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Heritage Florida Jewish News
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December 25, 2009     Heritage Florida Jewish News
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December 25, 2009

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PAGE 8A HERITAGE FLORIDA JEWISH NEWS, DECEMBER 25, 2009 One man welcom00is strangers and the Sabbath for 50 years First person by Adrienne E. Katz Katz This is a true story of my unique experience as a"Wan- dering Jew" in the oceanfront lobby of the Caribe Hilton in San Juan, Puerto Rico. The time was late one Friday afternoon in December. Co- incidentally, it was also the first night of Chanukah. I was enjoying the ocean view and reading our daugh- ter's Facebook page that de- scribed her Chanukah prepa- rations. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw a lighted electric menorah, and practically suf- fered whiplash turning my head around to see what had caught my attention. To my amazement, I beheld elaborate preparations for celebrating the first night of Chanukah and the Sabbath. I called my husband to come on down to see a surprising sight. There, in the corner of the Hilton lobby, was a beauti- ful arrangement of challah, kosher wine, doughnuts (in lieu of latkes), sodas and juice. The spread was presided over by a smiling, nattily dressed gentleman wearing a yar- mulke. The person who was setting up the service was Jerry Firsty, a transplanted New Yorker who's an active member of his Puerto Rico congregation and the Jewish Community Center. Jerry has performed weekly Sabbath and holiday services for travelers as his own per- sonal mitzvah for more than 50 years, gaining the coop- eration for his endeavors from the Hilton managers over five decades. His wife, Ruth Firsty, accompanied him as they warmly welcomed us and distributed a stack of printed handouts with the appropri- ate prayers and songs for the Sabbath and Chanukah. About a dozen participants (some dressed in evening clothes and some in shorts and flowered shirts) gathered around the Sabbath candles and the menorah. We recited the prayers over the candles, wine, bread and menorah and sang "Rock of Ages" with enthusiasm, if not virtuosity. We enjoyed the traditional repast, exchanged informa- tion about where we were from and what had brought us to Puerto Rico and ex- pressed our appreciation to the Firstys for their efforts and thoughtfulness. It was surreal and ser- endipity, all wrapped up in a lovely, memorable experience. I learned that wandering Jews don't always have to look too far to find a way to celebrate the Sabbath and Jewish holidays. I also learned a new and creative way that one man lives his Judaism, without fanfare or fame. Jerry Firsty has led Sabbath and holiday celebrations for travelers in Puerto Rico for the last 50 years. Here he ushers in Chanukah 2009. HDS studellts celebrate Chanukah at Kinneret The Hebrew Day School second graders celebrated Chanukah Dec. 9 with Kinneret Apartments resi- dents. The children's per- formance included Chanu- kah songs sung in English and Hebrew as well as a variety of other fun, inter- active songs. At the end of their performance, the children presented hand- made Chanukah cards to the residents. There are many volunteer opportunities available for families, children and groups at Kinneret. For information on how to get involved, contact Leslie Collin at 407-425-4537. Ruth Bruton receives a handmade card. Kinneret residents enjoy the Chanukah performance of the HDS second graders. Grayson visits troops for holidays Hebrew Day School second graders perform Chanukah songs for residents at Kinneret Apartments. 00ngagement Jan Lepow and Lloyd Stern Mrs. Fran Lepow of Longwood, Fla., is pleased to announce the engagement of her daughter, Jan Lepow, to Lloyd Stern, son of Joseph and Susan Stern of Tampa, Fla. The bride-elect, who also is the daughter of the late Neil Lepow, graduated from the University of South Florida. She is employed at Sunlake High School in Land O Lakes, Fla., as the instructional technology specialist. The groom-elect is employed at Capital Contractors and is the director of facilities. A June wedding is planned in ChampionsGate, Fla. The couple live in Odessa, Fla. Courtesy of the office of Alan Grayson Congressman Alan Grayson (1) and the other members of the congressional delegation that visited soldiers in lraq. The group is standing in front of an MRAP (Mine Resistant Ambush Protected) vehicle. (Washington, D.C.)- Congressman Alan Grayson, who is Jewish and repre- sents Orlando's District 8, thanked U.S. troops for their service during a recent official trip to Iraq and Kuwait. Grayson and the other members of a Congressional delegation made stops at Camp Victory in Baghdad and a military base in Balad, Iraq. The delegation first stopped at Camp Victory in Baghdad. Grayson joined troops from Florida for dinner on Dec. 13. The fol- lowing day, he joined other members of the delegation to visit wounded troops at a surgical hospital in Balad, as well as soldiers at Balad's nearby military base. "I hope they can come home soon, all of them," said Grayson. "Because I care about them. I want them home, safe and sound, not risking their lives in a desert 8,000 miles from home." During his visit, Grayson met with Army Lt. Gen. Charles Jacoby, Jr., com- mander of multi-national forces in Iraq, to get a bet- ter understanding of the operational side of the U.S. military involvement there. Grayson said he learned that U.S. casualties have declined sharply because U.S. troops no longer serve, in effect, as Baghdad's police force. "The Iraqis can take care of themselves. We can no longer afford to. The cost is too high, in both money and blood," he said. The highlight of the trip for Grayson was serving dinner to the servicemen and ser- vicewomen during a shrimp gumbo cookout that Monday evening. He also met with the U.S. Ambassador to Iraq, Ray Crocker, and visited a Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicle facility in Kuwait. The congressional delega- tion left Washington D.C. on Dec. 11 and returned on Dec. 15.