Kehillah: A History of Jewish life in Greater Orlando opening November 12


October 13, 2017

The Kehillah Task Force worked for more than two years to plan, research, gather the information and write the text for this exhibition. Guided by Curator Marcia Jo Zerivitz and led by Chairwoman Roz Fuchs, the Task Force included the following people: Front row L-R: Marcia Jo Zerivitz, Roz Fuchs, Rosalie Levy, Susan Bierman, Malka Webman, Barbara Weinreich, Rachel Heimovics Braun, Mardi Shader, Teresa Finer, Eva Ritt; back row L-R: Stan Roberts, Sara Stern, Neil Webman, Lisa Schwartz, Amy Kimlat, Irwin Feldman, Emely Katz, Peter Burg, Arlene van de Rijn, Michael Soll, Laurence Morrell, Ava Maxwell, Judy Kahan Davis, Es Cohen, Lynn Dictor, Chris DeSouza, Debby Gendzier, Rhonda Forest. Task Force members not in photo: Melody Apter, David Bornstein, Pat Bornstein, Lauren Brown, Marli Porth Fanciullo, Sam Friedman, Leslie Feinberg, Joan Kimball, Renee Roberts, Sandi Saft, Richard Schwartz, Edward Zissman, Phyllis Zissman. Other team members: Research Assistants-Mark Cooper, Penny Gold, Eric Geboff, Miriam Josephs, Dick Katz, Hank Katzen, Spencer Kimball, Pam Kancher, Lorri Levine, Julian Meitin, Sheryl Meitin; Oral Histories: Roz Fuchs, Sharon Ginsburg, Eve Homburger, JoAnne Kane, Jodi Krinker, Laurie Shader Smith, Maura Weiner, Barbara Hara Weiss; Student Curriculum: Alan Rusonik and Lisa Sholk; Public Relations: David Bornstein and Lisa Levin.

From the tiny seed of an idea, an enormous community event has grown. In February of 2015, Sara Stern assembled a committee for Congregation Ohev Shalom to begin planning its centennial celebration. COS was the first chartered congregation in Central Florida, and thus, in both concrete and symbolic ways, represents the formalization of Jewish life in the area. The idea to create an exhibit exploring the 100-year history of the congregation intrigued the group, but rather than limit it to one segment of the community, they decided to expand the concept and make it a far-reaching project highlighting the entire history of Jewish life in Greater Orlando. The Orange County Regional History Center (OCRHC) was approached about hosting the exhibit and their leadership greeted the concept enthusiastically. Marcia Jo Zerivitz, a former leader in the Orlando Jewish community and founding executive director of the Jewish Museum of Florida-FIU, volunteered to serve as guest curator, and the original committee began working on a name and themes for the exhibit.

Thus Kehillah: A History of Jewish Life in Greater Orlando was born. Thematically based on the citrus industry-one of the early businesses that attracted Jews to the area-the exhibit will include more than 500 historical photographs, interactive displays, important artifacts that hearken back to past pioneers, and examples of current generations' contributions and extraordinary accomplishments.

Themes include Roots (Founders and Pioneers); Branches (Citrus, Agriculture & Retail); Seeds (Military, Israel, Civil Liberties, Soviet Jewry, Social Change); Growth (Defense, Technology, Business, Industry, Real Estate, Media, Hospitality, Education, Community Service, Arts & Culture); Caretakers (Congregations, Agencies & Organizations) and Blossoms (Philanthropists & Notables).

Do you know who the first permanent Jewish settler was in Central Florida, and did you know that he was also one of the area's first great philanthropists? Did you know that in the 1920s nearly 50 downtown Orlando businesses were owned and operated by Jews, and within 20 years that number grew to more than 200? You'll be able to explore this on an interactive map display.

Do you know who was largely responsible for desegregating public schools in Central Florida? Did you know the inventor of the Whack-A-Mole is a Jew from Central Florida? Do you know how many local Jewish philanthropists have made at least a $1 million gift to a local Jewish or non-Jewish community organization? You'll be able to discover all this and more while you peruse and enjoy the photographs and artifacts that detail more than a century of stories from pioneer Jewish families and later arrivals whose remarkable contributions are woven into the fabric of our region's history.

From the citrus barons and general store owners of the early 1900s to participants in world wars, from society's belles to social change agents, from artists and inventors to corporate leaders, Jews have helped shape the Orlando we know today. Learn about the individuals who enhanced our quality of life, influenced Central Florida society and, in some cases, changed the world. And at the same time, you'll discover something about who you are and what made Greater Orlando the community it is today, whether you are Jewish or not.

Kehillah: A History of Jewish Life in Greater Orlando, is a collaborative exhibition presented by its host institution, the Orange County Regional History Center, and the Greater Orlando Jewish Community. The exhibit will be on display from Nov. 12, 2017 through Feb. 20, 2018.


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