Leslie Schultz, visionary philanthropist and matriarch, dies at 78

By Sharon Wisch-Ray

Leslie Schultz, 78, a major influence on the landscape of Jewish philanthropy in Dallas, nationally and internationally, died Feb. 24, of a heart attack at Presbyterian Hospital in
Her sudden death left the Dallas Jewish community in a state of shock; there are few organizations that have not been touched by her generosity, leadership and vision.
Schultz was known as a passionate supporter of Jewish education who cherished her family above all.
The Dallas Jewish community gathered Monday, Feb. 26, at Tiferet Israel to celebrate the life and mourn the death of Schultz. Tiferet Rabbi Shawn Zell and Chabad of Dallas Rabbi Mendel Dubrawsky conducted the funeral service.
Mrs. Schultz was eulogized by her son, Andy; daughter, Jaynie; son-in-law, Ron Romaner; several of her grandchildren, Ben, Dalya and Micah Romaner, Zak and Gaby Schultz; and by letters from Lord Rabbi Jonathan Sacks. Each of Mrs. Schultz’s grandchildren stood on the bimah together as their cousins spoke.
The speakers’ sentiments reinforced what has been evident in her life’s work: Leslie Schultz was devoted to family, tzedakah, education and community.
Jaynie Schultz read her brother, Andy’s, letter. “She skillfully marinated the components of family most important and community second on the list with the magical brilliant mind. …She created family, she built community, and she passed these morals and values on to her children and especially her grandchildren, whom she loved so much.”
Jaynie explained that the family found many interesting things her mother had left behind, including a 100-page autobiography that had taken her seven years to write and a letter written Aug. 8, 1972, that said “to be opened upon my death.”
In her own hand, Mrs.
Schultz wrote, “My dearest children… What I want to leave you is a feeling of family, each of you belongs to the other, although you will have your own wives, husbands and children, you began together as family…”
Jaynie spoke about how her mom — after she supported and gave confidence to her husband, Howard, when he started his accounts-payable auditing firm — grew into a businesswoman and entrepreneur in her own right. She bought property at Renner Road and Central Expressway, later selling that to EDS. She parlayed that into 450 acres in rural Wise County, where she built a conference center for small businesses, Garrett Creek Ranch.
Jaynie worked side by side with her mom, both at Garrett Creek and on her educational and philanthropic endeavors. She explained that her mother was creative, willing to experiment with new ideas and not afraid to fail.
“My mom firmly believed that money was a tool given to her by G-d and she should use it wisely. She used to say that the more they gave away the more they made.”
Jaynie recounted a story when her mother read about a dance program that didn’t have enough money for costumes, and Leslie promptly outfitted all the girls.
Jaynie emphasized the remarkable relationship between her mother and father. “My dad was her entire life, her hero, her lover and her closest friend. After him, came her family, then her friends and the entire work. She gave all of herself, she held nothing back. She knew with full confidence that we would take great care of her husband, hold each other tightly and find new ways to make the world better.
Ron Romaner, Jaynie’s husband, added, “Through her dedication and support of Jewish education, she ensured that she and Howard would forever dwell among us.”
He read a letter from Sacks, former chief rabbi of Great Britain and Torah scholar, who compared Leslie to Queen Esther. “Leslie was a towering personality who did so much for Jewish education and Jewish pride in Dallas,” he wrote.
“She had been inspired by her parents and had, in turn, inspired her children and that Jewish life in Dallas was blessed by them all. By their Jewish action and pride, their commitment to Jewish education and their sheer determination to make the world a better place.”
Sacks recounted Leslie’s words when she accepted the Center for Jewish Education of the Jewish Federation of Greater Dallas’ Lifetime Achievement Award in 2016, “We are each of us angels with one wing, we can only fly when we embrace one another.”
Grandson Ben Romaner compared his grandparents to a three-legged stool. He said his grandmother stood for family, tzedakah and community. “And like any three-legged stool it cannot stand without all three legs working in balance and harmony.”
He explained that his grandparents’ example working tirelessly for the Jewish people instilled in him the responsibility to serve his community that he will pass on to his own children and grandchildren. He recounted that one of the oldest family traditions was that every family celebration, including large family reunions, included a meeting in which charitable causes would be identified and donated to.
Dalya Romaner echoed her brother’s remarks and highlighted Leslie’s vision.
Although Leslie had left letters and instructions on how to stay together as a family, Dalya said it was leading by example that ingrained her qualities in her children and grandchildren. “What she didn’t realize was in her actions, she taught us everything we needed to know.”
Grandchildren Zak and Gaby Schultz, and Micah Romaner, all recounted fond memories of Shabbat dinners, holiday celebrations, family reunions and time spent together.
Dubrawsky concluded with a eulogy of his own. He admired Leslie and Howard’s relationship, their teamwork and complementary nature. He said he wasn’t sure if he had adequate words to eulogize Leslie Schultz, his close friend and mentor. She was “A woman whose kindness and philanthropy reached not only our community not only our city our state our country, but overseas, Israel and Argentina and touched and made a difference in the lives of thousands,” he said.
The word mensch literally translates to person in English. “Leslie was the essence of the word mensch.”
Following the funeral service, a special ceremony was held at the Schultz Rosenberg Campus of Yavneh and Akiba Academies. Akiba students in grades 4-8, Levine Academy eighth-graders and all Yavneh Academy students lined the sidewalks of the campus and recited psalms as a community. The entire family got out of their cars and participated in the prayers. The 100-plus car procession exited the campus named for Leslie and her family and headed to the Beit Olam Section of Hillcrest Memorial Park, where she was laid to rest.
Leslie Schultz is survived by her husband of 55 years, Howard Schultz; her children. Jaynie (Ron Romaner) Schultz, Dan (Joni) Schultz and Andy (Kathryn) Schultz; and 10 grandchildren, Ben, Dalya, Zak, Gaby, Adina, Sam, Micah, Abigail, Max and James.

This Post Has One Comment

  1. Valerie Gaines

    So very sorry to hear of Leslie’s passing !!! A true mench and a great lady!!!

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