By Rachel Gross
“Service Above Self.” This is the motto of the Fort Worth South Rotary Club and something Rabbi Alberto (Baruch) Zeilicovich, of Congregation Ahavath Sholom in Fort Worth, lives by every day. He was installed as president of the Fort Worth South Rotary Club on June 30 so he can contribute to making the world a better place.
Zeilicovich believes he is the first rabbi to become Rotary president in the state of Texas. As president, he is in charge of club projects, responsible for its growth and educating people on what Rotary is about.
The Fort Worth South Rotary was chartered on April 18, 1955 and began because Fort Worth businesses were spreading out and local Rotary membership was increasing. Today, the club boasts more than 120 members. There are about 1.2 million Rotary members worldwide.
Zeilicovich said being president of the club allows him to repair the world and take part in mitzvot every day.
“Rotary is about a lot of people helping a lot of other people around the world,” he said. “I believe in tikkun olam and feel our purpose is to become partners with God in recreating His creation for the better. Being part of this is the Jewish thing to do.”
The object of Rotary is to encourage and foster the ideal of service as a basis of worthy enterprise. The club has met for the past 25 years at Fort Worth’s Colonial Country Club, with luncheon meetings held each Tuesday. Members participate in many community service projects throughout the year.
He said he is most looking forward to making a difference for everyone around him.
“I want to make this a better place for everybody, which includes my children, my congregation and the Jewish community,” he said. “At the end of the day, it’s really about quality rather than quantity of the ultimate product. I want to reinforce the idea of service above self.”
Zeilicovich has been at Congregation Ahavath Sholom for 10 years. He was born and raised in Argentina and graduated from the University of Buenos Aires with a degree in psychology. He received a degree in Jewish education from the Latin American Seminary and finished his studies at the Schechter Institute in Israel.
Before coming to America, he worked as a rabbi in Colombia and Puerto Rico. He and his wife, Graciela, have been married for 27 years and both of their children are Levine Academy graduates.
Zeilicovich said he will use the skills he has learned as a rabbi to help him succeed as Rotary president.
“Being a Conservative rabbi in the Jewish community where not everyone is Conservative, demands an extra effort and I try to pass along the right message to people. This will also help me to meet the challenges of Rotary,” he said. “I want people to realize that doing less is not easier. I’m grateful that my congregation stands by me in this. At the end of the day, being a rabbi is about bringing service to your congregation.”
Putting service above self is something Zeilicovich truly prides himself on. In addition to Rotary, he is a member of B’nai B’rith and the Cook Children’s Hospital Institutional Review Board.
He said he is most passionate about his Judaism and tikkun olam.
“My passion is my love for the Jewish people and the Torah. I want to be a matchmaker between my congregation, the groom, and the Torah, the bride,” he said. “My other passion is to have people understand that we are all here to make the world better. As we say in Texas, leave it better than the way you find it.”
Zeilicovich added that coming to America from another country has allowed him to understand diversity, which helps him relate to others. He feels that this experience will also help him succeed in his new position.
“Because I am so deeply rooted in my culture and the fact that I am a committed Jew, I can better understand other people’s beliefs and diversity,” he said. “This country is based upon diversity and being an American citizen doesn’t diminish your Judaism. We are all entitled to eat from our own plates, but we shall always remember that we share the same table.”
Garry Kahalnik, executive director of Ahavath Sholom, said Rabbi Zeilicovich brings a different perspective to the Rotary Club that will allow him to be successful.
“As a rabbi, he is a speaker, and as president, he represents the club. I think he is very capable to do this job,” he said. “He brings a Jewish perspective … and has had experience working with a variety of people. He is very outgoing and gregarious and that will help him immensely.”
By Rachel Gross