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When Family Comes Full-Circle

November 3, 2005 By:
Zara Myers, JE Feature
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Michael Dvorak at Beth Tikvah-B'nai Jeshurun
Like it says in the song, "All My Life's a Circle," Michael Dvorak's keeps "goin' round," coming back to family, his synagogue, the Jewish community and to Israel.

Dvorak, one of five siblings who grew up in Wyndmoor, said that now that he's the father of two, he admires his parents more than ever: "We have all remained very close, and the family has grown to include 15 grandchildren and two great-grandchildren."

There are more connections.

His parents, the late Peggy and Sidney T. Dvorak, were founders of Beth Tikvah-B'nai Jeshurun in Erdenheim, where Dvorak was confirmed, and where he and his wife Paula, who is the synagogue's accompanist, have continued to be members. Their children, Evan, 16, and Annette, 14, became B'nai Mitzvah there.

In addition, Dvorak along with his mother, Peggy, established the Sidney T. Dvorak Memorial Lecture at the synagogue in memory of his father, who died in 1996. "He was a kind, generous man who placed a high value on education," said his son. The lecture series, begun in 1998, features known scholars on a wide variety of topics.

It has also received support from the Bux-Mont Region of the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia.

Since college, Dvorak said he has believed in the federated system and its support of the Jewish community locally, overseas and in Israel. Today, he gives his time and his annual gift to Federation "because its success is critically important - now and for our future."

As for his strong feelings for Israel, Dvorak said that started when he went there on a United Synagogue Youth Pilgrimage in 1975. "The trip had a profound effect on me," he recalled.

And when Dvorak attended Syracuse University, he carried his loyalty to the Jewish state with him, co-chairing the student United Jewish Appeal campaign in his senior year. After graduation, he stayed on the UJA fundraising path as a professional, working as a field representative to 25 universities and colleges - from Virginia to Florida and west to Texas.

"Our whole emphasis was on education, the most important part of a campus campaign," he said. "It was a way to get students involved."

Returning to the Philadelphia area after two years with UJA and going into his father's business, Dvorak said "becoming part of the community was a natural step." He began by serving on the Commission on Campus Projects, part of what is now Hillel of Greater Philadelphia.

At present, Dvorak is on the board of the Jewish Outreach Partnership. "I believe in the way they extend a hand to unaffiliated families to get them involved," he said. He also serves on the board of Beth Tikvah-B'nai Jeshurun as a vice president.

As for the circle "coming around" to Dvorak's children: Evan went to Israel with Young Judea this summer after participating for eight years in the Auerbach Central Agency for Jewish Education's Passport to Israel Program. The program has parents and synagogues putting money into a savings plan, along with Federation who matches the investment up to $200 every year.

Daughter Annette's Bat Mitzvah project had her bringing happiness to residents of the Madlyn and Leonard Abramson Center for Jewish Life by visiting with the family's Wheaton terrier in a "bark mitzvah" program.

"It put smiles on the residents' faces," said Dvorak.

"Our children carry on Jewish values and a knowledge of who they are," said the proud dad. "I think everything comes down to priorities."

 

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