Starting as early as the 1940’s a group of Jewish men & women would meet at the home of Harry & Bella Pepper Z”L to make their annual donation to the United Jewish Appeal. The bulk of the funds would go to Israel. In the 50’s it was called the Federated Jewish Charities and in 1978, it was granted a 501C3 designation and was called, as now, The Jewish Federation of Volusia & Flagler Counties.
In the early days the funds were also used to give assistance to indigent Jews living in the area. And for those who were passing through, they would be given a “chit” or voucher, which they could take to Azen’s Deli for a meal. Azen’s was in business for more than 50 years and was a New York style Jewish (not kosher) deli, just around the corner from Beach St. on Volusia Ave. (now known as International Speedway Blvd.) This was a favorite stopping place for Jewish travelers passing through on their way south. Azen’s finally closed its doors in Sept 1975 after the opening of the Volusia Mall cause hard times in the downtown Daytona Beach area. The last owners were Abraham Pranikoff Z”L and George Dunieff Z”L (both members of Temple Beth El).
Some of the people present were Dr. Morris (“Alka”) Seltzers Z”L, Sam Sacks Z”L, Bella & Harry Pepper Z”L, & Irving Seltzer Z”L. They also assisted people with some assistance to travel to bigger cities. Travel vouchers would be given through Henry & Peppe Silverstein Z”L and Asia & Joe Doliner Z”L (all Holocaust Survivors), who owned a luggage shop on Beach Street for many years. These vouchers could be used on the train.
The first official office was on Grandview Ave. and then was moved to the Tomoka Plaza in Ormond Beach for several years. The current building was purchased in 2002 at 470 Andalusia Ave. in Ormond Beach. There have been a few executive directors of our Federation. The most notable executive director of the past was Iris Gardner, who is now retired and living in Texas. Our current, executive director, who has truly helped to build our Federation to a most prominent level in our community is Gloria Max. She has held the position for about 22 years and is most dedicated.
Our major campaign raises in the neighborhood of $350,000 each year which primarily goes to Israel. We currently raise about $120,000 per year for our Jerry Doliner Food Bank. These are separate from our campaign funds and much actually comes from non-Jewish donations. This is one of the most active and largest food banks in the area. Food donation was always a staple of the Federation. It was originally started as a real food bank by Harriett Schwartz Z”L, the mother of the late Marian Kohen Z”L, who was a past president of the Federation. Then Jerry Doliner Z”L, a prominent member of our Jewish Community and the community at large, really promoted the food bank and it was named in his honor several years ago. Our executive director’s husband, Ray Max, is the premier volunteer and has been the strength of our food bank for several years.
Gloria Max started our School Supply Back Pack Program about 20 years ago and this has, again, given our Federation great prominence in the community. It raises about $117,000 for this program alone. Again, much comes from non-Jewish sources. We help about 7,000 disadvantaged students, regardless of race or religion receive the appropriate backpack and supplies for their school and age group. We give to elementary, middle and high school students and these supplies. They are given to the school counselors for distribution, as they know who is actually in need. We also give to charter schools and other organizations that demonstrate a need. We have helped 89,000 students since the inception of the program.
As a relatively small Jewish Federation, we can boast about some of our accomplishments, particularly in Israel. We have funded the construction of six bomb shelters, which are also used as school rooms and community activity buildings when not under attack. Also this Federation has funded two Responder Fire Trucks, a pediatric room at the Mother and Child Pavilion at Hebrew University Hadassah Hospital and have funded Yad Sarah, American Friends of DVI, the IDF, Ethiopian Programs and more. In the US we have also supported the Birthright Israel Foundation, Myriam’s Dream, Florida Hillel chapters and many more.
The Jewish Federation also has an Endowment Fund which primarily gives grants to local Jewish organizations and synagogues for a multitude of Jewish educational and entertainment programs which are open to the public and well publicized.
The Federation is a major supporter of the Jewish Heritage Festival which takes place every two years in our community. Much of the leadership of this event are members of Temple Bet El. The Federation also is the sponsor of an Annual Community Wide Shabbat, where all shuls in the Volusia & Flagler County area are invited to participate. Temple Beth El is the most popular venue for this event, since we have the capacity to allow the whole Jewish Community worship together. All the active rabbis are invited to participate, as well as many of the leaders of our Jewish Community. We usually have a prominent guest speaker to deliver a “sermon” for the service. Last year we had over 300 participate in our Community Shabbat Service. The next one is scheduled on Jan. 29, 2016.
The Federation will take a leadership role when needed, to address world incidences, with short notice. For example moneys has been raised to send to families in the US and abroad following natural disasters. Our executive director has the ability to actually send the money raised directly to the families in need. This was done with several of the tornadoes that have occurred in the past few years and for hurricane Sandy and most recently the earthquakes in Nepal. She has also has been able to raise funds to allow a couple families from both the Ukraine and Nepal to move to Israel.
The Federation has most recently instituted the PJ Library program, to give Jewish themed story books to the Jewish children of Volusia & Flagler Counties. More programs are in development.
We have also instituted holiday luncheons since the early 1980’s for the Jewish elderly of our community. These are held for the Rosh Hashanah, Chanukah and Passover. These are complete with great Jewish meals, which many do not get often and entertainment. This is truly a highlight for most of these participants who are transported from nursing homes, group living facilities and even private homes. This dedication to our senior population has always been a significant component of our local Jewish Federation
When called upon, The Jewish Federation of Volusia & Flagler Counties will spring into action! The current president is Dr. Howard L. Pranikoff, who is also on the Board of Trustees of Temple Beth El.
(8-14-15 by Howard L. Pranikoff, DDS, MScD, President)