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2014-03-14 digital edition

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The Jewish Press of Tampa and the Jewish Press of Pinellas County are Independently- owned biweekly Jewish community newspapers published in cooperation with and supported by the Tampa JCC & Federation and the Jewish Federation of Pinellas & Pasco Counties, respectively. Copyright © 2009-2018 The Jewish Press Group of Tampa Bay, Inc., All Rights Reserved.


March 14, 2014  RSS feed
Front Page

Text: T T T

Eight Over 80 gala honorees set standard for Jewish community

By ELANA GOOTSON Jewish Federation staff

As many as 500 people are expected to attend the inaugural Eight Over 80 gala Sunday, March 30 to honor individuals and couples who have made significant impact on the Jewish community during their lifetimes.

“These leaders have made numerous contributions in every aspect of the community, both Jewish and secular. Their bold visions and hard work created the foundation on which we stand to create a bright future,” said Mark Segel, executive director of The Jewish Federation of Pinellas & Pasco Counties.

“In many ways this group of honorees unquestionably changed the fate of the Jewish community not only in Pinellas County but around the world,” said Toni Rinde, chair of the Eight Over 80 awards gala.

Organizers stress the evening will be about celebration with no strings attached, including no solicitation for donations. The gala will include a sit-down kosher brisket dinner and there will be a video presentation about the honorees.

The Mike Eisenstadt Band will provide entertainment. “Wear comfortable shoes because we are going to have the biggest hora Pinellas County has ever seen!” said Rinde.

All local rabbis have been invited to attend and lead either the Ha’motzi or Shehecheyanu prayer. Those who have confirmed their attendance are Rabbi Gary Klein of Temple Ahavat Shalom, Rabbi Alter Korf of the Chabad Center of St. Petersburg, Rabbi Jacob Luski of Congregation B’nai Israel, Rabbi Michael Torop of Temple Beth-El, Rabbi Danielle Upbin and Rabbi David Weizman, both of Congregation Beth Shalom. Cantor Deborah Jacobson of Temple Ahavat Shalom and Cantor Jonathan Shultz of Congregation B’nai Israel will also participate.

The event will be at the Coliseum, 535 4th Ave N., St. Petersburg, beginning at 5 p.m. The cost to attend is $118 and reservations are required. To purchase tickets, go to or call (727) 530-3223.

In the previous issue of the Jewish Press, honorees Harold Haftel, Walter Loebenberg, Ambassador Melvin and Betty Sembler and Loren and Joy Pollock were profiled.

Profiles of the remaining honorees, sisters Marilyn Benjamin and Sonya Miller; Joan and Gerald Benstock, Harvey Hertz and Reva Kent, follow.

Harvey Hertz

Born in Brooklyn in 1928, Harvey moved to Florida in 1956 and eventually found his way to a small financial firm, not yet publicly held, called Raymond James. After retiring from a 30-year career as a stockbroker, Harvey became a passionate philanthropist.

He tells the story of the times his mother would put him on the train with a Jewish National Fund pushke in hand. She gave him strict instructions to hold on tight and not get off the train. Harvey took the train all the way to Coney Island and back holding his pushke. This had a lasting impression on Harvey that resulted in his significant support of the JNF, including endowing in perpetuity the Tampa Bay region’s annual Tree of Life event.

Harvey’s financial support of local Jewish organizations, Gulf Coast Jewish Family & Community Services where the Jewish Family Services Center is named in his honor, and Temple Beth-El has created an enduring legacy in Pinellas County.

Reva Kent

Born in Chicago in 1926, Reva graduated from the University of Illinois in 1943 and married Marshall Kent. In 1956 they moved to Clearwater and Reva became involved in the small, but growing Jewish community. In the early years she was the president of Temple B’nai Israel’s Sisterhood, the local Hadassah chapter and Pinellas County Federation of Women’s Clubs.

Along with raising four sons over the next four decades, Reva helped lay the foundation for the Clearwater Jewish community. She was a founding member of the Jewish Federation of Pinellas County, serving as campaign chair, and was founding chair and eventually president of Lion of Judah. Reva also served on the National Council of Jewish Federations and traveled to Israel extensively, meeting four of Israel’s prime ministers.

Reva helped create TOP (Tampa, Orlando, Pinellas) Jewish Foundation, and was president of its board for two years. She also was a founding board member of Menorah Manor, a significant supporter of Israel through Israel Bonds and a life member of Hadassah and Florida Holocaust Museum.

Reva and Marshall financially aided construction of Temple B’nai Israel on Belcher Road, helped establish the Golda Meir Jewish Center, a senior center in Clearwater, and were founding members of the Kent Jewish Community Center, donating 11 acres in Clearwater for the JCC (where The Inn on the Pond is now situated).

Marilyn Benjamin & Sonya Miller

The Halaczer sisters are the only St. Petersburg natives within the group of honorees. Their parents were of modest means but were deeply committed to creating a thriving Jewish community. They were founding members of Congregation B’nai Israel.

Sonya and late husband, Irwin Miller, ran what many people considered the first Jewish community center, Hotel Rellim on St. Pete Beach. The hotel was the center of Jewish social life in south Pinellas County for many years. They spent most of their adult life dedicated to Temple Beth-El. Sonya served as Sisterhood president as well as co-chair of the Temple Beth-El Art Show for three decades. Her financial contributions have benefited the Florida Holocaust Museum, Gulf Coast Jewish Family & Community Services, The Jewish Federation of Pinellas & Pasco Counties and most of the local non-profits dedicated to visual and performing arts.

Marilyn and late husband, Philip Benjamin, spent most of their adult life dedicated to her parent’s synagogue, Congregation B’nai Israel in St. Petersburg. Marilyn has served on many boards, including the Menorah Manor Guild, Philip Benjamin Tower, Jewish National Fund, The Federation of Pinellas & Pasco Counties and National Council of Jewish Women. The Benjamins were instrumental in the creation of Menorah Manor, Philip Benjamin Tower and Chapel Hill Memorial Park.

Both the Millers’ three children and the Benjamins’ three children, along with their spouses, have carried on their parents’ legacies and remain committed to building and strengthening their Jewish communities.

Joan & Gerald Benstock

Joan and Gerald (Jerry) Benstock moved to Seminole from Huntington, NY, to establish the headquarters of Superior Surgical Manufacturing Company, Inc. (now Superior Uniform Group, Inc.)

Their involvement with Jewish community began long before they moved to Pinellas County, however. Jerry was significantly involved in fundraising for the Jewish Federation in New York – so much so that he jokes that people would see him walking on the sidewalk and cross to the other side of the street.

The Benstocks were founding members of the Pinellas County Jewish Day School. Both Jerry and Joan have served on numerous non-profit boards.

They are major supporters of The Jewish Federation of Pinellas & Pasco Counties and Joan has held nearly every position on the Jewish Federation’s board of directors including president.

Joan’s passion for fundraising efforts that build and strengthen Jewish life has earned her both local and national awards. She has made numerous trips to Israel and when she speaks about Israel, she lights up and says, “my Israel.”

The Benstock Family Sanctuary at Congregation B’nai Israel exemplifies their commitment to both their synagogue and the Jewish community. All four of Joan and Jerry’s children and their spouses have made significant contributions to the Jewish community locally, in Israel and around the world.

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