Reform women hold
biennial in North Texas
by Tamara Stokes
A visitor to Richardson Renaissance Hotel last weekend might have thought it was Texas State Fair time. More than 150 women from Texas and Oklahoma met -- not as autumn college football fan rivals, but as sisters with a mission during the District 22 Biennial Women of Reform Judaism (WRJ).
Highlights of the four-day sisterhood event that began Thursday, March 27, included presentations by Roseanne Selfon, the national WRJ's first vice president and chair, who gave the women tips on leadership commitment.
The organization's specially commissioned sefer Torah traveled to the event, and District 22 outgoing president Debbi Mandel led the gathering in a Torah procession of song, dance and celebration. The scroll was commissioned by a Reform scribe just two years ago, with districts drawing lots to determine where it will go next.
At a luncheon last Friday, Selfon said that commitment can be defined by many words, including passion, love, promise, obligation, bond, guarantee, pledge, responsibility, earnestness, surety, assurance, duty, onus, and "yes, sometimes burden."
Some people can lead teams and some cannot, she said. What is important is finding out the strengths and weaknesses of constituents to make appropriate assignments and learning opportunities.
Chief executive officer of her third-generation family-owned business, as well as a second-level Hebrew instructor and past president for both her synagogue and sisterhood in Lancaster, Pa., Selfon also told the women to set the tone of the organization by serving as good examples. Her advice included, "Be prepared, have an agenda for meetings and stick to it."
Pointing out that it is important to celebrate both small and large victories, she complimented Mandel on her ability to give credit and to share the spotlight with others. "Say 'thank you' and say it often and very publicly," Selfon said.
Among the tips in her leadership pamphlet: experiment, take risks and learn from accompanying mistakes; foster collaboration by promoting cooperative goals and building trust; strengthen others by sharing information and power and increasing their discretion and visibility; and recognize individual contributions that make any event succeed.
Finally, Selfon said, have expectations for your team just as you have personally. "Work on your own strengths and weaknesses, and remember it is how you communicate to others that can make a difference. Too often we lower the bar [for volunteers], but people can rise to high expectations," she said.
The conference exceeded Sharon Roth's expectations. "This was one of the most invigorating experience with a group of women and inspired me to work more for WRJ causes, and the sisterhood and temple goals," she said.
For Roth, sisterhood is a family affair. She belongs to the sisterhood at Dallas' Temple Shalom, where she's new recording secretary, and has been a committee chair, executive board member and active sisterhood WRJ leader. Her mother-in-law, Betty, is a sisterhood member, as is her sister-in-law, Renee, District 22's new vice president.
With the exception of El Paso, District 22 encompasses all cities in Texas and Oklahoma, and has 4,500 members in the two states.
Dallas Councilwoman Lois Finkelman presented the with a proclamation from Mayor Laura Miller marking March 27 as "Women of Reform Judaism Day."
Current WRJ board members and past district presidents were introduced and recognized, and the new president and board members installed. Local officers, in addition to Renee Roth, are vice president Leslie Bass, Temple Emanu-El, Dallas; recording secretary Toni Lachman, Congregation Beth-El, Fort Worth; and auditor Julie Eichelbaum, Temple Shalom, Dallas.
Congregations large and small in the Dallas and Fort Worth areas hosted the 41st Biennial WRJ Convention. Local arrangement co-chairs included Lys Denenberg, Temple Emanu-El in Dallas; Anna Beth Denny, Adat Chaverim in Plano; Lachman; Hilda Pritsker, Congregation Ner Tamid in Carrollton; and Renee Roth. This was Adat Chaverim's first opportunity to attend a conference.
Summarizing a primary conference objective, Sharon Roth said, it was intended to build relationships that foster leadership mentoring.
"This event brought me closer to women who I think are amazing," she said.
This story was published in the DallasJewishWeek
on: Friday, April 4, 2003