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

Statement Jewish Federation of Greater Orlando leaders on the death of George Floyd:

We at the Jewish Federation of Greater Orlando and its Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC) are heartbroken and outraged over the death of George Floyd, an African American man, at the hands of a white Minneapolis police officer. Floyd’s pleas for his life as he lay handcuffed and helpless on the ground were met with silence by the police officer. This death is yet another in a disturbingly long list of inexcusable injustices that have been perpetrated against African Americans across the United States.

We call on people of all races, ethnic backgrounds and faiths to speak up now against the systemic racism that is a longstanding disgrace – one for which we all share responsibility.

As Jews we have seen how unchecked hatred can destroy millions of lives and haunt generations in its wake. Our tradition teaches us that all humans are created in the image of God. The Torah obligates us to not stand idly by.

The powerful words of Holocaust survivor and Nobel Peace Prize Winner Elie Weisel resonate at this time:

“I swore to never be silent whenever or wherever human beings endure suffering and humiliation. We must take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented. Sometimes we must interfere. When human lives are endangered, when human dignity is in jeopardy, national borders and sensitivities become irrelevant. Wherever men and women are persecuted because of their race, religion, or political views, that place must – at that moment – become the center of the universe.”

As a community of conscience, we pledge to all communities of color to work with you, not only to combat racism in all its forms, but also to remain vigilant in pointing out injustice and defending all its victims.

In the days since George Floyd’s death, we have seen tens of thousands of Americans peacefully take to the streets to demand justice. We stand with our fellow Americans and we will not be distracted by those who would take advantage of this righteous cause to further sow the seeds of discord.  Our collective future depends on this focused effort.

Our children and grandchildren are watching. Each of us has a responsibility to stand up and speak out against injustice and to join together in finding a constructive and peaceful path forward. In that spirit, we commit ourselves to the biblical call of “Justice, justice shall [we] pursue,” and the imperative of achieving a peaceful, just and equal society for all.

George Floyd should not have died. He, his family, African Americans everywhere and all who have suffered as a result of discrimination and bigotry are entitled to justice and freedom from hate. Today we stand in solidarity with them as we say, “Enough.”

We continue to work with our Jewish agencies, organizations, and synagogues to support the African American community.

Israel Crisis: Federation is providing support

Smoke rises after an Israeli forces strike in Gaza City, Tuesday, Nov. 12, 2019. Israel killed a senior Islamic Jihad commander in Gaza early Tuesday in a resumption of pinpointed targeting that threatens a fierce round of cross-border violence with Palestinian militants. (AP Photo/Hatem Moussa)


The conflict in southern Israel has continued into a second day. The Jewish Federations of North America’s Israel office has prepared a comprehensive update that we are sharing.
In addition, the following articles detail how our partners at the Jewish Agency have helped during this difficult time — with Federation support:  
Israel Crisis Update from JFNA
Major developments as of November 13:  
  • More than 250 rockets have been fired at Israel by Palestinian Islamic Jihad since 6:00 am Tuesday, Israel time.
    • Despite a six-hour lull overnight, the rockets resumed early Wednesday morning.
    • Sirens have continued to sound across the south, and have also been heard in a number of locations near the Jerusalem – Tel Aviv highway corridor.
    • Some 60% of rockets fell in non-populated areas (or fell short, landing inside the Gaza Strip).
    • 90% of those rockets headed toward population centers were successfully knocked out of the sky by the Iron Dome Defense System.
    • Forty eight Israelis have been hurt by rocket fire or by falls when running to a shelter (mostly sustaining light or moderate injuries) and at least 25 people have been treated for shock.
  • In response to the rocket fire, the IDF carried out three waves of retaliatory attacks on Palestinian Islamic Jihad targets.
    • In the attacks, Israel reportedly hit dozens of Islamic Jihad sites across Gaza, destroying infrastructures and weapons stockpiles as well as killing 12 terrorists (according the Palestinian Ministry of Health).
    • Among other targets hit by the IDF were a facility that develops long-range rockets, as well as naval vessels belonging to the terrorist group.
    • According to an unnamed Israeli military source, the IDF has a “rich data bank” of additional potential Islamic Jihad sites that it can continue to hit.
    • For photos and further details about the IDF strikes, click here.
    • Defense Minister Naftali Bennett, less than 24 hours in his new position, appeared on Israeli television saying that “We are sending a strong and clear message to our enemies, on all fronts: Whoever plans to attack or harm Israel by day, should never be sure that they will make it through the night.”
    • Prime Minister Netanyahu said, “We are not bent on escalation, but … will respond to every attack against us, and respond very sharply. Islamic Jihad would do well to understand this right now, instead of when it will be too late. I believe that Islamic Jihad is starting to internalize this message. They understand that we will continue to strike them without mercy. They understand that Israel is very strong and that our will is very great. We are determined to fight to defend our country and if they think that these barrages or these strikes will weaken us or lessen our determination, they are mistaken. Therefore, they have but one choice – to stop these attacks or take more and more blows. The choice is theirs.”
    • According to reports, Israel sent a message to Hamas saying that if the terror group stays out of the current fighting, it would be not be targeted by the IDF. This is a seemingly different approach than the one that Israel has taken in the past, where the IDF had stated that it holds Hamas responsible for everything that occurs in the Gaza Strip. From all accounts, both sides are keeping to this understanding, and there has been no direct conflict between Hamas and Israel in this round of fighting. (In fact, some commentators have suggested that Hamas is even encouraging the current fighting as a way of curtailing the strength of its rival, Islamic Jihad).
    • While the IDF says that it does not want the situation to escalate into a broader military operation inside the Gaza Strip, there has been a small increase in troop deployment along the Gaza border fence with a limited number of companies and battalions.
  • The IDF’s Home Front Command continues to impose restrictions:
    • All schools and kindergartens south of Tel Aviv remain closed.
    • In the south, all places of work, other than “essential services,” have been shuttered.
    • In the Tel Aviv region, school has resumed, but non-essential places of work are only permitted to open if they have a designated shelter or protected place that can be reached by workers within 90 seconds.
    • Economic damage to industry – mainly as a result of lost working time – after just one day of conflict, has been assessed at $80 million.
  • JFNA’s Israel office continues to operate under emergency protocols and is in close touch with relevant Israeli government branches, our partners, and individual federation representatives on the ground.
    • JFNA’s Israel office attended a meeting yesterday afternoon of the Emergency Coordination Roundtable (known by its Hebrew acronym, “Rahel”) at IDF military headquarters in Tel Aviv.
    • JDC is in the middle of a process of reaching out to municipalities in the South to asses needs. JDC has also opened the Virtual Center for Independent Living, which is a hotline for elderly residents living alone who may need special help, advice or counseling during the current emergency situation. The hotline was established with the support of a Jewish Federations grant. In addition, the JDC Ashalim program has recently trained social workers who work with families at risk, to provide special care during emergency situations and crises. The social workers are provided with a special emergency kit, which has proved – over the last 24 hours – to be extremely effective.
    • The Jewish Agency’s Fund for Victims of Terror (supported by Jewish Federations) has already provided immediate emergency assistance to families whose homes in the south have suffered direct hits. Within hours of yesterday’s attacks, the Agency’s Amigour subsidiary sent construction teams to repair homes hit by rocket fire, in coordination with the Ministry of Finance.
    • The Jewish Agency has also provided assistance to 6,500 new immigrants in absorption centers and 5,000 seniors in assisted living facilities in areas affected by the current crisis. At the same time The Agency is in talks with local municipalities in the south discussing the possibility of respite days for residents of the affected areas.
    • The Israel Trauma Coalition’s resilience centers continue to experience a significant increase in emergency calls. The Natal and Eran hotlines are operating at full capacity, 24 hours a day, and are currently reporting a 40% increase in call volume. Over 50% of calls are coming from the center of the country, 20% from the South and 15% from the North. Most calls are from anxious parents seeking guidance as to how to speak with their children about the situation. ITC instructions that provide recommendations on to how to help children cope in times of crisis, have been widely disseminated.
As always, JFNA’s Israel office remains in close touch with Israeli government authorities and our partners and is very closely monitoring the situation.
Sources: Office of the Prime Minister, Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs, IDF Spokesperson, Israel Channel 12 News, Galei Tzahal Radio, the Jerusalem Post  

JFGO statement on Chabad of Poway attack

The Jewish Federation of Greater Orlando and the Central Florida Jewish Community are heartbroken by the hateful anti-Semitic violence perpetrated against the Jewish community of Poway, Calif., on Saturday.

Like people of all faiths, Jews have the right to feel safe and secure in their homes, communities, schools and houses of worship. To the friends and family of the victims of this senseless violence, we send our deepest condolences. Today and always, may all of their memories be a blessing.

Statement on New Zealand mosque attack

In Judaism, after the loss of a loved one, we say, זכרונו לברכה (zikhrono/zikhronah livrakha), “may his/her memory be a blessing.”

The Jewish Federation of Greater Orlando and the Central Florida Jewish Community are heartbroken by the hateful violence perpetrated against Muslims at prayer in New Zealand. Like people of all faiths, our Muslim brothers and sisters have the right to feel safe and secure in their homes, communities, schools, and houses of worship.

We are committed to upholding our shared values of religious plurality and partnership. Islamophobia is but one branch of the wider tree of hate. The racist ideology that claimed 49 innocent lives today is the same ideology that led to the murder of 11 Jews at Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh last year. Just as the Muslim community stood with Jews then, we stand with Muslims now. We are prepared and willing to provide whatever support is required to make sure that our Muslim friends and neighbors feel welcome and safe in our shared community.

To the friends and family of the victims of this senseless violence, we send our deepest condolences. Today and always, may all of their memories be a blessing.

May this Sabbath be one of peace for all people – of any faith and of no faith – and may we all strive to treat every person as a creation in G-d’s image.


Community event Oct. 30: Stop the Hate

Please join us at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 30, for “Stop The Hate: Remembering the Victims in Pittsburgh,” an interfaith and multicultural memorial service, coordinated by Central Florida Jewish organizations and the Greater Orlando Board of Rabbis.

This community event, hosted by Congregation of Reform Judaism, will demonstrate Central Florida’s solidarity with the Pittsburgh Jewish community in the wake of Saturday’s attack at the Tree of Life synagogue, and feature a call to action against hate speech.
Open to all members of the Greater Orlando community.

Congregation of Reform Judaism
928 Malone Drive
Orlando, FL 32810

IMPORTANT SECURITY NOTE: Bags will not be permitted into the building during the event.




JCRC statement on Pittsburgh shooting and gun violence

The Jewish Community has long been a member of the extended family of gun violence victims, and today that family grew tragically once again. As Jews around the United States participated in observance of Shabbat at their local synagogue this morning, we were devastated to learn that our brothers and sisters in Pittsburgh became the latest in a long and sad list of victims of a hate crime in our country.

At this time, reports indicate that as many as eleven people have been killed and many more injured, including law enforcement personnel. Our hearts are with the families of the victims and all of Pittsburgh as they begin their journey on the road to recovery. May the memory of those lost be for a blessing.

Hate and violence do not exist in a vacuum. From what we know so far, this person acted alone, but he did not become a violent anti-Semite by himself. Anti-Semitism is nurtured by the spread of conspiracy theories and dog-whistles — something that is becoming all too common and frighteningly acceptable in the public discourse. The Jewish community knows all too well that hateful rhetoric begets hateful actions.

This was not the first such incident at a house of worship, and if our leaders do not take action, it will surely not be the last, either. The refusal to acknowledge and effectively address the scourge of gun violence in our communities is a stain on our nation. It’s no coincidence the same military-style semi-automatic weapons are used over and over again in these massacres; their purpose is death, and those who do nothing to stop the spread of these weapons of war on our streets dishonor the victims.

Ethnic and religious minorities are no strangers to hate, and we are thankful for the elected officials, law enforcement personnel, and leaders of faith and ethnic communities who have reached out to offer condolences and assistance. With our heavy heart comes a fierce determination to work together to eradicate hate permanently.

Roundtable with Gov. Scott

Roundtable with Gov. Scott

Discussion with the governor (from left): Rhonda Forest, JFGO Acting Executive Director; JCRC Co-chair Michelle Zaltsberg; JFGO President Brad Jacobs; Keith Dvorchik, CEO of The Roth Family JCC; Gov. Rick Scott; Jeff Imber, Rosen JCC Immediate Past President; Eric Lightman. Rosen JCC Executive Director; and JCRC Director Ben Friedman.

JCRC organized a small roundtable discussion with Florida Gov. Rick Scott at the Rosen JCC in Southwest Orlando. We engaged with the governor on a wide range of issues of concern to our community, including security funding, education, healthcare and gun violence. 

Meet the candidates

The Federation’s Jewish Community Relations Council serves as the political advocacy arm of our Jewish community, creating relationships and access to our elected officials and those who are running for public office at all levels.

Last week, our JCRC organized a small roundtable discussion with Florida Gov. (and Republican U.S. Senate candidate) Rick Scott at the Rosen JCC in Southwest Orlando. During our discussion, we had the opportunity to engage with the governor on a wide range of issues of concern to our community, including security funding, education, healthcare and gun violence.

This afternoon, we welcomed Democratic Commissioner of Agriculture candidate Nicole “Nikki” Fried to the Maitland Jewish Community Campus. Fried shared her thoughts and heard from community members about many of the areas the ag commissioner deals with every day, including consumer protection regulations throughout the state.

We are entering a critical period of engagement with candidates for office. With the primary coming up on Aug. 28 and the general election on Nov. 6, Florida will once again be a hotbed for political activity. It is vitally important that we demonstrate our mutual commitment to advocacy during this period so that those who are elected on Nov. 6 take office with the knowledge that the Central Florida Jewish community is serious about public policy.

We have extended invitations to many candidates, including all the major candidates for governor of Florida, and I am excited to announce that three of those candidates have already committed to visiting with the Greater Orlando Jewish community:

Jeff Greene (D), candidate for governor of Florida
9 a.m. Thursday, Aug. 16
The Roth Family JCC Youth Lounge


Chris King (D), candidate for governor of Florida
1:30 p.m. Monday, Aug. 20
The Roth Family JCC Auditorium


John Mina, candidate for Orange County sheriff
6 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 30
The Roth Family JCC Auditorium

We expect that these will be just some of many such events with candidates across the political spectrum, for many political offices. Remember: The more we interact with our candidates of all parties and levels of government, the more responsive they will be to our community needs after taking office. I hope that you will join me for each of these substantive discussions over the next few weeks. Bring questions, concerns and, most importantly, a commitment to civility.

Keep an eye out for announcements as we schedule more opportunities to meet with candidates, and as always, stay in touch!