RECOGNIZING THE BEREZDIVIN, SCHECK & BONWITT FAMILIES
Raquel Berezdivin grew up in Havana, Cuba, where she attended Jewish Day School and was brought up with a good Jewish background. Her parents, Isaac & Berta, raised their three children, Rosa, Raquel & Manolo, with a love of Judaism and Israel. Isaac was President of the Zionist Organization of Cuba and Berta was active in Hadassah.
Raquel, at the age of 16, came to Miami in 1961, with the help of HIAS, leaving her family behind. She went to live with cousins Abner & Ida Miller, members of Beth Torah and along with cousins, Perry & Berta Phillips, she came to synagogue often.
In 1963, Raquel met Michael on a blind date. She then met Michael’s Family, Henrietta & Samuel Scheck, who raised their children, Carol, Michael & Ira, in Brooklyn where Michael had attended Brandeis Day School. It was Pesach and the first seder in the new synagogue on 163rd Street with Rabbi Max. They had the same Jewish background from two different worlds. Little did they know how their lives and the North Dade Jewish community would change forever.
After graduating Columbia University as a CPA, Michael went to work in the family business, Sweet Paper Sales Corp. Raquel, then 19, married Michael at the Lombardy Hotel on Miami Beach and started working at Sweet Paper in accounting and remained active in the business for the next 50 years together with Michael as the owners and operators of the family “toilet paper” and other paper products enterprise. Lucky they didn’t “kill each other” being together every day year after year.
It was not until 1968, when Jeffrey was 4 and Marty 2, that they joined Beth Torah to send their children to Nursery School. Elise was born in 1969 and Steven in 1973. They joined Beth Torah at the same time as her sister, Rosita & Natan Rok. Her parents came from Cuba and joined Beth Torah as well.
In 1970, they were invited by Dorothy Gruen to come to a meeting to help form the Hillel Community Day School and the rest is a remarkable history of the Scheck Family and the growth and development of the Jewish community in North Dade.
All four children attended Hillel, were raised at Beth Torah, became a Bar & Bat Mitzvah and got married at Beth Torah. Jewish education was very important to Raquel and Michael. In 1973, Michael followed Dr. Joel Dennis as the second President of the school which then became the Samuel Scheck Hillel Community Day School. He served in that capacity for an unprecedented 16 years. Raquel served as President, for 3 years, 1991-1994. They helped Hillel take each gigantic step to become the largest Jewish Day School in the South and one of the top educational institutions in the country.
Raquel served on the Board of Directors at Beth Torah and for a number of years on the Executive Committee as a Vice President, Executive Vice President and then President. Raquel and Michael were the Campaign Chairs to move our synagogue and build our current facilities on Ives Dairy Road. They are currently Honorary Trustees and are Co-Chairs of the 80th Anniversary Celebration.
Their community leadership was not limited to Beth Torah. Michael went on to become Chair of the Greater Miami Jewish Federation where both he and Raquel remain actively involved. Raquel is Past Chair of Women’s Philanthropy and a member of the Board of Directors of Federation. Their children, Jeffrey and Adrienne, Marty & Hili (also a Hillel alum), Elise & Gil and Steven & Michele have certainly followed in their parent’s footsteps through leadership at GMJF, Scheck Hillel, MARJCC, and Beth Torah Benny Rok Campus. The adage, “My father built for me and I will build for my children”, exemplifies the life that Raquel & Michael instilled in their children.
Jeff went on to become President of MARJCC and then Campaign Chair and Chair of the Board of GMJF. Adrienne is actively involved with the Miami Jewish Film Festival. Marty was involved as an officer, board member and Chair of Hillel and Hili serves on the Board of Kesher. Elise became Chair of Women’s Philanthropy and currently serves as a Vice President of the Board at Federation and the National Board of Women’s Philanthropy. Gil is a Past Chair of the Board of Scheck Hillel and currently serves as Treasurer of JCS. Elise & Gil maintain their leadership at Beth Torah and currently are serving as Co-Chairs of the 80th Anniversary Yearbook. Steven followed in his mother’s footsteps and became the first parent/child family to both serve as President of Beth Torah. Steven currently is Campaign Chair of the Sanctuary Renovation Project and was recently elected as Treasurer of USCJ where he and Michele chaired the Int’l Convention in December. Michele is a Vice President of Women’s Philanthropy.
All 17 Scheck grandchildren, following the teachings of their parents and grandparents, attended Hillel, became a Bar or Bat Mitzvah at Beth Torah, and will continue their commitment to Jewish life in the Scheck Family Sanctuary to celebrate their life cycle events where Raquel & Michael celebrated their 50th Wedding Anniversary eight years ago.
Four generations of the Berezdivin, Scheck & Bonwitt families have been members of Beth Torah. The extended families of the Bonwitts, Sabans and Balizers added to the Beth Torah Family over the years.
This amazing family have led and continue to lead our synagogue and Jewish community. We are most grateful to this Generational Family of 53 years for their commitment, leadership, resources and love to strengthen our synagogue, community and Eretz Yisrael. Happy Birthday, Michael, on the celebration of your 82nd birthday this Shabbat. May you be blessed with good health to continue showing us the way.
Each week one of our generational families will be recognized by our congregation blessed
by the rabbis at both the “virtual” Friday evening and Shabbat morning services.
Over 50 families have been identified with 50 + years of membership at Beth Torah and another
25 families as their children, grandchildren and great grandchildren who are currently members of Beth Torah Benny Rok Campus.