DJHS honors a treasure, April 27
By Deb Silverthorn
It will be a dynamic night of harmony when the Dallas Jewish Historical Society (DJHS) presents “The Life and Times of Jim Schwartz,” from 7 to 9 p.m. Thursday April 27, at Congregation Anshai Torah. Schwartz, of blessed memory, who would have turned 68 on April 28, will be remembered through stories and song. Schwartz passed away May 10, 2018, after a courageous battle with pancreatic cancer.
“Jim set the tone for us to move forward with so many ideas for our future. He was incredibly thoughtful of our mission and what we could achieve,” said Debra Polsky, executive director at DJHS. “Jim brought a sense of professionalism to our agency, a great knowledge of so many in this community and he had compassion and respect for our employees, board and volunteers.
“Through his good counsel, Jim was instrumental in building our team, in the cohesive work spirit,” said Polsky. “We’re looking forward to honoring the master of so much and to sing, toast and schmooze through so much of what was important to him.”
Schwartz, a Dallas native, was the son of Hilde and Bill, he of blessed memory; the brother of Lawrence (Jackie) and Steve (Julie) and close cousin to Judy (Russell) Weinstein Silverstein. He was raised at Temple Emanu-El, was a member of BBYO’s Brandeis chapter and a graduate of Hillcrest High School and The University of Texas at Austin where he was affiliated with Alpha Epsilon Pi.
By his side on the board, in her husband’s efforts at DJHS, was wife Suzy who, with Rusty Cooper, Rhonda Duchin, Mitch Meyers and DJHS president Jeanette Pincus, along with the agency’s staff, has planned the night to honor her late husband.
“The Dallas Jewish Historical Society has always had a magical energy. Jim loved to honor, but never be honored, so this event is really a gift,” she said. “Every program, every experience is about how our town, our Jewish touch, matters and that fascinated both of us.”
The Schwartzes’ history began at a party while she, from San Antonio, was studying at SMU. Married in August 1981, their family has grown through daughter Allison (Mike Sarcone-Roach), son Matthew (Genevieve Garner) and grandchildren Sydney James Sarcone-Roach and Maxwell Bern Sarcone-Roach.
Schwartz served four terms as president of the DJHS which he felt critical to the Dallas Jewish community. Schwartz led Polsky’s hiring, brought digitization to the agency’s archives and enriched and increased DJHS’ programming and events schedule. The oral histories, the people native to Dallas and transplants from around the world, each leaving footprints and artifacts, for the next generations to learn from, fueled his passion.
Schwartz had perfect pitch, the ability to fix almost anything and was called “the professor” for his wisdom in many areas. He received his first guitar at age 8 and started his first band when he was in the sixth grade.
“There’s nothing Jimmy couldn’t do or wouldn’t try. He was never inhibited and really, so much came naturally to him. He went from fixing the lawn mower to building engines,” said Robert Gardner, a friend of Schwartz’s since the boys were nine. “If he didn’t know how to do something, he learned his way in.
“Jimmy had the unique ability to listen, process and advise and he did that as a kid and then as a professional. Most importantly, he did all of that without judgement,” added Gardner
After going on an Anshai Torah trip to Israel, the Schwartzes joined the congregation and, with Bruce Feldman and Rabbi Stefan Weinberg, Schwartz co-founded CAT’s a capella choir Kol Rina. In 2003, Schwartz and Rusty Cooper co-founded The Mazik Bros. In Schwartz’s memory, members of Kol Rina and of The Mazik Bros. Experience (born out of the founding duo) will perform and a video montage will be shared.
“Every time Kol Rina or The Mazik Bros. Experience gets together, what Jim helped start lives on,” said Cooper, a friend of Schwartz’s for 25 years during which they performed more than 190 appearances together – just one of many strong ties between them. From bookstores and restaurants to playing at the Dallas Kosher Chili Cookoff for 15 years to synagogues, simchas and late-night studio practices, the music was always flowing.
“We met at the party of a mutual friend and it was like we’d known each other a lifetime — I only wish it had been longer. Wherever we played, we’d pack the place, and we’d play 38 songs in a four-hour gig — always ending with ‘Drift Away,’” said Cooper.
That the lyrics “and I’m countin’ on you, you can carry me through” were words anyone who knew Schwartz could share about the man. “Jim could always be counted on and that extended through our work with BYO Musicians, a nonprofit of now 120 musicians which we helped start and were founding members,” said Cooper.
DJHS, which grew from a committee of the JCC started in 1970, lives its mission of preserving the precious past as a living legacy for the Jewish community every day, in every way. Schwartz’s efforts represent just that.
“Jim believed that today’s experiences are tomorrow’s history,” said Suzy. “Unfortunately, neither Jim nor his dad recorded their own oral history, while Hilde has — something we should all think about and sign on to do wherever we are in life.”
Meyers, a DJHS board member says beyond their years of playing basketball and racquetball at the JCC together, more than Schwartz’s role as his insurance and financial adviser, they were friends for decades.
“Jim was a great businessman and friend, but he was a mentor to so many. We’re all part of Dallas Jewish history.
“From 180 years ago until today, and as each day passes. Each of us matters as we continue to live and continue to make history,” said Meyers.
Drinks and heavy hors d’oeuvres will be served at the April 27 event. To register visit djhs.org/upcoming-events.