By Dave Sorter
The life of the Jewish Federation of Greater Dallas is pretty good today, its leaders and top honorees said during the organization’s annual meeting last Thursday night.
The federation’s annual campaign was successful, having met its goal by raising $9.7 million. The number of donors increased for the first time since 2004, with 5,235 benefactors, including 1,097 new ones. The four award winners are examples of volunteer commitment and follow-through, and federation officials believe they are on a path to do even more good works, they said.
Federation president/CEO Susan Kramer — and many of the speakers at the meeting, which took place at Zale Auditorium at the Aaron Family Jewish Community Center — emphasized the event’s theme, “How’s Your Life Today?”
“We pose this question again tonight to ourselves and to you,” Kramer said. “This past year has brought changes to our community and to the federation. We are moving quickly and encouraged that the direction we are taking is gleaning results. Every time I visit a group, one of our agencies, or I open an email that speaks to a life-changing experience you had, I think of those four words. How’s our life today?”
Board chair Jeff Rasansky, who started his second year as chair at the meeting, echoed the thought and added the federation isn’t all about money.
“Certainly, no one can argue that a major focus for (the) federation is to raise financial resources for our community,” Rasansky said. “Our Jewish philanthropy isn’t only about money. This is important to remember, because people often worry that they don’t have the resources to make a real difference; that their contribution won’t matter. In my experience, philanthropy has much more to do with what’s in your head, and in your heart, than what’s in your wallet.”
The heart is what has driven the winners of the federation’s four awards presented last Thursday. Shirley Strauss received the campaigner of the year honor. Susan Levy won the Helen Gross Leadership Award. Lindsay Feldman took home the Bess Nathan Young Leadership award, and David Greenstone won the I. Zesmer Young Leadership Award.
“None of us have ever done it so we’d be recognized,” said Greenstone, who said he did not deserve the award this year because he was dealing with personal issues and was not able to give as much time as he wanted. “More than anything, what this award means to me is what it represents: My wife and I feel very strongly about being part of the federation and giving back.”
Greenstone said he believes giving back is a responsibility.
“It’s our job to take care of one another,” said the lifelong Dallasite. “My family has always believed that.” In his acceptance speech, Greenstone said the federation family has taken care of him during his tough year.
Levy, who accepted her award on her 48th wedding anniversary, has been involved with the federation for many years, and her late mother, Bernice Polins, was a previous recipient of the Helen Gross Leadership Award.
“I love this community, and the federation has been very good to the community,” Levy said. “I’ve seen the dollars at work; I’ve been to Israel six times with the federation.”
Levy’s proudest accomplishment, she said, was initiating the annual Women’s Event, which will celebrate its 20th anniversary next year. She remembers the inaugural event, at which actress Olympia Dukakis was the featured speaker, as being “unbelievably successful.”
Said Feldman, who grew up as one of the few Jewish children in Temple, Texas: “There weren’t many Jewish families, so being raised in a strong Jewish family with strong Jewish values gave me a lifelong connection to Judaism. I’m teaching my children about history and sharing my live for Israel with family and friends. It’s just something I love to do.”
Strauss, another longtime federation volunteer, was cited for her dedication and determination in attracting donations for the annual campaign.
Kramer also cited songwriter Joel Alhadef, who co-wrote a song “How’s Your Life Today” with Ricky DeVincent that was sung at the men’s and women’s events and played at last week’s meeting.
Co-chairs of the meeting were Roxy and Brett Diamond, and Suellen and A.J. Rosmarin.