American Hebrew Academy
Erik Ginsberg

Jewish Journal Article

South Florida July 13, 2004

Web site offers Florida Jewish connections

By Jay Schleifer
Journal Staff Writer

There are more than 2 billion Web sites on the Internet, according to news sources. Many offer things you can buy. Others provide information. Larry Heyman’s Web site,, offers both. But, Heyman said, it also serves God.

Heyman, from Boca Raton, started the site in 1999. It's fairly easy to describe what's on it. As the Web site itself puts it, you'll find “a database of Florida Jewish organizations, synagogues, kosher. restaurants, schools, social services and more, sorted by city or county.”

The community seems to appreciate his service.

"Not many people take the global view of the Jewish community,” said Janet Oppenheimer, financial resource development director of the Adolph and Rose Levis Jewish Community Center, which has worked with Heyman for years. “What he's doing to connect the community is a real plus. His material is relevant, timely and informational."

The organizations covers include major federations and Jewish community centers. The synagogue listings cover all branches of Judaism, and the social services range from family services to those for singles to seniors. Wherever one lives from Jacksonville to Key West, or even outside the state, and needs information on these communities, Heyman's got it covered. Just choose from an alphabetical listing that runs from Aventura to Winter Haven, click a tab such as “education” or "kosher foods" or "ritual needs," and the information is there.

"We try to cover the length and breadth of the Jewish community in each area," Heyman said.'s reach extends beyond the Sunshine State. An entire section is devoted to Israel. Site visitors can access Israeli newspapers, in Hebrew or English.

There are links to organizations that tell what Arabs are saying to each other, Heyman said, and news content is updated every 15 minutes

One area of special pride to Heyman is the Mitzvah Mall, where he lists both Israeli gift merchants, and non-profit and charitable agencies in the Jewish homeland, at no charge to the listing party.

"I feel the second part is the most important," Heyman said. "The whole idea is to get Americans in the Diaspora to realize how important [Israel] is to us. It's the foundation of our faith, and the more we can do to help them, it brings that connection closer. One thing that concerns me is our young people don't feel the same link to Israel as their parents and grand parents. That's dangerous”

His desire to promote connection to the faith shows up in other parts of Heyman offers a weekly Torah portion interpretation by one of 52 rabbis who contribute to the effort. There are Shabbat candle-lighting times for 17 Florida Jewish communities, and both a "Marvelous Mensche” and "Terrific Teacher" on the home page. These are people who have been honored in their local communities.

"I get local publications from around the state,” Heyman said. "When they honor someone, I contact them and say we'd like to give that honor wider exposure. We try to bring you the faces of the community, not just their names."

Originally from Baltimore, Heyman spent years in furniture manufacturing and marketing before he moved to Florida, where his life took a more faith-based tilt. "I got involved with Rabbi [Kenneth] Brander [of the Boca Raton Synagogue]," he said. "I was in charge of adult education and worked with the Kollel."

He also did advertising for the synagogue at no charge but realized he "needed to make some money at some point," he said. That led Heyman to create a colorful foldout map of local communities that showed where to find Jewish businesses and services. The map was used as a synagogue fund-raiser. The same concept, done electronically, and, with much wider breadth and reach, is

Heyman has received e-mails from site visitors whose needs were so specialized they weren't met by Heyman’s resources.

"One woman getting married in Caracas needed to find an Orthodox rabbi," he said."Another woman's handicapped  son needed special equipment."

Heyman helped find both.

"These little mitzvahs make me feel good about ,what we do," Heyman said.

His concept has institutionalized the offering of assistance. His "Help-A-Jew" feature is "a place for Jews who may be in distress or seeking assistance to ask for help," according to the site. "If you can help, answer those in need."

Recent requests included a Jew who had to leave France and sought an American family to take him in, a returnee from Israel to Florida looking for work and a businessman seeking a mentor.

Heyman said he  believes strongly in the concept of tzedaka. "People think it means charity, but it really means justice," he said. "It means that those who have must give to those who don’t. That's justice. "I try to get people to understand who they are and what's behind all this religious stuff. If I can provide information and explanations, I feel like I've helped. The cause is worthwhile, and it may sound corny, but we really are serving G-d."