Daniel Kaskel, a partner with the law firm of Sachs Sax Caplan, and Vice President of the Boca Raton Synagogue, began working on this event in mid-January, 2021. “In January, vaccines were very scarce, particularly in Palm Beach County,” advises Kaskel. “I reached out to nearly every elected official and state and local government agency to create a POD, a point of distribution, to help the seniors in my synagogue obtain vaccines.”
In early February, Mr. Kaskel heard back from the Florida Division of Emergency Management, the agency tasked with creating PODs. He was advised that the DEM was inundated with such requests and could not accommodate each one. Kaskel then asked if the DEM would elevate the request if he presented an interfaith initiate comprised of a synagogue, church and mosque. The answer was an encouraging YES.
In the few weeks that passed, a significant number of the senior population of Boca Raton Synagogue had fortunately received vaccines, so Kaskel turned to Temple Beth El. “Within a day I received a call from Rita Diamond, Temple Beth El’s Director of Operations. They were very excited about the opportunity to not only provide vaccinations their seniors, but to invite other houses of worship to join,” recounts Kaskel.
Rabbi Greg Weisman of Beth El invited the Islamic Center of Boca Raton and Ebenezer Missionary Baptist Church to partner in the event. Kaskel presented a proposal to the DEM in mid-February, and the event was quickly approved, with a March 3rd date and an anticipated 500 doses. Among the DEM’s requirements was that vaccines could only be administered to individuals who qualify under state guidelines, no walk-ins were permitted, and the participating houses of worship were asked not to publicly advertise to minimize congestion and avoid walk-ins.
With four houses of worship working together to schedule appointments for their seniors and other qualifying individuals, they encountered an unforeseen problem: they had more vaccine availability than applicants. So they extended the invitation to additional houses of worship. Nearly 20 institutions were invited to participate, and the moment the state opened vaccines to law enforcement, firefighters and teachers, the event coordinators were able to schedule 500 available slots.
“It was truly a beautiful event,” advises Kaskel, who visited the interfaith event on March 3rd. “Witnessing a collaboration among Boca Raton’s Christians, Jews and Muslims working together was inspiring. I was proud to have played a role in this process. Rita Diamond and Temple Beth Ed did a tremendous job coordinating and hosting the event.”
The vaccines were administered by healthcare workers sent by the DEM, with 17 socially distanced stations, each staffed by two healthcare workers. Along with the Florida National Guard, over 100 state deployed personnel were involved in staffing the successful event, vaccinating more than 500 people.
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