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

JAO move to JCC not a good idea


Dear Editor:

I was disappointed to read your cover article in the Feb. 7 edition of the Heritage regarding a member of the community’s supposed “master plan” for the Maitland campus. I am referring specifically to Mr. Schwartz’s idea to re-combine the Jewish Academy of Orlando back into the JCC. I would encourage Mr. Schwartz to read Olga Yorish’s email (coincidentally sent on Feb. 7) about the importance of day schools for the future of a Jewish populace that is growing less connected to its Jewish roots. In addition to citing a Pew Research study about the importance of day schools, Ms. Yorish states “I strongly believe that no Jewish community can flourish today without good day schools.” Unfortunately, this plan that

Mr. Schwartz suggests would cause irreparable harm to the Jewish Academy of Orlando. As a parent, I would encourage anyone who has not been to the school recently, to visit and observe the hundreds of Jewish children learning about Jewish traditions and participating in Jewish life. Moving back to the JCC would be a tremendous step backward for the school. Parents would lose confidence in the school’s viability and it would open a floodgate for parents to look elsewhere. For a community that cannot “flourish today without good day schools,” we would be left with a wounded, flailing school.

Second, shame on the Heritage for publishing this article—without response from either the Jewish Academy or the JCC—in a community-wide issue that is freely distributed at the exact same time as the JAO is recruiting for new students. Rather than trying to push Orlando’s only Jewish day school off a cliff, perhaps the Jewish Federation should be there with a strong group of supporters to help JAO and ensure the future of the Jewish community in Orlando. I would encourage Federation to listen to their executive director; she is very smart.

Finally, I would like to address Michael Soll’s editorial about the “relevance” of federation. After reading about how federation’s primary activities include supporting the startup of Hillel and various leadership development programs, the majority of the editorial discussed federation’s role as a “landlord” to the two JCC campuses (including the JAO). I reviewed the Jewish Federation of Orlando’s Mission Statement online, which states that the JFGO “is committed to uniting our Jewish community, building meaningful partnerships and proving a solid long-term foundation for Jewish life in Central Florida.” Nowhere in that statement does it say anything about how its role as a “landlord” supports the Orlando Jewish community. JFGO puts on some great events that unite the Jewish community such as Choices and its support of Jewish Pavilion is critical. However, the debt situation and its supposed administration of the Maitland campus is a distraction from the real work that Federation needs to do to fulfill its mission. If its primary role is as a “landlord,” I would argue that either Federation’s relevance should be questioned or they need to change their mission statement.

Orlando’s Jewish community is at a crossroads. We are becoming more removed from our Jewish identity and it is the responsibility of our Jewish organizations to work to bring the community together. The best way to do that, and the best way to fulfill the Jewish Federation’s mission of providing “a solid long-term foundation for Jewish life in Central Florida” is to unite behind our children and to support their Jewish education. I would think that is something we can all agree on.

Jeremy Scheinberg

Winter Park

Editor’s note: Stan Roberts (author of the article) wrote the article for Federation and it was approved by Olga Yorish and Michael Soll.

Also in the Feb. 7 issue was David Bornstein’s column, titled “How we got where we are,” which gives a good history of why the Federation has become the “landlord” - and although it is not in its mission statement, the Federation has been forced into the awkward position of landlord to hold everything together. In a column Bornstein wrote in the Oct. 18, 2013 issue, he said “...every time a campus agency was in arrears (one agency in particular has been for years), or late to make a payment... the Federation stood up and made good, dipping into reserves, using the annual campaign to shore up the shortfalls.”


Reader Comments

JCCParent writes:

If moving the JAO into the JCC space causes irreparable harm to the JAO - then I worry that the JAO has much larger issues. If a day school is so critical to the Jewish identity here in Orlando (and I do believe it has value) then I believe that the parents and community who CAN support it - SHOULD. If the JAO wants to continue to operate in its own building - it should look at its position regarding scholarships and broader appeal to the larger Jewish community. This is a complicated issue.


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