Jody Platt was only a few months into her tenure as president of the National Council of Jewish Women’s Dallas section in the mid-‘90s when she received a phone call that would change her life, she says.

“It was a gentleman named Dr. Theodore Roosevelt Lee,” Platt says. Lee is president and publisher of the Dallas Post Tribune, the oldest and largest black-owned newspaper in Texas.

“He called me at a time when the Dallas Morning News was publishing daily stories about the friction between an African-American council member and a Jewish member,” Platt continues. “Dr. Lee wasn’t real thrilled with the way it was being handled, and he wanted to know if I would help him create and promote a better understanding between blacks and Jews in Dallas.

“And I said: Sure, but what can I do?”

Lee asked her to write an article for his newspaper, teaching his readers about Judaism: “Its cultures, holidays, that sort of thing,” she says.

When the column was published, Platt, a Preston Hollow resident who has been a member of the women’s council for 31 years, was thrilled to read it. Until she got to the end.

“It said: ‘To be continued next week.’ And I was like: What do you mean, continued next week? So I called Dr. Lee, and he said: You’ll do this weekly, won’t you? That was nine years ago.”

Lee, who’s also a former Dallas ISD deputy superintendent, and Platt have remained close, and he bestows high praise on the NCJW.

“They have done so much for humanity,” he says. “Dallas has moved closer to being free of hate as a result of that council. They work across the board – black, Hispanic, white, red. And they do it out of an inner sense of obligation. They’re the best group I’ve ever worked with in terms of truly wanting to enhance humanity.”

To this day, Platt continues to write that column, though not weekly anymore. Not only does she have a forum for educating people about Judaism, but she has made a lifelong friend.

“It changed my life, meeting this new person and being introduced to a new part of the Dallas community,” she says of Lee. “We’re like neighbors now. He and his wife, and my husband and I, renewed our wedding vows together with his minister and our rabbi, his friends and our friends. It was the most wonderful, dear occasion.”

This chance to meet new people and learn about others is what the members of Dallas’ NCJW say is the best thing about what they do.

“Because I’m a member, I’ve learned things about this city that I would not have otherwise known. I’ve heard of places I would not have heard about. I’ve heard about volunteer groups I would not have heard about,” says Linnie Katz, a neighborhood resident who’s also a lifetime member of NCJW. “For me, it’s also been an education, and it continues to be one.”

But for all that the women receive from being a part of the group, they give back even more.

The Dallas section of NCJW, founded in 1913, is one of many chapters throughout the country. Of its approximately 1,300 members, 40 percent live in the Preston Hollow area, and its offices are in the Preston Royal Shopping Center.

“We are community service-oriented organization,” says neighborhood resident Rita Doyne, a member of first the Nashville and now the Dallas section for 42 years. “We work through advocacy, research, education and community service to improve the lives of women and children.”

The council has contributed more than $1 million to 40-plus projects in the Metroplex during the past five years. Countless non-profit agencies and programs around the city have been either begun by or immeasurably assisted by both funding and volunteers provided by NCJW. Members founded LIFT (Literacy Instruction for Texas), Dallas CASA and the Meyerson’s docent program. When the programs are capable of running themselves, NCJW spins them off to operate on their own.

Some other, less well-known programs they’re still in control of include Safeguards For Seniors, which helps the elderly manage prescription and over-the-counter drug regimens, or Kids in Court, which helps the district attorney’s office in making the courtroom and its procedures familiar to children who must testify in child-abuse cases.

“That one breaks your heart,” Platt says.

They’re also in the school district, helping educate students about Judaism through a program called Hello Israel, or helping parents of toddlers become their child’s “first and most influential teacher” in another one called HIPPY. They were the first to volunteer in Dallas ISD schools in 1969. They started the Penny Lunch Program 27 years ago.

“A lot of people hear National Council of Jewish Women, and they assume we only do things in the Jewish community,” Platt says. “We don’t.”

In fact, although the vast majority of NCJW volunteers are Jewish and female, some men and non-Jews are dues paying members. All that matters, they say, is a desire to help.

“Of all the organizations I belong to, this is the one that really is full-fledged volunteer. You really do the work, from the floors to the windows to shaking hands and working behind the scenes,” Platt says. “Everyone kind of finds their own niche within a project that is nearest and dearest to their hearts.”

Beyond the learning experiences and the great feeling brought about by helping, there’s an added bonus, Doyne adds: the friendships.

“It’s the greatest group of women that I’ve ever been in contact with in my life. They’re just intelligent, committed, they’re caring, they’re friendly,” she says. “It’s a wonderful group to be part of and to work with. It makes you feel good.”


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