80th annual meeting for Tarrant County/Fort Worth federation
By Ben Tinsley
FORT WORTH — Board and officer elections. Recognition of extraordinary volunteers. Thoughtful perspective about Holocaust survivors.
These were the main topics of the Jewish Federation of Fort Worth and Tarrant County and Jewish Family Services’ 80th annual meeting Wednesday, June 1.
More than 40 people attended this meeting at Congregation Ahavath Sholom.
After the meeting concluded, it transitioned into a root beer float and cookie reception in the foyer.
Lon Werner — who is entering his second year as Federation president — began the annual meeting with a report on the 2015 and 2016 annual campaigns:
The 2015 annual campaign, Werner said, raised $920,000.
The 2016 annual campaign, “which began in February and is almost complete,” has the goal of raising $935,000, the president said.
However, as of the Wednesday, June 1 meeting, only 97 percent of that sought-after amount, $908,000, had been raised, Werner said.
“We are close to reaching that number,” he said. He did not specify when the campaign closes.
Werner praised Vice President Diane Kleinman for her hard work on the project.
He said she led “a small army of solicitors” on that campaign — raising funds from more than 1,000 community members.
Meanwhile, various elections were held during the annual meeting:
- Richard Allen, Jane Cohen, Mike Herman, Noreen Houston, Joe Mintz, Dr. Gene Posnock, and Jon Suder were all unanimously elected to the board.
- Board officers then were unanimously elected to one-year terms. These include Lon Werner, president; Diane Kleinman, vice president for campaign; Todd Blumenfeld, vice president for administration; Robert Simon, vice president for community relations; Cheryl Visosky, treasurer; and Alyson Halpern, secretary.
- Dr. Carole Rogers, director of JFS, then took the podium and oversaw the election of new members to the Jewish Family Services committee.
Those new members — Howard Bernstein, Susan Luskey, and Dr. Barry Schneider — were all unanimously elected.
Later in the meeting, guest speaker Max L. Kleinman explored the mindset of the Holocaust survivor. He is a senior consultant with Jewish Federations of North America and associate professor at Rutgers Graduate School of Social Work.
As part of the topic, Kleinman questioned certain historical actions — or inactions — of the powerful and the way they treated Jews.
For instance, Kleinman asked: Why did U.S. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt do so little to help the Jews? Why did the United States military leave Auschwitz standing?
One interesting fact has been the tendency of many survivors to marry other survivors, Kleinman said.
Kleinman observed that by connecting with one another, Holocaust survivors found their emotional footing after the war.
“It was the sense of finding meaning in their lives and connecting with the larger Jewish community that gave them greater resilience,” Kleinman explained.
In other business, various awards were presented during the annual meeting:
The 2016 Sylvia and Jerry Wolens Award went to Milena Razack, a Fort Worth transplant from Galveston.
A former employee of Merck Pharmaceuticals, Razack quit her job to be a stay-at-home mother. She and her husband Kerim have two children, Saleem and Gianna.
Razack started “Jewish volunteering” with the Beth-El sisterhood. She became their membership chair.
She also was the volunteer coordinator for the Jewish Federation’s Partnership2Gether Steering Committee meeting hosted in Fort Worth in January.
She highly recommends volunteering.
“I urge you to get involved,” Razack said in a printed statement. “Giving of your time is the most rewarding experience you could have … What you will receive will far outweigh the time and commitment you will put in.”
The 2016 Barnett/Brachman Young Leadership Award recipients were Stephanie Zavala and Nancy Schwartz.
Zavala, who described herself as “a wandering Jew before I knew that was a thing,” said she moved around a lot as a child because her father was in the Air Force. But she found a home in Ahavath Sholom.
She and her husband Reuben have a 10-year-old daughter, Molly. She has twin 12-year-old stepsons, Jacob and Isaac.
Zavala was part of the Sulam Leadership program. According to United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, the goal of Sulam (which means ladder in Hebrew) “is to address issues critical to leading a synagogue and to create a network among alumni for the ongoing sharing of best practices.”
Zavala also has served on the board of directors for four years. She is on the programming committee and the Ladies Auxiliary, and manages the CAS Facebook page.
She participated in the Federation’s Leadership Program and served on the Partnership2Gether committee. She also helped plan that Partnership2Gether meeting in January.
“During these meetings I led a Tu B’Shevat Seder that concluded with a standing ovation,” Zavala wrote. “It was one of the most meaningful moments of my life.”
Nancy Schwartz moved to the Fort Worth area in August 2013.
She serves as co-adviser for Beth-El Congregation’s junior youth group and is a member of their youth committee.
In 2014 she was elected to participate in the Jewish Federation of Fort Worth and Tarrant County’s Leadership Program and Mission To Israel.
Schwartz has volunteered for the Federation’s annual campaign and was on the 2015 allocation committee.
She also is part of the Partnership2Gether committee.
Additionally, Schwartz is a board member at the Tarrant County Hebrew Free Loan Association — supporting marketing and outreach initiatives.
She and her husband Stephen have three children: Jordyn, Zachary, and Noah. They live in Keller and attend Beth-El Congregation.