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

5781 Community Year in Review


August 27, 2021

Photos in Special Issues Section

September 2020

The country was still under COVID-19 mandates and Jewish organizations were getting creative in how to continue some programs. One such program was the Jewish Academy of Orlando’s performance of “Alice in Wonderland.” Originally planned for May, then rescheduled for October, became a video production. The video was filmed in the fall and released later in the year.

A few members of the Jewish community ran for offices: Lynn Moira Dictor ran for Seminole County Tax Collector, Tracey Kagan ran for State House Representative in District 29 (Seminole County) and Patricia Sigman ran for State Senate.

Politics caused a great divide all across the United States, but here at The Heritage two employees — devout Democrat Gil Dombrosky and devout Republican Johnny Johnson — didn’t let politics interfere with their friendship and each one took the other’s political jabs in stride.

October 2020

The Holocaust Memorial Resource & Education Center of Florida partnered with USC Shoah Foundation — the Institute for Visual History and Education. This marks the first time USC Shoah Foundation has teamed with a Holocaust Museum to design, develop and implement a ground-up and permanent museum-wide exhibition.

November 2020

For the first time, attendees of the Central Florida Jewish Film Festival watched the movies from the comfort of their own couches. Two of the films, “Resemblance” and “The Shabbos Goy” — were written and produced by locals. Mysterious “Resemblance” was written, directed and produced by Kevin J. O’Neill and Bethanne Weiss was the executive producer. The hilarious “The Shabbos Goy” was written and directed by Talia Osteen.

Alan Rusonik, Jewish Academy of Orlando head of school, announced he would bid farewell at the end of the school year.

The ZOA Gala honored Staci and Dr. Daniel Layish as “Zionists in the Spotlight.”

December 2020

The Holocaust Memorial Resource & Education Center hosted an exhibit titled “Uprooting Prejudice: Faces of Change,” an exhibit of 45 photos taken by photographer John Noltner in the aftermath of George Floyd’s death in police custody. Even though there was no mention of Floyd in the exhibit, many were deeply offended.

January 2021

Rachel Rosenberg O’Brien was selected as executive director of Congregation Ohev Shalom.

The Jewish Federation of Greater Orlando started a community survey, conducted by the Cohen Center for Modern Jewish Studies at Brandeis University.

February 2021

The 2021 Kinneret Council on Aging 8 Over 80 honorees were Louis Feinberg, Harvey Kobrin, Marc Katzen, Barry Rubenstein, Renee Roberts, Susan Bierman, Roz Weinstein and Ruth Darvin.

Gili’s Food Truck began serving customers in southwest Orlando. Rabbi Yanky Majesky asked if they could come to Longwood and residents in and around Longwood could also enjoy kosher food brought to them by Gili’s.

Community member Pearl Halikman had her memoir published and released this month. Local writer Pam Ruben sat with Halikman over a period of a couple years to put together “A Pearl and her King.”

March 2021

Dr. Moshe Pelli was awarded professor emeritus status for his distinguished performance, outstanding contributions and exceptional service to the UCF community.

Amy Polacek was selected as the new principal of the Jewish Academy of Orlando.

April 2021

The Massey family — James Farrell and Andrea Massy-Farrel, Jann and Tony Massey, Harvey and Carol Massey, and Angela and Shane Riganese — received the Tess Wise White Rose award.

Bruce Gould produced a film about the life of Menachem Begin, “Upheavel: The Journey of Menachem Begin,” which was shown virtually at the Miami Jewish Film Festival. Plans are underway to stream it on HBO or Cinemax, NetFlix and Prime.

Rabbi Joshua Neely and Dr. Bernie Kahn were recognized for their efforts in reopening Temple Israel safely for in-person services.

The Kinneret Board of Directors approved a plan to sell the Kinneret Apartments located in downtown Orlando to a qualified buyer.

May 2021

Congregation Ohev Shalom hired an interim rabbi, Rabbi Murray Ezring, who will assume his duties in August. Rabbi David Kay announced in November that he would leave at the completion of his contract with COS, July 3, 2021.

An antisemitic group called the Goyim Defense League protested at The Roth Family JCC against the Holocaust Memorial Resource & Education Center.

A community-wide event was held to educate the community about the dangers of drugs in our own back yard.

As Hamas and Hezbollah pelted Israel with rockets, rallies were held across the U.S. to show support for Israel. The local Israeli-American Council participated in a coast-to-coast rally supporting Israel. Two weeks later, Jews and Christians showed their support for Israel in a rally also held at Lake Eola.

June 2021

JFS Orlando was chosen as the June beneficiary of the Winn-Dixie Community Bag program. JFS received $1 donation every time the $2.50 reusable bag was purchased during June.

Whisper, whisper, what happened at Trader Joe’s? An employee at a local Trader Joe’s refused to service a Jewish customer. The woman contacted Israeli-American Council Director Idit Lotringer. Both JFGO CEO Keith Dvorchik and Lotringer took action to bring this matter to the attention of the CEO of Trader Joe’s. Dvorchik also contacted Florida Representatives Randy Fine and Michael Gottlieb. “I don’t think it would have had the outcome it did without the Federation’s involvement and being able to get bi-partisan support from the Florida legislators,” said Dvorchik.

An in-person and zoom meeting to address the growing antisemitism throughout the country was held with Keith Dvorchik and Aaron Weil, CEO of Central Florida Hillel. More than 80 people zoomed in.

Congregation Beth Am hired Rabbi David Barnett as interim rabbi.

July 2021

Mel Pearlman, Heritage columnist, won an American Jewish Press Association award

Hunter Gold took over the helm as Central Florida Hillel CEO as Aaron Weil leaves to return to Israel with his family.

The mayor of Maitland, John Lowndes, decreed that July 31, 2021, would be Rabbi David Kay Day.

August 2021

Bruce Gould was the 34th recipient of the Heritage Human Service Award.

As 5781 comes to a close, the Central Florida Jewish community says goodbye to Aaron and Sharon Weil, Rabbi David Kay, and JAO Head of School Alan Rusonik.


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