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

With the state of Florida beginning to reopen, our Jewish community in Central Florida is planning its own slow and methodical reopening. On Thursday, May 14, the Federation will convene our community leadership to talk about reopening, protocols, and safety measures. It’s important that you know that all of our agencies, synagogues and organizations are committed to safety first and that we are working together to follow best practices. That’s what a community does – works together to take care of our members.

I hope you were among the hundreds of people who joined us last Sunday for the video conversation with Deborah Feldman, the author of Unorthodox: The Scandalous Rejection of my Hasidic Roots. More than 700 people took part in this unique opportunity, brought to you by the Federation, to learn both from and about this fascinating author. If you are interested in reading the book, you can still order it from Writer’s Block Bookstore, and 15% of the proceeds will be donated to the Federation to continue our work and bring these type of programs to you. And we have another such program coming up …

We are excited to announce A Conversation with Actor Itzik Cohen at 3:00 pm Sunday, May 24. Cohen stars as Captain Eyov on the hit Netflix and Israeli TV show Fauda. We will have more information (and will begin registration) next week. We are thrilled that the Federation is able to bring these opportunities to you. With the COVID pandemic permeating every aspect of our lives, it’s refreshing to spend some time discussing other topics and meeting fascinating new people.  

As we prepare for the summer, I want to begin highlighting some of the big-picture Federation work that we are doing. The Jewish Federation of Greater Orlando has a partnership city in Israel, Kiryat Motzkin. One of the things we do in partnership with Kiryat Motzkin is to help fund social action programs for the community. Over the past years we have been funding three important programs:

  • The Young Leadership Program. This initiative promotes inclusion and development of youth with special needs in Kiryat Motzkin. The Youth Unit recently hired a new social worker to lead it, and she has been growing volunteerism among the youth and developing leadership with the Ethiopian youth of Kiryat Motzkin. Two of the Ethiopian youth participants recently joined the City Youth Council, and three have enrolled in a prestigious Pre-Army program. More than 100 Ethiopian youth in Kiryat Motzkin participated in the summer activities last year made possible by our funding.
  • Before Our Eyes – the Holocaust Education Institute led by Dr. Leah Ganor. Our funding enables Shoah studies for all age groups in Kiryat Motzkin as well as intergenerational programming.
  • Mashal Learning Improvement Center. For more than a decade, our Central Florida Jewish community, through the Federation, has provided educational support and occupational therapy for many young students who would not otherwise have access to such services. This program was recently closed by the Ministry of Education. We will be working with our partners in Israel to select an appropriate replacement program.

Our partnership and funding with Kiryat Motzkin is only possible through your generosity. Thank you for helping us to touch so many lives on the other side of the world. If you are interested in getting involved with our new Israel and Overseas committee, please contact me

Your Jewish Federation is doing life-changing work here at home and in Israel, and I am grateful to be a part of it and to have the chance to share it with you. As we prepare for Shabbat, we have a lot to be grateful for even in these uncertain times. I remain hopeful that in the near future we can gather together in person to celebrate Shabbat.