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December 23, 2011     Heritage Florida Jewish News
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December 23, 2011

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HERITAGE FLORIDA JEWISH NEWS, DECEMBER 23, 2011 I had a lit1 le village O O PAGE 3.h. Rabbi Arnold Siegel with wife, Mary, enjoying their edible Chanukah village. By Pamela Ruben Special to the Heritage The Casselberry home of Community Rabbi Ar- nold Siegel overflows with dreidels and holiday dcor, but the homemade, edible Chanukah village certainly takes the cake. Siegel, a retired Navy chaplain now working with the Orlando community, Elie Siegel and her mother, from the Chanukah village. says "the delicious smell of ginger and spices is a yearly reminder that Chanukah is on its way." This model-sized Chanukah shtetl is baked from scratch each year by the rabbi's wife, Mary, as a way to pass down family his, tory in a fun and tasty way. Their daughter, Elie, now 20, recalls early memories of the gingerbread town. She said, "I would eye this mar- Mary, with cast iron molds vel with a sense of wonder, even when I was no taller than a chair in this room." This one-of-a-kind Cha- nukah village is modeled after Mary's ancestral home- land in Slovakia, a Jewish village called Mindzinty. Mary's paternal family emi- grated to the United States in the early 1900s, and she grew up hearing stories about life in this rural farm- The Siegel family's edible Chanukah ing community. Like many shtetls, or European Jewish villages, Mindzinty was a casualty of World War II. As a military family, the Siegels were often on the move. Mary chose to put down roots for children Elie, Rachelle and Evan by recreating a piece of her heritage each year at Chanukah time. The Chanukah village is a labor of love, as each wall is baked twice usinga cast iron mold, and left to dry out for two days. Then, each wall and roof is attached individually with a thick fondant, and the affixed candy decorations add color. Rabbi Siegel points out that Chanukah is the festival of lights, stating, "We light the menorah at the darkest part of the season, helping JFS Goodwill Ambassador Mike McKee village. us move from darkness to light," much like this festive village adds a brightness to the Siegel home. Elie said that she loves her mother's baking, but will leave it to her mother to pass on the tradition. "I love to cook, but I hate to clean up. One day when I have kids, this will be a part of our history (to nibble on) with Grandma and Grandpa." JFS is continuing its fea- ture of highlighting Good- will Ambassadors. This month's profile focuses on Mike McKee, who believes in the motto, "Men for Other.s."i The motto was actually handed down from his all- male high school, Walsh Jesuit, and it stuck with him. Although the school is G.jstian based, McKee is quick to point out the simi- larities that exist between Judaism and Christianity. "Both cultures have at its core, the idea Of serving mankind. Forff/t v I've .... been exposed to bc L reu-  : MikeMcKee gions throughout my life - I went to a Jewish pre-school, got my first job at the JCC in Ohio, so I have never chose to distinguish between the two religions." By day, McKee is a suc- cessful financial planner. His first venture into the non-profit world began in the summer of 2003. He opened Inspire Charitable Foundation and asked his financial clieTats to take 10% of his fee for the year and write a check to the Foundation, then deduct it from their bill. He used the foundation as seed money for fundraisers for select charities. Community Care for the Elderly (part of VNA) was one of the first charities he helped. He supplied the start-up cash for their 25th anniversary celebration gala and the event netted the or- ganization more than double the investment. "I get such a thrill out of performing community service," he states. "I was holiday shopping with my 9 year-old son and we were discussing how much more fun it is to give than receive. I get such reward from doing a fundraiser for a charity; it's certainly beatswatching TV. I've been blessed in my life and when you've been blessed, you have a respon- sibility to give back." As of late, the lines have been blurred between McK- ee's for-profit and not-for- profit business. Out of a de- sire to help an under-served population, he began spe- cializing in financial plan- ning for families with special needs children. "Working with this sector is difficult because finances are usually in disarray. The additional expenses incurred with a special needs child can place a huge financial burden on families," states McKee. He decided to structure his fees on a sliding scale, because in many cases, families simply did not have the money for fees'. In fact, McKee's first introduction to JFS was to observe how they handled their counseling fees on a sliding-scale basis. When McKee saw first- Lapchick to be honored by HMREC The Holocaust Memo- rial Resource and Educa- tion Center of Florida has announced that it will be honoring Dr. Richard Lap- chick, DeVos Sport Business Management Program Chair at UCF, at its annual Dinner of Tribute on Wednesday, April 25, 2012. "We are thrilled that Dr. Lapchick has accepted our invitation," said Parn Kancher, executive director of the organization. "His work is truly inspiring. Our dinner theme this year is 'respect', and his life's work embodies that theme to a remarkable degree. He has long been a human rights activist, a pioneer for racial equality, and an internation- ally-recognized authority on race and gender relations in sports." Lapchick, the son of famed basketball player and coach Joe Lapchick, says that the greatest life-altering mo- mentfor him was a visit to Dachau as a teenager. This led him to create a number of projects addressing di- versity, conflict resolution and gender-based violence, with a particular emphasis on changing bystander be- havior. An acknowledged leader in diversity training as both a moral and business imperative in sports, he has written a number of books on the subject and contributes Dr. Richard Lapchick a regular column at ESPN. com. Reservations for the dinner are now being accepted either online at or by phone at 40%628-0555. hand the breadth of work that JFS performed he was amazed. He had no idea that right in his own backyard there was an agency support- ing the entire community, and helping to resolve the backlash of a faltering econ- omy. He states, "People are struggling to stay afloat and make ends meet. Although the media may show that the economy is getting better, main street is not getting better; if anything it may be getting worse. The dollar continues to decline and ex- penses, such as groceries and heallh insurance continue to rise. It is a real scary time for the majority of people out there. Unemployment is not declining and we may be looking at the new normal." McKee continues, "I think JFS' Family Stabilization Program is amazing. Help- ing people to help themselves is an awesome concept. It's what we need as a society - people empowered to help themselves, rather than relying on handouts from the government. The suc- cess rate of the program is quite telling." JFS Family Stabilization Program (FSP) is a preven- tive, solution based 6-month program, which empowers families through education- al workshops and counseling programs. Statistics show that upon completion of the FSPprogram, 80% of partici- pants experience significant increases in self-sufficiency. McKee has been serving on the JFS Board for more than three years and is an active participant. Over the last two years, he has organized two successful golf tourna- ments, which helped raise money and awareness for the agency. "I joined the board because I felt that I could make a difference by getting involved with this organiza- tion. The majority ofrnoney raised goes toward services and I love that its local and serving the immediate com- munity. Rarely do you find a charity that supports the entire community and is an unknown entity. We gave out over 107,000 meals last year, right out of the office on Lee Road (10% from the south- west office was distributed) and if I weren't on the board I wouldn't have even noticed JFS is a hidden gem within Winter Park and my goal is to help people become more aware of the important work being done by the agency." McKee's background as a financial planner has leaned well to his position on the board as JFS' Treasurer. Additionally, he has earned three certificates at Rol- lins Philanthropy Center: Philanthropic Fundraising, Volunteer Management, and Non-profitManagement. His work with business owners, helping them to grow their business, is what he also hopes to bring to JFS. "I'm very excited about JFS going forward--we have a new executive director and many untapped opportunities. The agency has been around for over 30 years and I would like to be able to secure program funding for JFS for the next 25 years." On a daily basis, JFS is making positive changes in.the lives of individuals, children and families. If there is someone that you feel is making a difference in the community and would like to nominate them as a Goodwill Ambassador, please contact 407-644-7593, ext. 235. To learn more about JFS programs, visit their website at I00/A41R PIONEER q Q Of Florida and Poinc,i,ana