.
Halpern thanked everyone involved in serving as a cornerstone for JFS — providing a firm, reliable base for JFS efforts.
“Together we are all building an agency of comprehensive, high-quality services that provides a safe, nurturing community for anyone in need,” Halpern said.
During his official report at the tail end of the ceremony, Michael Fleisher described JFS as an ever-evolving agency of change and accomplishment.
He said over the past two years JFS has been key in:
- Its response to Ebola;
- Reaching out and working with a synagogue following a tragic teen suicide;
- New partnerships forged with other community-based organizations to expand both capacities to serve;
- Dealing with a sudden crisis born of the departure of key staff members; and
- Its work with children and adults.
Fleisher thanked audience members for their time and attentiveness to JFS.
“I, of course, look forward to being of whatever help I can to facilitate these very next steps in JFS’ continued success,” he said.
Fleisher then received a standing ovation.