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Honor Shimon Peres; Buy Israeli

28 Sep

14441153_10155239980063572_4096406518751730687_nShimon Peres grew up with Israel. He moved to the British Mandate of Palestine in the early 1930’s and has been a change maker in the modern Jewish country since it was born.

On Tuesday, September 27th, 2016 we lost a true Zionist and a true peace activist for the Jewish people and the people of Israel.

In his last video message before his death, he urged everyone to buy Israeli goods. Visit one of our older blogs to see HOW and WHERE to buy Israeli

Shimon Peres’ last video statement

May his memory be for a blessing. z”l




Interfaith Missions to Israel

22 Jun

For the past 4 years, The Jewish Federation of Sarasota-Manatee has invested in relationships with the Christian community through community programming and interfaith missions to Israel. This year, we had the opportunity to travel to Israel with another Federation community from the Heart of New Jersey. This unique trip consisted of clergy and leadership from Jewish, Presbyterian, Reform Church, Baptists and Episcopal communities. To read about this trip, click on this article

Below are quotes from two local leaders who traveled to Israel with the Jewish Federation on the mission highlighted in the article:

“Beyond the blessing of biblical locations and narratives coming alive in sight and context, the interfaith trip was a marvelous opportunity to explore deeper conversations and questions (even tough ones) about Judaism and Christianity’s heritage.  The trip also opened my eyes to the greater reality of everyday life in Israel – what it is and isn’t.  How refreshing to see and hear stories of hope and understanding – appreciating the effort to recognize and respect our common human dignity, regardless of background, and the desire we all have to make a better life for future generations.  I learned a lot and am forever grateful for such an educational and inspirational trip.”     – Rev. Michael Todd, Church of the Holy Spirit, Osprey, Florida



“Israel faces many complex challenges. So often in American mainstream media and around the world, Israel is painted in a negative light, despite the fact that they are daily confronted by an enemy that seeks to destroy their existence. Traveling there and getting to see and hear first-hand about these challenges and the strides Israel is trying to make, was such an affirmation of this bias in media. Truth matters – whether that’s here in America or there in Israel. We need to see both sides of the story and understand that what Israel is facing is complicated. One of the purposes of this trip was for us to see for ourselves what is taking place, to dispel the misconceptions we so often see.  I believe the trip accomplished this.” – Dixie Cline, Director of Development, CareNet Manasota, Bradenton, Florida

Israeli President Rivlin’s Message on Independence Day

11 May

May 10th, 2016

In honor of the upcoming national days, President Reuven Rivlin sent an Independence Day message to Jewish communities and friends of Israel around the world.


In his message – which can be viewed here – President Rivlin spoke of his memories as a nine year old child, seeing the flag of Israel raised for the first time as the flag of an independent, sovereign state, he said, “Today, each time I see the flag flying, it fills my heart with pride and joy. As Israel turns 68, we can look with pride, at our past, and must look to the future with hope. The State of Israel was born out of a hope of 2000 years. It was born with the bravery of dreamers who worked to turn their dream into reality. Their spirit stays with us today. In the past year, I have visited many different places across this wonderful country, I have seen this spirit, this joy and pride, which still pushes us forward.”


The President spoke of the terrible price of terrorism and said, “Sadly, over the last year Israel has faced a wave of terrible terror attacks which has brought much pain, and left many painful scars. I sat in the houses, of the families who lost loved ones, soldiers and civilians, I felt their pain, and shared in their tears.” He stressed, “Terror will not overcome us, even though it may take a terrible price.” 


The President highlighted the importance of celebrating diversity in Israel’s democracy, “Real independence, means the freedom of expression, to celebrate and enjoy the diversity of voices of all the people in Israel, as different as they may be; whether we agree with them or not. An inclusive nation, which knows to debate and discuss with respect and understanding.”


The President concluded, “Our Independence Day is a day to celebrate. It is a day to lift the flag high in the knowledge that our hope will lead us to find the way to overcome the challenges, and to spread a message of understanding and respect between one another. And while around our borders, and even inside our borders, blow the terrible winds of radical Islam, we are sure of our path and of our ability and right to build here our national home, with security and prosperity.”

Why Are Jews the Only Minority We Don’t Protect On College Campuses? (repost)

6 May

*The following is a repost of an article that originally appeared in the Huffington Post on May 5th, 2016. To read the original please follow this link 


by Michael Sitver

Last week, some students at University of Chicago, where I attend, proposed a resolution to our College Council to divest from Chinese weapons manufacturers, in protest of China’s severe human rights abuses and its long-standing occupation of Tibet.

Members of the council were quick to condemn the resolution, and for good reason. The members noted it was political, and disrespectful to Chinese students. Other members noted that Chinese students should be given time to respond to the presenters with a counter-presentation. One representative even suggested that the College Council issue an apology to Chinese students for even considering the resolution. The resolution was tabled indefinitely.

Curiously, when a few weeks earlier the same College Council passed a nearly identical resolution condemning Israel, no one suggested an apology. These same representatives argued why it was their moral imperative to condemn Israel. They were determined to push this through at all costs, and despite requests, they didn’t even offer the other side an opportunity to present.

Over the past few weeks I have been told that Jews “don’t count” as a minority. I have been accused of using anti-semitism to justify oppression. All I want to know is why my campus doesn’t treat anti-semitism with the same rigor with which it treats any other forms of bias.

When Jews stood before the council, and asked that it recognize the Jewish right to self-determination, a basic right for all people, people in the room laughed. One representative noted that “If we were to affirm the right to Jewish self-determination … it takes away from the intent of the resolution”.

Students in the room that day called us racists and murderers and “apartheid supporters”, for even thinking we, as Jews, could have a voice in the discussion over the one small state we call our own. A Jewish student was chided “You are racist and you are against me and my family’s existence”. It was uncivil, and unproductive, but the council-members did not once that day condemn the personal nature of these attacks, or defend the rights of the opposition to make their case.

At one point, a student questioned the presenters, members of Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP), about their organization allegedly holding a moment of silence for Palestinians who were killed while trying to murder Jewish Civilians. One of the presenters confirmed the moment, then responded without missing a beat “Palestinians have a right to honor their martyrs”.

If the killing of any other ethnic group had been celebrated, the University would make grief counselors available. It would send out mass emails of condemnation. They would suspend the organization responsible, and possibly the students involved in it. The organization would certainly not have any credibility to present to the student government. Since the victims were Jews though, their celebration of murder went unchallenged. The representatives never even brought the issue up.

On the third slide of the presentation in favor of the resolution, presenters claimed that voting against the resolution would mean “maintaining a system of domination by Jews”. The presenters were relying on one of the most common, long-standing, overtly anti-semitic tropes to make their case, and our representatives said nothing.

On the very next slide, the presenters shared a series of maps which MSNBC once famously referred to as deceptive, and “completely wrong“. The maps (inaccurately) depict border changes between Israelis and Palestinians from 1946-200. What’s most striking is the label though: “Jewish land versus Palestinian land over time”. Not one representative questioned the label. Not one representative questioned the map. The only thing they were willing to question was the right for some state of Israel to exist, and the right to Jewish self-determination.


There were about 500,000 Jews in Israel in 1948, but if you saw this map you would never guess that. This also uses “Jewish” in place of “Israeli”.

Student after student at that first meeting stood to explain to representatives how political and contentious the BDS movement was. They pointed out the movement’s ties to terror and anti-semitism. Some suggested the representatives compromise and call for divestment, but drop the explicit ties to the BDS movement. On this issue, finally, our representatives spoke out.

“As a voting member, I don’t think it’s my job to appease people who don’t support BDS”.

On the China resolution, representatives were quick to point out that it “minimize[d] this issue into a political ploy”. When it came to Israel though, the Council was happy to attempt to speak for its 5,000 constituents without hearing from the other side. They even violated procedure to shut out student voices one meeting, to expedite the vote. The one student they allowed to speak at the meeting was an activist in favor of the resolution.

One representative pointed out to the council that “this [BDS resolution] is being passed a week after a presentation for 15 minutes from one side of the debate, and the opposition … was never formally given time before College Council”. Another pointed out that “it is disingenuous to say that we have moral voice to represent the students and speak on this issue”. That didn’t stop the same representative who seemed so concerned about minimizing the struggles of the Chinese people as a political ploy, from voting for another political ploy.

Their coldness in minimizing the struggles of Jews, living with a legacy of being expelled and exterminated, was mind-boggling to me.

Then again, these biases, and suppressions of speech shouldn’t surprise me, given the system that these Representatives work in. They control $2 million in funding for events and clubs, and they wield that power to silence dissenting voices.

When SJP held events in support of the divest resolution, one of the sponsors was University of Chicago’s own Office of Diversity and Inclusion.

This week is Yom Hashoah, which commemorates the six million Jews that were murdered by the Nazis during World War II. On this day of remembrance, we say “Never forget. Never again”. Yom Hashoah also commemorates an international commitment not to repeat the mistakes of the past.

Sadly, fifty-three years after this day was first honored, we seem to be forgetting those lessons. As a campus we’re remarkably tolerant of gender, race, and sexuality in general. Why is it that we’re so uncaring about this one, very real form of racism?

Update (4/05): One thing I didn’t originally emphasize enough is how grateful I am to the 4-5 representatives on the council who genuinely recognized what this resolution was, and spoke and stood against it. I’ve tried my best throughout this article not to name names, but I do want thank those representatives.



100 Days of Impact: Learning

17 Dec

Religious School Scholarships

The Jewish Federation feels that a religious education can have a profoundly positive impact on our children and their Jewish identity. We help make religious school a reality for local children by offering need-based scholarship assistance for those in Sarasota and Manatee counties. As noted through the testimonials below, it is a much appreciated resource! Get the complete scholarship requirements from our website. Scholarships typically open in late July in preparation for the early September school registration!



“A religious school education was an essential part of my upbringing. And now, the Federation scholarship program is making it possible for my son to receive similar instruction, and gain an understanding of his place in the Jewish community.”
David Abolafia


“The Rosenstein family from Temple Beth El of Bradenton are very appreciative of the scholarship awarded from The Jewish Federation of Sarasota-Manatee. Since our religious school is not large it is especially helpful. Thank you.”


“As a parent with older children, I realize that a vital part of a child’s upbringing is not just the education they receive in school, but the education they receive in Religious school. In religious school children are taught about their rich Jewish Heritage and Judaism. When children learn about their faith and their background at an early age, it gives them a sense of self, pride and a feeling that they belong and that they are important. The children can learn about the Faith which their forefathers have carried with pride throughout generations. Our family is grateful for organizations such as The Jewish Federation, who do everything they can to make sure that every Jewish child is given a chance to learn about their Faith and Beliefs, through their Religious School Scholarship fund. And from everyone in our family, we would like to thank all those who make it possible for our children to learn and grow!”


“We are very grateful, and appreciate the assistance we have gotten from the Jewish Federation now, and in the past to help her attend Camp Coleman. These life Jewish experiences are very important for our family, and we would not be able to provide then on or own for Mackenzie at this point in or lives, unfortunately. Thank you very much. Some day when our circumstances change we hope to be able to contribute to another child in need of religious schooling, and Jewish over night camp. Thank you!”
The Dyrda family


“My son is 6 almost 7 years old and he is going to his first full year of Hebrew school thanks to The Jewish Federation and their scholarship awarded to my son. I would not be able to send him without their help. We are so thankful and feel very blessed. He has already attended 3 classes and is loving it. He already knows the first 5 letters of the Jewish alphabet which honestly I can only thank Chabad of Venice for providing the classes for Hebrew School. Again Without this wonderful scholarship my son would not be able to attend Hebrew School since I put my priorities for food and clothing first for my three kids. After all bills are paid I have nothing left and anything else goes on credit card which is not good considering how high they have their interest rates. Thank you so much for your financial support, we are so very grateful!”


“Our family had filled out paperwork for our last two remaining sons to continue their Jewish educations, but were not sure how we would be able to keep them within the Religious School family as we could not afford $950.00 per child. We are a family of five sons and one granddaughter. My husband had lost his job due to my being Jewish and I am a full time student. We were fortunate enough to have someone kind enough to take on our scholarship and allow our last two children. They are paying for our Jacob and Jaiden to continue their Jewish education, along with prepare Jacob for his Bar Mitzvah. How do you thank someone for not only that kind of money, but that kind of Mitzvah, and the on going pride of Judaism that will forever remain in the heart of both of my children? Hashem put whomever took our family on, in our path for a reason and we cannot thank you enough. If we could hug you, we would.”
The Barrett-Murphy Family.


I love Jewish



100 Days of Impact from The Jewish Federation of Sarasota-Manatee

100 Days of Impact from The Jewish Federation of Sarasota-Manatee

100 Days of Impact started on September 22 and will run through the end of 2014. Each week we will demonstrate the the collaborative impact that we and our donors make locally and globally.


You are the Jewish community. This is your Federation. Together, we do extraordinary things!

100 Days of Impact: Partnering

10 Dec

The Jewish Federation of Sarasota-Manatee granted $35,000 to Embracing our Differences (EOD) in 2014, which provided program training to 220 teachers in Sarasota and Manatee counties.

EOD QuoteJoanna Fox has been teaching creative writing and language arts at Booker Middle School for fifteen years where teaching students to be a part of the community and not apart from the community is engrained into her curriculum.    By transforming her classroom into The Dragonfly Café, Fox has created a community environment where sharing of ideas is encouraged.  Through writing, students are taught that word choices can have an indelible impact on one’s destiny.  Fox’s work with Embracing our Differences (EOD) exemplifies partnership not just between students and teachers, but also between schools and the community.  By supporting our community’s students, EOD seeks to provide opportunities for every student in every school to participate in the program, as well as, visit the exhibit.

One of Joanna Fox’s students, Michael, was touched so deeply by EOD, that its impact literally transformed his life.  With the recent death of his father and abandonment of his mother, Michael moved in with his uncle and transferred to Booker Middle School.  With his world shattered, it’s no wonder why he arrived in class seemingly distant and unengaged.  But, submitting a quote to EOD and being selected turned Michael’s life around.  This simple, yet powerful recognition was described by Michael as “the best day of my life.”  After receiving a candy bar from the school’s principal as part of that recognition, Michael broke off pieces to share with the entire class, savoring the last bit for himself.  No longer feeling apart, Michael finally expressed desire in becoming a part of his community.

Michael’s Quote: The true color of people is not the shade of their skin but the tint of their personalities.



100 Days of Impact from The Jewish Federation of Sarasota-Manatee

100 Days of Impact from The Jewish Federation of Sarasota-Manatee

100 Days of Impact started on September 22 and will run through the end of 2014. Each week we will demonstrate the the collaborative impact that we and our donors make locally and globally.


You are the Jewish community. This is your Federation. Together, we do extraordinary things!

Interfaith: Mutual Honor & Respect

3 Dec

Heller IAI Interfaith MissionThis year, the Heller Israel Advocacy Initiative (IAI) will be led by our first ever Executive Committee comprised of 7 Jewish and 7 Christian pro-Israel leaders in our community. After celebrating our 18-month long Israel@65 festivities in 2013 which brought together thousands of both faiths we realized that so many people in the Sarasota-Manatee community share a love of the State of Israel – just like we do. Also in 2013, Heller IAI implemented an interfaith mission to Israel that included 18-members of the Christian community
Faith2faithWith friendship and partnership between our faiths we bridge religious gaps and come together on one of our core values; Zionism. This is demonstrated through our events. In 2014, we had a program called “Faith to Faith; Christians and Jews Working Together for Israel”. We had 5 panelists of both faiths in a rousing and energetic panel that enabled the audience to leave the room with solid ways to be pro-Israel in their daily lives. Another instance was our “Interfaith Passover Seder”. It became apparent to us that many Christians celebrate the Passover Seder as a way to commemorate their gospel that Jesus’ last Passover Seder was his “Last Supper”.


Interfaith Cross and Star“As a Christian, I have kept Passover for many years out of love and respect for my Lord and Israel, but this event was like nothing I have experienced. I was so touched by the honor and respect shown by the Jewish Community to us as Christians.” -Shirley Fenton, co-Chair of the Interfaith Passover Seder





100 Days of Impact from The Jewish Federation of Sarasota-Manatee

100 Days of Impact from The Jewish Federation of Sarasota-Manatee


100 Days of Impact started on September 22 and will run through the end of 2014. Each week we will demonstrate the the collaborative impact that we and our donors make locally and globally.


You are the Jewish community. This is your Federation. Together, we do extraordinary things!