407-645-5933 ext. 236 info@jfgo.org

You have more time to get your free shofar!

We have had a tremendous response from community members who requested a free shofar from the Federation for our Sound the Shofar Community Celebration during Rosh Hashanah.

More than half of our beautiful shofarot (pictured) have been spoken for, but we are extending the deadline for one week only so as many people as possible have a chance to be a part of this very unique community celebration. Our goal: Make sure no one has to observe the high holidays without hearing the sound of the shofar in person.

Just fill out a shofar request online no later than 5:00 pm next Friday, August 7. We will let you know via email when and where you can pick up your shofar.

WHEN WILL I GET MY SHOFAR? If you have already requested a shofar, please note that we have moved the distribution time to the week of August 17, when you will be able to pick up your shofar at the Rosen or Roth Family JCC. Keep an eye on your inbox for specific dates and times.

I ALREADY HAVE A SHOFAR. HOW CAN I GET INVOLVED? We are seeking volunteer shofar-blowers — in fact, we’re counting on them — to make this celebration a success by visiting nursing homes and other care facilities to ensure residents there can also hear the sound of the shofar.. You can volunteer using the same request form on our website.

I DON’T KNOW HOW TO BLAST THE SHOFAR. We’ve got you covered. The Federation is providing free educational Zoom sessions on the fundamentals of shofar blowing. You’ll be sounding the shofar like a pro in no time!

Click the button below to request your free shofar and/or to volunteer. Remember, the final deadline to submit your request is 5:00 pm Friday, August 5, or until our supply of shofarot is exhausted.

Thank you to our generous donors who made this project possible and to all of our partners listed below.

Partner Synagogues

Chabad of South Orlando

Congregation Ohev Shalom

Havurah Tikva Hadasha

Southwest Orlando Jewish Congregation

Temple Israel

Temple Shir Shalom

Partner Agencies

Central Florida Hillel

Hillel at Rollins College

Havurah Tikva Hadasha

Holocaust Memorial Resource & Education Center

Hillel at Stetson University

Kinneret Council on Aging

The Jewish Pavilion

Rosen JCC

The Roth Family JCC

How to get a free shofar for the High Holidays

COVID-19 has brought us many challenges. One of them relates to the coming High Holidays and the mitzvah of hearing the sound of the shofar. With social distancing and many people choosing to not gather in groups, this year it is likely that many people will observe the High Holidays through virtual services. As such, many will hear the sound of shofar through the Internet but not in person.

As I wrote a few weeks ago in Fed Friday, the Jewish Federation of Greater Orlando has partnered with many of our synagogues and Jewish agencies with the goal of making sure as many people as possible in Greater Orlando can hear the blast of the shofar in person.

Synagogues will be providing outdoor soundings of the shofar in order to ensure people can be socially distanced, safe, and hear the shofar sound in person. In addition, the Jewish Federation has 200 shofarot that will be distributed free to members of our community, allowing families to sound the shofar at home while they are privately observing the holiday. The Federation is also providing educational Zoom sessions to learn how to blow the shofar. Finally, the Federation is working to get volunteers to visit nursing homes and senior facilities to ensure residents there can also hear the sound of the shofar.

Click the button below to request your free shofar and/or to volunteer. The deadline to apply is Friday, July 31, and you will be notified the week of August 3 about your shofar. You will be able to pick up your shofar at either the Rosen JCC or The Roth Family JCC the week of August 10. We will provide instrucitonal programs via Zoom the week of August 17.

Thank you to our generous donors who made this project possible and special thanks to all of our partners listed below.

Comfort in community

I remember 19 years ago today vividly as I am sure many of you do. When American Airlines Flight 11 hit the first tower, we thought it was an accident.  When United Airlines flight 175 hit the second tower, we knew something bad was happening. When American Airlines flight 77 hit the Pentagon we knew we were under attack. As South Tower collapsed, we watched in horror. We learned about United Airlines flight 93 crashing in Shanksville, PA and were gripped by fear. What would happen next? Where was the next attack going to be? Finally the North Tower collapsed and we began mourning. As I sat at University of Florida Hillel students began gathering to watch the news coverage together. As a community we joined to share the horror, the fear, and gain comfort by being together.

19 years later, we remember the 2,977 lives lost due to that attack. We mourn the loss of our country’s innocence and the way all of our lives have changed since that day. We remember the spouses who lost their partner, the children who lost their parent, the parents who lost their children, and the siblings who lost their siblings.

In 2020 we are faced with Coronavirus pandemic. While a virus instead of a terrorist has impacted all of our lives, similar to the impact of September 11, 2001 we are again finding comfort in community. When I hear the work of the Jewish agencies, synagogues and the Jewish Federation to take care of the Central Florida Jewish community, I am inspired. One of the core tenants of Judaism is community. Certain prayers require a community (a minyan, 10 people) in order to say them. We learn together, not individually, our Shabbat table is filled with people and the upcoming High Holidays are typically represented with large gatherings around meals, worship, and breaking the fast. All of that will be different this year.

As I watch our community continue to pivot, adjust, and find new ways to ensure everybody can find a home and a place to be a part of something larger, I realize how lucky we are. Even though Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, and Sukkot will look very different this year, we will find ways to celebrate together. We are finding ways to hear the sound of the Shofar, pray, and be a community. For me, this is the essence of Judaism. We are a community, a people, a mishpacha (family). We know we are stronger and better together and place that at the center of what we do.

So as we remember the impact of September 11, 2001 today and how it changed the lives of all Americans, let’s also pay attention to how Covid-19 is changing how we find community during the chagim, not if we still find ways to join together as a community. The joy of Judaism and Jewish community is clear, especially during challenging times.

Israel-UAE deal delivers hope

August 13, 2020, marked a huge day for the State of Israel. For the first time since the landmark 1994 agreement with Jordan, Israel announced a new peace deal. This normalization of relations with the United Arab Emirates, an agreement known as the Abraham Accord, is monumental and transformative, and it brings with it a renewed sense of hope.

Israel’s previous peace treaties with Egypt and Jordan involved “land for peace,” language that was created after the 1967 war, when Israel took control of Sinai, the Golan Heights, and the West Bank/Judea and Samaria. The agreement announced last week with the UAE did not involve “land for peace.” It merely required that Israel not do something at the current time (annex the West Bank).

The deal could have an immense ripple effect for the region and for future peace negotiations. Already, there are rumblings that more Arab nations are working with Israel on peace deals, and the question now seems to be not if they will occur, but with whom – Sudan, Bahrain, or others.

Israel, the eternal home of the Jewish people, is more secure because of this treaty. The growing threat to the region posed by Iran has made Israel a preferred partner for many Arab states, and this bodes well for the future of Israel. The Palestinian issue remains unresolved – and it must be worked out to ensure long-term stability – but the public stance of the UAE and others to come has changed the dynamic in regard to Israel. The legitimacy of the existence of Israel by the Arab states is changing.

Fittingly, this week’s In Focus lecture for our community by Professor Ken Stein was to focus on why peace isn’t working. Instead, we had a chance to talk about why peace worked in this case and what it will take for Israel to secure peace with the Palestinians and others. The final session of the In Focus series is Tuesday at 7 pm, and I encourage you to register and attend.

For more information about the impact of this treaty, you can read Professor Stein’s post on the Center for Israel Education website. For a great read on the impact of the Israel-UAE agreement on the Palestinian peace process, I suggest Jonathan Schachter and Jonathan Schanzer’s Jerusalem Post article.

In this era of COVID and almost daily headlines about everything that’s wrong in the world, it’s refreshing to see news that provides a sense of hope. The Abraham Accord certainly does that.

Let’s make some joyful noise

In the era of COVID-19, we are facing challenges to all that we once knew. As we make all our events virtual, wear face masks wherever we go, and back up a few more steps in the checkout line, it’s clear that we’re living in a changed world that isn’t changing back anytime soon.

This September’s Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur celebrations will no doubt be different as well. With restrictions on crowd sizes and other tightened safety rules, it is likely that many people will choose to celebrate and observe these holidays virtually from their homes rather than gathering communally, as is our custom.

One of our traditions and mitzvot is to hear the blast of the shofar. While we still hear the blast virtually, it’s just not the same as hearing it in person. I am happy to report that the Federation is working in partnership with synagogues and agencies in Central Florida with the goal of a communitywide shofar blast that will be heard across Orlando – in person. On the afternoon of Sunday, September 20, the Jewish community will sing out in one voice as we sound the shofar in unison.

As you can imagine, the logistics of pulling off such an event is a challenge in itself, but we believe our community is up to it. The Federation will be providing free shofars to those who would like to join this special celebration and sound the shofar in their homes at the appropriate time – and we’re even providing online classes on the fine art of shofar blowing. For those who are used to hearing the shofar blown during the entire month of Elul, this will give you the knowledge and tools to do so in your own home.

In addition, through our partnerships with synagogues and agencies, we will be able to hold communal shofar-blowing opportunities in outdoor public spaces with appropriate social distancing. By providing those who need them with both shofars and instruction, we want to enable people to gather appropriately to complete this mitzvah.

You will hear many more details in the weeks ahead, including opportunities for volunteer shofar-blowers in senior communities and elsewhere, so keep an eye on Fed Friday and the Federation website for updates.

We are grateful to our donors who have made this possible. We are grateful to our local synagogues and agencies who are partnering with us to make this happen. And we are grateful to everyone in our Jewish community who will make this a memorable, unique, and meaningful Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.

So much to explore

As we begin June we start a new reality. Florida is in phase 2 of reopening, and we are seeing our Jewish community begin to gather again. From synagogues holding both virtual and drive-in services to the Rosen and Roth Family JCCs opening their early childhood programs and summer programs for children, we are taking slow but steady steps to returning to a new normal.

At the Federation we are continuing to provide high-quality programming for your enjoyment. We received great feedback after this week’s Empowerment Through the Pen: One Woman’s Story as Julie Meltzer described what it is like to be one of the first female scribes to write a Torah. In July we are excited to bring you Sarah Hurwitz, a political speechwriter for the Obama administration who decided to apply her communication skills to write Here All Along: Finding Meaning, Spirituality, and a Deeper Connection to Live – in Judaism. During this July 12 Zoom event, she will discuss her time in the White House and the insights and profound spiritual connection she found during her journey back to Judaism. Registration opens next week.

One thing that dealing with the impact of COVID-19 has shown us is how strong, vibrant and diverse our Central Florida Jewish community is and how essential our agencies, organizations and synagogues are. As the summer progresses, I am certain that you will have lots of opportunities to engage Jewishly in meaningful ways. I hope you take advantage of the many opportunities that exist to explore Jewish life in Central Florida. From ritual worship to Tikkun Olam, from art and culture to early childhood and camp, from cooking and authors to opportunities to learn more Jewishly, our community offers a vast array of resources for you.

As we approach Shabbat, I hope you take time with your family and to explore the wonders of our community.