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January 25, 2019     Heritage Florida Jewish News
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January 25, 2019

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PAGE 8A HERITAGE FLORIDA JEWISH NEWS, JANUARY 25, 2019 Courtney Shapiro Photography Lynn "Moira" Dictor kept the audience in stitches. Courtney Shapiro Photography In her welcome remarks, Loren London used an umbrella to illustrate the symbiotic relationship between the Federa- tion, local Jewish organizations and the community. Courtney Shapiro Photography The return to the sit-down dinner was enjoyed by all the Choices attendees. . By Paul Lefton For its 25th installment, Choices, the Jewish Federa- tion of Greater Orlando's sig- nature women's philanthropy event, returned to the simple elegance that marked its be- ginning, with a festive cocktail hour followed by a seated dinner at Congregation Ohev Shalom in Maitland. The250womenandmenin attendance were welcomed to Choices 2019 by Loren Lon- don, the woman who brought Choices to Orlando 25 years ago. London is also the first Harriet Ginsburg Woman of Choice Award winner. London, the founder and director of the Federation's RAISE program for adults with special needs, kicked off her discussion by focus- ing on the evening's theme, Celebrating Women's Em- powerment. "To me, a conversation about empowerment begins with recalling the genera- tions of women in Cen- tral Florida upon whose shoulders we stand," she told the crowd. "By attend- ing tonight's 25th Choices, we honor those who paved the way as we exercise our strength in support as we con- tinue to stand up for women." London ,then asked various groups 6fwomen to stand up and remain standing based on their work, philanthropy, volunteerism and other in- volvement in Jewish causes. By the time she reached the end of her list, every woman in the room was standing, a testament to the contribu- tions all have made to the Jewish community. After dinner, attendees heard from Michelle Sheplan and Dori Gerber, both alumni of the Jewish Women's Renais- sance Project Momentum trips to Israel, which are underwritten in part by the Federation in collaboration with SPARK. Both Sheplan and Gerber spoke passion- ately about how the Israel trips touched their lives and inspired them to get more deeply involved in the Greater Orlando Jewish community. Sheplan said the personal connection she madewith the other women on the trip is a testament to the common ide- als shared by Jewish women. "As the trip unfolded, each of tthe women in our group became more and more open Beth Shalom Memorial Chapel Proudl I L rvin Our CommuniL Pot Over Years and vulnerable sharing bits and pieces of our personal stories of what makes us who we are," Sheplan said. "And while we are all from different backgrounds with different experiences, we are ultimately so similar in that we, and all the women in this room, are the glue that binds our families as well as this Central Florida Jewish community together." Gerber echoed that senti- ment, characterizing the eight-day trip as a life-altering journey. "The experiences I had on that trip helped to elevate the Jewish practices my family and I share in our home since my return," Gerber said. The trip "helped to change the trajectory of my career in education and my contribu- tion to Jewish education and advocacy work." As a result of the connec- tions she made during the trip, Gerber got involved with, among other organizations, the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, which is the hub for 16 national Jewish agencies and more than 125 local Jewish Community Relations Coun- cils, including the Orlando JCRC, which is a committee of the Federation. Gerber currently is the co-chair of the Orlando JCRC. The evening's featured speaker, Lynn"Moira" Dictor, Author Deborah Vadas Levison. What if a dismembered corpse was discovered un- derneath your treasured family vacation home? How would you react? For one woman, this really happened to her family. Deborah Vadas Levison, an award-winning Courtney Shapiro Photography The ladies attending Choices enjoyed socializing before the dinner. was a big hit with the audience, her trademark wit on full display while sharing her take on women's empowerment through the eyes of "Orlando's favorite Jewish mother." Federation staff said Dictor's talk was pitch-perfect and made for a fitting end to the evening. "The feedback we received after Choices was overwhelm- ingly positive," said Choices coordinator Marisa West, JFGO's office manager. "We really seemed to capture the right mix of socializing and fundraising, and Moira's presentation left the women smiling and laughing as they headed home." The Presenting Sponsor for Choices 2019 was Orlando Health Winnie Palmer Hospital for Women & Babies, which provided healthcare literature and a few goodies for attend- ees to take home. President Kelly Nierstedt also spoke to the crowd, emphasizing the importance of preventive health care strategies for women. Ruby Sponsors for Choices 2019 were Krise Wealth Manage- ment Group of Raymond James and Florida Cancer Specialists. More photos from Choices 2019 can be viewed at www.jfgo. org/choices. as journalist, tells the extraordi- nary account of her parents' ordeals, both in one of the darkest times in world history and their present-day lives. The multi award-winning book "THE CRATE: A Story of War, a Murder, and Justice," which launched last sum- mer, is the true story about Levison's parents, who in 2010 discovered a wooden crate nailed shut under their lakeside cottage. Inside the crate were the remains of a young mother, brutally murdered. "The discovery traumatized my family, especially my frag- ile parents," said Levison in an email to the Heritage. "It dredged up their memories of the Holocaust--of surviving concentration camps, cattle cars, death marches--and forced them to confront vio- lence yet again. THE CRATE has been called "a brilliant story," "heart wrenching," and "a necessary read." The themes are relevant and timely: of refugees and the need for sanctuary; domestic violence and racial intoler- ance; and the seemingly limit- less human capacity for evil. It is a speculation on violence and hate in our society. "The Crate" is available on