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A Federation Love Story

Last Tuesday, we celebrated Tu B’Av, the Jewish holiday of love. Deborah Jacobs, our new President of Women’s Philanthropy, is part of a classic love story—and it couldn’t have happened without Federation! 

In early January 1988, there was a snowstorm in Atlanta. Deborah Jacobs, now the President of Women’s Philanthropy, was a young professional who had recently moved to Atlanta. Deborah grew-up in a small town in Mississippi and was raised to believe in helping the organizations in one’s community.  

“I always knew it’s important to build and maintain community organizations,” Deborah says. “The people you help through them are teachers, small business owners, healthcare workers. Being part of the community means supporting the community.” 

Deborah had become part of Federation’s Young Leadership Cabinet upon moving to Atlanta, and that Sunday, she was supposed to attend a volunteer calling session on behalf of Young Leadership Cabinet. She considered not going, because the weather was still bad. “I didn’t want to take the car out, but I felt so cooped-up from being in the house all week, I just had to get out.”   

Deborah arrived at the very busy bank processing center where the calling session was happening, settled herself in one of the few remaining cubicles, and started making calls to donors. Between calls she said hello to familiar faces and made jokes. When the session ended, a guy behind her struck up a conversation. He’d seen her talking with other people throughout the session and said “I knew you’d talk to me.” She exchanged numbers with the guy, Lou, and the rest is history.  

Deborah says she and Lou would never have met without that calling session—the social circles they ran in were entirely different. Now, they have two children: David, who lives in San Francisco, and Jonathan, in New York City. She hopes that young adults keep it in mind when they’re deciding how to spend their free time. “Volunteering is a social opportunity! You get to meet people who share your values.” 

She credits the good work Federation does with her determination to be involved when she first moved here. “Federation funds so many essential organizations and institutions. If I was going to be part of Jewish Atlanta, I had to get involved. When you’re part of a community, you have to help grow and maintain it. Federation is my dues to my community.”  

As the President of Women’s Philanthropy, Deborah hopes to give people more opportunities to learn about what Federation does and guide them toward philanthropic opportunities that spark their imagination. “I like being a connector—when someone tells me they’re interested in something, I make recommendations. I like to help them find an event or program that will speak to them, build relationships and bring them into a tighter orbit. I always say, ‘You have the piece to someone else’s puzzle.’” 

We’re all lucky that Federation could fit the puzzle pieces of Deborah and Lou so long ago! 

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