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

Have we lost our way?


Dear Editor:

My grandfather, from Poland, escaped the Nazis and made it onto a boat when he was 13. He arrived in New York City and was looked after by survivors of the Nazis Holocaust and others who denied Jewish people the right of prayer and their religion. He became the president of the First Benevolent Komorower (Association/Organization) in New York.

Louis, my grandfather, worked for a clothing manufacturer in New York. For the summer, he built two ‘Bungalow Colonies’ in the Catskills, NY. He also had the first hotel in the Catskills with what they called “indoor plumbing.”

My father worked for the College System of New York City, he taught English to immigrants at night and taught Sunday School at Temple Emanuel in Brooklyn, N.Y.

My brother and I both graduated from the Hebrew School of the East Midwood Jewish Center in Brooklyn, N.Y. He graduated from the college program. I finished the high school program.

East Midwood Jewish Center was an amazing place. It was alive with Judaism and was a fun place to go. I loved Sabbath services.

Rabbi Halpern was inspirational. Four generations of our family prayed there.

My father, Philip, and my mother, Florence, decided it was important to keep the spirit of our history alive and as a family, we founded the Rose and Louis scholarship fund to continue the traditions of Judaism.

My brother served as president of the synagogue.

My mother died on Erev Rosh Hashanah. My father died on Nov. 18.

This time of year has always been emotional for me. I have always tried to be with my family on the High Holy Days.

We lived in New York on Sept. 11, 2001. From our house in Brooklyn, we saw The World Trade Center. I went to Pace University, right by City Hall and would go to the World trade Center for lunch many times. I even worked at a store on the site prior to the Center being built.

Sept 11 hit our family hard. My wife and son felt strongly about living in New York after this. My son, who is autistic, wanted to move.

We felt that New York City was not a safe environment for our son. Of course, he was comparing Disney to New York... How can New York win out?

On Nov. 11, 2001, we came down to this area to look for a place to live.  We found an inviting area called Celebration.

One of my biggest concerns was finding a Jewish Community. Even though there was ‘talk’ of creating one in Celebration, it never happened.

So, every year, since 2001, I would fly to New York to be with my brother. This year, he said to me, quite directly, I am getting older. It is time to find a welcoming home in Orlando.

He also said that he would make money from our charity available if I liked the synagogue as a donation or funding, if I felt at home. 

With his urging, I dug out my bar mitzah talis and headed over to the Jewish synagogue on Apoka-Vineland Road. 

At 6:30 on Friday night (Kol Nidre), I came to worship. With a smile on my face and respect for who I am, my heritage, and my future, I parked and approached the door.

I was stopped quite abruptly and told that this was a “private prayer service” and I could not enter to pray. I was told quite specifically and with attitude that I would not be allowed in.

This is the first time I have EVER been turned away for prayer at any synagogue anywhere in the world.

Why be a Jew when a fellow Jew treats you like dirt and denies you prayer? Somehow, I don’t see that happening in a mosque or church anywhere.

And, what do I tell my brother?

This is an insult to Jews throughout the world. What do I do about this?

Have we lost our way? Have we forgotten our history? Have we forgotten how our ancestors were refused admission to sanctuary? Is this right?

Les Kippel



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