Bringing People Together

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By Steven J. Smith people
For Ian and Rosann Black, their mission of preserving a legacy of Jewish culture and family is fueled by deep passion, family tradition and growing stronger as a community. people

Rosann and Ian Black, both champions of the Jewish Federation of Sarasota-Manatee and its mission of advocacy, met back in 1992 through a mutual friend. people

“I was president of the Jewish Federation back then and my friend asked if she could give my name to her Tai Chi instructor,” Ian said. “She was always trying to fix Rosann up with a nice Jewish boy.”

“My friend told me I had two choices,” Rosann added, with a laugh. “I could either meet a Jewish doctor or an Irish Jew. I had never heard of an Irish Jew before, so I said I’d start there. I could always go back to the Jewish doctor.”

“It was a blind date,” Ian said, in a lilting Irish brogue. “She was blind and I was the date.”

Ian is from Belfast and Rosann is from Montreal. He moved to Sarasota in 1982 and started a prosperous commercial real estate business. She moved here in 1989, contracting with WEDU in Tampa on a PBS series about Tai Chi. After a long courtship, the two eventually married in 2006.

“We took our time,” Rosann laughed. “I was never a believer in marriage.”

A marriage, a merger, a family

As it turns out, the couple’s marriage has been as fruitful as their relationship with the Jewish Federation which, according to its website, evolved from the United Jewish Appeal in 1980 to found three “partner” Jewish agencies: Jewish Family and Children’s Service (1984), the Sarasota-Manatee Jewish Housing Council (1988) and the Flanzer Jewish Community Center (1989-2007). Over the past few years, the Federation has moved toward a granting model and currently focuses on preserving Jewish heritage, providing help for those in need and protecting the people of Israel as well as vulnerable countries around the world — looking to create a global “mishpocha,” or family.

Ian is currently development co-chair and a member of the organization’s operating committee and board of directors, while Rosann is co-chair of the Israel@70 program — a yearlong celebration of Israel’s 70th anniversary, taking place next year.

“Development is not so much about raising money as it is promoting the exposure of the Federation within our community and all the different programming that we do,” Ian said. “Fundraising and sponsorships are part of that, of course. I’m also currently leading a committee that is determining the future of our campus and what it will look like, going into the future.”

“We’ll all grow stronger as a community by participating together.” – Joann Black

Joann’s involvement with the Jewish Federation is a bit more recent, but no less passionate.

“I actually got involved three and a half years ago, during a 12-day mission to Israel,” Rosann said. “The purpose was to make people more aware of the organization and the importance of its activities such as the Lone Soldier Project, the Hand to Hand Learning Center and the Leket Project, to feed the hungry. I was so impressed by how well-organized the mission was and the depth of knowledge and learning I experienced through the itinerary they created. We saw how Arab children and Jewish children — along with their parents — learn how to communicate and get along with each other.”

Following that trip, Rosann went through an eight-week leadership program through the Federation, which is how she got to be co-chair of the Israel@70 program.

“That program will encompass interfaith community events, which we hope will bring people together while honoring the State of Israel,” she said. “We’ll all grow stronger as a community by participating together in these joyful activities.”

Those activities will include an Israel@70 “shuk,” or fair, at Payne Park on January 14, 2018, which will be free to the whole community, she added. It will feature booths, kids’ activities, art tents, retail vendors, food vendors and entertainment.

“From January to April we’ll celebrate Israel’s birthday,” she said, “and every month after that we’ll have additional intellectual and artistic activities geared at celebrating both Israel and our community.”

Ian added the mission of the Jewish Federation is to raise awareness about Jewish life and identity, along with promoting its goals of helping both the Jewish people and vulnerable, needy people all over the world.

“We’re one of the more unique federations in the country, because we work with so many different other organizations,” he said. “For example, the Sarasota Orchestra, Sarasota Opera, the Westcoast Black Theatre Company. We’ve become an important organization to the whole community.”

“We want to sustain and perpetuate the organization going forward after we’re gone.” 

The two have also put their money where their mouths are, committing to a legacy gift to the Jewish Federation in their wills through the Harold Grinspoon Foundation.

“We want to sustain and perpetuate the organization going forward after we’re gone,” Ian said. “That’s very important to us. I am carrying on the legacy that my grandfather, an ardent Zionist, left me.”

For more information about the Jewish Federation of Sarasota-Manatee and its coming events, visit

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