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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.


 

July 17, 2015  RSS feed
Front Page

Text: T T T

New leadership shares vision for federation’s future

By BOB FRYER
Jewish Press


Newly elected president Margot Benstock adresses the Annual Meeting. Newly elected president Margot Benstock adresses the Annual Meeting. It was an evening of transitions at the June 29 annual meeting of the Jewish Federation of Pinellas & Pasco Counties as the federation welcomed Emile Socash as new executive director and Margot Benstock as new president, then elected a new board of directors.

Members of the local Jewish community gathered at Gulf Coast Jewish Family & Community Services headquarters and heard the new leaders share their vision for the future of the Federation.

Benstock, who earlier this year chaired the Annual Campaign, reported on its success, saying more than $1,027,000 was raised during the Annual Campaign, an 11 percent increase over the previous year. This enabled the federation to increase funding for all local beneficiary agencies, she said, as well as set aside $50,000 for a grant program to reward local organizations who come up with new, creative programs.


A tour of the Seminole Fire Department was one of the field trip highlights of Camp Gan Israel at Chabad of St. Petersburg. Aidan Curtis, left, and Aaron Wein were able to put some of what they learned to work, pretending to put out a fire at the Great Explorations Children’s Museum. A tour of the Seminole Fire Department was one of the field trip highlights of Camp Gan Israel at Chabad of St. Petersburg. Aidan Curtis, left, and Aaron Wein were able to put some of what they learned to work, pretending to put out a fire at the Great Explorations Children’s Museum. Socash, who is new to some in Pinellas, cited an experience from about 10 years ago as a moment when she learned something about her character.

She said she was on a stage in a red dress, with black fishnet stockings and tap shoes, and looking very (seven months) pregnant when, “I discovered I really like a challenge.”

She said she gave both a tap dance and a ballet performance at the recital and continues to enjoy challenges, looking forward to those she will face as CEO.

Prior to the meeting, Socash announced that she would speak on the topic “Billy Joel Was Right: A New Vision for Growth in the Jewish Community.”

Socash drew a comparison to the famous quote by Rabbi Tarfon – “It is not incumbent upon you to complete the work, but neither are you at liberty to desist from it” – and the chorus line of Joel’s “We Didn’t Start the Fire” – We didn’t start the fire/ It was always burning/ Since the world’s been turning/ We didn’t start the fire/ No we didn’t light it/ But we tried to fight it.

Socash said the challenges to Jews in the times of Rabbi Tarfon and to those during world events listed in Joel’s song are different, but in some ways the same and Rabbi Tarfon’s thoughts about choice and obligation resonate with us still. “Think about it: we’ve all inherited our shared history. We share in current events and experiences. When there is a crisis in Israel, or a need here right at home, we can all say “We didn’t start this fire…” but we surely also will want to say “We’ll try to fight it,” Socash said.


Mark Segel, outgoing executive director of the Pinellas/Pasco Jewish Federation receives a gift for his years of service. Segel left the post to return to the private sector. Mark Segel, outgoing executive director of the Pinellas/Pasco Jewish Federation receives a gift for his years of service. Segel left the post to return to the private sector. “As Rabbi Tarfon said, we are not free to desist from pursuing the task. We bear a sacred burden to pursue the task of tikkun olam, of repairing the world. When it comes to tikkun olam, all of us in this room are in it together,” Socash said.

Today, the Jewish community in Pinellas and Pasco counties is in a unique position in history, Socash noted. “We look around and we see both great needs and great opportunities. We see fires that we didn’t start, whether they were fueled decades, months, or weeks ago. We see people and organizations working together and independently, toward a common purpose. We may take different routes to do so, but we’re all attempting to put out the fire, to finish the work.”

The new CEO said she saw three priorities for the federation:

1. Enhance the donor and leadership experience.

2. Energize the Leadership Council on meaty topics, offering a forum in which community conversation blossoms.

3. Seek every opportunity to increase revenues and efficiencies and reduce expenses.

In other action at the meeting, board member Steve Schwersky thanked Mark Segel for more than three years of service as CEO and presented him with a gift. Segel will return to the banking profession, but said he was a volunteer for Jewish organizations before he was CEO and plans to continue volunteering for Jewish causes.

The group also heard outgoing president Karen Reich report on highlights of the past year.

Reich noted that two members of the federation’s Young Adult Division were sent to Israel – one as a first responder and one who interned at the Jerusalem Post. (See related story, page 4)

The PJ Library and Women of Distinction programs continue to thrive, she said, and through a grant, the federation hopes to continue monthly children’s activities similar to a Lego menorah project the kids were involved in last December. Reich also noted that a Jewish Heritage Day celebration at a Tampa Bay Rays game drew a crowd of more than 250.

The new slate of board members elected at the meeting includes Joan Benstock, Margot Benstock, David Bernstein, Sheri Frogel, Hal Hershkowitz, Steve Klein, Eric Lynn, Karen Reich, Toni Rinde, Brian Rolfe, Jennifer Rosoff, Lew Rubin and Steve Schwersky.


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