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

2015 Community Year in Review



The Jewish Federation of Greater Orlando in collaboration with community agencies and synagogues held three events fostering unity and support for Israel. In addition, the Federation launched an Israel Emergency Fund to raise cash for relief efforts. The Federation raised $65,000.

Rabbi Rick Sherwin of Congregation Beth Am joined 300 pulpit rabbis from around the country for the American-Israel Public Affairs Committee’s third National Rabbinic Symposium.


The Jack & Lee Rosen Southwest Orlando campus was sold to the Rosen Foundation. “These and future additions will help make the Jack & Lee Rosen Southwest Orlando Campus a more integral and permanent part of the Jewish community,” said Harris Rosen.

Rouben Sami of Maitland, one of the last Monuments Men, finally received recognition for his work after WWII restoring and returning books, Torah Scrolls and other artifacts to their rightful countries. He received the Congressional Gold Medal—Congress’ highest civilian honor in recognition of distinguished achievements and contributions.

A Jewish Outreach INitiative, J.O.IN. Orlando, settled into the Orlando area to encourage a unified Jewish community. J.O.IN. founders, Michoel Rennert, Gabi Gittleson and Menachem Zev Kramer came with their families organized a Jewish Family Fun Day and also introduced the Orlando Jewish community to The Shabbat Project.


The Jewish Community Relations Council, under the leadership of Ina Porth remembered the Civil Rights Act with a Bagels and Grits program and a reminder that the work must continue to bring about racial equality.

Harriett Lake held the “sale of the century,” offering for sale 4,500 hanging items, 1,600 hats and more than 450 pairs of shoes. The money raised benefitted The Orlando Ballet and a boutique for cancer survivors at the MD Anderson Cancer Center.

It was the month of honors:

The Roth Family JCC honored Shayna Cai Presser Parenting Center founders, Es Cohen and her sons Matt and Justin Presser, at a 20-year anniversary celebration of the opening of the Center, now known as Shayna’s Village.

JFS Orlando honored Sol Schick with the George Wolly Leadership award.

JNF honored Tess Wise at its annual Tree of Life dinner.

RAISE program founder, Loren London, spoke at one of the annual General Assembly’s breakout “Fedovation” sessions. She was one of four presenters of innovative programs for persons with special needs.

First “Man of the Year” event brought together four Conservative Congregation’s Men’s Clubs to honor one person from each synagogue for their outstanding leadership. The honorees were Dr. Neal Silverstein of Congregation Beth Am, David Pelzman of Temple Beth Sholom, Joe Ihn of Temple Israel and Richard Schwartz of Congregation Ohev Shalom.

Laurence Morrell signed up for the Golden Age Games in Sanford for one “last hurrah” as he competed in three meets: the 500 gm javelin toss, 1K discus and 4K shot put throws, and won three medals! Not bad for a 72-year-old.


The Jewish Pavilion honored its volunteers at the JP Connections luncheon. This year, Norma Ball and Pamela Ruben were honored as Volunteers of the Year.

Temple Israel celebrated its 60th anniversary. The congregation was founded in 1954 with 89 charter members.

Chabad of North Orlando celebrated the completion of its first Torah.

Debbie Meitin was appointed president of the JNF Board on Orlando.


Temple L’Chayim celebrated its grand re-opening.

Temple Shir Shalom celebrates its b’nai mitzvah.

Temple L’Chayim held a grand re-opening at its new location in Clermont.


The Orlando Sentinel honored Harriett Lake as the 2014 Central Floridian of the Year for her generous financial support of many organizations within Central Florida.

The Jewish Academy of Orlando’s principal, Shari Wladis, was elected to the Florida Kindergarten Council Board of Directors. Her goal on this board “is to continue to encourage Florida Independent Schools and educators to develop curriculum that meets the needs of diverse learners.”

Eliana Gershon became the new youth director at Temple Israel.

The Jewish Pavilion honored Mark and Susie Stone and Marty and Emily Glickstein at their annual Gala.

BBYO North Florida Region swept the awards a t the International Convention. Jay Kohler, volunteer adviser of Rebels AZA #442 was selected out of hundreds of advisers as Adviser of the Year.


The Kinneret Council on Aging honored the “8 Over 80” at their annual dinner. Those honored were Mark Silverberg, Harvey Titen, Sandy Silbert, Avie Abramowitz, Morris Rashy, Helen Hosid, Betty Stein and Ron Shader.

The American Hebrew Academy Honor Society inducted seven local students: Eli Basher, Ofree Basher, Eli Finkelstein, Jordan Harris, Frances Hoffen, Aaron Soll and Ashlinn Thomas.

The Jack & Lee Rosen JCC hired its first executive director. Bonnie Rayman took the helm, making the JCC a legal entity of its own. “This marks a change in direction from the Roth Family JCC and a renewed focus on Southwest Orlando.”

Anti-Semitism on the USF campus was the topic of the day. One Central Florida mother notified the Heritage of her daughter’s description of the “bullying tactics” of the campus chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine.

More than 1500 teens attended CTeen Shabbaton in Times Square—40 of whom were from Central Florida. The group was led by Rabbi Yanky Majesky of Chabad North Orlando, Rabbi Ed Liebowitz of Chabad in Maitland, Rabbi Yosef Konikov of Chabad South Orlando, and Rabbi Shmuel Konikov of Chabad of Greater Daytona.

Ed and Susie Kleiman and Pearl and Howard Lefkowitz were honored by the Roth Family JCC at its annual J Ball in recognition of their decades of commitment and support of the JCC and the Orlando community.

The Jewish Pavilion’s Orlando Senior Help Desk was one of 38 nonprofit organizations across the nation to receive a grant from the Griswold Cares Foundation

Jewish Academy of Orlando students Jordan Weiss, Jordan Gebaide, Aaron Soll, Elie Basher and Eli Finkelstein qualified to participate in the MATHCOUNTS Competition Series.


Chabad of South Orlando moved into its new shul—an 11,000-square-foot facility. The Center of Jewish Life is located at 7347 Sand Lake Road in Orlando.

JFS Orlando was awarded a $20K grant from the William J. and Dorothy K. O’Neill Foundation.


“Fiddler on the Roof” opened at The Roth Family JCC’s relaunched Theater at the J, managed by Kerry Giese and Amanda Giese, reviving the famous play during its 50th anniversary. The starring cast included Rabbi David Kay as Lazar Wolfe, Tom Limbacher as Tevye and Peri Goldberg as Golde.

The Jewish Pavilion honored Susan Livingstone at its annual fashion show, and also honored Jewish Pavilion founders Sheryl and Julian Meitin at its annual Pavilion Golf Society tournament.

JFS Orlando honored Madeline Wolly for her leadership role at the organization.

Seminole County School Board dropped Yom Kippur as a nonattendance day.

The Temple Shir Shalom congregation said goodbye to its cantorial leader Beth Schafer, who has served in this community for 20 years. Schafer assumed the Bunzl Family Cantorial Chair of Temple Sinai in Atlanta.

Rep. John Mica met with members of Central Florida Hillel to discuss the latest situation in the Middle East.

Sonya Baumstein, the young rower from Winter Park, set sail to set a world record as the only female rowing soloist to row from Japan to San Francisco. Her trip was cut short by bad weather after only one week.

Fourteen Jewish Academy of Orlando students celebrated their graduation from the eighth grade.

The Holocaust Center honored Susan and Gordon Arkin with the White Rose Award at its annual Dinner of Tribute.


After 31 years of service at the Richard S. Adler Early Childhood Center, JCC preschool team supervisor Marcy Rosenbaum retired to move to Atlanta where her daughter lives. Once there, Rosenbaum planned to “run to the JCC” and find a part time job.

The Rosen JCC broke ground on an expansion of its facility. The expansion will include a theater/auditorium, youth wing and more area for the Early Childhood Learning Center.

The Jewish Federation of Greater Orlando met and surpassed its goal of $1 million for the Annual Campaign.

Temple Shir Shalom welcomed its new cantorial leader, Kim Singer.


Hillel International ranked the University of Central Florida as the South’s No. 1 Hillel in its “Hillel College Guide: The Official Hillel Guide to Jewish Life on Campus.”

The Heritage Florida Jewish News selected Berny Raff as the recipient of this year’s Human Service Award for his more than 30 years of dedicated community service.

Eva Ritt of Winter Park donated her personal collection of letters, photos and newspaper articles about the Soviet Jewry movement in the 1980s to Yeshiva University. In the 1970s, Ritt spearheaded a grass roots movement to help bring attention to Soviet Jews, known as Refuseniks, who were being persecuted by the government.

Chabad of North Orlando moved into its new shul in Lake Mary.


The Central Florida Jewish community begins taking sides on the Iran Nuclear Deal. JFGO doesn’t take a stand, however, supplies lots of information about the deal via its website, hosts AIPAC speakers to give a briefing on the deal, and holds a community forum with speakers U.S. Representative Alan Grayson and Dr. Mattew Kroenig, an expert on nuclear deterrence and proliferation. The forum was moderated by Lauren Rowe.

A new Kosher restaurant opened at Northview, UCF’s off campus apartment building. The Pantry Café offers an array of kosher delights and also does catering.

The Jewish community’s own local magician, Kostya Kimlat, did fool magicians Penn and Teller on their TV show “Penn & Teller: Fool Us.” He now gets to perform in Las Vegas with the famous duo.


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