5780 Community Year in Review


September 11, 2020

By Christine DeSouza

What a year of surprises 5780 was — and that is stating it in a good light. Everything was going along sort of smoothly. There was an Israeli presidential election that made half of the country very happy and half of it very upset. So, what’s new with that? The Jewish Film Festival was held in November at the Enzian to rave reviews thanks to the JCC committee that shuffled through a multitude of videos to select just seven for our entertainment. Dedications, openings and galas were held, awards were given … and then suddenly in March, things came to an abrupt halt. The Jewish community was thrust into a virtual world as agencies and organizations scrambled to find creative ways to help bring cultural events and education to the community through a medium called Zoom. Thankfully, we have survived and although the High Holidays are a little bit different this year, the festivals will be creatively observed, which brings us to this season.

September 2019

RAISE, Recognizing Abilities & Inclusion of Special Employees program sponsored by the Jewish Federation of Greater Orlando, announced two new logos. One logo promotes the ongoing program and the other, designated “RAISE on the Road,” will be used to market the successful program to other Jewish communities.

October 2019

The Jewish Pavilion honored Sharon Littman at the annual Gems and Jeans gala. Littman has been a Jewish Pavilion Friends Board member sine 2014.

November 2019

Tony Ruben, CEO of Blue Halo BioMedical, won Pitch Madness, the pitch competition held at Synapse Orlando. In this competition, which hosted 100 companies this year, start-up leaders face off for investment capital.

Television and radio presenter for Fox News and a New York Times bestselling author Brian Kilmeade spoke at the Roth Family JCC about his newest book “Sam Houston and the Alamo Avengers.”

The Rosen JCC shared plans for expansion at its “10th anniversary: Building the Future” event. Harris Rosen was honored with the JCC’s inaugural Community Builder award.

Local auther Ed Borowsky celebrated his first published novella, “The Great Mongolian Bowling League of the United States of America,” and won an international book award. That’s a nice way to enter the publishing arena! Borowsky also started a column titled “Jews in the Land of Disney” in the Heritage Florida Jewish Newspaper.

Stetson University Hillel Director Sam Friedman was pleased to annnouce the dedication of the Jeffrey & Diane Ginsburg Hillel House. “Hillel at Stetson,” Friedman said, “started with a little red wagon, and we have grown into a big red house …”

December 2019

Rabbi Mendy Bronstein opened the doors to the new Chabad Jewish Center of Altamonte Springs as attendees celebrated a grand opening at its new location 195 S. Westmonte Drive in Altamonte Springs.

Jewish Pavilion volunteers enjoyed a “friendraising” experience. Volunteers Randi Cunningham and Myrna Ossin were honored at the JP Connections luncheon.

Harris Rosen received the James B. Greene award from the Orlando Economic Partnership for all his contributions to the economic prosperity of the community.

January 2020

The Jewish Academy of Orlando honored Simon and Ellen Snyder and Jodi and David Krinker at the school’s annual gala.

Former Central Florida resident Marcia Jo Zerivitz published a new book titled “Jews of Florida — Centuries of Stories.” Zerivitz also initiated legislation for Florida Jewish History Month each January and Jewish American Heritage Month each May.

Central Florida Hillel was one of only five Hillels in North America to be recognized for its achievement in being among the Top 5 with the “Greatest Growth in Depth.”

The Roth Family JCC hosted Palestinian Ali Abu Awwad, an unique man who espoused the need for a change in the mindset of both Israelis and Palestinians.

February 2020

Chabad of UCF hosted a Mega Shabbat bringing more than 500 UCF Jewish students together for Shabbat dinner.

March 2020

Congratulations to this year’s “8 Over 80”: Barney Chepenik, Jes Baru, Henry Schilowitz, Harry Lowenstein, Joan Forino,Harriet Weiss, Elaine Gamson and Sandi Solomon.

BAM! And just like that, COVID-19 hit. The Jewish Federation of Greater Orlando CEO, Keith Dvorchik, shuttered the doors of the JCC for what he said would be two weeks, beginning March 16. The staff was temporarily cut to three employees. The plan was to reopen March 30, but later was extended to June 1.

Kinneret Apratments and KCOA issued heightened COVID-19 protocols to protect the 280-apartment residents.

April 2020

The Jewish Pavilion hosted a mask challenge, inviting the community to pitch in and make or buy masks for JP seniors living in assisted living.

Instead of large community Passover seders this year, Chabad assisted many in the community with Seder Kits for Passover. An estimated four million hand-baked shmurah matzahs were distributed by the Chabad-Lubavitch movement during the weeks leading up to Passover.

May 2020

Marc Homburger Jacobs, son of Brad Jacobs and Eve Homburger, earned the rank of Eagle Scout, completing his Board of Review via video conference.

Lynn Moira Dictor threw her hat in the ring for Seminole County Tax Collector.

JFS Orlando surpassed its goal in the Restock Challenge — inspite of COVID-19. With matching donations by the Weiner Family and The Winter Park Wealth Group, the total raised was $28,742.

No pandemic could halt the graduation of the preschoolers of the Richard S. Adler Early Childhood Learning Center in Maitland. In all, 63 families, teachers and administrators took part in the graduation ceremony held in the Roth JCC parking lot.

Another celebration was held creatively in May. For Lag B’Omer, four Chabads in Central Florida hosted a drive-in concert at the Epic Theatre Drive-in. Approximately 100 cars “drove-in” to enjoy the evening.

Yael Diamond was commissioned as an Army 2nd Lieutenant.

June 2020

A glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel maybe? The Roth Family JCC began to slowly reopen.

The Holocaust Memorial Resource & Education Center hosted all their events virtually, including the annual Dr. Norman M. Wall Teacher’s Institute on Holocaust Education. Some 40 teachers took zoomed into the seminar.

July 2020

Les Kramer, Ph.D., was inducted into the Florida Inventors Hall of Fame for the prosthetic foot he invented. The actual ceremony, along with seven others, was set for Sept. 11, 2020, but was delayed until next year.

Faye Novick was recognized for her two successful years as chairman of the Jewish Pavilion Board.

Cantor Bryce Megdal joined the Congregation of Reform Judaism.

August 2020

Hank Katzen was the recipient of this year’s Heritage Human Service Award. He received the award via Zoom with the Western Wall in Jerusalem as his backdrop. Very creative.

Abby Greene Sanchez is up for re-election to the Seminole County School Board and Patricia Sigman won the primary for state Senate, District 9. May they both be elected in 5781.

Talia Osteen wrote, directed and produced a short film “The Shabbos Goy,” which was shown at the Florida Film Festival, held at the Enzian. Two take aways about this film: It won Audience Award for Best Short Film, and Yisrael Dubov, son of Rabbi Sholom Dubov, is an actor in the film.

Congregation Ohev Shalom welcomed a new youth director, Jayme Epstein.

Local author, Joni Okun, won a gold medal E-Lit Award in the religious fiction category for her e-book “To Hold the Throne: A Novel of the Last Maccabee Princess and King Herod the Great.”


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