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March 21, 2014     Heritage Florida Jewish News
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March 21, 2014

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HERITAGE FLORIDA JEWISH NEWS, MARCH 21, 2014 PAGE 5A HERITAGE encourages readers to send in their opinions for the Viewpoint column. They must be signed; how- ever, names will be withheld upon request. Due to space limitations, we reserve the right to edit, if necessary. Opinions printed in Viewpoint do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the paper. The FCAT tests timing not appropriate As I believe many have expected change has sent a heard, Orange and Semi- serious shock wave not only nole counties, along with 58 through our Jewish commu- other countiesin Florida, have nitybutthroughthe Christian changed the starting date of communityaswell.AsIwrote FCAT testing from what was in the Orlando Sentinel,. publicized earlier in the year. "these are days and times Instead of beginning the that we cherish to be with third-, fourth- and fifth-grade our community in prayer and readingexamonMonday, April to celebrate with family and 21,theFCATswillnowstarton loved ones in festive meals Monday, April 14 and continue like the Passover seder which throughout the week. This is often eaten well into the revised schedule conflicts evening." with the religious calendars We are all frustrated and of many throughout the state deeply disappointed in the as Monday evening the 14th is lackofconsiderationdisplayed the first night of Passover and by public officials and public that is also Holy Week. school systems throughout This surprising and un- our state. Many have asked how our community has responded to this situation. First of all, we have been working closely with Pastor James Coffin, the executive director of the Interfaith Council of Central Florida, both to voice our common concern and to raise awareness. To that end, I composed an opinion piece that was published in the Orlando Sentinel on Tuesday, March 4, which was then fol- lowed by a press release from the Interfaith Council. You may also have seen the story on Channel 9 news this past Feb, 27 featuring Rabbi David Kay of Congregation Ohev Shalom and another on News 13 just this past Thursday fea- turing Rabbi Joshua Neely of Temple Israel. ManY members of the Jewish community of Orlando have already been in touch with their local governments, school boards and superintendents to voice their concern and raise the issue with them. There are a number of ways that we all can continue to raise awareness of this issue both in public and with those who oversee the FCAT exams. Raise your voice--If you have not yet done so, contact your local government, school board, superintendent, and the Florida Department of Education. Let them know, more than once, that you feel that the wrong decision was made. Ask them to reconsider and to recognize the lack of respect for people of many faiths resulting from this decision. Use social media to spread the word--Tell your friends on facebook and your followers on twitter about this situation and ask them to share it with their friends. The more we. spread the word throughout Florida and to the greater Jew- ish community throughout the country the better chance there is that our voice will truly be heard by the people we want to hear it. Tell your friends--Tell other people in the pick-up line at school or at the bus stop about how you feel. Ask them if they feel the same way and if they do, ask them to call the school and voice their displeasure. If your child is affected by this, keep them home and ask for a make-up exam--In all of the conversations I've had with local and state government officials, they have repeatedly told me that make-up examswill be offered for students who cannot take the FCATs for religious rea- sons on the scheduled testing and make-up days. But the truth of the matter is that if we want our children and our school districts to know that we truly care about this issue, then we simply cannot send our children to school anyway if no change is made. The schools are required to provide a make-up date that does not conflict with our religious obligations and have been given every leeway needed by the Florida Department of Education in order to do so. We MUST take advantage of that opportunity. If we do not, if our children go to school on Passover and take the exam as if it were any other day, we will have robbed our children of an opportunity to celebrate Passover as itwas meant to be celebrated and we will have told our schools that an exam is more important than our religion. So let your children stay up late for both seders and then the next day bring them to services instead of sending them to school. And if your personal schedule does not allow you to take them to ser- vices, know that the schools have been instructed to be accommodating of students who will not be able to take the exam on the scheduled day. If you plan to keep your child home and/or will need a make-up exam, I encourage you to contact your school ahead of time to let them know ahead of time, not because it is required, but because it is a kind gesture to the school. It is hard to predict know what the outcome of our campaign will be. But if we define success as showing the city of Orlando and the state of Florida that we care about our Jewish holidays enough to raise our voices and then keep our children home in observance of these days, I truly believe that we will be successful. Rabbi Hillel Skolnik, Southwest Orlando Jewish Congregation; president, Greater Orlando Board of Rabbis. ByAbraham H. Foxman with Israel's leaders over the Sharon and dozens of oth- In Sam's telling, when ening of U.S.-Israel relations negotiations with Egypt and ers, all figures who had been Sadat finally emerged from andwas someone who always NEW YORK (JTA)--The particularlyovertheLebanon present at Israel's creation, the plane and began mak- recognized how desperately lasttimeAmbassador Samuel War. Yet, what he chose to who had dedicated their lives ing his way to meet the as- Israel yearns for peace. LewiswasatanAnti-Defama- recall, so poignantly, was to the survival and security of sembled dignitaries, these AsAmericanambassadorto tion League podium was in what it was like to stand on the Jewish state. These politi- hardened, cynical, war-weary Israel during a critical period April2008aspartofaround- the tarmac alongside Israel's cal and military leaders had leaders, experiencing this in Israel's history, Samengen- table celebrating Israel's 60th political and security elite spentfourdecadescombating game-changing gesture of d~red trust in Israeli leaders anniversary. The speakers waiting for Anwar Sadat's the menacing threat posed reconciliation from Israel's so thathecouldtalkhonestly wereeachaskedtosharetheir plane to land for the Egyptian by the Egyptian army, and leading Arab foe, hadtearsin with them at sensitive mo- mostvividand representative president'sbreakthroughvisit its potential to eradicate the their eyes. ments. He was the perfect recollections of Israel. to Jerusalem on Nov. 19, 1977. State of Israel. Sam Lewis passed away this example of a diplomat who, by Sam, a distinguished State Sam described that Satur- On that day, no one wasweek at the age of 83. While virtue of his personality and Department veteran, served day evening, standing6nared quite sure what ~$adat's visit we didn't always see eye-to- professionalism, could ease as the U.S. ambassador to carpet alongside Menachem toJerusalemwouldmean, and eye, he was anAmerican who the way through sometimes Israel from 1977 to 1985, and Begin, Golda Meir, Moshe there was an air of nervous "got" Israel, made significant treacherous waters to make had engaged in tough battles Dayan, Yitzhak Rabin, Ariel excitement, contributions to the strength- solutions possible. It happens that March 26 will mark the 35th anniversa- ry of the signing of the Israel- Egypt peace agreement--of which Sadat's visit to Israel was a harbinger and which Sam played an important role in helping facilitate. After de- cades ofa"cold peace" and the insecurity brought on by the Arab Spring and the ongoing turmoil in Egypt, it is easy to gloss over how historically momentous this first Arab- Israeli peace agreement wasi Foxman on page 14A HERITAGE welcomes and encourages let- ters to the editor, but they must be typed or printed and include name and phone number. We will withhold your name if you so request. Please limit letters to 250 words. Due to space limitations,we reserve the right to edit letters. Send letters to P.O. Box 300742, Fern Park, FL 32730. Or e-mail to Visit JAO and invest in our Jewish day school's future Dear Editor: one side of the story, he would It was very disappointing have sought to incorporate to see the Heritage rebuttal at JAO input into the advertorial. the bottom ofJeremy Schein- Though Olga Yorish's re- berg's very compelling letter cent letter about the impor- regarding theinadvisabilityof tance of a Jewish day school a Jewish Academy of Orlando education was indeed very (JAO) move and the role of the heartwarming, the fact that Jewish Federation of Greater it had zero mention of the Orlando (JFGO). First of all, JAO was very conspicuous in only after Mr. Scheinberg's its absence. The list of com- letterdidyoudisclosetheFeb, munity members (without a 7, 2014, piece written by Stan child or grandchild currently Roberts was actually written enrolled) that give the JAO an on behalf of the JFGO and annual gift of $1,000 or more was approved by them. How is unfortunately very, very nice it would have been if this small. The sad truth is that would have been disclosed thiscommunityprovidesvery when it was first published! limited support to the JAO. Instead, the Heritage chose In the recent past, the JFGO to masquerade the piece as provided the JAO (then the journalism when it in fact HebrewDaySchooi)analloca- was an advertorial. I also tionofupto$170~000peryear. notice that the Heritage did Now, theJAOgetszeroannual not contest Mr. Scheinberg's allocation from the JFGO and contention that it decided to in fact is liable to the JFGO distribute the advertorial in (via the Facilities Manage- a community-wide free issue ment Committee) for nearly without any JAO input. Had a half million dollars a year. the writer been interested in Of course, JFGO cannot give the whole picture instead of away what it does not have. Though I believe that JFGO can become very relevant, they clearly have not been able to effectively communicate their value proposition to the community. This is evidenced by the JFGO's inability to garner enough donations to make any significant cash allocations to the community or pay down their debt. i do support Jeremy Schein- berg's comments about the Schwartz Plan but unlike Mr. Scheinberg, I do not reject it out of hand. In fact, the Schwartz Plan appears to have many good points and itseems that its backers have a genuine interest in getting the Jewish Community Campus on a firm financial footing. Specifi- cally, I share the same serious concerns of Mr. Scheinberg regarding a JAO move to the JCC building. Nevertheless, we must be realistic and as an absolute last resort, con- sider it as a viable option. Mr. Schwartz in particular has been a consistent and gener- ous donor to the JAO. He is a true mensch for his unwaver- ing commitment to Jewish education. However, I would point out that if all the backers of Mr. Schwartz's"bold multi- pronged plan" would follow his own stellar example and each make a modest $1,000 or $5,000 annual contribution to the JAO and attend some of its events, itwould not only make a huge difference to the JAO's financial situation, it would also give a lot more credence to their plan. In addition, how nice it would be if we actually had the community leaders supporting the Schwartz Plan come by the school and visit for a morning news or a Shabbat program. It would help them realize what we are asking them to invest in. I have become weary of read- ing David Bornstein pontiff, cate about how awful the JAO is by not meeting its financial obligations to the JFGO (that same JFGO that provides the JAO with zero allocations). Considering that the title of Mr. Bornstein's column is "The Good Word," it is striking how he seems to be completely incapable of writing any"good word" concerning the JAO. And on those rare occasions that he does, the positive is invari- ably drowned out by a larger amount of negative com- mentary. This past autumn, when the JAO had its highest kindergarten enrollment in eight years, did he mention that in a positive light? Nope. What about the JAO's great test scores and high achieVing stu- dents? Mr. Bornstein gives the school no credit for that either and claims it is because of the "virtually all super bright Jew- ish kids." He obviously has an axe to grind based on his own perceived poor experience. Like any school, the JAO is not the right fit for every child or every family. I am terribly sorry that Mr. Bornstein and his family seem to have had a bad experience and left the school nine years ago. If this is the case, it is high time he got over it. For someone who is imploring agencies to look beyond their immediate needs for the good of the com- munity, I hope that after nine years Mr. Bornstein can bring himself to do the same. Since Mr. Bornstein seems to agree that a Jewish Day School is of vital importance to the com- munity, it will be wonderful to see his name on the JAO donor list this year. But more importantly, I hope that Mr. Bornstein can look beyond his perceived bad experience and try to recognize some of the many positives at the JAO. And by the way, Mr. Bornstein, you are also invited to come by and visit though I strongly doubt you will come. Mike Libow Winter Park SO WHY CANer