Heritage Florida Jewish News - Central Florida's Independent Jewish Voice

Choices at 20- JFGO celebrates an anniversary of note


Pamela Ruben

Yael Miller, Cake designer and owner of Ooga Ooga cakes, created a series of designer cakes on display in the Rosen lobby, highlighting the timeline of the Orlando Jewish community.

Choices 2014, the yearly fundraiser for the Women's Division of the Jewish Federation of Greater Orlando (JFGO), celebrated its 20th anniversary on Saturday, Feb. 1, at the Rosen Plaza in Orlando. More than 600 women were treated to an evening of note, which honored both Women of Choice and the Jewish community with a Broadway-style revue. A video timeline documented changes, progress and historical events in the Central Florida Jewish community, spanning from Orlando's first Jewish settlement to the present day. This sold-out event was attended by Jewish women of all ages, backgrounds, and affiliations.

"It was incredible to see women from Kinneret seated just a few tables over from teens joining their moms for the first time at this event," said JFGO's Dana Nichols. "The 20th anniversary of Choices offered us the opportunity to reflect on the impact the Jewish women of our community have had on Jewish Orlando throughout our history. As such we're honoring all of our previous Harriet Ginsburg Women of Choice award recipients. It's an honor to share their legacies once again."

The evening gave its regards to Broadway, and to past Harriet Ginsburg Women of Choice award recipients with an evening of song and dance directed by Tim Evanicki of Starving Artist Studios in Altamonte Springs. A talented cast of entertainers including singers, dancers, pianists, and comediennes highlighted the agencies through song during the three-hour event. In addition, the award winning Women of Choice shared heartfelt anecdotes through video clips about the community's programs and agencies, and how they fostered a unified Jewish community. Altogether, more than a dozen women shared their stories of involvement in Jewish Orlando.

Sheryl Meitin, Woman of Choice 2008 and Jewish Pavilion (JP) co-founder, explained the Pavilion's role in the lives of Jewish seniors in more than 50 assisted-living facilities in a video clip featuring both elders and volunteers. Meitin noted that the JP brings holidays and companionship to seniors with families and without families, adding that without the Pavilion many Jewish seniors have no one.

Next, pianist, composer, and frequent Pavilion volunteer, Carol Stein, introduced a song dedicated to the Pavilion, honoring her late parents, Betty and Daniel Stein. A visibly moved Stein sang her love song to the Pavilion, bringing the crowd to their feet for a standing ovation.

Susan Bierman, Woman of Choice of 2005, spoke of her commitment to Jewish education and introduced the mission of the UCF Hillel. Bierman stated, "Hillel's mission is building a new generation of Jewish leaders. Some call it life on campus. We call it the future. In my heart the very first thing I am is a Jew. If it is important to you (too), you will participate in every way possible." Bierman's grandson, Tony Moreno, who is a Jewish Academy alum, high-school freshman and student of the arts, did just that. Earlier in the evening, he wowed the crowd with a song and dance routine (Andrew Lloyd Weber's "Any dream will do"), accompanied by students from the Jewish Academy.

Elegant Printing/Joe Gliksman

JAO students perform "Any dream will do" by Andrew Lloyd Webber.

Harriett Lake, Woman of Choice 2004, playfully jousted with comedic actress and Harriett Lake impersonator Laura Hodes. A good-natured Hodes joked using Lake's intonation, "That Dr. Phillips is such a showoff. (He has to have) his name on everything." On a more serious note, Lake shared anecdotes about her lifelong commitment to the Jewish community. Lake noted that Jewish women's groups had come a long way from the time when they collected coins in a pushka (dish) above the kitchen sink to give to the United Jewish Appeal. She was most proud of bringing the Lion of Judah honor to the Orlando Women's Division as a way to "reward girls for their giving."

The curtain came down on the evening's events with a few words from Sharon and Alan Ginsburg, daughter and husband respectively of the late Harriet Ginsburg, for whom the Woman of Choice award is named. Sharon said that her mother, Harriet, had had a strong connection to the Jewish community, and believed in (and passed on) the importance of giving back. Alan joined the chorus of Federation supporters, stating, "The Federation is the future of our young people, and generations yet to come. It all starts with the Federation."


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