Rosh Hashanah greetings from Central Florida Hillel


Hank Katzen

The Jewish New Year is a time for starting anew, for leaving the past behind us and crafting a better future for ourselves and our community. It is a time for courage when we take a look at ourselves and take stock of what we have achieved and where we have fallen short of our own goals.

At Central Florida Hillel, this past year has been a year of heretofore-unimagined growth. On the positive side, we opened a magnificent 600-bed student apartment complex that is now 100 percent occupied. We launched new student organizations and attracted new students in numbers that we have not seen in more than half a decade.

And yet, with all this success, we did not manage to raise the necessary funds to fully support the burgeoning demand for Shabbat dinners that our students requested and were forced to cut back dramatically on these experiences for young Jewish adults in our community.

While growth in demand for Central Florida programs outstripped even the most optimistic projections, we admittedly did not succeed in raising the necessary funds to provide the kind of communal experience that best exemplifies the finest qualities of the Orlando Jewish community.

As word of our dramatic growth spread around the country, we have however succeeded in attracting the eye of visionary Jewish leaders who were inspired by the possibilities this growth heralded and excited by the opportunity to invest in building a very different kind of Hillel than had ever been built before.

This past summer, we received word that Central Florida Hillel would be one of three Hillel's in all of North America to receive a remarkable challenge grant where every single dollar raised by the Orlando Jewish community would be matched by a foundation in Pennsylvania. Moreover, our international office has dedicated staff and resources to help us raise these matching dollars not just in Orlando but also across the state of Florida.

We invited the Hillel International Board to come to Orlando and, as a result, a winter meeting was added to the schedule. UCF President Hitt hosted them for a special meeting and among the many positive outcomes of that meeting, came word that for the first time in Hillel's nearly 100-year history, the International Staff Conference for Hillel employees would be relocated to Orlando in December 2014. This confirms that there is increasing confidence that the Orlando Jewish community is the place to invest for our collective Jewish future.

Aaron Weil

Towards this goal, five new professionals have been brought on board, a dramatic expansion in Birthright recruitment is taking place and new partnerships are being created that will support Central Florida Hillel's ambitious goal of being a successful national pilot for excellence within the next there to five years.

This is a rare moment for our community and we are hopeful that each of you will say, "yes" to being included in this historic opportunity. Let us all gather in the coming year, in good health, happiness and prosperity, to resoundingly proclaim our own commitments to a Jewish future and may we all be inscribed for good in the Book of Life.

Hank Katzen

Chairman of the Board

Aaron Weil

Executive Director and CEO


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