5779 Community Year In Review
September 20, 2019
Kehilat Yonatan, a Reform congregation in Hod HaSharon, Israel, finally won the right to build their shul. Land was allocated to the congregation in 2013 and they raised the necessary funds to build, just had to wait for the OK. Former Orlando resident, Lori Stein Erlich, came to Orlando in 2014 to visit her parents, Nira and Arnold Stein, and shared their ongoing fundraising and fight to build with Heritage.
Madeline Wolly passed away.
Harriett Lake’s wardrobe lives on in a coffee-table book—and the article won Heritage a First Place trophy. More than 6,000 Christians celebrated Sukkot with Israel. Yehudi educators Rabbi Yisrael and Tamar Abisror joined the Central Florida Hillel staff at UCF. Nikki Haley will resign at the end of the year as U.S. ambassador to the U.N. Israel reached out and helped Hurricane Michael victims in northwest Florida and North Carolina. Eleven people were heartlessly killed in a Pittsburgh synagogue. The Orlando Jewish community reacted with two vigils—one held by Chabad and one by the Congregation of Reform Judaism. In a stand of unity with the Jewish people, the Mourner’s Kaddish was printed on the front page of the Pittsburgh Post –Gazette. Harris Rosen received the inaugural Lifetime Achievement Honor from Orlando Business Journal’s Diversity in Business awards.
Orlando was the first city outside of Israel to host the Jerusalem Prayer Breakfast, which began in June 2017 at the Israeli Knesset. Israeli Ambassador Danny Danon was the main speaker. Stetson University and the Ginsburg Family Foundation announced the establishment of the Jeffrey and Diane Ginsburg Hillel House and a $2 million gift to renovate, update and furnish in the Tudor-style house on property. The men of the community held the second annual Men’s Night Out event, raising more than $32,000 to support religious schools, Jewish education, Jewish camps and youth groups, and trips to Israel-all life-defining Jewish experiences.
Nina and Dr. Ron Oppenheim were honored at the Jewish Academy of Orlando’s annual gala. George H.W. Bush dies at age 94. Eric Geboff resigned his position as executive director of JFS Orlando. Mike McKee, former president of the board, assumed the interim executive director position. Meril Salzburg was selected as co-president of JNF Orlando. Artist Stephen Gamson got his own day in Miami Beach as the mayor proclaimed Dec. 3 as “Stephen Gamson Day.”
Rabbi Joshua Neely signed a 9.5-year contract with Temple Israel. Dr. Reuben L. Romirowsky becomes the executive director of the Rosen JCC. The Jewish Federation JCRC members were among more than 100 people who participated in a march through downtown Orlando in support of the Martin Luther King Interfaith ceremony. Fifth graders at the Jewish Academy of Orlando dedicated a garden of kindness and broke ground for the Gan Shel Chesed garden. In the center of the garden the fifth graders planted an olive tree.
Roz Fuchs and Thad Seymour, Jr. were honored at the JNF Tree of Life gala. Idit Lotringer began a chapter of the Israeli-American Council as the Orlando regional manager. The Orlando Torah Academy welcomed a new Sefer Torah/Torah Scroll with a community-wide celebration. The Jewish Federation of Greater Orlando and The Roth Family JCC formed the JFed Alliance, combining the two organizations. Keith Dvorchik serves concurrently as CEO of JFGO and the JCC. The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket lifted off Cape Canaveral carrying the SpaceIL Lunar Lander named Beresheet. Holocaust Memorial Resource & Education Center publicly launched its campaign to raise funds for its new museum in downtown Orlando.
Kinneret Council of Aging honored the 8 Over 80 recipients—Gilbert Walker, Key Howard, Bruce Burpee, Joel Jones, Sandra Moss, Sonja Marchesano, Fayge S. Cohen and Rose Ellen Fenster. Congregation Ohev Shalom and members of the Orlando community celebrated Rabbi Aaron Rubinger’s accomplishments and honored him for his more than 28 years of services as the COS rabbi. Stuart and JoAnn Farb were honored at The Roth Family JCC JBall. The Roth Family JCC became debt-free for the first time in a generation thanks in part to a successful 24-hour fundraiser. JFS Orlando rededicated the Wolly Center with its new name, The George & Madeline Wolly Center.
The space craft Beresheet crashed on the moon just before it was supposed to land, to the disappointment of everyone. Orange County couple, Eric and Wendy Nissan, went up against Orange County School Board over anti-Semitic curriculum. Octogenarian Bob Herpe wrote his first mystery novel.
Jewish Academy fifth graders dedicated the student-inspired Kindness Garden, Gan Shel Chesed. JFGO and JCRC spoke out against anti-Israel rant in the Orlando Sentinel commentary. JCRC director Ben Friedman, JFGO president Brad Jacobs and executive director Keith Dvorchik wrote that the writers of the commentary was to “undermin[e] the legitimacy of America’s greatest ally...” Jewish Academy of Orlando students performed in a sold-out showing of “Junie B. Jones—the Musical.” Congregation Beth Sholom dedicated a new Ark of the Torah. Cantor Jacqueline Rawiszer honored with ACC President’s Award for volunteerism.
Kinneret resident George Braunstein’s helmet from WWII was discovered by Frenchman Jean-Frederic Voltz, who found Braunstein after years of searching. Braunstein’s helmet was ‘lost’ when he was wounded Nov. 26, 1944. A French newspaper and the Heritage ran the story of the “reunion.”
At the annual Jewish Federation meeting, Jeff Gaeser presented Dick Weiner with the Heritage Human Service Award, Abby Nelson received the Byron B. Selber Young Leadership Award from Selber’s daughters Marni Chepenik and Mindy Shams, and the Jerome J. Bornstein Leadership Award was presented by Ryan Lefkowitz to Robert Gebaide. JFS Orlando hired a new executive director, Phil Flynn. Congregation Ohev Shalom’s computers were hacked. Two new StandWithUs interns were chosen for the upcoming school year: Samantha Gabbai, a senior at Winter Park High School and UCF student Danielle Garsten as SWU’s Emerson Fellow. The virtual Kehillah Exhibit launched its online exhibit at orlandojewishhistory.com
Hurricane Dorian stayed off shore as it whirled up the Florida coast, but not before heaping severe destruction on The Bahamas’ islands of Abaco and Grand Bahama. Several Jewish groups—including IsraAID, B’nai B’rith International and Chabad—organized emergency response teams and supplies to help the people left homeless in the wake of the storm.