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

Meet the women behind Choices 2016


Ronni Mendelsohn

Now in its 22nd year, Choices has become known as the premier women's philanthropy event in Central Florida. Each year, Choices organizers make it their goal to "raise the bar" by injecting a fresh dose of creativity while enhancing and refining the production value of the program, all with the goal of providing a meaningful, memorable and enjoyable evening for all who attend.

But pulling off a seamless production requires an incredible amount of heavy lifting behind the scenes, much of which falls on the shoulders of the Choices co-chairs.

Choices 2016 is fortunate to have three standout co-chairs, all equally dedicated to putting on a top-quality event on Feb. 9: Sandi Saft, Karen Selznick and Ronni Mendelsohn.

"Last year's Choices, by every measure, was an absolute hit," says JFGO Executive Director Olga Yorish. "The problem with success, though, is that you wonder how you are going to top yourself the next year."

Yorish knew that the key to an even more impressive Choices in 2016 would be finding just the right mix of talent, creativity and dedication when selecting co-chairs.

"I really feel like we hit the jackpot with Sandi, Karen and Ronni," Yorish says. "From the beginning, I was blown away by this trio's creativity, focus and attention to the smallest details. From securing sponsors to selecting our speakers, they have delivered in a big way. I can't wait for the women in our community to see the final product in February."

Here's a closer look at the three women behind this year's Choices:

Sandi Saft was raised in Miami and moved to Orlando from Pittsburgh in 1982 with husband Allen and sons Steve and Howard. She immediately became active in the Jewish community, serving on the JCC board and membership committees. Sandi also got involved at Congregation Ohev Shalom, holding several board positions and becoming the first female board president in 1993. She remains active with COS.

Sandi served on JFGO's board for several years in the mid-1990s, playing a role in the planning of the JCC South (Rosen JCC) land acquisition.

She is the founder of Windows Interiors, based in Altamonte Springs, and through the years has worked on notable projects in Central Florida. She has served as a speaker at events and on panels to foster entrepreneurship, including working as an ambassador for Athena PowerLink, a national agency for helping women start businesses.

She is engaged in philanthropic endeavors throughout Greater Orlando, such as The Jewish Pavilion, A Gift for Teaching, Florida Hospital for Children Foundation.

In 2015, the Small Business Administration named Sandi the Small Business Person of the Year for the North Florida District.

Karen Selznick has been involved in the Greater Orlando Jewish community for the past three decades. In addition to her work with several area organizations, Karen's family founded the Patricia R. Selznick Middle School at the Jewish Academy of Orlando.

While this is her first time serving as co-chair, Karen has been involved with Choices for many years, serving on several committees that worked behind the scenes to organize the fundraiser.

She was very actively involved with The Roth Family Jewish Community Center when her two daughters attended the JCC's preschool, and she remains a familiar face on the Maitland Jewish Community Campus as she serves as a volunteer job coach for JFGO's RAISE program, a work and social skills training program that provides paid employment for adults with special needs at partnering Jewish agencies.

Karen is a past board member of Jewish Family Services of Orlando and currently serves on the board of The Jewish Pavilion. As a representative of the Pavilion, Karen frequently visits seniors at Oakmonte Village, an assisted-living facility in Lake Mary.

Ronni Mendelsohn has been involved for several years as a volunteer for JFGO and other agencies on the Maitland Jewish Community Campus. A graduate of the Federation's 2006 Limmudim leadership development program, Ronni has been a reliable volunteer for JFGO and other agencies in our Jewish community.

Sandi Saft

Ronni is no stranger to Choices, having served as a Choices Ambassador for several years. She also has coordinated the popular Choices Raffle, soliciting donations, selling tickets and overseeing all the details to make it a successful fundraiser.

When she isn't volunteering, Ronni is a busy wife and the mother of three children, two of whom attended the Jewish Academy of Orlando in Maitland. She has assisted with the JAO's annual gala and other fundraising efforts. Ronni also has volunteered for The Roth Family Jewish Community Center.

In 2015, she was instrumental in helping to organize local participation in the Jewish Women's Renaissance Project trip to Israel. Eighteen women from Greater Orlando took part in the eight-day trip in October through the collaboration of JFGO and JOIN Orlando.


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