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Looking Toward 5784

By Federation News

By Eric M. Robbins

As we stand at the precipice of 5784, a year brimming with promise and opportunity, I’m reminded of the boundless potential residing within each of us. It’s a time to reach for the stars, to be the best versions of ourselves, and to realize the dreams we hold close to our hearts. In our tight-knit community, there are no limits to what we can achieve, especially when we join hands and work together. 

Let’s embark on this new year with a fervent drive to propel our community campaigns to new heights. Let’s dream boldly of a world-class Jewish cultural center in the heart of Midtown, a vibrant hub that celebrates our rich heritage and fosters unity. May we send more children than ever to Jewish summer camps and day schools, nurturing the future of our faith. And let’s recognize our role in addressing the mental health crisis, extending compassion and support to those who need it most. 

Our unwavering love for Israel remains a steadfast commitment. As Israel grapples with its own set of challenges, we stand by its side, demonstrating our unbreakable bond. Through unity and determination, we can navigate the path to a brighter future. 

In the face of antisemitism, let us stand together as an unyielding force, unwavering in our resolve. We are a community that refuses to tolerate hate in any form. By uniting against prejudice and bigotry, we send a resounding message that love, acceptance, and understanding will always prevail. 

Now is the perfect time for personal reflection and growth. What do we aspire to be more of? What do we aim to shed from our lives? How can we nurture our spirituality and contribute to a better world, starting within our own families and community? These questions guide us on a journey of self-improvement, forgiveness, and growth. 

As we step into 5784, let our unity shine as brightly as the stars in the night sky. Together, we illuminate the path forward, creating a future filled with hope, love, and boundless possibilities. 

May this Rosh Hashanah be a time of renewal, self-discovery, and unshakeable unity. Here’s to a year of infinite promise and the realization of our most cherished dreams. 

Innovation Initiative and Jewish Abilities Atlanta Team Up

By Atlanta Jewish Community, Federation Innovation, Jewish Abilities Atlanta

Jewish Atlanta’s growth and development depend on our ability to address the ever-changing needs of our community with creativity, foresight, and courage. Federation’s Jewish Innovation Initiative offers local changemakers the opportunity to expand the dynamic ecosystem of our city and brings exciting global ventures into Atlanta. One such program is Tikkun Olam Makers (TOM), a global movement of communities that create and disseminate affordable solutions that address the challenges faced by people with disabilities, older adults, and more. Teams of volunteer “makers” join those who have identified a need in the disability community to create concepts, working models, prototypes, or products that are specifically designed to solve identified challenges.

Last week, Jewish Atlanta was thrilled to host the TOM Fellowship Kickoff Event. 75 students from around the globe,  representing schools in the U.S., Israel, and other countries worked across a variety of disciplines, from engineering to occupational therapy to meet, share ideas, and become inspired by the ways they can work together to benefit the disabled community. It was an incredible example of the many ways Federation supports the Jewish landscape in Atlanta.

TOM, started in 2014 and has grown from one community in Israel to dozens of locations around the world. TOM’S partnership with Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta started through Hillels of Georgia. In 2019, Hillel was awarded a grant by the Innovation Initiative to introduce TOM to Georgia Tech. Since then, in collaboration with Hillel, the Innovation Fund has supported TOM’s growth. In January of 2019, TOM presented at Federation’s Propel Pitch Competition and was awarded as one of the events finalists.

Over the past 4 years, Federation’s Innovation and Jewish Abilities Atlanta (JAA) initiatives have been instrumental in providing resources to TOM such as grant funding, training, and help to build relationships with our local community. On Tuesday, JAA’s Training Coordinator Lindsey Flax led an accessibility training session for the TOM fellows. JAA promotes an inclusive community that celebrates the uniqueness and abilities of every person across the lifespan and lifts the voices and perspectives of people with disabilities. The training taught fellows about interacting with people with disabilities online and in person. Topics included inclusive language and social media accessibility.

Society disables people by designing everything to meet the needs of only people who are not disabled. For social media accessibility, Lindsey spoke about how to make social media content accessible for users with disabilities.

TOM’s Director of Monitoring, Evaluation and Learning, Mikhal Kotlyar, says “The Jewish values behind TOM are so special, and it’s valuable to spread the idea of tikkun olam (repairing the world). The chance to have all our leaders and fellows in one place is unparalleled and allows us to capture the imaginations of these students in a different way.” 


Atlanta Jewish Foundation’s Year in Summary

By Atlanta Jewish Foundation

by Steven Cadranel

What a year of growth and progress it has been at Atlanta Jewish Foundation! We have hosted numerous events that amplified our impact across the Atlanta philanthropic community, and we have seen new legacy commitments take root to ensure our community’s future. Most importantly, we have helped to create, connect, educate, and inspire philanthropists!

Over the past 12 months, we have continued to facilitate small group educational opportunities with local nonprofits about the challenges Atlanta faces and solutions that work. Last year these Community Conversations took a deep dive into issues from homelessness to education, from environmental sustainability to mental health. In the process, we have educated, advised, and inspired many people of all ages to use the resources of the Atlanta Jewish Foundation as a tool for giving and repairing the world.

Your and our impact in 2022-23 has been truly amazing! Thanks to our donors’ generosity, $41.7m+ has been granted out (as of June 2023):

  • Benefiting over 1,144 nonprofit organizations
  • 78% of funds went to Jewish causes
  • 57% stayed in our local community

Click here to see why our community should be proud and excited about the work of the Atlanta Jewish Foundation.

Dear Melissa, Thank you so much for giving me the chance to go to camp year and year again. While this may have been the last year for me as a camper, I feel the need to go back again and give the same/better experience to another kid. This is all because of you and the work you put into letting me come to camp. Because of you, I have had experiences I will remember forever, and friends that will last me a lifetime. Thank you so much!

Thank You For Creating Camp Magic

By Jewish Camp Initiative

Jewish Summer Camp is one of the most impactful experiences a young person can have. The magic of a Jewish summer doesn’t stop when kids go home, or even when school starts. The lessons, hobbies, friendships, songs, and memories of camp stay with them, and help shape their Jewish identity for the rest of their lives. Federation’s Jewish Camp Initiative aims to eliminate the financial barriers that keep families from sending their kids to overnight camp. Here’s a letter we received from one grateful camper, who has been able to attend camp year after year thanks to the Jewish Camp Initiative: 

Dear Melissa, Thank you so much for giving me the chance to go to camp year and year again. While this may have been the last year for me as a camper, I feel the need to go back again and give the same/better experience to another kid. This is all because of you and the work you put into letting me come to camp. Because of you, I have had experiences I will remember forever, and friends that will last me a lifetime. Thank you so much!

When you donate to the Jewish Camp Initiative, you’re funding incentive and needs-based grants that ensure kids across metro Atlanta get to have immersive Jewish summers. Your generosity changes lives and gives kids experiences they’ll never forget.

Prepare for the High Holidays with Security Webinars

By Secure Community Network

The Secure Community Network (SCN) is holding a High Holidays Safety and Security Webinar Series for members of the Jewish community.  


Please join SCN, security executives, law enforcement, and professional as well as volunteer leadership to prepare for the safety and security challenges facing the Jewish community this High Holiday season. 

The webinars are: 

All webinars will be held from 2 to 3:30pm ET and are free to attend. Click the links to register for these critical safety seminars.  

A Federation Love Story

By Atlanta Jewish Community

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! 

Summer Gather Grants Bring People Together

By Atlanta Jewish Community

Federation’s Gather Grants program has been celebrating all things summer! We love hearing the stories that our hosts and participants share with us every day. Gather Grants are gifts of $180 that participants can use to create a meaningful Jewish event. Hosts have complete control over the event, from the date and location to the attendees and activities. The photos and stories we receive from these events are simply amazing, and we can’t wait to share some of our favorites with you in the upcoming weeks. Today, we’re featuring a few stories from Honeymoon Israel participants who used our Gather Grants to connect with Jewish life in Atlanta!

One of our hosts, Ben, held a Guys’ Night Havdalah and Poker Tournament with 12 friends at his home. It was a special event, as Ben was able to share the personal meaning behind several pieces of Judaica. He even highlighted the Tallit he acquired on his Honeymoon Israel trip, which he plans to give to his child as a legacy gift upon their B’nai Mitzvah one day.  

Stacey held a pool gathering for friends, including two new babies! It was a fun way for Stacey to introduce new friends to older ones and build a micro community of Jewish connections. Even Stacey’s parents were able to join in on the fun and meet some of the friends they made on their Israel trip last year. And their daughter joined in and splashed with their friends! 

According to Corey, a Honeymoon Israel alumnus who hosted a Gather Grant in mid-June, our program is easy to navigate and does a great job of encouraging Jewish families to get together. If you’re interested in hosting your own Jewish event, you can apply for our Fall Gather Grants, which will open in September for gatherings to be held in October and November. Check out our website to learn more about our program and how we can help you create a meaningful event. 


My Canine Teacher

By Jewish Education Collaborative

The teachers at the Mitzner Family Religious School at Temple Kehillat Chaim have found some new assistants that keep students engaged in class—and their salary is paid in ear scratches.  

Michelle Erste, Director of the Mitzner Family Religious School, and her colleague Caroline Figiel were brainstorming early this year about ways to keep students engaged during their supplemental Jewish learning courses. Caroline’s dog, Molly, went through training with her daughter to be a service dog, but after they discovered Molly had a food allergy, she was adopted by the Figiel family. Molly is excellent with children, calm and very well behaved, and Caroline thought Molly would help the children stay focused during classes.

It was an immediate success. Molly’s presence eased anxiety in the classroom; some children would sit next to her and gently pet Molly throughout class to stay calm. Others read to her in Hebrew. Michelle quickly realized her one year-old puppy, Georgie, could help, too. Michelle brought Georgie to class to learn from Molly, and now the two dogs share duties and alternate visits each week.   

Michelle says, “The connections the kids have to the animals makes them more focused; they participate more. Having Molly and Georgie around is like a reward. It’s made the classes more enjoyable and active for the students.” 

The Mitzner Family Religious School is part of Federation’s Jewish Education Collaborative (JEC), which boldly reimagines Jewish education in our community by strengthening collaboration among organizations, investing in the talent of Jewish educators, and catalyzing new models. This supportive classroom innovation is exactly the kind of solution that JEC seeks. 

Initially, the purpose of the pets was just to be a calming presence in class. But Michelle and Caroline quickly realized there were more benefits to having the dogs around. The children love reading to the dogs and will organize to take turns with their furry friends. One of the rabbis at Temple Kehillat Chaim was inspired to bring his own dogs to his classes with adult b’nei mitzvah and torah study students.  

Michelle says they are looking for more ways to integrate the pets into their lessons in the fall semester and make them an active part of the learning process. “Having the dogs in class gives the students a little something extra to look forward to each week.” Who knows, maybe the dogs will start learning Hebrew, too!  


My Experience on Federation’s Domestic Allocations Committee

By Atlanta Jewish Community

By Dawid Revell Israel

When I was first asked to join Federation’s Domestic Allocations committee, I felt honored. I was humbled to assist with deciding how much to allocate to local organizations to help our Jewish community. After coming to the first meeting, I felt like a novice in the room. Yet I didn’t stop going; I kept listening and learning. With each meeting I learned more and more, and I was blown away with the impact Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta has in upholding and protecting Jewish families and lives.  

Let me explain: there is not one type of Jew in Atlanta. We are all different people with different economic statuses, ethnic backgrounds, and cultures. We are a diverse community that contains observant Jews, unaffiliated Jews, and everything in-between—and we all make up Jewish Atlanta. And because we are a part of this city, we have access to some tremendous resources that smaller communities might not have: supplementary Jewish educational support through Jewish Education Collaborative; financial, educational, and mental support for families going through fertility treatments with Jewish Fertility Foundation; access to a community mikvah (and the only accessible mikvah in the Southeast) with Metro Atlanta Community Mikvah (MACoM); traveling to Israel for a honeymoon with Honeymoon Israel; young adults coming to someone’s house to have a Shabbat dinner with OneTable. Our Domestic Allocations Committee focuses on our local area in addressing these needs, and they do a phenomenal job in providing money to organizations that transform and improve Jewish lives.

One of the things that most impressed me is the overwhelming support we provide to Jews that may feel marginalized and not accepted in society. Some of these groups are Jews of Color, Jews of ethnic diversity, interfaith couples or families, and the LGBTQ+ community. Our committee provides funds to organizations that establish safe places for these Jewish youth and adults where they can celebrate Shabbat, go to a mikvah, or interact with other Jewish people, and also participate in everyday Jewish life as they see fit. By providing these meaningful Jewish experiences, we are helping Jewish people connect with their Jewish identity and keeping them engaged in our community. If someone is in need of financial support, they can take out an interest-free loan through Jewish Interest Free Loan of Atlanta (JIFLA). Jewish undergraduate and graduate college students have the opportunity to receive an interest-free loan through Jewish Educational Loan Fund (JELF). And people struggling with food insecurity can visit the Kosher Food Pantry at Jewish Family & Career Services.  

I look forward to another term helping to uplift and support Jewish Atlanta and upholding tikkun olam (repairing the world). 

Dawid Revell Israel is a family man, teacher, and leader in Atlanta’s Jewish community. He is a member of Congregation Shaarei Shamayim and serves on the board as the Vice President of Membership. He is a businessman who owns two restaurants, Go Vegan Grill and Mama’s Yawd, with a third restaurant and bakery in the works. Dawid is also board representative of the Atlanta Jews of Color Council and volunteers on the Domestic Allocations Committee at the Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta. 


Connect Jewishly Through Honeymoon Israel

By Jewish Journeys, NextGen Atlanta

“I never could have predicted the true impact of this experience—we had the most incredible trip that I am certain has changed our lives forever. We found new ways to incorporate Judaism into our family, we learned new perspectives, and most importantly, we found a new community to create and share memories with for years to come.” 

Allison & Sam, Atlanta 

For many young couples, it can be tough to find an entry point into Jewish life and decide how practices and traditions will shape their family. Honeymoon Israel offers a way in: immersive group travel to Israel lets couples from the same city encounter and explore history, tradition, and identity on their own terms.

The program engages couples in an open-ended inquiry into how they connect to Jewish life and how they’ll incorporate Jewish values and traditions into their families. Honeymoon Israel supports couples in their exploration of Jewish life and traditions and fosters the organic development of community. The journey continues once travelers return home through alumni events and programs.  

Honeymoon Israel builds groups that are reflective of the entire community, welcoming couples who are both Jewish, interfaith, Jewish by choice, multi-racial, LGBTQ+, with disabilities, married, unmarried, with or without kids, and more. Federation is proud to support the work of Honeymoon Israel in championing and engaging young couples in and around Atlanta.  

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