2017-02-01 / Voice at the Shore

Jewish snowbirds flock together in Florida

By ELLEN WEISMAN STRENGER Voice shore editor

Snowbirds Izzy and Randi Posner enjoy a winter day at the beach. Snowbirds Izzy and Randi Posner enjoy a winter day at the beach. This winter, Izzy Posner finds that he often runs into fellow congregants from Shirat Hayam in Ventnor—despite the fact that Posner has been living in Florida since mid-October.

Like so many local Jewish community members, Posner and his wife, Randi, are “snowbirds.” The couple began flying south for the winter after retiring two years ago.

The Jersey shore’s flock of snowbirds has been growing for a long time, as more and more community members reach retirement age, said Kirk Wisemayer, executive director of the Jewish Federation of Atlantic and Cape May Counties. He estimated that 60-70 percent of those who are active in the local Jewish community (close to 200 people in total) now winter in Florida, mostly in the Palm Beach area, as well as in Delray Beach and Boynton Beach.

So while Jewish community events are now winding down for the winter in Atlantic County, they are going strong in Florida. In addition to those held by Jewish organizations in the Palm Beach and Boynton Beach areas, Shirat Hayam and the Federation of Atlantic and Cape May Counties are also hosting Florida events.

Shirat Hayam, which holds an annual event for snowbirds, hosted a lunch at Ben’s Kosher Deli in Boca Raton on January 26. Rabbi Jonathan Kremer and Rabbi Gordon Geller hosted the event along with their wives.

The Jewish Federation of Atlantic and Cape May Counties, which also holds an annual winter gathering in Florida, will host an event at the end of February. This year, the event will be held jointly with the Jewish Federations of Southern New Jersey and Cumberland County, said Wisemayer, who is currently working out the final details of where and when the event will take place.

Although these events offer snowbirds a great opportunity to stay connected with their friends from the Jersey shore Jewish community, many, like Posner, say they also connect through chance meetings on the golf course, tennis courts and even walking around the neighborhood.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if there are 20 families from Atlantic County in our development,” said Posner, who lives in a development called Hunter’s Run in Boynton Beach. That’s not exactly a coincidence. Birds of a feather flock together—including snowbirds. The Posners moved to Hunter’s Run after hearing glowing reports about the community from friends like Miriam and Larry Hirsch, who also belong to Shirat Hayam, and who likewise heard about the development from other Jersey shore Jews who lived there.

“It’s very, very hamish here,” noted Miriam Hirsch, who said that in addition to the Atlantic County contingent, there are many Jewish couples living there from elsewhere in New Jersey and Long Island. “You take walks and everyone is greeting each other.”

In addition to golf and tennis, concerts and card games, their mostly-Jewish development also has a Yiddish club and a 92nd Street Y lecture series. Many other nearby developments have similar offerings. “Living here, you almost feel like you are living in a Jewish summer camp!” said Randi Posner.

Generally speaking, said both couples, living in Florida is a very Jewish experience. “There are literally hundreds of thousands of Jewish people here in Broward County—10 to 20 times as many as in Atlantic County,” noted Izzy Posner.

Consequently, the area’s Jewish community is large and easy to connect with, and there are many organizations to get involved with if golf and tennis aren’t enough. Randi Posner, a retired teacher with a passion for Holocaust education, is now active in Next Generations, a South Florida organization that helps Holocaust survivors in need of financial or other kinds of assistance. “It’s very much like Stockton’s Holocaust Resource Center,” she noted.

Larry Hirsch regularly goes to a nearby synagogue, where he recently ran into Shirat Hayam Co-President Sheila Friedman and her husband Alan. The area’s many Jewish organizations also hold plenty of events and fundraisers that give people an opportunity to make new connections.

Larry Hirsch said he hates the term “snowbird.” “We just come here because it’s warm,” said Larry, a hotel owner who works during the summers and can only enjoy the beach while wintering in Florida. Yet according to his wife, they aren’t really snowbirds anyway. “I thought we were snowbirds but found out people called us ‘snowflakes’ because we go back and forth throughout the winter.” 

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