Shirley and Erv Rovinsky
By Deb Silverthorn
Shirley and Erven “Erv” Rovinsky marked 60 wonderful years of marriage with a surprise party on Zoom and the admiration and adoration shared from around the country.
“We have been very blessed,” Shirley said, with “a lifetime of loving each other, of raising a family we are so proud of and of committing ourselves to so much. We laugh, and we love, a lot.”
Erv was born in Fort Worth to Idell and Mike Rovinsky, of blessed memory. He graduated from R.L. Paschal High School and attended Texas A&M University for three semesters before he was drafted into the U.S. Army. After his induction in San Antonio, the engineering major served in the medical corps building prosthetics. Once back in Texas, he earned his mechanical engineering degree from Texas A&M.
Shirley, the daughter of Ida and Meyer Millstone, of blessed memory, and the eldest of four siblings, is a Dallas native raised in St. Louis. She attended Washington University but paused her college career for marriage and stay-at-home motherhood until her children were in their teens. She earned her bachelor’s degree in sociology at UT-Dallas, then a master’s degree in social work and organizational planning from UT-Arlington. They would be put to good use in her heartfelt dedication to the community.
Once Erv graduated, he moved to Dallas and lived with his aunt, Grace Weill, a neighbor of Shirley’s grandparents.
“Our family fixed us up and that first date, it was miserable,” said Shirley. “Two years later we were set up again and that didn’t work either. Fortunately, when he came to St. Louis, he needed a date for a business meeting and it just happened, and we’ve been together ever since.”
In Dallas, Erv worked for Carrier Bock, Zumwalt and Vinther and George Dahl Architects. Before he opened his own office, Shirley, who was his first secretary, needlepointed him a business name plaque and over the years, he’s had as many as 19 people in the firm.
They were married on Aug. 31, 1961, with their immediate families surrounding them in the rabbi’s study at Congregation Shearith Israel. Rabbi Hillel Silverman and Congregation Tiferet Israel’s Rabbi Sidney Weinschneider officiated.
Through the years, both Shirley and Erv have left their imprint on many Dallas organizations, including a combined 28 years as presidents of Jewish organizations.
“Our children and grandchildren, and we’re sure the great-grandchildren as they grow, have seen our involvement and known our passion and we see it in each of them,” said Erv. “We both care about doing for others, about building your community and keeping it strong.”
The Rovinskys are parents to Robyn Rovinsky Mirsky and Rabbi Michael (Selina) Rovinsky. They have six grandchildren — Joshua and Mollie Mirsky, Saara (Moshe) Moskowitz, Ariella Rovinsky, Dr. Avi (Dr. Lizzy Bentley) and Yossi Rovinsky — and three great-grandchildren: Eva and Menucha Rus Moskowitz and Akiva Rovinsky.
“They absolutely have our backs and they’ve always lived the advice they give,” said daughter Mirsky. “They’ve taught us all to be true to ourselves, to never say behind someone’s back what you couldn’t say to them and that as long as we have what we need, what we want will come along.”
Michael Rovinsky echoed his sister’s sentiments.
“Our parents, always well-grounded, instilled in us strong values, a connection to Judaism and Israel and the absolute dedication of giving back to our community,” Rovinsky said.
“How could we not have learned it? They were out almost every night, and it wasn’t a matter of the occasion, almost always a meeting, the only question was for which organization! Still, they were, and remain always, there for us to advise, to guide and to help financially, with their time, energy and wisdom — really their whole hearts.”
In 2013 the Rovinsky family, and many in the community, donated a Torah to Congregation Tiferet Israel, honoring their patriarch, Erv. Shirley currently serves as president, a role Erv filled for three terms. He is now gabbai emeritus for the congregation.
“Tiferet Israel has been fortunate to have had Erv and Shirley’s leadership and commitment for so many years,” said Ed Jerome, a longtime friend of the couple, and himself a leader of the synagogue. “They have worked as a team and individually, supporting Tiferet lovingly with their time and attention, leading, building, donating and inspiring.”
Erv remains working as owner and president of Erven Rovinsky and Associates, Inc., a consulting firm of mechanical and electrical engineers that has supported numerous community projects with his pro-bono designs. He was president of Akiba Academy (now Akiba Yavneh Academy), Ike Sablosky B’nai B’rith Chapter, B’nai B’rith Council of Presidents and the Zionist Organization of America.
Shirley was president of Akiba Academy of Dallas and its Parent Teacher Association, the B’nai B’rith Women Council of Presidents, Bluebonnet Chapter (now Jewish Women International) and Jewish Family Service. She was recognized as Leader of the Year for the Jewish Community Center (now the Aaron Family Jewish Community Center), for her campaign leadership and work in the Women’s Division and with the Helen Gross Award by the Jewish Federation of Greater Dallas.
In addition to her current role as president, she has chaired many Tiferet Israel events, volunteered for its Chevra Kadisha, served as vice-president of building and grounds and administrative vice-president and, with Erv, Robyn and granddaughter Mollie, as a member of the Kosher Chili Cook-off team since its inception.
In 2016, she led the South of Forest Eruv Project, with Rabbi Sholey Klein, and, in 1999, the renovation of the Community Mikvah with Rabbi Debra Robbins. Paid professional roles include serving as executive director of Akiba Academy, Congregation Tiferet Israel and Temple Shalom and for the past 12 years as administrative assistant to the Rabbinic Association of Greater Dallas.
The Rovinskys served together on the regional boards of the ADL, Israel Bonds and B’nai B’rith as well as those of local organizations including the Jewish Community Center, BBYO, Congregation Shearith Israel and Dallas Hebrew Free Loan Association. They are believed to be the only husband and wife to serve together on the Federation Executive Committee, he as president of the JCC and she of JFS. As a couple, they’ve been honored with Akiba Academy of Dallas’ Civic Service award, each as leaders of the year by the Jewish Community Center; Tiferet Israel’s Pillars of Influence award; and by the Zionist Organization of America.
In addition to building a strong family, the Rovinskys have thrived from friendships in the community. They have shared holidays and travel with Hanna and Raymond Lambert, he of blessed memory, Howard and Leslie Schultz, she of blessed memory, and their families.
“We go back — way, way back. Shirley’s parents and my parents double-dated, our husbands shared an office, we’ve been neighbors and all a part of each other’s lives it seems like forever,” said Lambert. “Everyone has always felt the warmth of the Rovinsky home and their hearts. They really are more like family, mentors and an inspiration to the whole community.”