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HERITAGE FLORIDA JEWISH NEWS, AUGUST 16, 2013 Bercovici Bercoviei page 1A ments coming to Orlando and being welcomed by all these wonderful people, es- pecially Marvin and Bonnie Friedman .... This has been my second home," Bercovici said, with mixed emotions about his retirement. He meant that literally. When he came to Orlando from Phoenix, the JCC staff welcomed him with open arms, like family. Marvin and his wife, Bonnie, in- vited him to stay with them until he could find housing for himself and his wife of four years, Lisa. It was just a couple weeks but in that time the Friedmans knew this young man was the right choice. "Getting to know Eli and participating in his sports programs, my kids felt that he was 'the best thing since the invention of ice cream,'" Friedman said of his friend. "And that's true of literally hundreds of other children who got to know him through 'giant steps,' basketball, soccer, flag football, tennis and a whole host of sports camps at the JCC." Within the first six months, Bercovici, with the help of road race chair- man Dr. Eli Porth, organized the first JCC Pacers 10,000 Meters & Two-Mile Fun Run. Designed to promote "fam- ily fitness and fun," it was a success. That first event had 150 participants from the Jewish and general com- munity and raised $8,000 that was used to purchase gym equipment. Fifteen years later, the fundraising event's name was changed to Beat the Heat 5k road race, and now, 15 years since its name change, the event just completed its 30th annual race. It is an annual event that Bercovici cherishes, and is the longest running program at the JCC. Porth remembers those beginnings fondly. "Eli (has been) a dear friend for over 30 years. We ran for many years together. He is a Jewish sport and wellness director who loved working with people of all ages to make their lives healthier and happier," said Porth. In September 1986, the JCC opened its newest facility--the gymnasium, which opened the door for many new fitness programs and events. "It was wonderful to see all these basketball players coming to use our facility--both the general community as well as the Jewish community," Ber- covici commented. With this new facility, Orlando was able to host the JCC regional Macca- bia games in 1995. As the games director, Bercovici oversaw more than 300 Jewish youths from all over the United States who attended the games. He was proud to say Team Orlando won gold medals in basketball and soccer during the games. Again in 2005, the Or- lando JCC hosted the Mar- vin Blumenthal Basketball tournament, in which more than 100 basketball players ages 16-18 from the south- ern regions participated. In this event, Team Orlando, under sports assistant Dana Penrod's coaching, finished second out of 14 teams. Sports and wellness di- rector was not the only title Bercovici held. In addition to having the responsibil- ity of working with the Early Childhood Learning Center; developing the after school activities; and organizing the lifetime sports, which included soc- cer, football, and adult and youth basketball teams; he was also the financial assis- tant director. He wore this hat with humility and pride. "Over the last five years, the JCC has given out over a million dollars in schol- arship assistance to need families in the community," he said. This financial as- sistance was made possible through fundraisers such as J-Ball, the road races, golf tournaments, Israel Independence day and other events that Bercovici and many others were instru- mental in organizing. The funds assist the Early Child- hood programs and help many who otherwise would not have been able to afford school or camp tuitions and the after-school latchkey program. "Nearly everyone who entered the JCC during his time here had some interac- tion with Eli," said Wayne. "I'm sure they all saw how passionate, committed, and dedicated he was to meeting their needs and ensuring that they felt part of the JCC family. Eli truly cares deeply about how people should be treated and is a real mensch." In recognition of Ber- covici for his 31 years of dedicated service and to thank him, the JCC has established the Eli Berco- vici Athletics Fund in his honor. Donations made to this fund will be used to purchase supplies or equipment for the Sports and Fitness program and to enhance the Sports and Fitness facility. As in all families, there is always time for kid- ding around. Early in his career here, during one daughter's birth, Berco- vici passed out and broke his nose in the delivery room (that is not the funny part). It was Porth who stitched him up and repaired his nose, but rather than show off pho- tos of the new baby, Porth circulated X-rays of Berco- vici's fixed nose at a JCC board meeting. Recently, former JCC staff members had a dinner for Berco- vici--maybe one should say a "roast"? Friedman teased him about the great job he did in Center fundraising--but now that he is retired, "he needs to call back all the people he solicited and return their money to them." PAGE 15A All kidding aside, Fried- man said of Bercovici that he is one of the most dedi- cated JCC staff people he has ever known. "When you needed some- one to step in 'to lend a hand in a pinch,' he has always been willing to do that something extra. It didn't matter whether he was needed to handle sum- mer camp, carpool, oversee the sale of silent auction items at our annual galas, or coordinate membership assistance scholarships... all you needed to do was ask. You can't say enough about his professionalism, his loyalty to our agency, and his commitment to our Jewish community," said Friedman. For these reasons, as so many colleagues suc- cinctly put it, Bercovici will be honored with the Jewish Communal Profes- sional Award, presented at the Jewish Federation of Greater Orlando annual meeting, held Aug. 21. His good running buddy, Dr. Porth, said it best when he told The Heritage "He will be sorely missed at the JCC--he improved the lives of countless numbers of Orlandoans." Poland From page 2A the issue is not about fief- doms, noting that he has the backing of Poland's Union of Jewish Communities and has been in contact with the Eu- ropean Jewish Congress and the Conference of European Rabbis. Rather, he says, the issue is avoiding disrupting the coordinated effort already underway to reverse the ban. Cohen We "cannot risk that our efforts will be hindered by the actions of people who will not bear the consequences of their interference," Schudrich said in a joint statementwith the presi- dentofPoland'sUnionofJewish Communities, Piotr Kadlcik. The referencewas to Margolin's European Jewish Association. "This is the same organization that called for unity on one day only for it to issue an appallingly disrespectful and inaccurate attack on Poland's Chief Rabbi Schudrich the next day." The European Jewish As- sociation "has the right to protest," said the statement, which was posted on the union's website. "However, as the representatives of the Jews in Poland, we consider it unacceptable that any le- gal or policy initiatives from abroad are initiated without the coordination, or at least consultation, with us." Matters tookastranger turn when the European Jewish Association announced last week that it had hired a Polish nationalist lawyer--Roman Giertych, the one-time head of the now-disbanded League of Polish Families, a far-right political movementaccused of anti-Semitism--to challenge the shechitah ban. A spokesman for the Eu- ropean Jewish Association, Asher Gold, said Giertych was hired "because of his profes- sional skills and connections in the Polish political scene." Until the ban, ritual slaugh- ter was a $500-million-a-year industry in Poland, producing a large portion of the meat for export. After the ban was im- posed in January, some kosher and halal slaughterhouses halted production while oth- ers continued, sources said, out of lack of clarity about the law. Lastweek, Poland's interior minister reportedly said that noncommercial ritual slaugh- ter could continue pending a government petition. For the time being, it seems that both Schudrich and Margolin are proceeding with their competing campaigns. From page 4A to resurrect a term that was popular in the 19th century, in "splendid isolation." To begin with, not every- one agrees that Iraq and Afghanistan were traumat- ic experiences. As Com- mentary magazine's Abe Greenwald has pointed out, in both theaters, America "gained the essential skills for counterinsurgency and nation-building." In Afghanistan, our military prowess resulted in the killing of Osama Bin Laden, as well as the chance for thousands of girls to attend school, in open defiance of the misogynistic Taliban. In Iraq, we got rid of one of the ugliest regimes on the face of the earth, paving Rosenblatt From page 5A matic than her feisty father, said after last week's meet- ing that "there is still much work to be done" toward the goal of doubling teen travel to Israel, but added that "with ongoing and growing interest of some philanthropists and foun- dations," plus Jerusalem's talk of increasing funding for identity initiatives, "the future is looking brighter and we are moving forward." The advocates for teen programs hope to create a national buzz around their issue, and they would the way for peaceful and genuinely free elections in 2009. Additionally, not every military engagement in- volves putting thousands of our own troops on the ground. In Syria, we've had the option of arming and training the Free Syrian Army, as well as imposing a No Fly Zone, a measure supported by U.S. Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) among others. Yes, yes, the isolationists will say, but beware the unin- tended consequences of such actions: we will get sucked into a quagmire from which we cannot escape. Well, if avoiding unintended conse- quences is the primary goal of our foreign policy, then perhaps we should dispense with having a foreign policy in the first place. Whether we like it or not, regional conflicts are a re- flection of the global power balance. In Syria, our fear of unintended consequences has caused us to shrink in the face of Moscow's aggressive backing of Assad. No wonder that Russian President Vladi- mir Putin granted asylum to the fugitive traitor Edward Snowden; Putin did so be- cause he thinks we're weak. He will continue to test that weakness again and again, especially over Iran. As things currently stand, our failure in Syria has cost more than 100,000 lives in a conflict which, says the United Nations High Com- missioner for Refugees, is the worst since the geno- cide in Rwanda in 1994. In turning our backs on the Syrians, we have also effec- tively ditched our commit- ment to the "responsibility to protect," a concept that emerged from the pained international debate about defending human rights that followed both the Rwandan genocide and the war in Bosnia. And in tak- ing such a stance, we are denying the linkage made by Tony Blair between our own security at home and the development of prosperous, stable democracies abroad. The question of whether or not to intervene in such brutal conflicts should con- cern us as Jews, as well as Americans. We remember only too well how outside indifference to the Holocaust love to be associated with Birthright, a proven brand, asserting that the overall communal goal should be to attract more young people to Israel, period. And there are real benefits, they say, in programs for impression- able high school students who spend weeks there, not just days. For those convinced that turf issues will trump the logic of expanding the age borders for free or subsidized Israel travel, consider the early, rocky relationship be- tween Birthright and Masa, the Jewish Agency-sponsored project of extended (five to 12 months) study, volunteer or internship programs in Israel for 18-to-30-year-olds. When Masa started in 2004, major Birthright funders were strongly opposed, arguing that any funds set aside for the project should go instead to Birthright, which had tens of thousands more applicants than it could handle because of financial constraints. Over time, andwith a major infusion of funding from Sheldon and Miriam Adelson to ease the waiting list, the turf tensions eased and Birthright and Masa are seen now as Step One (the free 10-day initial experience) and Step Two (the extended stay, mostly coming from Birthright alumni), respec- tively, of an overall approach. Let's hope that funders and planners will see the rationale for extending that approach further, with teen programs--either in the summer or academic year-- becoming the new Step One of what will be a three-stage plan to engage, educate and deepen Israel engagement among our youth. Gary Rosenblatt is editor and publisher of the New York Jewish Week, www., from which this column is reprinted with permission. aided the Nazis in their pro- gram to eliminate the Jews. And we are well aware that Israel's security can only be enhanced by promoting, in Tony Blair's words, "human rights and an open society" in the countries neighbor- ing it. Finally, let's be honest and admit that isolationism is selective. As practiced by the Obama Administration, it involves shying away from the tough conflicts in favor of focusing on the easier ones, like the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Because Israel is our closest ally, it is there- fore amenable to our sug- gestions, worries and even pressure. We don't have anywhere near that level of clout with 81763 54289 39652 63198 72941 48537 96875 15324 27416 the Assads of this world. Yet it is these nasty regimes colluding with our great ad- versaries, Russia and China, who pose the greatest threat to our security and our val- ues. If we are worrying about unintended consequences, how about this one? A chas- tened, humbled America universally regarded as hav- ing betrayed its founding principles. Because that's where iso- lationism will take us. Ben Cohen is the Shill- man Analyst for His writings on Jewish af- fairs and Middle Eastern politics have been published in Commentary, the New York Post, Ha'aretz, Jewish Ideas Daily and many other publications. 4295 7163 1 847 2754 5386 6921 3412 8679 9538