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Dallas, Texas

DALLAS, a financial and industrial center in North Texas and the second largest city in the state. First settled in 1844, the city had an estimated population of 1,188,580 in 1997, including a Jewish population of approximately 50,000. New figures released in 2003 estimate the total population for the 16-county North Texas region, which includes Dallas, to be almost six million.

The earliest Jewish settlement began in 1870 with the arrival of about 15 families. The first Jews were mainly retail merchants and several of them, among whom the Sanger and Kahn families were outstanding, played a vital role in the commercial development of the city. The first organized Jewish institution dates to 1872, when the Hebrew Benevolent Association was created; although it was primarily a charitable institution, it sponsored the first High Holiday services. A Jewish cemetery was dedicated the same year, and in 1873 a local B'nai B'rith chapter was formed.

Temple Emanu-El was Dallas' first congregation, founded in 1874 and allied with the Reform movement; it had a membership of 2,800 families in 2005. A second congregation, Shearith Israel, established as an Orthodox synagogue in 1884, became Conservative, and had 1,480 families. Another Orthodox congregation, Tiferet Israel, was founded in 1890 and had 325 families. Nearly 1,050 families belonged to the Reform Temple Shalom, which was organized in 1965. Dallas had 20 congregations – four Conservative, eight Reform, seven Orthodox, and one traditional. The Rabbinical Advisory Council founded in 1944 (now the Rabbinic Association of Greater Dallas) represents these synagogues.

There were seven Jewish day and high schools ranging from Orthodox to Reform, with a total attendance of more than 1,200 children. Thanks to a community-wide Capital Campaign which raised more than $55 million for the construction and renovation of ten agency facilities, many of these schools enjoyed new or refurbished buildings. Among them was a new state-of-the-art building for Solomon Schechter Academy and a new 8.5-acre campus for Akiba and Yavneh Academies which was slated to encompass Judaica and artwork by noted Jewish artist David Moss.

The Jewish Welfare Federation, now called the Jewish Federation of Greater Dallas, was organized in 1911 as a centralized agency for all Dallas Jewish social welfare services and fundraising for local, national, and overseas needs. It sponsors a Jewish Community Relations Council, composed of representatives of all major Jewish organizations, and a Leadership Development Group, founded in 1952. The Federation had a Jewish education department which provided teacher workshops, adult education initiatives, and programs such as Teen Tour and Gift of Israel which enable students to travel to the Promised Land.

The Federation is a member of the United Way of Metropolitan Dallas, United Jewish Communities, the National Jewish Community Relations Advisory Council, and the Jewish Education Service of North America. Its Annual Campaign supported a network of more than 43 human and social service programs for Jews locally, nationally, in Israel, and overseas. The 2004 Annual Campaign raised an unprecedented $9.5 million for humanitarian needs.

There were three constituent agencies supported by the Federation: Jewish Family Service (JFS), the Legacy Senior Communities, Inc., and the Jewish Community Center of Dallas (the J). Jewish Family Service offered counseling, financial assistance, and job placement to both families and individuals. In 2004, 2,176 adults and children received food from the JFS food pantry. JFS relocated to new facilities in 2002 thanks to funds raised through the aforementioned Capital Campaign. The Legacy Senior Communities, Inc. is the parent company of Golden Acres-Dallas Home for Jewish Aged and the planned Legacy at Willow Bend. Golden Acres, opened in 1953, offers care and treatment for the elderly; it has adjacent apartment units for independent living and manages ECHAD, housing for low-income elderly. The Legacy at Willow Bend was planned as an up-and-coming premiere retirement community immersed in Jewish tradition and focused on independent living and an active lifestyle. The Julius Schepps Community Center, now the Jewish Community Center of Dallas, served more than 7,000 members. The J provided services which helped promote healthy individual and family living. Services included an early childhood program, programs for children and teens, an extensive physical education service, athletic leagues, a series of single adult activities, adult education classes, senior activities, cultural arts programs, and summer day camps. Funds from the Capital Campaign helped the J build a new natatorium and fitness center, which were completed in time for the Maccabi Games held in Dallas in summer of 2005. In addition to its three constituent agencies, the Federation also supported 11 local beneficiary agencies which provided a wide variety of humanitarian services.

By the 1970s, the old social and economic distinctions between the German-Jewish settlers who first came to Dallas and the later immigrants from Eastern Europe had largely been erased, and descendants of both groups participated on an equal basis in communal life and leadership. Also, the overall picture changed from the days when Jews were primarily merchants. Members of the Jewish community were engaged in a wide variety of business enterprises, including garment manufacturing, paper and air-conditioning companies, and finance. There were also a large number of Jewish professionals, including lawyers, doctors, engineers, technology professionals, and business consultants.

Jewish community relations had their stormy days in the 1920s, when the Ku Klux Klan was highly active. Even though relations improved, as late as the early 1980s there were still several social clubs that maintained an exclusionary policy toward Jews. In business and communal activities, however, the Jewish community has long been integrated into the Dallas community at large.

For more than 30 years, Southern Methodist University and Temple Emanu-El have sponsored the Community Course, which makes art, music, drama, and lecture programs available to the entire city. The Bridwell Library of the Perkins School of Theology houses two large collections of Judaica, the Sadie and David Lefkowitz Collection and the Levi A. Olan Collection. In Dallas' civic, cultural, and political life, too, Jews play a significant role. There have been Jewish presidents of the symphony orchestra, the chamber of commerce, and the Dallas Opera. In 1970 Stanley *Marcus , who was active in all of these, was a leader of the powerful Citizens' Council; Carl Flaxman was director of the Health, Education, and Welfare Office, which serves the entire southwest; and Julius Schepps was especially active in the Fair Park Association, which controls the famous Cotton Bowl (the New Year's Day football game). Dallas has also had three Jewish mayors: Adlene Harrison (1976), Annette Strauss (1987–91), and Laura Miller (elected 2002). Jewish city councilpersons in 2005 included Lois Finkelman and Mitchell Rasansky.

Sources:H. Cohen, in: AJHSP, 2 (1894), 139–56.

[Levi A. Olan / Jef Tngley (2nd ed.)]

Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.