Mayor Honors Community Rabbi with Key to Naples

On January 19th, over four hundred friends and supporters of Chabad of Naples gathered at the Ritz Carlton to celebrate their rabbi’s 40th birthday celebration.

Rabbi Fishel Zaklos has been a prominent member of the Naples’ community since establishing the Chabad Naples Jewish Community Center 17 years ago. The event reflected on his extensive contributions to the greater Naples community and served as a springboard to celebrate the growth of Chabad Naples since its founding nearly two decades ago.

Guests hailed from across the spectrum of the Naples community, with politicians, prominent business people, and everyday community members all gathering to celebrate a beloved spiritual leader.

A mini documentary was prepared for the occasion, interviewing over two dozen community members who recalled their personal interactions with the rabbi and what the Chabad Naples community means to them. The documentary also tracked the growth of Chabad Naples, from a fledgling operation, holding services in the rabbi’s own home, to a sprawling spiritual and educational campus right in the heart of Naples.

Samuel & Dr. Judith Friedland

Sarah & Neil Masters, Douglas & Dawn Tice

Left: Lise & Robert Issenman.

At the event, Mayor Bill Barnett surprised the crowd by officially proclaiming the day “Rabbi Fishel Day” in Naples and presenting the rabbi with a key to the city. The mayor thanked the rabbi for the work Chabad Naples does in the community and noted that it is the rabbi’s warm and individualized approach that draws people to the Chabad Naples community.

Rabbi Fishel says his mission is to bring back an old-fashioned warmth to his clerical role with a contemporary touch via an inclusive, non-imposing manner.

He and his wife and Chabad Naples co-director, Ettie, aim to spread goodness and kindness throughout the community. Whether it’s educationally, through Chabad’s award-winning Preschool of the Arts, or culturally, through large-scale holiday programs – Chabad’s Chanukah festival at Cambier Park draws over 1,000 attendees each year – the rabbi says he hopes to contribute to a kinder, more accepting world.

That inner drive to be of service to others was highlighted in 2017, when Hurricane Irma hit Naples. Rabbi Fishel mobilized his community on all fronts, distributing free wood and sandbags to Naples’ residents before the storm, and personally delivering hundreds of fresh meals and emergency items to those in need for weeks afterwards.

Whether he is giving a class, providing pastoral care to a person in need, standing on his head, literally – to the amusement of others – all who were present at the birthday event to honor this remarkable man agreed that Rabbi Fishel has become a deeply valued spiritual leader to the greater Naples community.

Guests were invited to make “Mitzvah Pledges” in the rabbi’s honor, taking on personal, spiritual or communal-focused resolutions.

While the evening was inspired by one individual’s milestone birthday, it expanded into a broader celebration of a community turned family. The rabbi noted that there was an “overwhelming love felt in both directions”.

The celebration concluded with a private concert by Israeli superstar Dudu Fisher who sang a medley of classic Jewish tunes and contemporary hits. Dudu has recorded more than 50 albums and three PBS special concerts.

The concert was sponsored as a gift for the rabbi by Dr. Jay and Dr. Melanie Korn, Mr. Tyler Korn and Dr. Rebecca Kosloff-Korn, and Ms. Sama Hoffman.

The venue for the celebration was sponsored by Mr. Ed and Mrs.Tricia Staros and the Naples Ritz Carlton. With special thanks to Dr. and Mrs. Arthur and Ellen Seigel and Mr. and Mrs. Greg and Carol Finn for their generous gifts towards this celebration.

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