‘The great strength of Dayton is our people’

Interview with Dr. Gary Youra, July 2010

An interview with the Jewish Federation’s new president, Dr. Gary Youra

By Marshall Weiss, The Dayton Jewish Observer

Jewish Federation President Dr. Gary Youra in front of the Federation’s 1910 articles of incorporation

Dr. Gary Youra remembers the moment he decided to step up his involvement with the Federation. After the Detroit native set up his pediatric practice here with his wife, Mary, 28 years ago, he went to some Federation young leadership programs led by Dr. Stu Weprin and Eddie Kress.

One of those programs, Youra says, featured a non-Jewish speaker from the Justice Department. “Essentially, what he said was, ‘Look. The United Way, the entire country is going to support. The Red Cross, the entire country’s going to support. The only people that are going to support Jewish causes are Jews.’ And coming from a non-Jew, that was pretty powerful.”

In May, Youra was elected the 45th president of the Jewish Federation. He says the Jewish community means so much to him because of all that his parents lost. They survived the Holocaust. And it means so much to him because of what his children have gained.

“My mother volunteered,” he says. “Mostly B’nai B’rith, a little bit of Labor Zionist stuff. And both of my brothers are involved in their Jewish communities.”

In Dayton, Youra first served on the board of Jewish Family Service, then the DJCC board. He and Marla Harlan co-chaired Federation’s capital campaign for the Boonshoft CJCE.

He’s served on the Federation board and executive committee for a number of years, and is a past president of Temple Beth Or.

“The only way to keep the Jewish community going, in my view, is Federation,” he says. “People will have different religious beliefs and join different temples or synagogues, but what unites us all is our common Jewish heritage. And there is no organization outside of Federation that is going to accomplish the continuing services that need to be given.”

He says he owes a debt of gratitude to the Federation for the richness of Jewish experiences his daughters received growing up here.

“It was the kindergarten club, the DJCC preschool, the day camp, it was the high school programs. All those kinds of things that Federation made possible.”

During his tenure as president and in the years ahead, he foresees two great challenges for the Federation: providing for more needs and services with fewer resources in a difficult economy, and the decline of the Jewish population in the Miami Valley.

“The great strength of Dayton,” Youra says, “is our people. How we have managed to continue to provide services in an era when we’ve shrunk has been inspiring to me. We must continue to provide the most pertinent services that we need now — and that we project we’ll need in the future — to ensure Jewish survival in Dayton. Both of my daughters and their husbands have moved back to Dayton and I want them to live in a place that has a thriving Jewish community, like when we were raising a family here. I want — should I be blessed to have grandchildren — them to be able to be involved in Jewish community and the only way that’s going to happen is if the Federation is strong. I am going to work as hard as I can to make sure that happens.”

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  1. […] more Presidents of the Jewish Federation of Greater Dayton, 1910-2010 […]