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We’re Almost There

By Eric's Blog

By Eric M. Robbins

Our Community Campaign ends June 30th, and today, I am filled with gratitude.

I’m so proud of our community, which came together and met our funding goals for the 2023 Community Campaign—a 5% increase from last year. This will allow us to increase our allocations to our partners, and nothing feels better than that. Thanks to this growth, we are able to fund some new initiatives in the next financial year, including Bagel Rescue and the Museum of History and Holocaust Education at Kennesaw State University-Breman Museum Teacher Ambassador Program for Holocaust Education.

So many exciting things are happening in our community right now—our camps are full, our day school staff are preparing for the next semester, and our preschools have waiting lists this fall. I and several other community members are headed to Poland to participate in Ride for the Living to help Holocaust survivors still living in Poland, as well as refugees from Ukraine. It means so much to me to carry the banner of Jewish ATL across the globe and show the world the vibrancy and strength of our community.

But even as we celebrate reaching our milestones, we know there is so much more that needs to be done, and so many initiatives that could use Federation’s backing. There is still time to donate before our Campaign closes, and I hope you will. The work we do is only possible because of your support. Thank you for all you do for Jewish ATL.

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White House Unveils Antisemitism Plan

By COMMUNITY

On May 25, the White House released the first-ever U.S. National Strategy to Counter Antisemitism: a whole-of-society, inter-agency plan to address rising antisemitism. The plan includes more than 200 recommendations and commitments from agencies and entities across the country to reverse the normalization of antisemitism, protect Jewish communities, and build cross-community solidarity.

The plan has four basic pillars:

  • Increase awareness and understanding of antisemitism, including its threat to America, and broaden appreciation of Jewish American heritage
  • Improve safety and security for Jewish communities
  • Reverse the normalization of antisemitism and counter antisemitic discrimination
  • Build cross-community solidarity and collective action to counter hate (Factsheet of the plan).

This strategy comes after years of work from national & local Jewish organizations and advocacy. The Jewish Community Relations Council of Atlanta (JCRCA) works closely with Federation to achieve these same goals and combat the delegitimization of Israel in the local, state and federal levels of government. JCRC also engage in local and state-level advocacy with other community groups around shared values, and to create more opportunities for solidarity in the face of rising extremism—especially through interfaith and intergroup coalitions and relationships. JCRCA and Federation are pleased to alert Jewish ATL to this national plan to address antisemitism.

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Gap Years Change Lives

By JumpSpark

Atlanta’s most recent group of 28 Atlanta Israel Gap Year Fellows has just returned home from an incredible, transformative year in Israel! These adventurous teenagers didn’t start college straight out of high school; instead, they spent a year exploring their interests, traveling an incredible country, exploring their connections to the Jewish world, and living independently. The Atlanta Israel Gap Year Fellowship is made possible through the generous support of The Zalik Foundation Fund. Here are reflections from a just-returned fellow and a parent:

“My gap year meant the world to me! I can’t imagine the person I would’ve been without it. I grew so much—both emotionally and spiritually—and feel incredibly more prepared for college because of it. My favorite experiences on my gap year program were definitely Yom HaShoah and Yom Hazikaron. It was truly a privilege to be in Israel for these days that had always been sacred, yet distant from my identity. I will always remember the sirens that stopped every person, taxi, car, and bus. It was so meaningful to see the people of Israel honor and remember their brothers and sisters on both of these days. I am planning to take my independence and maturity with me, as well as my love for Israel! My gap year elevated all 3 of these parts of me tremendously and I can’t wait to use them to my advantage next year.”

Pnina Sasson, participant in Young Judaea Year Course, attending Tulane University in the fall

“Since my son, Gideon, began his Gap Year, he has matured and grown both physically and mentally. He’s more independent and self-sufficient—we also noticed that he is more aware of what is happening in the world around him. I know he will be able to manage his time and study better when he goes to college; he knows better, now, how to balance his work and fun. To any other families whose kids are considering a Gap Year, I say, “Do it!” Life is short, and giving them the gift of a year away is life changing for them and for you.”

-Dani Oren, son Gideon participant in Nativ College Leadership Program

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Gather Grants Empower Us

By Gather Grants

by Shira Colsky

My name is Shira Colsky. I live in Smyrna, and while I don’t belong to a synagogue, being Jewish and expanding my circle of Jewish friends is important to me. I love cooking and hosting events so when I learned that Federation was offering Gather Grants of $180 to make Jewish celebrations more fun and welcoming, I was excited to apply.

Actually, I applied and received the Gather Grant three separate times!

With my first Gather Grant, I hosted a Sukkot event. The grant funds paid for materials to build my very first sukkah. I invited 12 people over for a homemade dinner to share in the sukkah. It brought back incredible memories of celebrating Sukkot at Hillel at the University of Florida.  I would never have been able to build my own sukkah and have this incredible event without the grant. I ended up using my sukkah throughout the holiday—spending time with friends and family in the Sukkah we built together. I’ve always wanted to have my own sukkah, and the Gather Grant helped me make it happen.

I used my second grant to host a mahjongg Shabbat. A small group of my friends and I had learned mahjongg from our Jewish moms (where else?!). We played several games following dinner. It was a really lovely Shabbat.

The third grant I received was intended to support hosting an event in honor of Israel’s 75th Birthday. Three close friends from college and I shared a family-style dinner at Aziza, an Israeli restaurant on Atlanta’s west side. We loved the atmosphere, the food, and the chance to be together. It was a fantastic night enjoying incredible food and celebrating Israeli culture.

Gather Grants have helped enhance my Jewish celebrations and connect with my Jewish ATL community.

Apply For a Gather Grant

ALEF Fund Update

By ALEF Fund

ALEF Fund, Inc. (“ALEF Fund”) is pleased to announce it has successfully resolved recent issues related to the submission of pledges to the Department of Revenue this year. This resolution will provide full funding to ensure that all donations pledged to ALEF Fund for 2023 will be fulfilled and allocated to ALEF Fund’s partner schools for use in the upcoming school year. To help answer questions about these issues and the resolution achieved, ALEF Fund has prepared this statement.

During the ALEF Fund annual fundraising process this year, upload errors with the Georgia Department of Revenue resulted in denials or under approvals of some tax credit applications. Without these approvals, ALEF Fund would not have received all pledged amounts from donors and therefore would not be able to disburse those funds to its partner schools to fund student scholarships under the Qualified Education Donation Tax Credit program (now referred to as the PEACH Education Tax Credit).

 

Working together, ALEF Fund and its technology vendor that worked on the submission of pledges have reached an agreement for the recovery of $2.6 million that will fully and completely fund every dollar potentially lost as a result of these issues. This means that all donations pledged to ALEF Fund will be fulfilled and disbursed to partner schools in support of Jewish education scholarships, exactly as if the upload of tax credit applications been completely successful! We are continuing to work out final details, and more information will be provided soon about the distribution of funds, but this is a tremendous outcome that reflects the hard work and dedication of many people.

ALEF Fund wishes to acknowledge that this outcome would not have been possible without the full support of its technology vendor, and ALEF Fund thanks it for its efforts to reach a resolution and is grateful for its support of ALEF Fund’s mission to improve the affordability and accessibility of Jewish education. ALEF Fund is also very grateful for the support of Greenberg Traurig, including shareholders Ted Blum and Justin Victor, who partnered with ALEF Fund and invested significant resources to achieve this outcome.

ALEF Fund would like to thank the Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta, owner and operator of ALEF Fund, which provided the financial support to guarantee that schools would receive their funds no matter the outcome, enabling schools to continue to offer scholarships for next year while we worked to reach this resolution. The Federation’s dedication to their mission of strengthening our Jewish Atlanta community made it possible for us to continue our support for this community and our children during this time.

Lastly, ALEF Fund’s most important “thank yous” are to its valued donors, its partner schools, and to its leadership for their continued commitment to Jewish education. We have taken significant steps to ensure smooth operation of the ALEF Fund moving forward, and we look forward to being in touch early this summer with information on how you can make your 2024 pledges. Thank you for your partnership.

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Jewish Education Collaborative Names Teachers of the Year 

By Jewish Education Collaborative

Federation’s Jewish Education Collaborative (JEC) is proud to name the winners of the 2023 Sylvia Newman Memorial Teachers of the Year Award. This prize was established in 2021 by Howard Newnan in honor of his late wife, Sylvia. Sylvia’s passion was Jewish education, and she taught in a local religious school for many years.   

The awards, which will be presented at Federation’s Annual Meeting on May 31, honors excellence in teaching at Atlanta’s supplemental religious schools. Excellence includes an ability to excite Jewish learners, creativity to implement innovative educational programs, serving as a role model for students, and demonstrating efforts to grow and improve in one’s teaching practice. The award honors both a veteran religious school teacher, Carey Grucza, and a newer teacher, Lauren Davis.   

Carey Grucza teaches 4th grade at Temple Kehillat Chaim and has been teaching there for 15 years. She is an example of a teacher who always goes above and beyond. During Covid, she revolutionized the teaching strategies for the faculty at TKC, showing her colleagues how to make online learning interactive and fun. Since returning to in-person learning, Carey continues to create engaging, hands-on programs for students, expanding and improving upon existing curricula. Carey fosters a love of Jewish learning among her students and inspires everyone with whom she works, children and adults alike.  

Lauren Davis teaches Judaics for 6th/7th graders and music education for Pre-K through 7th grade at Temple Kol Emeth. This was her third year in the congregation, and in a short time, Lauren transformed the TKE community with her positive energy and love for teaching. Even as a newer teacher herself, Lauren mentored other new teachers and song leaders. She also designed and implemented creative new music curricula for the school.  

JEC and all of Federation salutes the incredible work of these educators. Supplemental Jewish education is a vital part of the fabric of Jewish Atlanta, and it is exceptional teachers like Carey and Lauren who bring Jewish learning to life.   

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How Federation Supports Mental Health

By CARING

May is Mental Health Awareness Month. After the tumult of the last several years, there is, thankfully, more focus than ever on the importance of proper mental healthcare in all our lives. The theme for this year’s observance month is “More Than Enough,” because every person has inherent value—no matter your diagnosis, socioeconomic status, background, or ability. You, as you are, are more than enough 

Here are a few ways Federation supports mental healthcare: 

  • Federation partners with The Blue Dove Foundation, which aims to address mental illness and addiction in the Jewish community and beyond. They work with organizations and communities—both Jewish and interfaith—across the country and around the world. Click here to access their free resources for Mental Health Awareness Month 
  • Jewish Family & Career Services (JF&CS) supports the health of Jewish Atlantans in many ways, and that includes mental health. They offer counseling for people in every stage of life, from children to older adults. Their therapists accept most insurance and offer private pay options, as well as sliding scale fees. Click here to explore the full range of clinical services.  
  • BeWell supports Jewish youth facing mental health challenges as well as those that care for them. In March, BeWell Atlanta was launched thanks to a $500,000 matching grant from the Zalik Foundation, secured through the Atlanta Jewish Funder Collaborative led by the Atlanta Jewish Foundation. This will allow for the hiring of more professionals and the expansion of services at JF&CS’s Frances Bunzl Clinical Services. The National arm of BeWell hosts monthly Resiliency Roundtables themed around mental health topics. May’s session is Community Approaches & Clinical Insights to Youth Suicide Prevention. The online workshop is May 23, 2023 at 2 PM; click here to register.  
  • In The City Camps (ITC) recently announced that their strength-focused mental health staff training program is now available. Federation supported them in adopting this curriculum, thanks to a grant from our Innovation Initiative. The curriculum is available to all camps nationally this summer and will better prepare staff for the challenges that can occur during camp sessions.  

Mental health affects every area of a person’s life, and it is so important that Jewish Atlantans can access care and education before they are in crisis. By giving to Federation, you’re supporting these and other programs that connect people to the help they need.  

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Matan to Honor Gail Heyman

By COMMUNITY

Atlanta’s own Gail Heyman is being awarded with Matan’s Leadership Award. This honor, presented since 2009, is in recognition of an individual’s efforts in promoting inclusion, respect, dignity, and services to Jewish community members who have disabilities and their families.

Dori Kirshner, Executive Director of Matan, says, “In every community we get to be a part of—whether for a short time or a longer time—there are always a handful of changemakers. They take new people under their wings, they advocate for others, and they look outside their own immediate needs. Gail thinks beyond just her own family; her advocacy doesn’t stop where her family’s needs stop. She isn’t complacent about adhering to the status quo if there’s progress to be made, and she isn’t afraid to blaze new trails.”

Gail is a longtime supporter of Federation and was a member of the disabilities task force that founded Jewish Abilities Atlanta (JAA). She then served on JAA’s advisory committee for several years and was instrumental in their 2020 community study on disability inclusion in Jewish Atlanta, in partnership with Matan. She has been involved with other projects for community members with disabilities, including The Den, a sensory-friendly cabin at Camp Barney Medintz. Her son, Scott (or Scotty), is a familiar face at Camp Barney, having worked in the kitchen for many years.

Gail is an advocate for people with disabilities and their families not only in Jewish Atlanta, but more broadly across communities. She is the Co-Founder and President of the Fragile X Foundation of Georgia and on the advisory board of JScreen, which advocates for genetic screening to identify genetic conditions like Fragile X, among others.

Of the recognition, Gail says, “I am honored to represent JAA and Greater Atlanta Jewish community with this award in recognition of the great strides that we will continue to make for inclusion.”

Dori first met Gail during the pandemic when they were collaborating on the 2020 community study. “Gail reached through the Zoom and grabbed me in both an allyship way, as well as a friend—she made it clear that by joining together in inclusion efforts, we could get more accomplished.” The two stayed in touch, and Dori was blown away by Gail’s passion for advocacy.

Matan, which means “gift,” was founded 23 years ago in the New York metro area as a local direct service organization that supported neurodiverse students at day schools, after school programs, and more. In their first decade, Matan set up Hebrew school options at JCCs across the TriState Area. As day schools and synagogues began expanding accessibility and supporting families, they became a training organization that prepares Education Directors, Teen and Youth Directors, Rabbis, Early Childhood Educators, and more to provide better s and experiences to families and individuals with and without disabilities.

Matan now supports people across the lifespan in all stages of life, “from babies to bubbies.” Dori says we “must have willing partners in the community in order to do this holy work, and Gail is certainly that. She has carried the banner and brought so many new people into the inclusion mindset; she has and will continue to affect change so that everyone is included in Jewish life.”

Project Dignity Collecting Products for Menstrual Hygiene Day

By People in Need, PHILANTHROPY

Project Dignity, an initiative of Federation’s Women’s Philanthropy, raises awareness about period poverty and its effects on women and girls. This year, Project Dignity is observing National Menstrual Hygiene Day on May 28 by collecting donations of menstrual products.

Periods are a fact of life for just about half the world’s population, but not everyone who has a period gets to experience it with dignity. Many women, girls, and others who menstruate suffer from poor menstrual hygiene caused by a lack of education, persisting taboos and stigma, limited access to menstrual products, and poor sanitation infrastructure. This can undermine the educational opportunities, health, and overall social status of women and girls and prevent them from reaching their full potential.

This video from Bustle highlights how difficult it is for unhoused women to manage their periods:

Menstrual products collected through Project Dignity are distributed to four organizations on an ongoing basis: JF&CS Food Pantry, CHRIS 180, Solidarity Sandy Springs, and the Sandy Springs Community Assistance Center.

To get involved, you can:

  • Bring your donation of menstrual pads or tampons to Federation’s Annual Meeting on Wednesday, May 31 at the Selig Center
  • Visit our Amazon Wishlist to donate menstrual products
  • Volunteer to deliver collected products to our local partners or
  • Arrange Drop Off by contacting rlangfelder@jfga.org or 404-870-1618

It is imperative that we look out for women and girls in Atlanta, and make our city a safer, healthier place to have a period. Project Dignity is an opportunity to practice tikkun olam, repairing the world, and we invite you to join us in this effort.

Thank you for your support of this important cause.

The Project Dignity Committee:

Amy Arogeti, Marcy Bass, Caren Merlin, Lori Peljovich, Jessica Sacks

For any questions, please contact Becca Langfelder at rlangfelder@jfga.org or 404-870-1618.

JIFLA Offers Free Online Financial Coaching

By jewishatlanta

The Jewish Interest Free Loan of Atlanta (JIFLA), in partnership with the Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta, is proud to offer free one-on-one financial coaching services with financial coach Shay Port. The Jewish Interest-Free Loan of Atlanta helps community members overcome challenging financial periods and maintain financial stability by providing interest-free loans.

Nancy Weissmann, JIFLA’s Executive Director, says, “With the support of our amazing partners at the Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta, these sessions are free for those interested and are designed to help anyone reach their financial goals. We continue to be committed to the health and prosperity of Jewish Atlantans and will always look for new ways to best help our community and support financial stability for all.”

The program began in January, thanks to a special allocations grant. Appointments are available on a first-come, first-served basis, are 50 minutes each, and are offered via phone or Zoom. Sessions are customized to fit each person’s financial goals and help them achieve success across a multitude of monetary issues, including:

  • Debt management
  • Credit score improvement
  • Budgeting/spending plans
  • Home purchasing guidance
  • Savings/investing plans
  • Credit card use best practices
  • Applying for public assistance programs
  • General financial education

To sign up for your session, click here.