Orlando Jewish life exhibit
For a year and a half, 53 community volunteers have been working with me on an exciting project. We are putting together an exhibit of the history of the Orlando Jewish community and the many contributions we have made to life in Central Florida. With the completion of the first phase of our exhibit, Kehillah: A Century of Jewish Life in Greater Orlando, and the declining days of 2016 coinciding, I have been reflecting on childhood memories in Orlando.
Joining a lifetime of family memories, are “fishathons” on Lake Lucerne, community Lag B’Omer picnics at Sanlando Springs, getting on the bus at McKeller Cadillac to go to the Central Florida Jewish Community Council day camp on Big Sand Lake, weekly AZA and BBG meetings at Ohev Shalom on Church St., movies at the Beacham and shopping downtown to name a few. For this Edgewater High School graduate, class of 1964, Orlando has changed so much in my lifetime.
In the process of working on this project, I had the opportunity to explore the lives and accomplishments of people who were part of my childhood. Many, now deceased, were my parents’ friends whom I mostly knew in that context. What an eye opener it has been to realize the amazing accomplishments of that “Greatest Generation.” How privileged I feel to have, in a sense, met them again on an adult level. Others we highlight grew up in Orlando and went on to accomplish amazing things here or elsewhere. The more information we gathered, the more I realized the extent of pride from our relatively small Jewish community.
The exhibit, now in the hands of the Orange County Regional History Center to design and produce, does not open until November 2017. However, I want to share my excitement now about this project and thank the many volunteers and sponsors who have made this extraordinary venture possible. As a collaborative effort, we have volunteers from multiple congregations, every agency and the community at large. Guiding us each step of the way with incredible dedication has been our guest curator, Marcia Zerivitz. Marcia is the founding executive director of the Jewish Museum of Florida—Florida International University, and was a former Orlando resident and president of the Jewish Federation of Greater Orlando. At one time, she was also the assistant director of the Federation. Lisa Schwartz has been invaluable creating and organizing the database and Richard Schwartz has scanned many of the more than 2000 photos and items that were loaned for us to archive. Exhibit space is limited to about 500 items, so only a portion of items will actually be on display. Rachel Heimovics, a retired editor and author, helped Marcia with the daunting task of editing the text for the exhibit. Other volunteers collected materials, took photographs, wrote and researched for this exhibit, and conducted oral histories and I will share their names another time. Kehillah will bear witness to all of their hard work.
This exhibit is being presented in cooperation with the Orange County Regional History Center. Their enthusiasm, professional assistance and expertise have been generous and encouraging from the first day we met and discussed the idea of this exhibit with them, and we have created a great working partnership.
Kehillah sponsors include Founder Sponsors: Jewish Federation of Greater Orlando and Susan and Jerry Roth; Pillar Sponsors: Kathy and Berl Brechner, Bruce K. Gould Foundation, Heller Bros. and Jewish Museum of Florida-Florida International University; Builder Sponsors: Ettinger Sisters Marilyn Crotty and Roz Fuchs, Ginsburg Family Foundation, Greenberg Traurig, Henrietta and Marc Katzen, Heritage Florida Jewish News, Kobrin Family Foundation, Rhonda and Craig Pearlman, Universal Engineering Sciences-Israel Family, Weiner Family-Dick, Louise, Maura and Ben, and Judy and Bob Yarmuth.
Roz Fuchs is chairwoman of Kehillah: A Century of Jewish Life In Greater Orlando. Born and raised in Orlando, she is a past president of Jewish Federation of Greater Orlando and Hebrew Day School now Jewish Academy of Orlando.