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2017-06-16 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.


June 16, 2017  RSS feed
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Federation programs lauded; early survey results in

By BOB FRYER Jewish Press

Craig Sher Craig Sher Although results of a demographics survey of the Jewish community in Pinellas and Pasco counties are still being analyzed, early findings announced last month at the Annual Meeting of the Jewish Federation of Pinellas & Pasco Counties show the number of Jews here – 36,000 – has not changed much since 1994, but other figures show there is a growing number of interfaith families that include Jews.

A full analysis of what those numbers mean will be included in a report expected to come out around the High Holy Days, said Craig Sher, who is the community’s chief liaison on the study.

Craig and Jan Sher, both with deep ties to local Jewish institutions, volunteered to ensure that a third of the funding for the Federation’s demographic study came from the community’s organizations and individuals.

Craig Sher points out that there has been a “chai” increase – 18 percent – in the number in “Jewish-identifying” households since 1994, even though there has been just a .3 percent increase in Jewish population in the two counties. While the number of homes with at least one Jew has increased, he said the percentage of Jewish individuals living in those Jewish households has declined from 83 percent in 1994 to 76 percent now.

Maureen Sechan Maureen Sechan “What does this tell us?” he asked. “This means that the presence of interfaith families is growing in our community, and knowing that these households readily identify as Jewish means that we have even more numbers of our community to reach, to connect with, to engage, and to welcome.”

Given that Pinellas County has essentially been built out for years, the lack of population growth is not a big surprise. Sher said the challenge in the coming months is to dissect the data and put a plan in place “that makes our vision of having a community that is exceptionally connected – to each other as individuals, and across institutional lines.”

Saryn Taylor Saryn Taylor Programming noted

Also during the annual meeting, selected members of the Jewish community who have been involved in Federation programs either as participants or organizers were asked to speak about the organization’s work.

Maureen Sechan, director of lifelong learning at Congregation B’nai Israel, said the Federation sent her to Israel in an educator exchange as part of the Partnership 2Gether program. Her congregation also received a Federation innovation grant for outreach to tweens and teens for community tikkun olam projects. She said the trip to Israel and the projects were both enriching.

Hana Cowart Hana Cowart Korri Krajicek, assistant to the executive director at the Florida Holocaust Museum, flew to Israel as a Young Adult Division (YAD) Federation Fellow. She spoke proudly of her conversion to Judaism and of the many ways she has become energized to engage with the local Jewish community. She noted that this summer, the Federation is sending five new Federation Fellows to Israel.

Saryn Taylor, who loves the study of science and technology and attends Temple Ahavat Shalom in Palm Harbor, is among the first group of the Federation’s Summer Scholars who will travel to Israel this summer for a special Jewish Summer Camp focused on science. She looked forward to that and immersing herself in Jewish culture in the Jewish State.

Jake Geffon, a young man from Temple Beth-El, and the Federation’s newest employee, received a Federation scholarship to URJ Kutz Camp.

Irma Marlin Irma Marlin Other speakers, including Rabbi Daniel Treiser of Temple B’nai Israel in Clearwater and Hana Cowart, director of communications at Congregation B’nai Israel in St. Petersburg, both spoke of cooperative efforts with the Federation for a variety of events.

Rabbi Treiser noted that the Pinellas County Board of Rabbis and Federation co-sponsored a Maccabeats concert that drew more than 1,500 for Hanukkah celebrations and said when an arsonist hit a Tampa mosque, the Federation joined with the Board of Rabbis to offer emergency relief and to begin initiatives for more dialogue between Jews and Muslims.

Cowart said when she recently approached the Federation for resources in putting together an Equality Rocks event for children to paint rocks with messages of peace and hope, the answer was yes, “with no hoops to jump through.”

Irma Marlin, a resident at Menorah Manor’s Inn on the Pond, said she has been “doing Jewish” for more than 80 years. She lauded the YOUNiversity program, funded by a Federation innovation grant. The program and Menorah Manor’s Rabbi Leah Herz won a national award from the Association for Jewish Aging Services, she said.

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