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

JFGO meeting, short but sweet


September 1, 2017

Sara Stern and Jeff Gaeser pose with the Human Service Award plaque.

The turn out for the Jewish Federation of Greater Orlando's Annual Meeting wasn't as large as in past years. Perhaps the weather, casting a gloomy, gray, cloud-covered sky that threatened rain, put a damper on many families' plans to come because this year's annual meeting was also billed as Family Fun Day that included a picnic.

Another change in the meeting was the agenda. It was much shorter -less than an hour to go through all the protocol: the approval of last year's minutes, the announcement of the Federation's strategic vision, nominating committee report, election and installation of new officers and Board members, the president's report, and recognizing the Mensch Hall of Fame recipients.

The only award given during the hour was the Heritage Human Service Award, given by Jeff Gaeser to Sara Stern, who received a standing ovation as she came to the podium to accept the award (and another standing ovation after she gave her acceptance speech).

Michael Soll, immediate past president, speaking on behalf of Board President Rhonda Forest who was called away on a family emergency, expressed appreciation for Olga Yorish, outgoing executive director, who came during hard times for the Federation and taught the board members and officers to believe in themselves. With that mindset, much was accomplished: the Campus 2020 campaign raised and leveraged $2.5 million, reducing the $5.8 million debt to $3.2 million; The Jewish Academy building is now under contract for $2.75 million and a memory-care facility will eventually fill the space; the PJ Library/PJ Our Way program started and grew to one of the largest in the country; and Israel Connections, a program for mothers to visit Israel, launched with the third group to travel to Israel this coming November.

Now the Federation is setting the stage for the future, and the path forward is strategic re-alignment and adapting with a new generation in mind. More emphasis will be put on stewardship, security and support.

Soll shared a few 2018 initiatives coming up: an online community directory; an as-needed, part-time grant writer to be available to programs or organizations that need a grant writer; and more agency-centric leadership development. Until an executive director is hired, a task force will be in place to support the day-to-day operations, which will be handled by the Board officers; define the vision of strategy, re-alignment and research; and assigning or forming a committee to do the search for a new executive director.

Upcoming events include a discussion on campus security for local Jewish organizations in October, and in November, a communitywide Men's event, which will involve all the synagogue Men's Clubs.

At the conclusion of the "business" part of the meeting, attendees ventured outside-or opted to stay indoors-with their Bagel King meals. At 1 p.m., the Campus 2020 Donor's Grove was dedicated. Honored were the 24 families and individuals who generously supported the Campus 2020 Debt Retirement Campaign.


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