407-645-5933 ext. 236 marisa.west@shalomorlando.org


The past weeks have been filled with challenges.  Bombs falling on Israel, a rise in anti-Semitism throughout the country including things locally.  The news is filled with reports of increased Jew hatred and even Aaron Keyak, the US National Jewish Engagement Director, tweeted, “if you fear for your life or physical safety, take off your kippah and hide your (Star of David)”. Google’s Chief of Diversity was found to have stated in a 2007 tweet that Jews have an “insatiable appetite for war” (he has since been reassigned).  Officials at Rutgers University made a statement against anti-Semitism and then retracted it because it upset the anti-Israel, anti-Semitic population.  It’s easy to get depressed and be filled with worry and concern.


And then something happens like on Tuesday.  I got an email from Amanda Jacobson, both a parent and volunteer leader in our community, about her daughter’s upcoming Bat Mitzvah, and her Bat Mitzvah project.  Sammy Nappi, Amanda’s daughter, had a desire to expand the scope and opportunity for people to get involved and make a difference in our local community.  We met on Tuesday afternoon and my hope and faith were given an incredible boost.

For her project, Sammy is doing something she is calling, “Fierce Foster Friends”.  In Sammy’s own words, “Everyone deserves a loving family and a home of their own. Your family makes the home and foster children don’t have either a family or a home to call their own. Foster kids are often moved from temporary home to temporary home with few belongings and fewer friends.


The items we collect for them can make a foster child feel loved, wanted and seen by the community.”

Sammy is committed to collecting items for foster children and making a difference in the lives of people who don’t even know her.  She has done her research and knows that the items most needed are:

Backpacks, purses


Hand Sanitizer

Fuzzy Socks

Good toothbrushes and toothpaste

Silk pillow or bonnet for children of color

Tampons, pads

With all that is going on during the pandemic, it’s easy to forget about foster children.  To be honest, despite all the things I have been paying attention to during the past 16 months, foster children have not crossed my mind even once until she brought them up.

Hearing her passion for helping others, specifically those who ‘aren’t as fortunate as me’ was inspirational.  I do my best to help my children understand just how lucky they are and how fortunate we are as a family and to hear another child’s appreciation of what they have and how they wanted to help others who aren’t as fortunate was truly moving.  Her eyes lit up as she talked about the time she has spent with foster children and how important it is to her to help them and make a difference in the world.

I found myself ruminating on this throughout the rest of the week.  This is a core value of the Jewish Federation of Greater Orlando – making the world a better place, starting in our local community but also throughout the Jewish world and in Israel.  Through our partnership city of Kiryat Motzkin and the projects we fund there to help Holocaust Survivors and children at risk to our Coleman Israel  Scholarships to help teens in Orlando visit Israel and have a meaningful immersive experience; from our partnership with CC’s Wish List which gets new clothes to people in need to our new partnership with Temple B’nai Torah in Boca Raton’s TLC Program’s Little Free Pantry, bringing free little food pantries to Orlando; from our Food Cart from the Heart, ensuring those in need in our community have access to fresh fruits, vegetables, meat and dairy to our partnership with Jewish Family Services to ensure there is a community Rabbi available for those in need, the Federation’s goal is to make our community better, stronger and more vibrant.  As I write this, I hear the theme song from the old TV show, The Six Million Dollar Man in my head, as we can build it, “Better, Stronger, Faster.”  Your Jewish Federation is invested in making the lives of everybody in our community better.  We only do this through your help, both in volunteering and financial support which make these efforts happen.

I hope that Sammy Nappi’s words, efforts, and her Bat Mitzvah project inspires you the way it has inspired me.  I hope you will bring something to The Roth Family JCC lobby to drop off in our collection box for Fierce Foster Friends.  I hope you will make an effort to get more involved in our community – every organization, agency, and synagogue can use your help to make our community ‘better, stronger, faster’.  We can all do a little bit to change our local community and by changing our local community, we change the world.