A New UTJ Synagogue is Inaugurated

Traditional Congregation of Mount Dora

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. Sassoon.

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 effective.

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” award.

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.