Last night, a group of dedicated women gathered at the lovely and hospitable home of Betsy Cohen for the annual reception of the Pomegranate Society, where we celebrated women's commitment to improving the world. Betsy is the co-chair of our local Pomegranate Society, along with Lauren Bloom.
The Pomegranate Society, part of the Federation's Women's Philanthropy division, was established in 1981 as a way to inspire giving from women, and today more than 125 Federations participate in it. The society recognizes a woman's annual gift of $1,800 to $4,999 ($5,000+ giving is recognized as a Lion of Judah).
Last year, we inaugurated our local Pomegranate Society and held our first reception. Since then, 10 women have become members. Four of them were introduced last night and honored with a gorgeous silver pomegranate pin, which is an emblem of the society. The pomegranate was chosen as a symbol because of its significance in Judaism. It is one of the seven species associated with the Land of Israel. There is also a tradition that the pomegranate has 613 seeds, which corresponds with the number of mitzvoth (commandments) in the Torah. The pomegranate has been used widely as a decorative element in Jewish ceremonial art. The silver covers for the handles of the Torah scrolls are called "rimonim" (pomegranates).
This past Tuesday was Rosh Hodesh Nissan (the first day of the month Nissan), and it means that Passover is just around the corner. To mark the coming holiday, last night we participated in a Passover food demonstration led by the accomplished chef, writer and educator Myrna Ossin. Yes, you can have pizza on Passover, and it tastes wonderful, as Myrna demonstrated. The women were awed and inspired to expand their holiday cooking arsenal.
The Pomegranates are women who care deeply about the Jewish people. Last night, we heard two short presentations about the good work of the Federation in Israel and in here in Central Florida. Renee Friedman, who became a Pomegranate this year, was inspired by her recent trip to Israel co-sponsored by the Federation. Renee spoke passionately about her growing desire to be involved in and give back to the community. Renee, owner of FastSigns of Orlando-Central, also told us with great excitement that just a few days ago, she hired a new employee, Caitlin Chambers, who is a graduate of the Federation's RAISE program! Caitlin spent six months working at Central Florida Hillel and The Roth Family JCC improving her working and social skills with the help of dedicated RAISE volunteer job coaches.
I am very proud to write about it, as today is the last day of Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month. We are grateful to everybody who has helped to make Caitlin's success possible.
You also have a share in Caitlin's success through your contribution to the Federation's Annual Campaign, which supports important Federation programs such as RAISE. If you haven't made your commitment yet, please give generously so that we can create even more Federation success stories together!
Thank you and Shabbat Shalom,