In her first few weeks of work at the Jewish Federation of Sarasota-Manatee, Flora Oynick can only remember staying in the office for lunch on two occasions. As the newly appointed engagement ambassador for the organization — the first position of its kind for a Jewish Federation — she’s found herself immersed in her new role much more quickly than she expected.
“I thought it was going to take a few months to determine exactly what this job would entail,” says Oynick. “But people have already started reaching out to me to set up lunch meetings and have conversations with me. It proves that there is a desire in Sarasota to be a part of the Jewish community, and I think I can become that link that was missing before.”
Engagement ambassadors are common in schools, temples and in many fields of work. Oynick says the Jewish Federation of Sarasota-Manatee created the position to act as its eyes and ears and have someone available to listen to the community’s wants and needs.
According to Oynick, an engagement officer’s job is simple, in theory.
“It’s about building relationships and enriching the community — and not just the Jewish community,” says Oynick. “I’m like a concierge. I want to connect people with the opportunities available in Sarasota.”
Oynick feels that her background makes her well-suited for the job. Born and raised in a vibrant Jewish community in Mexico City, Oynick moved in 1988 to Sarasota and married her husband, Guillermo. She put her background in education to use as a teacher at Temple Emanu-El, and she spent 24 years in education administration at Temple Beth Sholom. She says she was actually preparing to retire when she learned about the newly created position at the Jewish Federation, and she felt it was the perfect opportunity for her.
Her years of experience in education allowed her to meet many families and make countless connections, which she says will prove invaluable as she strives to forge connections between the Federation and Sarasota’s various organizations. Oynick says her main goal as engagement ambassador is to help people break away from their fast-paced lives and form more meaningful connections with friends and neighbors in the community.
“People today live very rushed lives, and we’re very technology-focused,” says Oynick. “We’ve become disconnected, and people forget how much you can get out of a good conversation at a table with friends. People are craving that kind of connection, and it’s my job to help them find it.”
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In her new position, Oynick will join a team of three to forge new relationships in the community. Her new coworkers share their thoughts on how Oynick will be an asset to the team, and how her oversight of the Federation’s specific programs will continue to help them succeed.
Jessi Sheslow, development coordinator: “Just in the few weeks that we’ve worked together, I can already see the connections Flora has in the community. She knows so many people. Her voice and her hand extending out to them will be invaluable.”
Len Steinberg, assistant program director: “This is all about building a strong team. Flora has been in Sarasota for 25 years, and she’s going to help us continue to shine. She’s great at her job, and she’s an amazing person, who puts the Federation first.”