Shalom Jacksonville proudly celebrates its 10 year anniversary
BY ISABEL BALOTIN
Shalom Jacksonville Director
In July 2006, the Jewish Federation of Jacksonville launched its official Jewish welcome wagon, Shalom Jacksonville. 10-years later its mission as the central information and referral resource for all things Jewish in northeast Florida remains the same. It's casual programming held in public spaces and private homes, have fostered many friendships and helped the 'newbies' navigate their new communities successfully.
As its creator and director, I’ve had the privilege of meeting hundreds and hundreds of newcomers, giving me the opportunity to perform the mitzvah of welcoming strangers on a daily basis. How lucky am I? Well, friendships have blossomed, newcomers have become valued volunteers in addition to generous donors. Most importantly, many lives have been enhanced by our community’s welcoming efforts, making it certainly something to kvell about.
During the past decade, new families have been greeted with welcome baskets, celebrated Jewish holidays with Hanukkah Storytime and puppet shows together, while Charoset Throwdowns, Passover in the Matzah Aisles, Sukkot Garden Parties and Honey Tasting events have been hosted, just to name a few. The generous community has hosted meet and greets in Mandarin, St. Augustine, Julington Creek, Riverside, the Beaches and Amelia Island allowing Shalom Jax to reach out to everyone in northeast Florida. Together, we have toured the Farmer’s Market, Cummer Museum, Cruised and Schmoozed in Amelia Island, tasted wine in St. Augustine, enjoyed the Art Walk and scavenger hunt in downtown Jacksonville and cheered at a Suns game. As invited guests of the JCA, Jewish Family and Community Services and River Garden., program participants have learned about the important services these agencies provide for our community.
Jewish Java, Shalom Jacksonville's signature and successful monthly coffee and schmoozing program, has grown over the years. For many, it has been their first entry into the community as the meet and greet new friends at local cafes. For summer 2016, Jewish Java will be enjoying the hospitality of Federation's partner agency, River Garden Senior Services and for those who don’t know, Shalom Jacksonville programs are open to everyone, no matter how long you have lived in the area.
Here is to another 10 successful years, and a special thank you to the division's original generous and anonymous donor as well as the Federation board for supporting the concept and its programming. Additional thank you's go out to the Shalom Jacksonville volunteers who have shared their many talents and welcoming hearts with the community, as well as all the local businesses for their continued support. The Jacksonville Jewish community has truly answered the call when asked to welcome the newcomers to the community, and it's because of that act that our community has continued to grow and enrich our lives. L’Chaim!