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

2013/2014 Year in Review



The Jewish Academy of Orlando celebrated its “Double Chai” anniversary. Rabbi Sharon Barr Skolnik was introduced as the new Hebrew/Judaic curriculum coordinator.

The Holocaust Memorial Resource & Education Center opened its art exhibit “In Remembrance: 75 Years after Kristallnacht” with an art display with more than 25 pieces of artwork done by local artists. Accomplished artist and three-time winner of National Endowment for the Arts Fellowships Sarah Canright judged the artwork and awarded grand prize to Brian Demeter for his painting titled “Lost.”

Bunny Rosen received Hadassah’s Love-of-a-Lifetime award for her life-long commitment to Hadassah. Rosen passed away shortly after receiving this award.

Temple Israel President Arlene van de Rijn awarded the honor of Hatan Torah and Kallat Bereishit to Steve Berg and Mollie Savage, both of whom provided outstanding service in the areas of ritual, educational and/or spiritual life of the congregation.

Cathy Swerdlow visited our JFGO Partnership2Gether community, Kiryat Motzkin, and saw how JFGO support is helping our sister city.

Abe Wise, known as the “Father of the Center,” and a community leader, passed away Sept. 26. He was 90 years old.

Hubbly Bubbly, the newest healthy-fast-food falafel shop in the area, opened its doors, and owners Mark and Heather Unger and her father, George Joubran, have been bubbling over its success.


Aaron Weil took over the helm of UCF Hillel as its new CEO and executive director. Weil came to us from the Edward and Rose Berman Hillel Jewish University of Pittsburgh.

Orlando philanthropists Chuck Steinmetz and Harvey Kobrin co-sponsored the Jewish Pavilion’s annual Walk in the Park in honor of their wives, Nancye Kobrin and Lynn Steinmetz.

There was standing room only when local Holocaust survivors, Sonja Marchesano, Sylvia Rapp, Eva Ritt and Harry Lowenstein, shared their memories of Kristallnacht at a special program hosted by the Holocaust Center.

Royal Webster is appointed as the Roth Jewish Community Center’s new sports director, succeeding Eli Bercovici who retired after 31 years with the JCC.


Former Longwood resident, Emery Berger, made a real-world impact with the development a “Hoard” algorithm, which Apple adopted for its OS X desktop operation system, “Maverick,” that speeds up a computer by reducing memory resources. His mom and dad, Sharon and George Berger of Longwood are very proud of their son.

The Jewish National Fund honored 10 Orlandoans at its annual Tree of Life Awards Dinner with the Guardian of Israel award: Sy and Debra Israel, Caryn and Mark Israel, Lois Tannenbaum, Dick and Louise Weiner, Maura and Ben Weiner, and Orlando Mayor Byddy Dyer.

Aaron Gorovitz, a partner with Lowndes, Drosdick, Doster, kantor & Reed, P.A., received the Personal Empowerment Cornerstone Award at the Central Florida Urban League’s Annual Cornerstone Awards and Gala.

Congregation Ohev Shalom dedicated its new Cemetery Pavilion located at 6000 Old Winter Garden Road in Orlando.

Beit Hamidrash hosted former racist and skinhead Angela King, now founder of Life after Hate.

The Orlando Jewish community gets a peek into the life of U.S. Ambassador to Luxembourg Robert Mandell—known in this community as Bobby Mandell, the son of Lester and Sonny Mandell.

Rita Bornstein, actively involved in the creation of the Hebrew Day School, founder of Head Start in Orlando, and a community activist and philanthropist, died on Nov. 18.

Famous violinist Yitzchak Perlman asked to meet with Rollins College Hillel students after giving a presentation at the college.

Sam Behr, whose tagline “Tires ain’t pretty,” was heard all over the country in the Allied Discount Tires commercials, died in his home in New Smyrna Beach on Nov. 16. He was 86 years old.

Sgt. Benjamin Anthony, IDF reservist and founder of Our Soldiers Speak, spoke to a crowd of UCF students about what it is like to be a soldier in the Israeli Defense Force during the Arab/Israeli conflict.


The Jewish Federation of Greater Orlando announces the new initiative in the works, RAISE (Recognizing Abilities and Inclusion of Special Employees), will roll out in March 2014.

The Roth JCC threw a Twelve24: Orlando’s Jewish Party of the Year at the Elixir downtown on Dec. 24. Instead of eating Chinese food and watching a movie, guests spent the evening dancing, socializing and playing games with other young Jewish adults.

Pew Study advisor, Dr. Laurence Kotler-Berkowitz, senior director of Research and Analysis of Jewish Federations of North America, hosted a community talk on the Pew Study. Attendees included JFS Executive Director Eric Geboff, Rabbi Steven Engel of Congregation of Reform Judaism, Rabbi Arnie Siegel, and Emilie Socash and Robby Etzkin of the Roth JCC.

Chabad at UCF paired with Alpha Epsilon Phi, Alpha Epsilon Pi and Zeta Beta Tau for a Grand Menorah lighting and toy drive, which benefitted Jewish Adoptions and Foster Care Options. More than 200 toys were collected for JAFCO.

The Jewish Pavilion honored volunteers Toby Vandemark and Faye Novick at a JP Connections luncheon.

Central Florida Hillel’s Taglit Birthright Group visited sister city Kiryat Motzkin, that has a long-term partnership with Greater Orlando through the Jewish Federation of Greater Orlando and the Partnership2Gether program.


Hadassah paid tribute to Joan Schwebel, George and Rita Slotnick, Marcia Wasserman and Rita Weissmann at its annual Awards Brunch.

Former Longwood resident, Matt Loory, fulfilled a dream of joining the Ringling Bros. circus, and made history by becoming the youngest Pie Car manager in the circus’ 144-year circuit run.

Beth Schafer, spiritual leader of Temple Shir Shalom, made the Union for Reform Judaism Top Ten Moments list as a producer of the celebration of Women of Reform Judaism’s Centennial Anniversary.

Rabbi David Kay of Congregation Ohev Shalom was the keynote speaker at the Martin Luther King Celebration, hosted by the Interfaith Council of Central Florida and the Orlando Mayor’s Commission.

Hadassah National President Marcie Natan met with Orlando Hadassah members at a meet and greet held at Sawyer Lake Pavilion in Heathrow.

JCC’s Jack & Lee Rosen Campus celebrated five years of service to the Southwest Jewish community.

Mark Hara, passionate contributor to the Jewish and greater community, died Jan. 2. He was 59 years old.


The Jewish Federation of Greater Orlando presented the “Schwartz plan” to the community and agencies to save the campus.

UCF President John Hitt publicly opposed the boycott of Israreli academic institutions.

Eagle Scout Max Waldor’s Eagle Scout Service Project, Holocaust Memorial at SOJC, was awarded the Grove Adams Award by the Boy Scouts of America Central Florida Council and National Eagle Scout Association Committee.

JCC’s Jack & Lee Rosen Campus welcomed its new program director, Eric Lightman, from Boston.

Ben Weiner’s Winter Park Wealth Group joins Raymond James.

Anne Frank’s stepsister, Eva Schloss, spoke to an audience of more than 1,000 about her life during the Shoah and knowing Anne. After the war, her mother married Anne’s father, Otto Frank. The event was sponsored by Chabad of Orlando.

Eight active octogenarians—Don Kaplan, Gordon Kotzin, Robert Petree, Bill Kahn, Helen Tishman, Barbara Weinreich, Ruth Goldhar and Rose Savage—were honored at The Kinneret Council on Aging’s fourth annual “8 Over 80” Honorary Dinner.

Six hundred and thirteen Orlando college students, faculty, staff and community members celebrated the second annual Mega Shabbat on UCF’s campus.

More than 300 people filled Temple Beth-El for the 31st annual communitywide Shabbat service in Volusia County.

AIPAC and the Jewish Federation of Greater Orlando’s Community Relations Council held a community briefing at the JCC Maitland campus. The program titled “Expanding the Base: Bipartisan Pro-Israel Support Among African Americans” featured two leading activists from the community, Alisia Adamson and Lucas Boyce.

UCF students ride the ‘vomit comet’ courtesy of NASA. UCF junior Samuel Benjamin flew at zero gravity to study the collection of dust particles in space.


Central Florida celebrated a “You Are Israel” day held at Congregation Ohev Shalom. Keynote speaker was Consul General of Israel to Florida and Puerto Rico Chaim Shacham.

Jewish Pavilion honors Eve Homburger and Valerie Chestnut at their annual gala.

The honoree for the JCC’s annual J Ball event was Bruce Gould.

Buchenwald survivor Irving Roth was reunited with one of his liberators, Corp. Kenneth Berthold (retired) at the UCF Chapter of CUFI event where Roth spoke of his captivity and liberation at Auschwitz.

Six Jewish Academy of Orlando students—Joshua Finkelstein, Sophie Libow, Jordan Greenberg, Shira Weiss, Rachael Henig and Estrella Varnagy—were inducted into the American Hebrew Academy Honor Society.

Heritage columnist David Bornstein published two books, “Me and E: A Baseball Odyssey” and “The Good Word—A Decade of Jewish Thought and Chutzpah.”

Assistant Executive Director Robby Etzkin attended the BBYO IC conference, held in Dallas, and was surrounded by nearly 2,000 Jewish teens from around the world.


Harris Rosen was honored at the annual Holocaust Center Dinner of Tribute.

The Central Florida Jewish community’s eyes were opened as it took the “J-Street Challenge,” the documentary film that exposed hypocrisies in the J-Street organization.

Lauren Brown announced that Brown’s Deli would be open and kosher for Passover.

Hundreds of folks attended the Jewish Heritage Festival, held at the News-Journal Center in Daytona Beach, and enjoyed Jewish music, blowing of the shofar, Noah’s Landing petting zoo, Masada rock climbing and much more. Two of the most significant items on display were the ancient Torah scroll that was hand written on deerskin by three scribes in the 15th century, and the array of ancient Hebrew scrolls.

Alan Rusonik was named Head of School of the Jewish Academy of Orlando.


The Jewish Pavilion honored Elaine Gamson at its annual Spring into Fashion show.

RAISE launched with its first five employees.

Orlando JCC won four JCC Excellence Awards at JCCs of North America Biennial

Swastikas were found on walls and a mezuzah was found broken on the ground of a UCF off-campus private apartment complex.

Savannah Court welcomed Jewish community with mezuzah hanging.

Women’s Philanthropy of the Jewish Federation of North America honored Harriett Lake as the recipient of the Kipnis-Wilson Friedland Award. This award recognizes Jewish women who have made a positive, invaluable and lasting influence on their Jewish communities.

Temple Israel dedicated its renovated Roth Social Hall.

Temple Israel members Daniel Wise, Harry Rein an Rhea Rein bring Torah scroll home to German synagogue for the 160th anniversary of the opening of the building that housed the then-newly-built Berkacher Synagogue (1854).

Hollywood legend, David Weiss, creator of characters such as The Smurfs, Shrek, The Rugrats and Boy Genius, regaled Jewish Orlando courtesy of Chabad of Lake Mary.


The 13 members of the Jerome J. Bornstein Leadership Program graduated. These leaders are Leah Silver, Nathalie Toledano, Eric Sugarman, Whitney Kuvin, Sabrina Kalish, Yeosh Bendayan, Rebecca Anders, Natalie Lauber, Jay Kohler, Leigh Schwartz, Danielle Krise, Jacob Hara and Haley Forest.

Congregation Ohev Shalom announced it has authorized same-sex Jewish unions at the synagogue and Torah honors for same-sex Jewish couples.

Professor Moshe Pelli, professor and program director of the Judaic Studies Program at UCF, was the 2014 winner of the AJL Judaica Bibliography Award.

JNF hosted several get-togethers with basketball legend Tal Brody, who was the 2014 JNF goodwill ambassador for Israel.

JCC’s Jack & Lee Rosen campus was accredited for Early Care and Education programs.

Local Eagle Scout, Max Waldor, won top national awards at the Boy Scouts of America Central Florida Council’s annual Recognition Banquet for Eagle Scouts for his service project, the Holocaust Memorial at SOJC.

Fabienne Kaplan was chosen as Temple Israel’s Sisterhood Woman of the Year.

The Orlando Jewish community rallied for the three kidnapped Israeli boys—Gilad Shaar, Naftali Frenkel and Eyal Yifrah—to show support for these young men.

Temple L’Chayim’s congregants take a Torah walk with its Torah to the new synagogue.


The Central Florida Jewish community stands as one in mourning the death of the three young Israelis who had been kidnapped in June.

Temple L’Chayim announced Isaac Kriger as its new cantor/spiritual leader.

JFGO introduced the Jewish Teen Education Network.

More than 350 turned out to show support at an Israel Solidarity gathering held at the JCC.


Loren London was chosen as the Heritage Human Service Award winner.

At their annual meeting, themed “There’s no place like home,” the JFGO honored many who made an impact in the community, including Tess Wise, the Shalom Families committee, and Amy Geboff.

The announcement was made that the Roth JCC Maitland and the Rosen JCC will become separate entities.

Chabad of South Orlando sent Yuda Meer and Folli Tesler to Israel to help support soldiers at the Gaza border. Chabad provided necessities such as underwear, undershirts, socks, Tzitzit, sandwiches, energy drinks, shampoo, deoderant and other needs.

It was discovered by the Heritage that one of the Monuments Men was in our community. Rouben Sami, 94, was assistant deputy director of the Offenbach Archival Depot where more than 2,500,000 books and artifacts were returned to the countries they were stolen from by the Nazis.

Elana Goldstein, 18, shared her story of what it was like in Israel during Operation Protective Edge on her Taglit Birthright trip.

Kara Finkelstein, 10, published her first book, “The Forest: A Magical Adventure of Crystal and Rebel,” and is already writing a second book.

The Jewish Academy of Orlando began its 37th school year.

Alan Ginsburg received the Papal Benemerenti medal from Pope Francis. It is the highest honor that a layperson of any faith can receive from the Catholic pope.

Rabbi Rick Sherwin attended a one-day AIPAC symposium on U.S./Israel relations.

Orlando teens won big at the JCC Maccabi games.


Three hundred UCF Knights held a vigil for former UCF student and freelance journalist Steven Sotloff who was beheaded by ISIS.


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