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Sarasota Thursday, Nov. 5, 2009 8 years ago

SMJF salutes 50 years of service

by: Loren Mayo Black Tie Editor

Sheldon Gensler remembers the day the Sarasota Jewish Council established its headquarters building located at 1900 Main St. He spent his time scurrying from one side of the building, home to his law office and fax machine, to the other side to take care of council business.

“When they asked me to be president in 1971, I said I would accept if we would have an office, a secretary and an executive director,” Gensler said. “My request was granted, and that’s how we got started.”

Gensler’s fondest moment was the council’s (which later became the Sarasota-Manatee Jewish Federation) 25th anniversary party at the Van Wezel.

“That was when it was just a fledging organization,” Gensler said. “But the community came out in great numbers — 1,700 people attended.”

Perhaps the biggest milestone is yet to come; the federation will celebrate its 50th anniversary this weekend with a free community-wide festival Sunday, Nov. 8.

“This event will allow the community to experience what a 21st-century Jewish federation has to offer — relevant programming, pluralistic Jewish education and service to the community at large,” said Judy Weinstein, federation president.

Guided tours showcasing the 34-acre campus will familiarize guests with the new campus, at 580 McIntosh Road, recently reopened facilities and numerous federation-sponsored classes and workshops. Activities include art exhibitions, cardio tennis, basketball and conditioning clinics, mini-education classes and a sampling of community programs, such as Shalom Baby, Witness Theater and Young Ambassadors. In addition, the event will also celebrate the fourth annual IMPACT Family Fun Day with face painting, wall climbing, games music and Kosher food. IMPACT is a social networking program through the federation. Guests are encouraged to bring a new, unwrapped toy as part of IMPACT’s toy drive to support the Building Strong Families Program of Jewish Family and Children’s Services.

To commemorate 50 years of the federation’s history, a special film showcasing the federation’s leaders of the late 1950s through today will take place at 1:30 p.m., in the Bea Friedman Theater in the main Flanzer building. Interviewees featured in the film, such as Gensler, will share their experiences of living in Sarasota and how the federation has impacted their lives. They will also comment what’s in store for the federation’s future.

Following the film, a town hall question-and-answer session led by a panel of federation staff and volunteer leaders will take place.

“Being part of the federation has been a great experience for me and I’ve been rewarded its success over the years,” Gensler said. “Today I’m very happy. If we keep working hard and have good leadership, the federation will flourish and remain strong. The future looks good.”

Contact Loren Mayo at [email protected].

WHAT: Sarastota-Manatee Jewish Federation’s 50th anniversary celebration
WHEN: Noon to 4 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 8
WHERE: 580 McIntosh Road
INFORMATION: Call 371-4546 or visit

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