Spotlight On: Jennifer Dennis


For this month’s Leadership Connections’ Spotlight, I had the pleasure of talking to the incoming President at Emanuel Synagogue in Oklahoma City, Jennifer Dennis. After she posted on the USCJ Presidents’ thread we knew we had our feature. After all, she has a legacy of leadership in her family. Her mother, father, grandmother, and grandfather have all been Presidents of Emanuel Synagogue over the years.

Jennifer’s Jewish upbringing began at an early age, attending Solomon Schechter with her sister. She participated in USY as part of SWUSY and became a member of the Chapter Board, attending all of the events and USY’s International Convention. She went to Camp Ramah in California and also did USY’s Pilgrimage. She attended Nativ, USCJ’s Israel Gap Year Program, making life-long friends. She later attended University of Oklahoma majoring in Political Science and minoring in Judaic Studies, thanks to her Nativ credits.

She continued her Judaic studies, and went to the University of Judaism (now known as American Jewish University). She then took a job as the Religious School and Youth Director at Temple Beth Sholom in Las Vegas, Nevada before returning to Oklahoma. She now owns a restaurant in Norman, Oklahoma and is taking advantage of the opportunity to be close to family again. She lives with her husband, Davis Dennis, and three adorable triplets, Jackson, Adelaide, and Maverick, or the JAM Pack as she affectionately calls them.

Both of her dad’s parents were Presidents of Emanuel Synagogue when she was growing up. And later, her parents were also Presidents. When asked why there is this legacy of leadership she stated, “We care about our synagogue. It’s been so important to our whole family. We want people to have the same opportunities and connections and to keep the synagogue going.”

Her involvement with USY, Nativ, and Camp Ramah have all contributed to her desire to be a Jewish leader. All those programs made an impact on her and helped her lead a Jewish life and stay active in it. Staying connected with people across the country helped her build that community. The people she met in USY were on Nativ and then later at University of Judaism. She even recently reconnected with someone that was on USY who is now also President of her synagogue in Texas!

While Covid has been challenging for everyone, Jennifer is looking forward to moving forward and planning events and bringing people back to the synagogue. They recently had 70 people at a sisterhood Shabbat, which has inspired Jennifer for future Shabbats. She has some great plans for when she steps into her new role in July. When I asked how she plans to balance it all, raising her kids, running the restaurant, and being President she said she is fortunate to have a lot of help both from family, friends, and nannies. Her grandfather used to say, “the answer is yes, what’s the question?” After sitting down with Jennifer I believe it is Emanuel Synagogue who is very fortunate to have Jennifer following in her family’s footsteps.

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