Category Archive: guest bloggers


A word from Eric Geboff, JFS Orlando Executive Director:

In the Book of Kings II, we learn about four men who were afflicted with leprosy and as such, were forced to live outside the gates of the City of Samaria, the capital and center of Jewish life in ancient Israel (c 800 BCE). This was a dreadful time for the Israelites as the city was besieged by the LGBT-Pride-MonthArameans who sought to starve the Israelites out and take the city as their own. People suffering from leprosy were always separated and usually ostracized from the community as in some cases, the leprosy was a result of a sin, not necessarily a skin disease.

Now there were four men with leprosy at the entrance of the city gate. They said to each other, “Why stay here until we die? If we say, ‘We’ll go into the city’—the famine is there, and we will die. And if we stay here, we will die. So let’s go over to the camp of the Arameans and surrender. If they spare us, we live; if they kill us, then we die.” At dusk they got up and went to the camp of the Arameans. When they reached the edge of the camp, not a man was there, for the Lord had caused the Arameans to hear the sound of chariots and horses and a great army, so that they said to one another, “Look, the king of Israel has hired the Hittite and Egyptian kings to attack us!” So they got up and fled in the dusk and abandoned their tents and their horses and donkeys. They left the camp as it was and ran for their lives. The men who had leprosy reached the edge of the camp and entered one of the tents. They ate and drank, and carried away silver, gold and clothes, and went off and hid them. They returned and entered another tent and took some things from it and hid them also. (II Kings 7:3-8)

When we look at the narrative in Kings II, we see four men that were “different” than all others and due to this difference, were removed from the city. The four men felt so much despair that they risked their lives for the hope of survival. They chose to surrender to the enemy. They hoped that they could not possibly be treated worse than they were being treated by their own people.

Then, a miracle happened. G-d intervened, drove off the army, and allowed the four to find the enemy camp abandoned and full of food and supplies. A second miracle happened: the four men decided that, rather than keep the food to themselves, they brought it back to their own city that abandoned them, and broke the siege. After some hesitation, King Joram decided to approach and plunder the Aramean camp which was now empty. The city was saved and the four men were heroes.

June is national LGBTQ Pride month. While many strides have been made in the area of inclusion, much work is yet to be done in welcoming our brothers and sisters into our “camp”. Formal and informal obstacles remain in place, and as a group, they continue to face vast disparities in income, employment, protection from crimes, access to healthcare, and access to social services.

G-d did not abandon the four “different” men; so who are we to abandon the LGBTQ? After all, isn’t that one of the lessons of our Torah – to emulate G-d?

Our community is stronger when we include everyone – as everyone has something to offer.  Even those who have been kept on the fringes of our communities have much to give.  Together, we are a stronger community.

At JFS Orlando, all are welcome to come to our family.

EG sig




Eric Geboff

Executive Director

JFS Orlando

‘Out of the Apple Orchard’ concert reading to benefit JFS Orlando

Out of the Apple Orchard’ concert reading to benefit JFS Orlando

Article in Florida Jewish Heritage February 26, 2016 | Year 40, NO. 25 by Christina DeSouza

Click here to read the article online


Yvonne David, Author of the book, Out Of The Apple Orchard.

Yvonne David, Author of the ward winning book, Out Of The Apple Orchard.

Local award-winning author, Yvonne David, wrote her first book, “Out of the Apple Orchard,” in 2005. It is a story, set in the Catskills in 1910, of a 12-year-old Jewish boy named Adam, whose family moves from the Lower East Side, N.Y ., to Mountaindale, N.Y ., for the fresh country air. Because of his father’s illness, the family subsists on a little bit of bread, milk and a few other basics. Hunger hurts, and Adam steals some juicy, red apples from a neighbor’s orchard for his family. However, his conscience begins to bother him more than hunger pangs, and an intriguing story unfolds with lessons in forgiveness and the opportunity for new beginnings, capturing the essence of the Jewish High Holidays intertwined with historical details about the Catskills.


Out of the Apple Orchard Book CoverThe book won an honorable mention in the Independent Publisher Book Awards a year after publication, and was then adapted for the stage by award-winning playwright Ellen W. Kaplan, resulting in a concert reading performed in New York City at the Mesaper Theatre.


“Out of the Apple Orchard’ is a charming book, which presents a story of heart and hope, with humor, action and very human characters,” Kaplan told the Heritage in 2006. “I am thrilled to see it come to life in production.”


Shortly after its New York debut, David purchased the copyright from Kaplan, and decided to bring the project back to Orlando, where she has lived for 30 years. “I am so grateful to Ellen and director Nicole Raphael for taking my book to the next level,” she said. “This is my home, and I want it to benefit my community.”


And now, a concert reading of “Out of the Apple Orchard” will be performed at the Lowndes Shakespeare Center in Orlando on March 6 from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. The afternoon will include musical entertainment, a silent auction and raffles with an afternoon tea provided by Arthur’s Creative Events & Catering.


The concert reading is just a taste of what is to come. David is excited to announce that plans are in the works for “Out of the Apple Orchard” to be performed as a play in the fall.


To bring her script to the stage, David enrolled in a program called Landmark Worldwide, which gave her the confidence to take on the daunting task of having the production performed here. Her project, aptly named A Fruit Fundraiser, will benefit Jewish Family Services.


“Partnering with JFS Orlando was a perfect fit and gives the reading purpose,” David said.


“It’s an excellent vehicle for making the public aware of the severity of food insecurity for people who are suffering with hunger,” she stated, explaining that there are 48.1 million people, including 15.3 million children and 5.4 million seniors, who do not have enough food to eat. “When I first moved here in 1981, that figure was 3 million,” she said.


OOTAO reading posterWhen she first spoke with Eric Geboff, executive director of JFS Orlando, he told her that everywhere he looked, people were raising money for the hungry, and sadly, “it’s not enough.” Put in figures that are more understandable, that is one in seven people who go without enough food.


“Apple Orchard” was inspired by “A Christmas Carol” by Charles Dickens, one of David’s favorite authors, who brought attention to the plight of the poor in his day.


“My father and I took a trip to Canterbury, Kent, in England just months before he passed,” she explained. They visited Dickens’ home in Broadstairs where he summered with his family. David had the opportunity to stand in his writing room and actually place her hands on his desk.


“As I placed my hands on the desk where Dickens penned famous novels, I prayed that I could have some of his creativity and hard work dedication.”


Some of Dickens’ discipline rubbed off on her, and G-d heard her prayer.


“Little did I know that my partnership with Jewish Family Services would become so perfect, knowing that I can make a difference with my book and the adaptation to the stage,” David remarked.


The concert reading involves 12 actors-including five children-a musician, and a narrator. The production is directed by Kerry A. Giese, managing director of The Roth Family JCC’s Theater at the J.


Lowndes Shakespeare Center is located at 812 E Rollins St, Orlando.


Tickets are $30, adults; $18, seniors and students; $10, children, and can be purchased by calling 407-437-4909 or go to

Not the Sweet 16 Birthday Present She Was Expecting…

By: Bonnie Haas

When people think of birthdays, they think of presents, balloons and cake. I was stunned when I got my breast cancer diagnosis – Stage 2 Invasive Lobular Carcinoma at age 42, on my daughter’s Sweet 16th birthday – not the present I wanted to give her. I found the lump BH3myself and immediately made appointments with my gynecologist and a breast surgeon. I was relentless in my goal of getting an answer quickly. My surgeon recommended a lumpectomy, full axillary dissection, chemotherapy and radiation. I was terrified and overwhelmed at my diagnosis…it felt like being trapped in a nightmare and I was alone when I heard it. So many thoughts raced through my head…”Will I live through this? “Will I lose my hair”, “Will I see my children grow up?” “How am I going to handle this?” “I don’t have time for this!” Going through breast cancer was worse than a nightmare, but I still consider myself blessed, as not everyone survives breast cancer. I completed my final radiation treatment on my own 43rd birthday. I now see birthdays as a reminder of how precious life is.

Cancer affects every part of your life. It’s a devastating illness with endless complications and fallout. Telling my young children was incredibly difficult. My husband and children struggled through life during my surgeries and treatment. There was even a block of time when my daughter pretended I was invisible. The fear of potentially losing their mother – my husband, his wife – traumatized them. But together we somehow navigated the process and came out the other side. Although I face everything in my life with a positive attitude, there were many dark days and weeks as I navigated the surgeries and treatment. Whenever I felt myself losing my footing, I would walk around my home looking at photos of my children and that would remind me why I had to keep fighting. I had children I wanted to see grow up so I found my inner strength and the determination to get through it, no matter what. It was the struggle of a lifetime, but I had a strong will to survive.BH

Whether fighting cancer or any crisis in life, the thing to remember is that while we can’t always control what happens to us, but we can control how we respond to it. Because of the looming hair loss side effect, I prepared myself by purchasing a wig in advance. However, after losing all of my hair during my chemo treatment, I realized the wig just wasn’t me. Instead, I went with scarves that were way more comfortable and I color coordinated the scarves with my outfits (I also found a new respect for bald men).

Worrying about employment is another stress factor when faced with cancer, but as an employee of JFS Orlando, the Agency was patient when I had to take time off for the necessary surgery, treatment and recovery and the staff was supportive and many brought meals which were appreciated by my husband and children.

When you face a life threatening illness, others respond in different ways. Some panic and disappear, others go into denial and then there are the quiet few (my husband and a few close friends) who step up and stay by your side throughout. Unfortunately, people don’t always say appropriate things at a time like this. Instead of getting upset or angry about a rude or ignorant comment someone made, as time went on, I started to keep a list. I figured if I could find humor in it, it would make it easier to deal with. I called it my “Top 10 Things NOT to Say to Someone with Breast Cancer” list. Sadly, the list grew to over 30 comments, but instead of getting mad, it made me laugh. I still have the list today and keep it as a reminder of how it helped me process the comments in a healthier way.

To those with loved ones facing the disease, remember to be there when they need you, but respect the person going through it and allow them time and space to handle it their own way. Cards and notes are always appreciated, especially during treatment when phone calls sometimes seem too much to handle. Loved ones should be patient and understanding and remember that the focus must be on healing and treatment.

I try to be an inspiration to others by how I approach life and how I live my life and I will continue to offer strength and encouragement to others. Every time I hear about someone else facing a breast BH2cancer diagnosis my heart breaks, knowing exactly how they feel…the fear, confusion, panic, uncertainty. I stay active in the “cancer community” and I offer support to anyone who is going through breast cancer. I hope to live long enough to see a cure found! Now a 9 year survivor, the best advice I can offer to anyone facing breast cancer is to stay hopeful and positive and make decisions based on what you are comfortable with and do what works for you. Don’t worry about what other people think. Reach out to those who love you and learn to say yes to any offers of help.

I remember asking my oncologist what date I use as my “survivor date”. I thought it started after I got through all of the surgeries, chemo and radiation treatments. But she said something I thought was profound at that moment. She said: “you are a survivor from the moment you are given your diagnosis.” So every year on my daughter’s birthday, I am reminded how blessed I am that I get to share another birthday with her. Oh, and that “invisible mommy” issue…we talked that out and she is a constant by my side for each and every breast cancer walk I participate in, never missing a single one.


If you, or someone you know, is in need of support,
please visit our partner agency’s, Sharsheret, website.


The Meatball Man Speaks

At JFS Orlando, we know that not all families are “traditional,” and that these families come from many walks of life. With Father’s Day fast approaching, no matter the make-up of your family, there’s one common thread across the board when it comes to families: support. JFS Orlando assists nearly 10,000 people each year through the Pearlman Emergency Food Pantry, Counseling Center for Growth and Development, Family Stabilization Program and other emergency services.

The Meatball Man Speaks

By Jeff Morgia, owner of The Meatball Shoppe

TheMeatballShoppe-Logo-Final-resizedlIn honor of father’s everywhere, Jeff Morgia, owner of The Meatball Shoppe and JFS Orlando partner, writes about the commonalities of father’s and meatballs.

Meatballs and fathers … How could the two have anything in common? Well they do – warmth, comfort and tradition. A Father has many ingredients, and sometimes a little spice that defines him. When you put all of these together and blend you have an amazing result, no two the same. A meatball and a father … they have warmth, comfort and make you smile.

Here’s a recipe from my wife, Chef Isabella, for family love!

One hand full of Passion
One hand full of Love
Two handfuls of Prayer
Two handfuls of Forgiveness and Grace
Two handfuls of Loyalty
A huge handful of Famiglia

Gently blend all these ingredients together and you have the greatest recipe of them all … A happy healthy famiglia that comes with a side of your dreams becoming a reality!

Isabella and Jeff

Jeff and Isabella

Happy Father’s Day!

To learn more about the Meatball Shoppe, visit: