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Jewish Pavilion throws its largest Purim party and gala


Mark Jacobs, son of honoree Eve Homburger, dressed up as Queen Esther and Adam Crasnow dressed as King Ahashuerus. They wished all gala attendees "Happy Purim" and gave out Purim necklaces.

The Jewish Pavilion threw its largest Purim party to date on Sunday, March 9, at the Westin in Lake Mary where more than 250 supporters attended their annual gala honoring dedicated sponsors and volunteers Valerie Chestnut and Eve Homburger.

"Our Purim celebrations are a favorite at our elder facilities, bringing some sparkle to a darker time of year. The costumes, hamentaschen, and playfulness uplift our seniors, while bringing back memories of past celebrations. Our annual gala and Purim party captures the same festive spirit, and mirrors the feeling of community and culture we bring to our elders," said Nancy Ludin, the Pavilion's executive director.

The festive evening was marked by moving speeches, backlit by glittering costumes and crowns. Shimmering honorees-Chestnut, Homburger, and a host of volunteers-shared glowing experiences of bringing companionship and Jewish connections to seniors in more than 50 nursing homes and assisted-living facilities throughout Central Florida.

Former Pavilion volunteer and current Oakmont resident Marge Drayer delivered the keynote address. Drayer shared the satisfaction she had experienced as a Pavilion volunteer helping seniors at Savannah Court and Grande Villa. Then noted, "Now the tables have turned and I am the resident... receiving the volunteers at Oakmont Village." Drayer mentioned how she had come to treasure Friday visits "with the wonderful volunteer and friend Karen Selznick," along with Shabbat services run with the dedication of the Pavilion's Cathy Swerdlow and Emily Newman.

Homburger and Chestnut reflected on their experiences with the Pavilion, sharing tales of volunteerism, family, and community ties. Homburger appeared on the podium with her 10-year-old son, Marc Homburger-Jacobs, by her side. The Jewish Academy fourth-grader lit up the stage (and smiling faces) as he comically came in full Purim dress as Queen Esther, and Marc's friend, Adam Crasnow, dressed as King Ahashuerus to the delight of everyone. Homburger noted that she and Marc had been spending time with Jewish elders for many years, with hopes that he would learn to value seniors and his Jewish culture. Later in the evening Marc passed on these family values, leading the Hamotzi (prayer) over the challah, his enthusiasm and Purim spirit carrying harmony throughout the room.

Valerie Chestnut remarked that working with seniors over the past 30 years had brought tremendous rewards, including an introduction to the Jewish Pavilion as community liaison with Vitas Hospice. Chestnut noted that when she met Nancy Ludin at a conference and said "they just clicked," and "what started out as business relationship turned into a friendship." She shared that she was honored to serve on committees with the Pavilion, spend time with its seniors, and now serve on its board of directors. Chestnut was honored to have daughter, Camille, in attendance, who had flown in from Philadelphia to share in the festivities.

A celebration of the honorees, along with Pavilion volunteers, continued throughout the evening, which included a full dinner and a silent auction. Gala co-chairwomen Elise Schilowitz and Susie Stone graciously thanked the gala committee, members of the Pavilion's Friends Board, as well as its board of directors for their dedication and support. Ludin concluded, "Tonight's Purim party, gala, and silent auction help make it possible to have a calendar year of celebrations with Jewish elders. The feeling of joy at this event brings light to our seniors all year long."


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