As some of our readers know, we have accelerated our distribution efforts in the Jewish communities of South Florida based on popular demand. Just in case you were wondering, things are progressing well down there, with demand for the newspaper growing on an almost weekly basis.

As you may know, I wear many hats when it comes to the 5TJT, which means whether it concerns advertising or editorial matters, or even if it’s an issue of distribution, there are people who have to deal with these matters, but at the end of the day, these situations usually end up being something I have to resolve.

So, as you can tell by the title of this essay, for the first time ever, we spent Purim away from our home in New York and celebrated the chag in Florida.

First off, the chag was great and the weather was beautiful. Actually, in some ways, I think it was the way Purim was meant to be and the way many of you have been hoping New York would be, which has more to do with our meteorological expectations of the yom tov and less to do with reality.

There’s no question that if you reside in the Northeast, you have a chance of expecting nice, warm weather for Purim. But as you know, and as I heard from family in New York, the weather was cold, rainy, and unusually windy on Purim.

Of course, weather is highly unpredictable, and it can go either way when it comes to Purim, which is a holiday that falls on the line between winter and spring.

I can recall a Purim from a few years back when it fell on the last days of February and it was a warm, sunny 72 degrees. That was a true gift from heaven.

But there have also been Purims when it was rainy or snowing, or there was newly-fallen snow on the ground that was slowly melting.

One thing you can be reasonably certain of is that it’s not going to snow down here in South Florida on Purim or any other time of year for that matter. This is one of the reasons why so many “snow birds” tend to flock down here, especially at this time of year.

We davened at the Chabad of Boynton Beach this past Shabbos and after Ma’ariv, settled in to hear the Megillah reading in a pretty packed shul. After the leining, I heard an announcement that for the next day’s reading, there would be a minyan in a tent set up in the parking lot behind the shul, a tent which I imagine had been set up during the Covid pandemic and never dismantled for the sake of those members who prefer to daven outside.

So, we joined that morning minyan, which was called for 8:30 a.m., followed by the Megillah reading. Of course, we also had the option of attending the indoor minyan, which was called for 8:00 a.m., but when we saw the clear blue skies and the rays of sunshine, we decided to try the outdoor minyan and it was absolutely delightful.

There were about thirty people in all and the minyan was highly enjoyable, probably because I’ve never been out of New York on Purim. As the morning progressed and the temperature kicked up a few more notches, it became even more pleasant, relaxing, and warm.

Here’s what I don’t miss about Purim in New York: First, it is the cold weather when we have every right to expect it to be warmer outside.

I suppose that if there’s such a thing as a “transitional” holiday, it’s Purim. This is the chag that falls on the border between winter and spring, which means it can be cold some years and warm in others.

Except, of course, if you’re in Florida. Even in Israel, Purim can be a bit on the cool side, with temperatures ranging from the 40s at night to the high-50s by day. Down here in South Florida, when it’s a sunny day, we can wake up to temperatures in the 60s that rise to the low 80s, which explains why there are so many people down here this time of year.

Then there’s the matter of family obligations associated with our chagim. I took a casual poll of people down here and it seems that there were more people flying down for the Purim holiday than those returning up north to spend the holiday with family. Just a couple of people I spoke to were actually returning to New York or New Jersey for the Purim holiday and returning to Florida right after.

As a matter of fact, the few people I spoke to were flying out of Florida early Friday morning, spending Shabbos and Purim with family up north, then flying back down on Monday.

Down here in Boynton Beach, there was an additional celebration that coincided with Purim, and that was the opening of a new, 40,000 square foot kosher supermarket, KC Market. This part of Florida has been on the Jewish map for a while as you can tell by the growing population down here. Not having to drive ten miles to Boca Raton to shop for kosher food is obviously a big plus for this area. Our columnist who covers South Florida, Cheri Rosen, has a more detailed story about the opening of the new market.

Of course, no sooner does Purim occur than we reflexively turn our attention to Pesach less than four weeks away. We’ve written numerous stories over the years about how our people are on the move as Pesach approaches. This might be a generational reflex to our movement as a nation out of Egypt several thousand years ago.

Today, our movements are in the direction of places like Israel and Florida, which serve as travel magnets for many during the chag. Like every year, I have to say that the majority of people are home for Pesach, shopping like mad and stocking up on food for this food-centered holiday. Many more are on the move to and from places like Lakewood, the Five Towns, Monsey, and Brooklyn.

If there is anything close to a real Exodus nowadays, it is those traveling from up north to Orlando, quite literally by the thousands. There’s a great deal to cover on the “Orlando phenomenon” these last few years and the way food for yom tov finds its way down there one way or another. We will cover this story over the next few weeks. In the meantime, stay cool. Or stay warm, whatever the case may be.

Thinking Of You

Naomi Berger and Chaya Sara Genack of Lawrence in cooperation with Moshe Hirsch of Central Perk have taken the unique initiative of offering a small gesture of recognition to the widows and divorcees of the community by offering them a gratis muffin and cup of coffee every Rosh Chodesh.

“We want to extend a message to the widows and divorcees of our community that tells them we are thinking of them,” said Naomi Berger. She added that as a relatively recent widow, after the passing of her illustrious husband, Rav Solomon Berger, a’h, she is able to empathize with the isolation that those living without a spouse can sometimes feel.

Naomi relates that the institution of the program, in cooperation with Central Perk, has received extremely positive feedback, with numerous widows and divorcees reporting deriving a genuine sense of caring and concern from the community.

Of course, there is a great deal more that can be done, and that includes inviting these families or singles to a Shabbos or yom tov meal, etc. The coffee and muffin initiative is certainly a great step in the right direction.

As to how it actually works, a committee provides a list of names to Central Perk, and all you have to do is give your name and either take out or sit in the café and enjoy your coffee and muffin, knowing you are being thought of and cared for. Our thanks to all involved in this noble effort.

Keeping A Yeshiva Open

Sending our children to school each and every day is a routine we are accustomed to without question. But what happens if one day in the middle of the school year, perhaps in February or March, you find out your child’s yeshiva is not opening the next day. What do you do? What does the community do?

Well, you may not be aware of the fact that this almost happened in the Far Rockaway-Five Towns community several weeks ago unless your child (in this case, daughter) attends that school.

I’ve been asked to publicize this matter as a way of informing our readers that all the schools in our community have marshalled their efforts and resources to keep the girls’ school, Bais Yaakov Ateres Miriam in Far Rockaway, open and functioning without interruption.

For a little while it was, as they say, touch and go. The most immediate concern was dealing with the possibility that the school would have to close their doors and 300 girls would be left with no school to attend. This is a crisis across the board for everyone involved.

That’s where the community problem-solver, Lloyd Keilson and a team of parents like Shmuli Katz, Eli Lutz, and others took a hold of a rapidly deteriorating financial situation and began to place things on a healthy financial course.

The three shared with me the very real possibility that the school would have to close its doors. One of the main obstacles was that the staff had not been paid in almost four months as there was no money in the coffers.

It’s difficult to imagine how such a situation could transpire in a school of this size that is largely supported by tuition-paying parents. But those involved in the matter understood that this is where the problem lay. About 80% of the parents were not paying any tuition.

The details about how a situation like this could occur would make an entire essay by itself. For now, the new board is addressing the issue of non-payment and people are stepping up to meet their financial obligation. Over the last few weeks, they have raised over $1 million, payroll is almost up-to-date, and the ship, so to speak, has been righted.

BYAM is a school that dispenses a high-quality education in a warm, personable environment that both students and parents cherish. As Mr. Katz pointed out: It is imperative the school remain open. This is the reality when we compute how many school-age children there are in the community and how many seats there are available in the schools.

The good news is that the school is gaining strength and additional support from inside and outside the community. Despite what you may have heard: Bais Yaakov Ateres Miriam is staying the course, staying open, and gaining strength. n


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