It was all the way back in 1979 when Jay Liberman first walked through the doors of the Jewish Community Center of Dallas (JCC).
Liberman, a financial advisor in RBC Wealth Management’s Plano, Texas office, was five years old at the time. His family had just moved to Dallas from Chicago, and seeking community, one of the first things they did was join the JCC. The organization aims to bring the local community together in an environment defined by Jewish values and culture.
Over the years, Liberman would come to know the community center very well, going to camp, playing in sports leagues and working as a camp counselor.
“The JCC was a big part of my growing up,” he says. “It had a big impact on me, providing me relationships and experiences I wouldn’t have had if it weren’t for the generosity of others.”
In 2017 – 38 years after first joining the JCC – Liberman was named chairman of the organization’s board. He has also served as the organization’s director, treasurer and vice president, and in 2013 received the board’s Leader of the Year award. In each of those roles, he has helped the JCC grow and develop as a positive, connecting force for the area’s Jewish community.
“Jay is tireless in his efforts,” says Artie Allen, CEO of the JCC. “He’s really passionate about what he does, and he wants to be a catalyst for all of us to be better in what we do.”
Liberman and family outside the renovated outdoor facility at the JCC.
In 1998, history repeated itself.
After several years away to attend college and start a career, Liberman moved back to Dallas. Like his parents two decades before, one of the first things he did was join the JCC. Again.
A few years later, when he and his wife, Julie, started looking to become more involved in their community, Liberman was nominated to serve on the JCC’s board. One of the first initiatives he championed was a 2009 renovation of the JCC’s outdoor facilities for kids, which wasn’t being used much at the time.
“Jay was very passionate about creating an environment where children could learn about nature in a way they’re not learning about it today,” Allen says.
The initiative raised more than $500,000, which went to building natural play areas with streams, hills, slides and other innovative features. Liberman’s first major fundraising project was a success.
“It was pretty rewarding to have a goal, focus on an outcome, and really make a difference,” he says.
In recent years, Liberman’s involvement with the JCC included helping the organization host the JCC Maccabi Games, a youth competition similar to the Junior Olympics, which Liberman actually competed in as a teenager; and launching a new initiative called “J on Wheels,” which brings JCC programming to community members that aren’t able to travel to the facility.
In 2017, when Hurricane Harvey devastated the Houston area, Liberman helped to organize a collection drive in collaboration with the Houston JCC to benefit people struggling in that neighboring city. The initial goal for that collection drive was to raise enough items to fill a single moving truck, he says. Instead, the drive filled an entire big rig truck in addition to a moving truck. The entire contents of both trucks were delivered down to Houston.
“Our community responded above and beyond what we expected,” Liberman says.
Jay Liberman and his wife, Julie.
Liberman’s volunteerism reflects a motivation to ensure that everyone has access to the same kind of opportunities that he’s had in his life. That’s something he shares with his wife, who serves as an officer at a nonprofit in Dallas called the Jewish Family Service. There, she pioneered an annual community baby shower that’s collected nearly 550,000 diapers for families in need. Jay and Julie also volunteer together with the Jewish Federation of Greater Dallas, a fundraising agency for the Dallas Jewish community.
In 2013, because of his community involvement efforts, Liberman was accepted into the exclusive Wexner Heritage Program. The two-year program educates up-and-coming Jewish leaders in the history, thought, printed texts and leadership challenges of the Jewish people, and equips them to be more effective leaders in the Jewish community.
For Allen, Liberman’s acceptance into the Wexner program shows his commitment to being a leader for the Jewish community in Dallas beyond just the JCC.
“Jay is setting an example for future generations,” he says.
Liberman, too, describes his community involvement in terms of “generations.” By investing in agencies that impacted his life he hopes that they can continue to impact others in the future.
“In Judaism, there’s a saying: ‘From generation to generation,’” he says. “When I think about my path, it’s about what others did to help make me who I am today. I want to have that same impact on other generations.”
Photos courtesy of Jay Liberman
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