By Felice Caspar
In presenting the Jewish Person of the Year award annually since 1951, the B’nai B’rith Isadore Garsek Lodge #269 of Fort Worth, Texas has a tradition of recognizing innovation and altruism.
The awards dinner invitation encourages nominations of an individual who has performed extraordinary service to the Jewish and Fort Worth communities. The honoree’s name is a well-guarded secret not revealed until the presentation of the prestigious award at the dinner.
On Oct. 22, Jeff Hochster was so honored. Lodge President Rich Hollander described Hochster as “a mensch, a man with an unwavering and uncompromising Jewish heart. Those two attributes are the foundation for his Jewish involvement.”
The head of a western-wear company, Hochster donates new merchandise to several programs serving the disadvantaged. He has served on day school, congregation, Federation and other boards and supports even more organizations’ social welfare programs.
Describing Hochster as a lifelong Zionist and a passionate supporter of Israel, Hollander shared a story that aptly illustrated his outgoing nature and kindness. “He took it upon himself to introduce himself to two lone Israeli pilots wandering around Fort Worth some years ago, invited them to dinner and ultimately hosted them for an entire year during their training at Carswell Air Force Base. Here in Fort Worth, he made them part of his family.”
As senior director of governmental relations for Lockheed Martin Aeronautics, guest speaker Eric Fox was able to share an inside perspective about the F-35 fighter aircraft. In Fort Worth, this factory employs thousands of highly-skilled workers to produce these planes for the United States, Israel and other armed forces. In Israel, the F-35 is called the Adir, which means “awesomeness” in modern Hebrew.
Robert Chicotsky, Texarkoma Region Representative to the B’nai B’rith Board of Governors, conducted a memorial tribute to the people who passed away during the past year from surrounding Jewish congregations. The evening’s program included a segment, “Hats Off to B’nai B’rith” by Dan Sturman, second vice president of the lodge. Sturman spoke about the lodge’s many social programs, including publishing a Jewish community directory, providing scholarships to Jewish youth, providing Passover and Thanksgiving dinners to Jewish seniors, and several hundred meals, plus clothes and toys for a homeless shelter. Earlier in evening it had been noted that Fort Worth is home to two B'nai B'rith Senior Housing apartment communities, and that the lodge provides services and hosts holiday programs to enhance the lives of the residents.
Rich Hollander spoke about a new lodge program for spring. In reaction to an alarming growth of anti-Semitism globally, lodge leadership conceived of the first annual City Seder to foster understanding by sharing a meal and Passover traditions with the larger Fort Worth community. The free-by-invitation event will be held at the Will Rogers Center for more than 300 guests and a special Haggadah is being prepared. Planning is underway with local leaders and the Mayor’s Council on Community Affairs.
Hollander closed by saying that B’nai B’rith and the Isadore Garsek Lodge are “like Uncle Sam, we want you … We are about getting things done. … Get involved in our community, you will find, as I have, that it is rewarding, in ways you simply cannot understand until you do it.”