With the strength of a lion

By Debbi K. Levy

I get very excited for each and every Federation event and not for reasons that you would probably imagine. Before I walk out my door and saved like a chocolate dessert, in the last moments of dressing myself, I reach for the small box that holds my lion pin. I carefully pin her to my outfit, enjoying both her symbolic meaning and her gleam. This pin has a way of taking me back to my childhood and propelling me into the future, all at the same time. Memories and dreams for the future of the Jewish people alchemize and the aura is like a unique spiritual residue. 

After my maternal grandmother, Elsie Pearle, of blessed memory, passed away, this earthly treasure became my own. The hands that gave it to me? Those of my mom, Linda Pearle, also of blessed memory. The year? 1996. The pin? The iconic Lion of Judah pin which serves as a symbol of support for the Jewish Federations of North America. The pin is fashioned in the image of the strong lion, who used to roam the land of Israel and whose fossils are found in that geography today. 

For the Jewish people, the lion represents bravery, strength and nobility. So often we see the lions holding up our Ten Commandments above the ark. I believe my lion pin decorated Nana to proclaim her devotion to our community. I am lucky to remember how I felt seeing her dashing out of her own back door wearing that golden lion on her jacket. Memories flood me as I write these words.

Nana’s pin doesn’t look the same today. A lion pin represents a financial gift to the Federation and I proudly continue giving in the tradition of both Nana and Mom. As the years of committed philanthropy add up, a donor is invited to add stones to the pin that signify years of giving or even a giving level. One evening at a Federation event, I found Ynette Hogue in the crowd. Ynette is a dedicated Federation leader and a mentor to many, including me. My grandmother was her friend. They had so much in common, Jewishly and otherwise.

“Ynette,” I queried, “Don’t you think Nana would want me to keep her pin just the same even though I have been making a commitment for years now?”

Ynette responded eagerly and with the strength and passion one might expect from a lion. “Elsie would be so proud that you have added to her pin with your annual gifts to Federation. She was a Women’s Division chair, Debbi.”

I am soon to leave on the solidarity mission to Israel sponsored by the Jewish Federation of Greater Dallas. If there was ever a time to summon the strength to create the capacity necessary to bear witness for those who have suffered so deeply at the hands of terrorists, this is it. I am putting that lion on a chain so that I won’t lose it with all I will be a part of. When I feel that sacred pin near my heart, I will think of our multigenerational family trip to Israel led by my grandparents when I was 10 years old. I will recall the handwritten letters Nana would write to other women seeking their gifts as ambassadors and I will be hopeful that one day I will have the opportunity to pass down this precious Judaic treasure to a granddaughter. More than anything, I pray that the sight of these pins worn by our travelers and beyond will assure our Israeli sisters and brothers that we Federation volunteers will infuse their community with care, concern, volunteerism and action as they rebuild what has been shattered. I am deeply honored to wear my legacy pin and more honored to serve the Jewish Federation of Greater Dallas. The pin is a great reminder, but the work is who we are as Jews. Am Yisrael Chai.

Debbi K. Levy is a vice chair of the Jewish Federation of Greater Dallas. She serves with joy and hopes to promote a love of Israel in her community. She welcomes your feedback at Debbiklevy@gmail.com

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