Central Florida's Independent Jewish Voice

It will be 'A Starry Night' at Jewish Academy of Orlando's annual Gala

The Jewish Academy of Orlando is honoring the Render family and presenting a lifetime achievement award to the Katzen family at this year's annual gala. The event is on Saturday, Nov. 7 at the Hilton Orlando/Altamonte Springs at 6:30 p.m. with the theme "A Starry Night."

"This year, we take take great pleasure in honoring two supporting families," said Alan Rusonik, Head of School. "Barry and Donna Render have been involved for many years; and we are so pleased to recognize their significant support of the school and Jewish education in the Orlando community."

Jewish Academy of Orlando is presenting a lifetime achievement award to the Marc and Henrietta Katzen for decades of support. " We are acknowledging the limitless contributions of the Katzen family; they have been integral in the day school's success and sustenance for over 35 years," says Rusonik. Having been involved in the school from almost its inception, Marc and Henrietta's philanthropy to the Jewish Academy inspires others to join their efforts.

"We are delighted to celebrate everything these two outstanding families have done for the community!" says Amanda Jacobson Nappi, Co-Chair of this year's annual gala. The event promises to have delicious food, cocktails, a Jazz band, lively conversation, and inspiring remarks, all while gathered at the Hilton Altamonte Springs-- where the room will be transformed into Vincent Van Gogh's Starry Night. "The night will have many surprises, including a wine pull," says Nappi. There will also be exciting live and silent auction items. Proceeds from the Gala will provide critical funds to ensure a strong and thriving future for the Jewish Academy of Orlando.

Raised in small, rural Pennsylvania towns, Henrietta and Marc Katzen each faced challenges in being Jewish, yet understood at an early age that tzdakah (charity), community service, leadership and a Jewish day school are integral to a strong Jewish community. These lessons continually inspire them to give back to their community at every opportunity and have made them critical to Orlando's Jewish Community.

Marc graduated from Penn State with a BS and MBA; he also received a JD from Dickinson Law, now affiliated with Penn State. Henrietta received a BS and MS in Child Development from Penn State and did post graduate work in higher education at Penn State.

Upon moving to Orlando in 1980, their son, Hirsh, and thereafter their grandchildren, attended Hebrew Day School (now the Jewish Academy of Orlando). "A day school in Orlando was one of the reasons we relocated here," says Henrietta. Henrietta and Marc immediately became engaged in the school community, with Henrietta serving as Financial Secretary and Co-President of its Board of Directors, Volunteer Interim Director of the school, founding Grandparents Day Program Chair, Endowment and Planned Giving Liaison and Grand Gala Chair.

In his early years in Orlando, Marc oversaw construction of the office annex at the original Hebrew Day School building. Later, Marc had a vision to build the day school around technology, which could be used as a vehicle for recruitment and retention. That vision led to unprecedented growth in the school. Today, Marc's passion and determination has helped the school remain at the cutting edge of the latest technological advances, resulting in the Apple Distinguished School award and the new Innovation Lab.

Both Marc and Henrietta have advanced many causes and produced enduring benefits for the developmentally disabled, senior citizens and affordable housing. They served in leadership roles of many Jewish and non-Jewish organizations, including the Holocaust Center, Lions Club, Kiwanis, the JCs, Hadassah, Orlando Museum of Art, The Orlando Philharmonic, Orlando Ballet, Shakespeare Theater, Jewish Museum of Florida in Miami, Israel Bonds and the Jewish Federation. Henrietta was a Lion of Judah and Pacesetter Division chair; she established an endowment to perpetuate their Pacesetter's gift. Both have been Tampa Orlando Pinellas Jewish Community Foundation Trustees (TOP), and Henrietta served as TOP secretary and marketing chair. The Katzens started many Funds in TOP to benefit JAO and have also set up funds to benefit Temple Israel, the Federation, Jewish Pavilion, Hillel and the Holocaust Center.

The Katzens have a special interest in Hillel, particularly Central Florida Hillel, and also have supported Hillel of their alma mater and at the colleges where their children and grandchildren have attended. "We are particularly proud of our son Hank's leadership in the Central Florida Hillel" says Marc. "We have been pleased to be able to help fund the new 600-bed NorthView facility ... the home of Central Florida Hillel."

Both Henrietta and Marc have received numerous honors and awards, including the Byron Selber Young Leadership Award from the Jewish Federation. They were also honored by State of Israel Bonds with the Celebration of Life Award and a "Dreamers" recognition by the Holocaust Center at their 20th Anniversary Dinner.

Barry Render was raised in Dubuque, Iowa and Chicago, Illinois. He attended Roosevelt University and Hebrew University (Jerusalem) for undergraduate degree and attended the University of Cincinnati for his masters and PHd in Quantitative Analysis and Math.

His day school involvement included creating the annual Poker Fundraiser for its first three years, served on the Board, served on the Tuition Assistance Committee, chaired the Marketing Committee, where he designed and conducted the annual survey of parents and co-taught two courses in the middle school (advanced math and entrepreneurship). Barry has had leadership roles at the Rollins College Hillel, AIPAC, Kinneret and the JCC.

Barry worked in academia for over 37 years, 20 of them here in Winter Park, at the Rollins College Graduate School of Business. He has also been very involved in academic associations in the operations management/ management science fields. Although Barry retired six years ago, he is still very active at Rollins College and abroad, guest lecturing; in fact he is a Charles Harwood Professor of Operations Management Emeritus. He has also co-authored over 50 text books in his field.

Donna Render was born and raised in Orlando. She attained both her undergraduate and law degrees from the University of Florida. Donna began her interest and support of the school through her nieces and continued with their two sons. Barry and Donna's sons, Charlie and Jesse, attended the Hebrew Day School (now Jewish Academy of Orlando) from Kindergarten through 8th grade. Donna served on the school's Board of Directors and as President of Horim U'Morim, its parent teacher organization, spearheading fundraising efforts as the "Wall of Opportunity" which graces the halls today.

"One of the projects I am most proud of is the lunch program," says Donna. When they came to Hebrew Day School, the lunch program was run entirely by volunteer parents.  Kosher lunches were brought in and served.  When Donna was HUM (Horim U' Morim) president, she expanded the vendors and hired women to set up and serve lunch.  Donna explains, "It might not sound like a big deal, but it was.  Even with the change, lunch still required many volunteer hours. " Lunch was very important because aside from feeding the students, it was HUM's biggest money maker.  Donna was on the board at Hebrew Day School and served as HUM president for two years.

Not only have they supported the school, they have led the school. With board positions and committee positions they have made quite a difference. "This gala night, we celebrate their contributions to our school and to our community as a whole," says Rusonik

Tickets to A Starry Night are $125 per person, which includes a delicious dinner, live jazz music, dancing by Two Left Feet, magical entertainment and a live and silent auction.

The annual Gala is a wonderful opportunity to celebrate the accomplishments at the Jewish Academy of Orlando while mingling with friends and family from the community.

The event is Saturday, Nov. 7 at the Hilton Orlando/Altamonte Springs, starting at 6:30pm. To buy tickets, please visit http://www.jewishacademyorlando.org

To learn more about the Jewish Academy Gala, please call Summer Simmons at 407-647-0713.


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