As the gavel drops at Congregation Tiferet Israel, even remotely, newly elected President Shirley Rovinsky takes to the synagogue’s helm. As the 41st president, for the congregation which was founded in 1890, she is only the second woman to serve in that capacity.
This is a special time when congregational life and creating worship outside the synagogue are challenging to both clergy and leadership, said Rovinsky, who follows in the footsteps of Jean Sturman, of blessed memory, who served the congregation from 2006 to 2008, as well as husband Erv Rovinsky, who led as president for three terms.
She is glad to be at the helm of Tiferet Israel’s membership of nearly 200 families. “We are considered a warm and welcoming congregation. Daily positive messages, along with a musical selection, are emailed to members from Rabbi Zell. Although we may not be in the building, Rabbi Shawn Zell’s classes on Skittish with Yiddish, Ask the Rabbi, and weekly Shabbat videos are viewed by both members and non-members,” says Rovinsky.
Rovinsky looks forward to a time when the congregation can come together again following Orthodox services while allowing both separate and mixed seating for daily morning and evening minyans, Kabbalat Shabbat and Shabbat morning services. “We all look forward to our weekly Kiddush lunches,” said Rovinsky. She explained Tiferet Israel is a second home to the Rovinsky family and she looks forward to working with Rabbi Zell and Shirah, who generously give of themselves.
Congregation Tiferet Israel’s lay leadership also includes Vice Presidents David Bock, Hanna Lambert, Roy Levin, Debby Rubin, Gina Tolmas and Sonia Meltzer; Secretary Debra Polsky; and Treasurer Diane Goldblatt. Its board of directors includes Stephen Blend, Anat Chandler, Larry Glick, Steven Goldfine, Tina Israel, Helen Karlan, Sue Kretchman, Yoosef Lavi, Ulli Mandelbaum, Lionel Reiman, Andrea Roosth, Fredell Shulkin, Lotan Stern and Past Presidents Warren Abrams, Ed Jerome, Stuart Roosth, William Roth, Erv Rovinsky, Jeff Schiller and Jeff Seymour.
Through the years, Rovinsky has chaired many Tiferet Israel concerts, galas and other programming events. A member of the congregation, since 1961, she’s served as vice president of building and grounds and administrative vice president for the past six years and as a member of the Kosher Chili Cook-off core committee for 27 years. She also serves on the chevra kadisha.
Recognized for her leadership skills as a past president of Jewish Family Service, Akiba Academy of Dallas and its Parent Teacher Association, the Presidents Council of B’nai B’rith Women and Bluebonnet Chapter (now Jewish Women International), Rovinsky was commended as a Leader of the Year for the Jewish Community Center. For her campaign leadership and work in Women’s Division The Jewish Federation of Greater Dallas presented her with the Helen Gross Award.
With her husband, the couple have been honored by Akiba Academy with its Civic Service Award, Tiferet Israel Pillars of Influence and the Zionist Organization of America.
Dedicated locally and globally, Rovinsky has served on the board of the Jewish Community Center, The Jewish Federation of Greater Dallas, the Anti-Defamation League’s district and regional boards, BBYO’s regional board, B’nai B’rith Women regional and district boards, Congregation Shearith Israel, Dallas Hebrew Free Loan Association, Hillel Commissioner at the University of Texas at Austin, Israel Bonds, Jewish Children’s Regional Services, and Dallas Kosher – Vaad Hakashrus of Dallas. She was instrumental in creating the first Hillel advisor position on the S.M.U. campus.
Beginning her 11th year as part-time administrator for the Rabbinic Association of Greater Dallas, Rovinsky was the first executive director of Tiferet Israel, the first full-time executive director of Akiba Academy and executive director of Temple Shalom. After more than 20 years, she decided to leave full time administrative work. She also manages the business office of her husband’s mechanical engineering firm.
Two of her major community projects involved the renovation of the Community Mikvah at Tiferet Israel and working with Temple Emanu-El’s Rabbi Debra Robbins and with Rabbi Sholey Klein, she designed and created the South of Forest Eruv.
She graduated, with honors, from the University Texas at Dallas with a bachelor’s degree in sociology and received her master’s degree in social work in administration and planning from the University of Texas at Arlington.
A Life Member of Hadassah, Dallas Hebrew Free Loan Association, Na’Amat USA and Tiferet Israel Sisterhood, Rovinsky and her husband have modeled kavod and connection to the community to their children Robyn Mirsky and Rabbi Michael (Selina) Rovinsky, their six grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.
“Everything Mom attaches herself to gets better because of her dedication and devotion. With Dad she has always shown us how important giving back is,” said daughter Robyn. “While we cannot reach the heights of their commitment, we thank them for setting the bar and teaching us what is most important. The next generations are already following them and we all couldn’t be more proud, or grateful.”
Congregation Tiferet Israel