Congregation Beth Am Simchat Torah honorees-the Mayers and Cohens


Shown here (l-r): Mike Cohen, Joanna Cohen, Joanie Mayer and Tom Mayer.

Simchat Torah is one of the most joyous days in the Jewish year. On this day, synagogues and Jewish communities throughout the world study the closing words of Deuteronomy and immediately recite the opening words of Genesis. Acknowledging that the study of Torah is endless the last aliya with its theme of the death of Moses is followed immediately by the first aliya with its theme of Creation. The highest congregational honor one can receive is to be called to the Torah for the "last" aliya or for the "first aliya." An honoree for these aliyot is referred to as Hatan/Groom or Kala/Bride. Beth Am had chosen two exceptional couples to receive special Simchat Torah honors this year. For all of them, Congregation Beth Am has become deeply entwined in their lives and Congregation Beth Am had benefitted greatly from their contributions.

Joanie and Tom Mayer were honored as Kala and Hatan Torah. Tom and Joanie Mayer along with their sons, Robert and Shelby, have been members of Congregation Beth Am since September 1989; and all four members of the Mayer family have celebrated their b'nai mitzvah at Beth Am. For the majority of the time that the Mayers have been members, they have taken an active role in synagogue life. Joanie was president of the synagogue in l998 and Tom was president in 2002. Joanie has also served on the Board of Directors in the role of Membership vice president and Education vice president. When talking to Joanie about her accomplishments, the one that she is most proud of is the Congregation Beth Am Special Needs Committee. Today, Joanie is active with the Mitzvah Brigade handling the publicity and organizing the support teams and lends a helping hand to the catering committee. This past year she coordinated a Bylaws Revision committee. Tom has also served on the Board of Directors in the role of Ways and Means vice president. A strong supporter of the Mens Club and Bingo, he is the co-coordinator of the ushers for the High Holidays, serves on the Bylaws Committee and lends a helping hand whenever there is a call for help.

Joanna and Mike Cohen were honored as Kala and Hatan Braysheet. They have been members of Congregation Beth Am since 2004. During that time, Joanna taught Sunday School for eight years and Mike has been active in Men's Club and served as Campaign co-chair for the Education Wing fundraising effort. Mike is also the incoming president of the congregation for 2016. They both also have served and continue to serve on various committees. Mike moved to Orlando in 1996, just a few years after Joanna. They met at a Friday night Shabbat service on Valentine's Day and Mike was smitten. It took awhile longer for Joanna to get on board and the couple eventually married in 1998, residing in Winter Springs ever since. They are the proud parents of Rayna, who became a bat mitzvah in 2014, and Dara, who will become a bat mitzvah in May. Joanna is a first-grade teacher with Seminole County Schools and Mike is a subcontracts administrator for a defense contractor. They both look forward to staying active in all things Beth Am and in celebrating many more simchas with their Beth Am family.

The strength of Joanie and Tom Mayer and Joanna and Mike Cohen has brought strength to the entire Beth Am family. To all of them the extended family of Beth Am offered the traditional statement of appreciation, Y'yasher koch'khem, and honored them as Beth Am's Simchat Torah honorees for 5776.

For information on events and activities at Beth Am, consult the synagogue's web site at


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