NCJW Dallas holds sold-out luncheon
Krys Boyd and Nina Totenberg

Building Brighter Futures™ features all-star lineup

NCJW Dallas held their Building Brighter Futures™ Luncheon at the Westin Galleria on Friday, March 31, to raise funds for their community service projects, advocacy efforts and education issues for the coming year. The morning began with a VIP reception where invitees had a chance to personally meet with the event’s keynote speaker, NPR Legal Affairs Correspondent Nina Totenberg. A sold-out crowd of nearly 700 luncheon guests met and mingled with old friends and new before the main event got underway.

Rabbi Andrew Paley of Temple Shalom opened the luncheon with a thoughtful invocation which likened the efforts of NCJW Dallas and all its gathered supporters to bringing light to the darkness. He was followed by Debbie Greene, NCJW president, who thanked Honorary Chairs Brenda Brand and Rosie Stromberg as well as Beth Brand Stromberg and Ariella Stromberg for their generations of strong support. She also acknowledged the special contributions of the Wolens Foundation, Texas Capital Bank, the Share Endowment Fund and media sponsor The Texas Jewish Post as well as thanking all in attendance for their commitment to NCJW Dallas.

WFAA’s Cynthia Izaguirre led the proceedings that followed and shared a video detailing the work of NCJW Dallas in the Greater Dallas community for the past 110 years. NCJW Dallas Pioneering Partner Awardee, White House Advisor and nationally recognized attorney Regina Montoya spoke next and passionately about community issues and thanked her family and all her mentors who were present in the room. She singled out two NCJW members, Past President Julie Lowenberg and Life Member and former Executive Director Suzi Greenman, for their special relationship.

As keynote speaker and NPR’s award-winning legal affairs correspondent, Nina Totenberg, and event moderator and host/managing editor of KERA’s “Think,” Krys Boyd, prepared to take the stage, the podium was reset for their more intimate ‘fireside chat’ discussion.

Krys’ first question to Nina went back to her roots: “What inspired you to become ‘Nina’?”

The response was two words: “Nancy Drew!”

After audience laughter receded, Nina elaborated further and cited Ted White’s “The Making of the President,” as well as her parents’ deep devotion to excellence in all things, as having a pivotal impact on her future ambitions.

Krys then asked Nina: “Why did you finally decide to write a memoir: ‘Dinners with Ruth’?” — her first-person account of her friendship with Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and other inspiring, powerful women.

Nina explained that she’d been approached many times to write a memoir, but her answer was always “no.”

There were several elements to her rationale. She generally writes short pieces for deadlines, not long projects like books. She and Ruth used to joke that they were friends before Ruth was RBG and Nina was Nina. She had never kept notes or a journal. They didn’t set out to break any glass ceilings: They just wanted to get their foot in the door. Those were just the stories the successful women of her generation all had.

But she finally consented to speak with the CEO of Simon and Schuster just to be polite. She was still planning on turning him down, and for added support she invited her husband to join her, for the simple reason that he said “no” more often than she did because he was very jealous of her time commitments.

The conversation began with Nina sharing stories of Ruth, including one about how they met. She was still just a “kid reporter” and Ruth was a Rutgers professor who had written a brief about the first ruling opposing discrimination against women. Nina had a question about the brief, so she cold-called the professor and “Ruth responded with a one-hour lecture.”

Their phone consultations continued for two years until they met at a conference. But the conference was “so boring we ditched it and went shopping…and a lifelong friendship was born!”

After Nina shared several stories, her husband interrupted the three-way conversation to tell her that she needed to write the book.

Krys switched focus and asked Nina, whose Supreme Court opinions — after reading decades of them, based on their writing skill and regardless of their conclusions — did she most enjoy reading?

Nina gave a four-part answer. She first cited Justice Ginsberg, who was “so precise and compact in her use of language,” and then cited Justice Scalia for almost the opposite reason. The language in his opinions was always “colorful and vivid.” Finally, on the current court, she enjoys reading the opinions of Justices Gorsuch, Roberts and Kagan.

But, she added, “Writing style isn’t everything… (Justice William) Brennan’s bland opinions were what got him the five votes he needed.”

Krys next cited a mutual colleague at NPR: “All Things Considered” host Ari Shapiro, who had once interned with Nina as saying, “The secret was that Nina treated her interns fantastically but didn’t want word to get out.” “Why,” Krys inquired, “do you value working with your interns?”

Nina responded by saying that she values their youth and loves learning from them. Then added, “In exchange — because lawyers aren’t taught to write — I teach them to write in English an intelligent eighth grader could understand.”

At Krys’ request, Nina closed with a paragraph from her book, which described waking up pondering about what Ruth and Cokie and other friends would think about the current state of the world. Then she remembered that — while they were all always realists — they were all optimists as well.

She feels her story is ultimately a hopeful one, but as to her future, she shared one final thought:

“I’ll see you on the radio.”NCJW Dallas holds sold-out luncheon

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