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New Maccabee Bar Association aims to educate and unify

Senior Editor Top Stories

Maccabee Bar Association of FloridaTwo years ago, while pondering his long affiliation with voluntary bar groups, Orlando lawyer Gary Salzman wondered why there wasn’t a vehicle for Jewish lawyers to celebrate their heritage, educate the public, and promote good works.

Last summer, the 1988 University of Miami Law graduate joined a handful of colleagues to launch the Maccabee Bar Association of Florida, Inc.

“I thought it would be good to form an association that was focused on Jewish causes, and supporting Jewish lawyers and Jewish judges, just like these other special interest bar associations do.”

The group was still in its infancy on October 7, when Hamas-led militants killed 1,200 people across southern Israel and took 250 hostages. The momentum changed overnight, Salzman recalls.

“I got a core group of lawyers and judges to help develop our bylaws and help figure out what truly this association would stand for,” Salzman said. “Then, October 7 came around, and that really galvanized the group, it started focusing us on anti-Semitic causes.”

A strongly worded statement issued right after the attack describes the Maccabee Bar Association of Florida as a professional organization devoted to, among other goals, “the furtherance of the common interests of Jewish attorneys and judges in Florida, and the education of the Florida legal community and the public on historic Jewish law and legal history.”

In addition to supporting the legal rights of Jewish attorneys and judges in Florida, encouraging camaraderie and community service, and facilitating networking opportunities, the group’s bylaws call for upholding “the highest standards of integrity, ethics, honor, and courtesy of the Association’s members in the legal profession.”

The association claims 46 dues-paying Florida Bar members, including about a half-dozen judges. Based on the more than 100 professionals who logged in to initial Zoom meetings, Salzman is confident there is a lot more interest in Florida’s legal community. So far, group members are concentrated in Central Florida, but Miami, Ft. Lauderdale, West Palm Beach, Jacksonville, and Tampa are also represented. Other co-founding members include Todd Kobrin, Alan Apte, Rick Plotkin, Harry Payton, and Adam Losey.

“And all different practice areas,” Salzman says. “We have criminal lawyers, commercial lawyers, personal injury lawyers, divorce, you name it, it’s very diversified when it comes to practice area.”

Maccabee “Ambassador & Director” Lawrence Kolin, another Central Florida lawyer, suggested the group’s name.  It refers to Jewish guerilla warriors in the Second Century who fought against Greco-Roman Hellenization.

“We all thought it was great,” Salzman said. “It describes our identity, basically, as warriors for Jewish causes.”

Salzman describes himself as not particularly observant, and stresses that Florida Bar members don’t have to be Jewish to join.

“We actually have non-Jewish members,” he said.

A not-for-profit that is unaffiliated with any other group, the association is open to any Florida Bar member in good standing who “supports the purposes and mission of the Association.” Students are also eligible as non-voting members.

“We have board meetings every other month, and those are by Zoom, and every other month, we have a Zoom member meeting,” Salzman said. “And in between those, we try to have an in-person meeting.”

True to the association’s ecumenical spirit, the last member meeting was held at the Castle Irish Pub in Orlando, Salzman said.

“I think we had about 25 people, maybe 30. It really was just a social event, for everyone to get to know each other a bit, to talk a little, and develop those relationships to support each other.”

The group has a LinkedIn page and a website is in the works.

For now, Salzman urges anyone who wants more information to email him at [email protected].

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