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Heritage Florida Jewish News
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November 26, 2010     Heritage Florida Jewish News
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November 26, 2010

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HERITAGE FLORIDA jEWISH NEWS, NOVEMBER 26, 2010 With thanks, apologies and expectations By lan D. Robinson President, Jewish Federation of Greater Orlando On Oct. '29, an article ap- peared in the Heritage about our communityandour Feder- ation, written by Stan Roberts and featuring the viewpoints of well-respected community leader Burr Chasnov. The in- terview touched the nerves of several groups and individuals, and brought to light (again) a specific challenge that faces our community and our Fed- eration: the financial security of our Maitland Campus. It also highlighted a more global challenge: how we as a Jewish community choose to exist. It's not the first time a re- spected leader has called into question how we as a commu- nity fail to work together or to best utilize resources. In the Sept. 24 Federation-sponsored community edition, Barry Kud- lowitz, the executive director of Jewish Family Services, made the plea for community leaders to come together and deter- mine how we (as a community) should overcome the crises faced by our community's agen- cies-crises exacerbated by the tightening of donor-investors' wallets in an ever-increasing competition for needed funds. Moreover, Charles Schwartz--another well- respected and well-regarded community leader--has over the last several months spear- headed a viral, grassroots, call- to-action campaign regarding the campus. The list of volunteers and leaders making a difference in our community and for our Federation continues to grow and gain traction. But sometimes, as more people get involved and subsequent discussions are held, the mes- sage can get cloudy or the lines get blurred by personal or group perspective, personality, and passion. So, while I'm not immune to any of these "three P's," I do think I can convey the message, first-hand, we all need to hear and respond to. First, thank you. Thank you to each and every volunteer, leader, and professional--past, present and future--whose choice to make a difference benefits our community and our Federation. Our community and-our Federation are Jewishlyvibrant in many areas. Our synagogues are flourishing. Our care for people in need, the sick and the elderly is expansive. Our efforts to reach out to Jewish newcomers, as well as outside our Jewish community, is well- regarded and well-received. We provide terrific social, educational, and leadership development opportunities and resources through several agencies and organizations. Our youth are engaged in a variety of ways: the new PJ Library (turning bedtime mo- ments into Jewish moments), a myriad Jewish youth groups, Belt Hamidrash (the com- munity Jewish high school), and GOSIE (Greater Orlando Summer Israel Experience). And--despite challenging conditions--our community agencies and our Federation have started to work better together and clearly continue to be a great resource to our community. We may not have the Jewish community we want yet, but we have a great foundation and the individual building blocks to take us there. Second, I apologize. While I clearly understand that our Jewish community and Federa- tiola woes were born long ago and that great strides have been made by many, we are where we are today on my watch and it's not where we want our- seives--co'mmunity or Federa- tion-to be. And the facts are clear. Our Maitland campus is financially challenged. We are short $2-plus million on principal funding for the remaining bond debt, which costs our community, through Federation funding, upwards of $300,000 each year in principal and interest payments over and above the rents received by our partner-tenants at the Maitland campus. It is true that we spend too much time on our landlord duties. This clouds our mes- saging, taxes our resources (in both finances and staff), and overshadows the suc- cesses Hope Kramer, Emely Katz, and the rest of the team have achieved in transforming Federation into an agencywith true impact to serve our Jewish community as a whole. Equally true is the fact that we have not historically raised funds to satisfy everyone's wants or needs; that's one of the reasons we gave ample notice that we were abdicat- ing agency fundraising to the agencies and focusing our fundraising efforts using a much narrower and easy-to- understand scope. It is true that some in the community have lost faith in our Federation; more impor- tant, some have lost faith in what our Federation can do for our community. For that, I am immeasurably saddened. However, things are far from over. Our community and our Federation are vibrant and rel- evant; butwe need to see results from our efforts to resolve the specific $2-plus million finan- cial burden associatedwith our Maitland campus. Third, we must hold high expectations for our commu- nity and our Federation. Stan's interview with Burt raises op- portunities to be addressed in that regard. In fact, one item has already been addressed jointly: the Jewish Senior Housing Council's ShiraLago project proceeds. ShiraLago was initially funded by loans, as well as a grant from our Federation. All funding was repaid, includ- ing interest, and additional distributions by the JSHC were made to our community through special grants for se- nior services. In addition to the loan repay- ment with interest, and the JSHC senior services grants, the Kinneret Council onAging board deferred its 2009 Fed- eration allocation as a result of the windfall. We should all be excited that a project started in our community and funded in part by our community leaders and our Federation was and will be used to benefit our community. Another item in the article PAGE 5A spoke about agency consolida- tion, which isn'tan entirely new concept for our community, but one that can and should be revisited, perhaps initially in terms ofleveraging or combin- ing back office staffing needs (accounting, finance, human resources, etc.), as well as other shared services (such as insurance and benefits). While this presents an opportunity to reduce agency and organiza- tional costs, it can only become a viable endeavor with true and active buy-in from all the organizations thatbenefit.The need for active buy-in brings me to the final portion of my message. A former mentor of mine ended all of his presentations with this question: "Five frogs are sitting on a log; three decide to jump in. How many are on the log?" The obvious answer, of course, is two. The actual answer, however, is five. Why five, you ask? Because the three frogs only decided to jump in, they didn't actually do it. Many people in our com- munity have decided to make a difference, but are still sitting on the log, waiting. The time to do it has been upon us for a while, and if we are to focus on the things that can make a great impact on our commu- nity, we all need to jump. Now. Journalism student finds inspiration at the GA or about anything we had dis- cussed. The only thing I could think to ask was, "When will I find out!?" With a chuckle, he an- swered, "You will find out within the next two or three days." Needless to say, the two days that followed my interview consisted of me continually checking my e-mail: Between classes, after lunch, and even right before bed, I was on my computer checking my e-mail. Finally, after two days, I got an e-mail from Hagshama. After seeing the word "Congratulations," I was elated! I felt as ifa huge weight had conclusion that it was better for me to overcome my fear and get my phone interview out of the way. With my stomach in knots, I gave the Hagshama staff member a call. To my sur- prise, Marcus Velelis was not only very personable, but he also put me a little bit more at ease about whether or not I was a good fit for "Do the Write Thing." Marcus asked me questions about Israel and about the things I cared most about, which showed me that "Do the Write Thing" was the perfect opportunity for me. He concluded the interview by asking me if I had any questions about the program advocate the importance of a Jewish state of Israel. At first, I was skeptical about attending such a confer- ence. My initial thoughts were that I did not have enough experience or intelligence to be a part of something so im- portant, Regardless, I applied and crossed my fingers. Approximately two weeks later, I received a voice mail from one of the Hagshama staff members explaining that the second part of my applica- tion was a phone interview. I debated whether or not to call him immediately after receiving the message. After arguing with myself for a minute or two, I came to the By Arielle Ozery To be inspired is one of the greatest forms of strength one can possess. Being in- spired gives one a sense of confidence, a sense0f drive, a sense of purpose, and a sense of empowerment. Recently, I went-to New Orleans to attend the "Do the Write Ting" conference for young Jewish journal- ists, held every year at the General Assembly of the Jewish Federations of North America. Not only did I meet people I thought I could only dream of meeting, but I also learned a lot about using my passion and love forwriting to Burning issue: New order for Chanukah? By Edmon J. Rodman light on the first night--a forBeitShammaiwasaccord- first night glow of their me- norahs a Chanukah stimulus package. The festival woflld begin with a blaze of glory. Think of it as a Big Bang theory of Chanukah: Begin with one inspirational burst that just keeps spreading. Hold that image in mind as you light one fewer candle each night. And perhaps try to fill the candle void with something else, like giving tzedakah or recycling. The change shouldn'tcome as much of a shock. Reviewing my household finances recently, I came to the conclusion that I have been a Team Shammai guy for years and didn't even know it. How about you? We wanted the immediate gratification of the big glow: bigger houses and bigger synagogues, giant simchas, better college educations. Easy credit made it happen in a flash. Just offer up the most bulls we could possibly afford and don't sweat it. Order on page 23A LOSANGELES (JTA)--Are you ready for a new Jewish order this Chanukah? Considering our economic times, are we faced with a gradual cutback in the way we light the menorah? Someone once proposed thzit we light the whole thing on the first night, then cut back one candle each night. Has the time come for that change? As I think I heard in the famous Chanukah song: "On first night--let us light, eight little Chanukah candle fires'tis asight, left and right--eight little Chanukah candle fires." What with many Jewish households experiencing layoffs or furloughs, or hav- ing a recent college graduate who cannot find work, the full menorah glow coming on the eighth day seems so far off in an uncertain future. Chanukah comeswhen the days are short, and this year when money is short, too, maybe we need some extra flash of burning wax to wake us from our doldrums. For Jewish households once employed in hard-hit industries like finance, health care, real estate, education and publishing, the promise of the menorah's light can shed new meaning. There's a Chanukah me- norah concept of "pirsum ha'nes," of publicizing the miracle of the oil lasting eight days. But isn't that a kind of economic miracle? Lighting the menorah the way we do now wasn't always a given. As recorded in the Bablyonian Talmud, there was a debate (about the time of the first century CE) between the school of Shammai and the school of Hillel about how to light the menorah. Beit Shammai says,"On the first day one lights eight and from then on one continues to decrease." Bet Hillel contends, "On the first day one lights one and from then on one continues to increase." The Talmud also recounts their reasoning: "The reason ing to the number of bulls of- fered up on Sukkot," a number that decreases each day. And the Hillei rationale, the one we follow today: "We increase in holiness and we don't decrease." Certainly no one lights the candles the Shammai way-- or do they? I have always loved the way Chanukah builds to a crescen- do of light. It's gradual, subtle, so very unlike its forced calen- dar soul mate, Christmas. The song goes "one more candle for the Maccabee children." Right? Not "one less." But with the crescendo comes a price. In our house, by the eighth night of Chanukah, you can feel the heat. Since the candles burn in the windows, we need to move them back from the drapes. The big glow comes at the end, and there's no song for this--at the end I some- times feel burnt out. So why not go with Sham- mai? What if he had it right? This year, Jewish households would find the immediate full been liftedoffmy shoulders. It had been replaced by a smile that went from ear to ear. As any good Jewish daughter woulddo, I immediately called my mother; hearing the joy and pride in her voice was the cherry on top of an already incredible day. A couple of weeks, and many flight changes later, I was finally on my way to New Orleans! Soon after arriving in New Orleans, I met some of the people I would be spending the next two days with. With each new person I met, my excitement for the next two days grew. I knew that the people I was with were as excited to be there as I was. As we anxiously awaited our opening plenary, we explored a local New Orleans coffee shop. After about an hour, we were as excited as we possibly could be and made our way back to the hotel to attend the plenary. It consisted of many of the Hagshama staff members explaining why we had been chosen to come to New Orleans, and discussing our itinerary for the next couple of days. Simply listening to Oded Feuer, the Hagshama repre- sentative for North America, discuss the importance of journalism in the fight to advocate for Israel as an in- dependent Jewish state made me realize how vital it was that I make the most of my experience at the GA. While in New Orleans, I at- tended many different semi- nars hosted by many differ- Inspiration on page 23A Dry Bones "BETTER TO LIGHT A CANDLE THAN TO CURSE THE DARKNESS" AND EVEN BETTER TI00AI00 IS TO LIGHT EIGHT CAI4/DLES/