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December 4, 2009     Heritage Florida Jewish News
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PAGE 10A HERITAGE FLORIDA JEWISH NEWS, DECEMBER 4, 2009 Wittenstein family deeply woven into the fabric of Florida By Reva Shader On May2, 2010, the Friends of the Jewish Pavilion will honor the Shader-Wittenstein- Meitin clan, and is offering Heritage readers a series of historical summaries of the people who compose this vast family. The Pavilion invites all current friends--and those we don't know--to attend, so that new relationships may be forged as well. And now some background on the Wittensteins and their participation in the growth of Central Florida and the Jewish community within it. Attracted by the weather and prospect of citrus, in 1912 several families with pioneer spirit began a migration from Pittsburgh to Orlando. Among these adventurous trailblazers were Peter David Wittenstein and Bella Wittenstein. with their son Morris. Peter David Wittenstein was a Torah scribe and actually was authorized to write Torahs. He was also a lay religious leader, a shochet, and a mohel. In 1913. Morris re- turned to Pittsburgh to marry his next-door sweetheart. Esther Shader. Upon their return, they purchased land in Fairvilla. Coming to this fertile, rich land. they brought their faith, pride and Jewish culture. and itwas during this time that Morris founded the esteemed chevra kadisha (Jewish burial society) of Central Florida. As Esther and Morris settled into their new lives, they pro- duced fourwonderful children: Joseph, Florence Wittenstein Tobias, Neil and ~bell Wit- tenstein Kahn. The young Wittenstein children went to high school in Orlando and their parents owned the College Park Dairy, and the family was no stranger to hard work. After Joe graduated from the University of Floridawith a degree in accounting, he joined the Navy and became an officer. Upon his return to Orlando, he established his own accounting firminwhich he achieved great success. He also had married his long-time sweetheart, Ruth Esther Rosen. They had two children: Jesse lives in Califor- nia with his family (wife Trish, and children Jerran and Molly), and Nancy Wittenstein lives in Tampa with her son. Max. Joe had always directed his energies toward improving life for Jews in this community and his tireless efforts never ceased. His list of accomplishments is extensive, beginning with Stocking up for the holiday season Jewish Family Services board member Neil Webman and his wife, Malka, help stockthe shelves at JFS' Pearlman Pantry. "It makes me feel so good to help," says Malka. JFS is collecting food in anticipation of a very busy holiday season. For more information on how to help the pantry, call 407-644-7593. The Wittenstein family, Passover 1942. From right to left: Neil, Molly Rosen, Ruth Esther, Joe, Esther, Morris, Tybe and Fagel. work on the Jewish Community Council Board, as chairman of the Council CRC Commit- tee, work with the Chesed Committee, as a founder of Jewish Family Services. and as a board member of the Jewish Federation of Greater Orlando and the Jewish Com- munity Center. He was JCC director emeritus, a founding TOP trustee, a Jewish Family Services honoree.Mosaic board member, JFS honoree, and a Jerome J. Bornstein Senior Leadership Award recipient. He was a historian and chronicler of early Jewish settlers in Or- ange County, and his research was filed with YIVO, Brandeis University and the American JewishArchivesinWashington, D.C. He was also among the first Heritage Human Service Award honorees. Joe Witten- stein is remembered by many _as an amazing, distinguished, generous, caring individual, whose death in March 2008was a loss to the entire community. Florence (Fagel) Wittenstein Tobias lived in Orlando while her husband, Toby, was in military service. He returned to Orlando to his family, which included two children, Michael and Rebecca. Michael and his wife Pare, who now live in Kingston, N.Y., have one son, Daniel. Michael is a gifted guitarist known for his hand- crafted guitars, which he sup- plies to well-known musicians. Rebecca moved to the Miami area when she married. After Toby's death, Fagel moved to Miami to be near Rebecca and her granddaughter, Victoria. Fagel died in 2001. Neil. the youngest of the family, was never tempted to stray to other regions. As a lifelong resident, he has seen the growth and development of Central Florida. He is proud of his connection with Con- gregation Ohev Shalom and has consistently supported it through the years. He has also been an active member of the Shriners and sits on the board of governors for the Shriner's Hospital. He has two children. Debbie and David, who have both moved to other areas of the U.S. In 1943. the Orlando Air Base housed many service personnel, and Wolf Kahn happened to be one of them. Congregation Ohev Shalom extendedwelcoming socials for servicemen, and it was there that Tybe and Wolf met. A year later they were married. They had three children, Robert, Barbara and Bernie. ~ybe had a background as a dietician, and she was called upon by the school board to j oin their teach- ing staff, where she became a home education instructor. She touched the lives of many young students and has been acclaimed as an outstanding educator. Wolf made a career in the jewelry business; he had a suc- cessful operation on Orange Avenue in downtown Orlando for many years and then with the Disney organization before his retirement. Wolf is also known as someone who has dedicated himself to helping others. As a Red Cross water safety instructor, he formed the first swimming team at Jones High and was also responsible for integrating several all-white sports facilities. For his civil rights activities, he was recog- nized by several organizations: the Wells' Built Museum, the Jones High Alumni, the "Y" and several black churches. He is also on the Jones High School's sports wall of fame. He has been praised through the years as a talented artist, and has done work for Hadas- sah, his temple's Book of Life, the JCC Players and the Holo- caust Memorial Resource and Education Center. Three of his bronze sculptures are displayed at the Holocaust Center's en- trance. Several of his busts are displayed at the Hebrew Day School, and other works are located in local venues, and in San Francisco, Chicago, and Fort Lauderdale. There have been many other awards and, throughout his active life, he still made time to serve on the boards of the American Red Cross, the Orlando Bi-Racial Committee, Kinneret and the JCC. Wolf and Tybe Kahn's daugh- ter Barbara Jean was known as a ray of sunshine with a sparkling smile and vivacious personality. She was an estab- lished and successful realtor, but it was her son, Jim Brady, who was the joy of her life. It brought great sadness to the family and all who knew her when she passed away in Janu- ary 2009. Their son Robert, better known as Bobby, has more than 10 years of city board service, including on the Code Enforce- ment Board, as vice chairman on the Civil Service Board. vice chairman and chairman of the Nuisance Abatement Board, and vice chairman of the Community and Youth Services Board. Hewas aboard member of the Urayasu, Japan sister city project and served as an Orlando delegate attending the signing ceremony. Bobby Kahn also arranged an endow- ment and gift in honor of his beloved parents, creating the largest museum collection of Florida Highwaymen art. He has two children: Genie, a physician, lives in Gainesville (she plans to be married in May 2010). and Matt, who has a finance degree, lives andworks in Central Florida. Bobby'swife Flory has a daughter, Robyn, who lives in Central Florida with her husband Kevin Cotley and their children. Ella and Ben, who attend the Hebrew Day School and JCC. Bernie Kahn and his wife Valerie have also devoted their time and energies toavariety of causes. Bernie has beenaboard member at Congregation Ohev Shalom and currently serves at Temple Israel. He has been on the synagogue's board, the ritual committee chair twice. and he also serves as a gabbai. He attends the community minyan whenever possible. In addition to his work in the Jew- ish community, he has served as president of the Orlando Jaycees. the Dental Society of Greater Orlando, and Maitland Center Rotary. He has also held various positions in the Florida DentalAssociation, and his practice is located directly across from the JCC.Valerie has also been an active volunteer in the community. In addition to committee work for the Jaycees and the JCC, she has served as president of COS Sisterhood, Temple Israel Sisterhood, and the local chapter of ORT. She has also been the choir director at COS and Temple Israel and sings at community events. Bernie and Valerie's son Alex served on the board of the AZA youth group and on Teen Court as an "attorney" at his high school. Love and pride in commu- nity, both civic and religious, have been intense in all the members of the Wittenstein family. Personal Mini Storage donates 600 pounds of food to JFS Richard Matthis (1) and Alex Patterson (r) from Personal Mini Storage drop off food to the Jewish Family Services' Pearlman Pantry. In November, employees at Personal Mini Storage conducted a food drive and collected nearly 600 pounds of food to donate to the pantry. Jerry Weiss (second from left), a Pearlman Pantry staff member, and Joe Velez, a volunteer, accept the food and prepare to unload and bag the food for the needy families whom come to JFS for food. If you would like to conduct a food drive or volunteer in one of the two JFS pan- tries, call 407-644-7593. Abe and Tess Wise inspire Beit Hamidrash teens Chug facilitator Amy Schwartz (1) and Beit Hamidrash director Erica Hruby get together with special speakers Abe and Tess Wise, and students Scott Feinberg, Alex Chatham and Jennifer Gray. Abe and Tess Wise were the featured speakers Nov. 15 for the November Beit Hamidrash Jews in the Biz club.The Jews in the Biz club, one of two 'BH Chugim,' brings 10th-12th grade Jewish teens together once a month to meet with interesting and inspiring Central Florida Jews. The Wises shared their life stories with the teens and era- phasized how their education and exposure to Jewish life and Jewish organizations as young people helped inform who they are today. The Wises stressed the importance of education, Zionism and com- munity building. The Beit Hamidrash teens learned that the Wises were central in the planning and development of what they know as the organized Jewish community in Orlando. Tess called her husband a "vision- ary,', and that he truly un- derstood what was necessary to create a rich Jewish life in Orlando. The Wises concluded the programby offeringwo~:ds of hope for the Jewish future. For more information about this program and others visit www.beithamidrash.org.