On Sunday, December 18, 2011 / 22 Kislev 5772, in Mount Dora, Florida, a new
UTJ-affiliated synagogue was formally inaugurated.
Rabbi Steven Golden, who was ordained at the Institute of
Traditional Judaism, the Metivta and now serves as Judaic
Director of the Kaplen JCC on the Palisades in Tenafly, NJ, led the
afternoon service. The Minchah service was followed by the
Hakhnasat Sefer Torah, bringing in for the first time a newly
repaired scroll of the Torah, which was donated by Temple Israel of
Long Beach, NY to the Mount Dora synagogue. Inauguration blessings
were given by Rabbanit Dr. Rachel Solomon, Rabbi Dr. Chayyim
Solomon, Rabbi Dr. Eugene Shafir and Hakham (Rabbi) Dr. Isaac S.D.
After the Inauguration Ceremony, Hakham Isaac Sassoon gave the
keynote address and Robb Seltzer, Parnas (President) spoke on
behalf of the Synagogue.
The second part of the program included presentation of the
Anti-Defamation League's “Community of Respect” award to
the city of Mount Dora.
In July of 2011, the synagogue building was desecrated early one
Shabbat morning, before dawn, by vandals who spray painted
particularly vile anti-Semitic and vulgar graffiti on the
then-newly-painted exterior walls and windows. The City of Mount
Dora and the members of the community at large responded to this
hateful act in an exceedingly supportive manner. The general
community took complete responsibility for the restoration of the
synagogue, and the official law enforcement response was swift and
Robert Thielhelm, Mayor of Mount Dora was the first official to
speak, and was followed by Melissa DeMarco, the former Mayor, who
led the community’s response to the hate crime. Former Mayor
DeMarco encapsulated it all when she said, “We (the community
and the synagogue) belong to each other now”. Mount Dora Chief
of Police, T. Randall Scoggins, spoke on behalf of the Mount Dora
Police Department on their role in apprehending the perpetrators.
Sue Purdy, the Assistant State Attorney for the 5th Judicial
Circuit, spoke on the successful prosecution of the case as a hate
crime. The ceremony concluded with Robert Tanen, the Anti-Defamation
League’s Associate Regional Director for Florida, presenting
to the City of Mount Dora the ADL “Community of Respect”
The Traditional Congregation of Mount Dora was founded in 2008
by Rabbi Chayyim Solomon (then a student at the Institute of
Traditional Judaism, the Metivta) and Rabbanit Dr. Rachel
Solomon. For three years, the congregation met in conference rooms
of hotels or in private homes. In 2010, a site was identified for
the future home of the synagogue building, in downtown Mount Dora,
at the north edge of the commercial district. Renovations commenced
and in early August 2011, the Congregation began holding services
informally in the building.