New Executive Director at B'nai Israel

Congregation B’nai Israel, a Reform congregation in Boca Raton, has named Steve Allen as its new Executive Director/CEO.
CBI, which has many West Boca members, is located on Religion Row on the south side of Yamato Road between St. Andrews and Military Trail:

Allen joins Congregation B’nai Israel from Congregation Kol Tikvah in Parkland, where he served as the Executive Director since 2013. He is on the National Executive Board of NATA (National Association of Temple Administration), has co-chaired three NATA conferences, and has also received his FTA (Fellowship in Temple Administration) status last year; a prestigious endeavor only three percent of Executive Directors have achieved.

I’m thrilled to accept this key role of Executive Director/CEO at Congregation B’nai Israel. With my 18 years of experience I see a great opportunity to reinforce and expand our Synagogue’s warm and welcoming feeling for its members, and to continue to utilize all our resources to emphasize the key Jewish practices needed to build a true Jewish community both inside and outside our walls.

In addition to appointing Mr. Allen, CBI has updated its entire technology infrastructure.
According to Richard Pollack, Executive Board member and VP of Communications & Technology,

This is an exciting time for CBI, as we incorporate innovative tools to better engage our members, preschool and religious school families, along with the community at large. Having just celebrated our thirty year anniversary, launching a new website, logo and tagline is a perfect way to take us into the next chapter of growth.

Hobby Lobby Grand Opening: Photos and Video

Hobby Lobby is finally open. The grand opening was this morning at 9 am. We missed the ceremonies but got there before 10 am. There seemed to be a lot of customers for a weekday morning and it looks like a good start.
Some key details: It’s definitely big and there are a lot of sections. They have a fabrics section which we’ve heard some demand for:
The store map is helpful:
There’s also a framing section that is likely to be popular:
Here’s our video of walking into the store:

There has been a lot of controversy surrounding Hobby Lobby for various reasons, related to their identity as a “Christian company.” When I walked in I was greeted by Jacqueline Chavez (below, far right), of the firm’s Management Ministries.
I think some of the critics don’t get how serious the company is about being Christian. Having Ms. Chavez there at the front door is a sign of it. The “Management Ministries” staff are part of that:

The focus is to exhibit a Godly culture by making a positive impact on the lives of the management teams. I believe this position is one of equipping men and women, right where they are and that is in the workplace. It is exciting to see biblical principles touching and changing lives across the country. Jesus said “And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me.” (John 12:32) The goal of Management Ministries is to let them see Jesus!

I met the two co-managers and they were happy with how things were going. The soft opening was Saturday and business was strong even though it was essentially unadvertised. This is not the first Hobby Lobby in South Florida – they told me there are stores in Davie and Kendall. From the store website there are plans to open another one in Coral Springs in a few weeks.
The store does seem to be running well, but from a business perspective I was surprised at how uncomfortable and unprepared they were for questions about the controversies. In light of an incident of alleged antisemitism in New Jersey where the Hobby Lobby President apologized, I asked about whether they would be carrying merchandise for the Jewish holidays. They had no idea whether or when Hanukkah merchandise would be coming to the store, though the store has plenty of Christmas merchandise on the shelves already.
The managers seemed unaware of the significant Jewish population around them. The West Boca Square plaza borders Boca Woods, which is mostly Jewish, and the Jewish Federation campus is not far away on the other side of 441.
I asked about the decision to locate a Christian store in an area that has such a large Jewish population and they simply said it was a decision made by the company’s real estate division and they didn’t know about it. To me it doesn’t come off as antisemitism but rather that they’re tone deaf. For a more critical perspective see this article in Coral Springs Talk.
Regardless of all of that, we’re pleased to see that the opening is going well. This is a great shopping option for a lot of people in West Boca and also a source of good jobs. We wish Hobby Lobby well.

JCC Maccabi Games: Host Families Needed

The JCC Maccabi Games® Are Coming; Host Families Still Needed to Welcome Visiting Teens
Less than one month from now Boca Raton will welcome hundreds of Jewish teen athletes from across the country and around the world to the JCC Maccabi Games® where they will compete in team and individual sports and participate in social and community service activities. Many local Jewish families have already signed up to be Host Families from August 10 -15th, but the Levis JCC, the host of the 2014 JCC Maccabi Games in our area, is urgently in need of another 75 beds. “The need is very real, right now, as we will begin the process of matching athletes and Host Families by the end of this week,” said Nancy Carroll, JCC Maccabi Games Director.
“We are very appreciative of the many families who have already committed to this. Being a Host Family is a truly special experience for the families and for the teens,” said Randy Colman, Executive Director of the Levis JCC. “We just need a few more Jewish families to step up and help us make these Games outstanding for the teens who will be visiting.”
Each year, our local teens are warmly welcomed in cities around the country when they participate in the Games as visiting athletes. As a host community, it is now our turn to extend hospitality and offer our teen guests safe, secure places to call “home” during the Games.
Local Jewish Host Families (from Boca Raton, Delray Beach and Parkland) provide:
• housing for at least two visiting athletes,
• breakfast daily and two dinners (Sunday and Tuesday),
• transportation (early morning drop-offs and evening pick-ups);
• daily access to laundry facilities
• a fun evening on Tuesday (Host Family Night).
Host families must be Jewish and must pass a thorough screening process. Full information is available at, on Facebook at, or by calling the JCC Maccabi Games® Hotline at 561-852-3206
To register to be a host family, families should go to and click on the “Register Now” link on the right menu bar.