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

JAO's future bright, thanks to donor family and Federation


After many years of struggling to manage expenses associated with its tenant relationship with the Jewish Federation, the Jewish Academy of Orlando has resolved its debt and stabilized the school’s financial future for years to come. According to JAO President Dr. Jordan Steinberg, “This is something the Jewish Academy of Orlando has needed for quite some time and which has certainly been one of its Board’s priorities in the last year.”

Resolving the debt was made possible thanks to the generosity of one of the JAO parent families—Rabbi Rob and Lauren Thomas—and the Jewish Federation of Greater Orlando. Because the Thomas family understands the long-term value of a Jewish education, they have given the school a generous gift that has enabled it to pay one-half of the debt to the Jewish Federation. Additionally, the Thomas family has pledged funding over the next three years to provide not just a cushion, but a stable foundation for growth. The Jewish Federation of Greater Orlando has always been a strong supporter of Jewish day school education and has agreed to fund the remaining half of the outstanding debt and to give the JAO a generous subsidy toward its rent obligations for the next three years.

Rabbi Thomas and his family moved to Central Florida six years ago from Chicago. Thomas, who is not a practicing rabbi, started a cyber security company in Chicago that deals with government and commercial contracts. He moved the business—including all his employeesvdown here, where it is now well-established.

According to Alan Rusonik, the Head of School at JAO, “The Jewish Academy of Orlando has for years continued to pay its rent and other operational expenses. The debt stems from our inability to contribute our share to the campus capital reserve fund.” The reserve fund was created to cover the costs of significant capital repairs/replacements—such as the air conditioning system, the roofs, and other infrastructure elements—at all campus facilities.

“The JAO has always sought and wanted to contribute its fair share to the reserve fund. The support of the Thomas family and the Jewish Federation gives the school an impetus and strength to plan for the future. As a result, the relationship with the Federation is already enjoying a new sense of collaboration,” added Rusonik. Dr. Steinberg echoed his enthusiasm: “The school’s Board is now able to focus on strategic ways to expand and strengthen the academic program and the Jewish day school experience.

“The Board and leadership of the Jewish Academy are very grateful to the Thomas family and to the Jewish Federation,” said Dr. Steinberg, and added that “the school can now embrace its new momentum to map the future.”


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