By: Dale King Contributing Writer
For the Harry & Celia Litwak Chabad Center of East Boca, the night of Dec. 19 was a particularly special evening.
The congregation that will soon begin constructing a new house of worship at 770 E. Palmetto Park Road honored three members of the community with “Share the Light” awards, designating them as “lamplighters who in their own unique way have made their mark on the world, making it a better place for all of us,” said Rabbi Ruvi New from the Chabad.
During a gala attended by hundreds, awards were handed out by Boca Raton Mayor Susan Haynie, former Boca mayor now Palm Beach County Commissioner Steven Abrams and Rabbi New to Miami Heat announcer Eric Reid; former President of Farmland Dairies, Marc Goldman; and TV producer and on-air personality, Arlene Herson.
It was the first presentation of its kind by the Chabad, but is expected to become an annual event, said Rabbi News.
In a speech preceding the presentation, he also said the synagogue’s event “coincides with the auspicious Chassiddic holiday ‘Yud Tes Kislev,’ the day of liberation from Czarist prison of Chabad’s founder, Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi in 1798.”
“From its very founding more than 200 years ago, Chabad has been dedicated to sharing the light –the light of G-d, Torah and the Soul,” said Rabbi New. “From ignorance to hatred, darkness takes on many forms and each of us in our own way must share the light. We are proud to be honoring three exemplars of lamplighters in our community.”
“Share the Light” chairman was Mitch Kirschner; Sheri Farbish served as event coordinator and David and Nadine Berkowitz were the major underwriters. The Boca Newspaper was media sponsor.
The event – the first community festivity ever held at the new Hyatt Place Hotel that just opened in downtown Boca Raton – began with a poolside reception on the seventh floor of the new lodging and conference center. Those in attendance enjoyed passed hors d’oeuvres and made up their own plates at a taco station and sushi station at opposite ends of the pool.
Awards recipients included Marc Goldman, an active supporter of Chabad of East Boca for the past decade. He is on the advisory board of the Jerusalem-based Aish HaTorah and is a board member of the Republican Jewish Coalition.
Herson is the producer and host of the award-winning cable television program, “The Arlene Herson Show,” which features personal in-depth interviews with nationally known personalities. Previously, she was a panelist on “Florida Forum” on National Public Radio. She was an interviewer for Steven Spielberg’s Shoah Foundation, videotaping firsthand testimonies of Holocaust survivors.
Reid is the lone remaining original member of the Miami Heat broadcasting team and is in his 28th season of calling the action for the team and 39 as a sports broadcaster. He also serves as a host for Fox Sports Sun’s Emmy award-winning “Inside the Heat” series. Reid won Emmy Awards for his play-by-play work in 2013, 2014 and 2015.
The celebration of what Rabbi New called “friendship, love and support” marked a turning point for the local Chabad following several contentious years of angry municipal hearings and court arguments concerning construction of the new temple.
Now that the lawsuits and appeals are finished, plans to build the Chabad in East Boca will have to go through the city’s development approval process again, which may take a year to complete, Rabbi New said.
In 2015, City Council members approved plans for the 18,000-square-foot project that required additional height and included a 6,000-square-foot museum. The city classified the museum as a public place of assembly, which is permitted under city rules. But a court disagreed, stating that a museum isn’t listed as an approved use in the city’s zoning district, so it isn’t allowed by city zoning laws.
Rabbi New said the museum segment has been removed from the proposed building.
A judge in the Fourth District Court of Appeals in West Palm Beach issued a two-sentence order earlier this year denying the Chabad’s request for oral argument in a lawsuit concerning the city’s approval of the project’s site plan for the synagogue.
Two other suits were also filed, but were thrown out of court.
Initially, a panel of three judges dismissed a suit that challenged the city’s decision to grant the Chabad additional height to build its project. Two Boca residents sued the city, alleging the decision to approve the project violated their First Amendment rights. That case was dismissed by a judge who claimed the argument lacked merit and the residents failed to show how the city’s decision specifically caused them harm.
Chabad of East Boca offers a variety of programs, including adult education classes, community-wide Holiday celebrations, Jewish single’s events, the Jewish Women’s Rosh Chodesh Society, hospital visitation, counseling and crisis intervention, the Bat Mitzvah club and other youth programs.
By: Dale King Contributing Writer