Dallas native Silberberg guiding DC-suburb Alexandria
By Deb Silverthorn
Special to the TJP
Dallas native Allison Silberberg, the mayor of Alexandria, Virginia, recently made a comment that defines the translation of l’dor v’dor — from generation to generation.
“Only together can we preserve what our ancestors left to us,” she said. “We are all the temporary stewards of this national treasure called Alexandria.”
Silberberg will share her story at 3 p.m. Thursday, July 20, at The Legacy at Willow Bend.
Silberberg’s city quickly gained the national spotlight after June 14, when a gunman shot Republican lawmakers at Eugene Simpson Stadium Park. Capitol Police Special Agent David Bailey, Congressional Aide Zachary Barth, Capitol Police Special Crystal Griner, Tyson Foods lobbyist Matt Mika and Representative Steve Scalise, the House Majority Whip, all were injured during the attack. The gunman, James Hodgkinson, died in a shootout with police.
“This has been a shocking time but Alexandria responded with action,” Silberberg said. “We continue to pray for the wounded. To our first responders, who saved the lives of many, there aren’t enough thanks, and to our strong residents, who came out for days offering cool drinks, baked goods and their hearts. You can’t manufacture ‘community,’ and Alexandria has it overflowing.”
Silberberg, a Hillcrest High School graduate with a B.A. from American University and a master’s degree in fine arts from the University of California, Los Angeles, is the daughter of the late Al and Barbara and sister of Dana and Susan. She grew up at Temple Emanu-El and was a second-generation member of BBYO’s Jennie Zesmer chapter.
Silberberg says her love for service was taught by her parents, rabbis and a caring community that she calls very special and it’s her parents’ encouraging voices that she feels in her heart. Her mother’s volunteering at her schools, working on political campaigns, including those of Adlene Harrison and Ann Richards, and her appointment to the Texas State Library and Archives Commission set the bar. Barbara Silberberg also shared her example through active membership in both National Council of Jewish Women and the family’s synagogue. Temple Emanu-El’s Rabbi Kimberly Herzog Cohen says Silberberg lives the heart of her heritage.
“Mayor Silberberg exemplifies that value of service we seek to cultivate as Jews, here at Temple and beyond,” said Rabbi Herzog Cohen. “We’re inspired by and grateful for the ways she pursues tzedakah, charity that helps those in need, and tzedek, justice, at the heart of systemic change.”
Silberberg’s career began as a writer and photographer — which could easily be the focus of a chapter in her book, Visionaries in Our Midst: Ordinary People Who Are Changing Our World. The Society for Women’s Health Research commissioned Silberberg to co-author a book and she created a bound legacy in her commissioned memoir And Life Will Be a Beautiful Dream: A Book about Peggy and Alvin Brown. Her writing appeared on PBS.org in conjunction with Ken Burns’ and Lynn Novick’s The War and David Grubin’s The Jewish Americans. Her talents broad, she’s written for politicians and an episode of Mama’s Family.
Silberberg’s career includes an internship with Senator Edward Kennedy; her role as chief editor and chief research assistant for Senator Lloyd M. Bentsen; being the founding leader of Lights, Camera, Action! — a nonprofit to mentor youth as well as grant making to nonprofits; serving on the World Bank’s community outreach grants committee; and serving on the City of Alexandria’s Economic Opportunities Commission, also as its chair.
While leading a monthly community service group called the Film Biz Happy Hour, which she founded to make contacts, have fun and make a difference all at once, more than $50,000 was raised for nonprofits. When she asked to run for office, it was an idea whose time had come. After being Alexandria’s vice-mayor, she was elected to lead Nov. 3, 2015. This April, she was a panelist at the U.S. Conference of Mayors, regarding vacant and abandoned properties and issues of aging.
“It’s about rolling up your sleeves and getting work done, and it’s the work that matters,” said Silberberg. “It’s an honor to see what’s possible, and to be a part of making the possible happen.”
For Bob Weinfeld, who has interviewed more than 50 guests at The Legacy, hosting Silberberg is an honor.
“It’s absolutely a genuine honor to interview Madame Mayor,” said Weinfeld, who will spend the day of Silberberg’s visit celebrating his 91st birthday. “She’s lived a fascinating life and it seems to be more so every day. Our community should be, and we are, so proud of her.”
Weinfeld’s daughter Brenda Bliss, one of many hometown friends with whom she’s close, echoes her father’s esteem of Silberberg.
“Allison is loyal, honest, objective and a good listener. She’s open to ideas while strong in her convictions and committed to the causes that matter to her,” said Bliss, whose friendship with Silberberg spans teenage tennis court matches and BBYO experiences, as well as the years they both attended graduate school in Southern California.
“Allison has been interested in politics for as long as I’ve known her and she is successful because she wants to fix things and make them better. She’s always wanted to problem solve,” said Bliss. “She’s always been a great friend and I’m so proud of all that she has accomplished.”
For Silberberg, what she’s accomplished, and what she continues to pursue, all of which her friends, family and supporters are proud of, is giving her heart, talent, expertise and dedication each day, serving in a life that she says “is all a mitzvah project, a chance to live the tenet of tikun olam, repairing the world.”
For more information about the July 20 program at The Legacy at Willow Bend, or to RSVP, email firstname.lastname@example.org.