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JumpSpark Events for Parents of Teenagers

By JumpSpark

Debra Siegel is a mother of two: her son, Zack, is a sophomore in high school, and her daughter, Zoe, is a freshman at the University of Wisconsin in Madison. Both of her children attended elementary and middle school at The Epstein School, and then Riverwood International Charter School. Zoe became involved with JumpSpark’s Strong Women Fellowship  while she was in high school, and Zack  also participates in JumpSpark programs. Before long, Debra learned that JumpSpark isn’t just for teens—it’s for parents, too.

JumpSpark is the Atlanta Jewish teen initiative at Federation and serves as a hub for teen engagement. But JumpSpark also offers programming for parents, families, and guardians of teenagers. Next week, JumpSpark is hosting two events for parents in Atlanta’s Jewish community: an in-person event called “Let’s Talk About Being a Parent of a Jewish College/Gap Year Student,” and an online workshop for parents of pre-teen and teen boys called “Helping Boys Thrive.”

Last spring, Debra participated in a JumpSpark program called “Project Launch” which helped parents of high school seniors with the transition from high school to college or a gap year.

Debra found it hugely helpful to connect with other parents who were approaching the same milestone. Participants were given support and helpful tips as they navigated this emotional time. “There are so many pieces that go into it—budgeting, parent/student communication, social and emotional wellness, learning about antisemitism, and how our children can be involved in Jewish campus life, even if not necessarily in a religious way.”

Now, Debra is on the Host Committee for an in-person event for parents called “Let’s Talk About Being a Parent of a Jewish College/Gap Year Student” on December 1, 2022, at 6:30 pm at Temple Sinai. This event is for parents and guardians of current college and gap year students. Debra says she’s excited to come together with her peers to “share what we’ve learned through this experience of sending our kids to college—the ups and downs, and how we can best support our children.”

In a year or so, Debra will be starting the post-high school planning process with Zack. JumpSpark’s goal is to help families through the transitions they go through during their teen years, and Debra is excited to access those programs for her son.

For many families with boys, the teenage years can be difficult. Boys often have a hard time communicating their feelings or opening up to parents about their struggles. JumpSpark is offering the program “Helping Boys Thrive” on Wednesday, November 30, at 12 pm.

This free, online workshop will be presented in collaboration with the Jewish Education Collaborative and will feature speakers from Moving Traditions. Parents and guardians of middle and early high school boys will have the opportunity to build community with other parents and get access to valuable resources from experts. Participants will leave the program with practical tools they can use with their families.

Parenting a teenager can sometimes feel isolating, and JumpSpark wants parents to know they are not alone as they navigate challenging waters. These two events are opportunities for families to build community and access valuable resources. As Debra says, such programs are important because, “We are reminded that we are all going through this together.”

A Transformative Women’s Retreat in Israel

By GLOBAL JEWRY, JEWISH JOURNEYS

By Ghila Sanders, Senior Philanthropic Officer, Atlanta Jewish Foundation

Last week, sitting under a communal tent in Israel’s Negev desert at sunset, I cheered as 15 women took on Jewish names in front of a crowd of over 200 mothers from various parts of the world experiencing a shared journey. Each one explained why they chose their specific name—some were inspired by their grandmothers; others were drawn to a meaning that felt particularly fitting at this stage of life. We celebrated, danced, sang, and shared stories over an evening that none of us will forget.

Over the course of eight days, 45 Jewish mothers from Atlanta, joined by four Israeli peers, connected with each other, committed to learning together, and engaged with a remarkable country that somehow manages to feel like home even for those visiting for the first time.

The Momentum Journey to Israel is an extraordinary undertaking dreamt up just over 14 years ago by eight women who believed that the key to a better society is through life’s #1 influencers: mothers.

Momentum often invokes the words, “Inspire a woman, you inspire a family. Inspire enough families, you inspire a community. Inspire enough communities, you can change the world.”

Since its inception, this international movement has brought over 20,000 women from 34 countries to Israel through partnerships with close to 300 local organizations. In Atlanta, the Jewish Women’s Connection, led by Julie Silverman and Batsheva Gelbtuch and supported by the Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta, has put together an exceptional contingent of Jewish mothers—consistently the largest group to join each cohort. I was honored to have the opportunity to represent Federation as a Community Leader and immerse myself in a transformative trip that set the stage for personal and communal growth through Jewish values. And most notably, it created an invincible sisterhood.

An amazing addition to our journey was getting to know an incredibly special group of mothers from the Israeli organization Or La-mishpachot, “Light to the families,” whose 1500 members are bound by the unimaginable loss of a child in the army. Having them as part of our group was a true gift.

Together we experienced a multidimensional journey: from the enchantment of holy sites and the perpetual battles that surround them, to the complexity of spiritual and religious practices; we explored the intensity of grief, and of joy. We mourned at Yad Vashem, overwhelmed by the unfathomable history of the Holocaust, and found solace in our collective presence in the land of Israel. We visited Shalva, a most impressive center that provides services to children with disabilities and their families. And we went to Yokneam-Megiddo, our Federation’s sister city—one of the region’s most welcoming areas for refugees, which has also developed into a high-tech hub.

For me, this experience was both a personal and professional discovery: experiencing the Momentum Israel Journey and seeing its undeniable impact on this incredible group of mothers was humbling and pride-inducing all at once. I am delighted to work for a Jewish organization that invests in women, supports local efforts in Israel, and values our unbreakable bond as a people.

I am still learning the many ways in which the Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta connects the dots across continents, and its effects are remarkable: after eight days of traveling together we came back stronger as a community, more knowledgeable about our initiatives and impact, and determined to stay actively engaged. Moreover, our four Israeli peers from Or La-mishpachot now have a special kinship with Jewish Atlanta and plan to visit whenever possible. I look forward to welcoming them in the coming months and continuing this year of learning with my new sisters.

Linda Selig Awarded the 2022 Kipnis-Wilson/Friedland Award

By PHILANTHROPY

On December 11, 58 Lions of Judah from Atlanta will travel to Phoenix, Arizona for the 50th Anniversary Celebration of the Lion of Judah. The International Lion of Judah Conference is a biannual event for women philanthropists who help shape the Jewish world. And this year, Linda Selig will be honored as the recipient of Atlanta’s Kipnis-Wilson/Friedland Award.

Linda Selig sat down with the Breman Museum and discussed what winning the Kipnis-Wilson/Friedland Award means to her, and the legacy she hopes to leave in Atlanta and beyond. Click here to watch.

“We are thrilled that so many of Atlanta’s Lions of Judah are able to come to this very special 50th Anniversary celebration. Ours will be the 2nd largest delegation, topped only by NYC. Our Lions represent a cross section of our Jewish community – I think it speaks volumes about the passion, commitment and leadership of Atlanta’s Jewish women,” stated Tamer Stern, President of Federation’s Women’s Philanthropy.

The Kipnis-Wilson/Friedland Award is a national honor bestowed upon a Woman of Valor in Jewish communities throughout North America, as selected by her peers. The honor is bestowed on “extraordinary women who have set a high standard for philanthropy and volunteerism.” The award is named for Norma Kipnis-Wilson and Toby Friedland, the co-founders of Jewish Federations of North America Lion of Judah program.

“Linda Selig is an inspirational champion for Jewish Atlanta and has dedicated much of her life to sustaining our local and international community,” shared Federation President & CEO, Eric Robbins. “She has served as our Federation’s Board Chair and Campaign Chair, and alongside her daughter, Stacey Fisher, has served on the board of Hillels of Georgia. Linda and her husband Steve, have been instrumental in building a thriving Jewish Atlanta!”

At the conference, Atlanta Lions will gather with women from across the world to address the most critical issues facing our domestic and global communities, including rising antisemitism and the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. The conference is an opportunity to meet philanthropists from across the world and make connections that strengthen our Jewish community today and help us build for tomorrow.

community security training - jewish atlanta

Federation Helps Jewish Atlanta Receive Security Grants

By Secure Community Network

community security training - jewish atlantaDid you know that Federation’s Community-Wide Security Program protects the entire Atlanta Jewish community? Jewish Day schools, camps, synagogues, and more benefit from the expertise and assistance of the national partnership with Secure Community Network (SCN). In 2022, Federation helped many local organizations secure grants from the Nonprofit Security Grant Program (NSGP), which will help keep Jewish Atlanta safe throughout the year.

The Nonprofit Security Grant Program (NSGP) is an initiative through Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). It provides support for physical security enhancements and activities, including planning and training, to nonprofit organizations that are at high risk of terrorist attack due to their ideology, beliefs, or mission.

NSGP funds are historically allocated based on criteria including threat and/or hazard assessments, identification and substantiation of prior threats or attacks (or closely related organizations), and the symbolic value of a site as a highly recognized national or historical institution which could render the location a possible target of terrorism.

In 2022, Federation’s Community-Wide Security Program assisted 25 Atlanta Jewish organizations with the application process, resulting in a total award to the community of $2.3M for security enhancements to their buildings.

Our assistance included conducting required security assessments of their facilities, conducting webinars, discussing best practices for completing the application, reviewing applications and making recommendations for improvement, and consultations concerning the application process.

Thank you to Neil Rabinovitz, Federation’s Community Security Director, and Bryan Underwood, Deputy Community Security Director, for helping these vital organizations receive this funding!

Their Daughter Knew that Hunger Doesn’t Take the Weekend Off

By COMMUNITY, Generosity, PHILANTHROPY

In the coming weeks, Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta is launching a new quarterly magazine: Generosity. Generosity will highlight stories of philanthropy, charity, and community in Jewish Atlanta. As a first look, here is a story from our inaugural issue.

Staci Robbins was a beloved elementary school teacher in DeKalb County whose life ended far too soon—but whose legacy has carried on in a big way. “Staci taught in a Title I school with a 93 percent Hispanic population. She was fluent in Spanish and utterly devoted to her kids,” her father Ron said. “She was named Teacher of the Year at Montclair Elementary School in DeKalb County,” her father said.

Staci’s commitment to her students, even as she battled illness, led her parents to launch an Atlanta metro chapter of Backpack Buddies — a nonprofit that provides six nutritious meals to kids who are food insecure over the weekend. Backpack Buddies is one of several national programs providing much needed weekend nutrition to vulnerable families and children.

A 2021 study in the Economics of Education Review, provides evidence that weekend food programs like Backpack Buddies have a positive effect on academic performance in the form of increased reading test scores, and suggestive evidence they also raise math scores. The effects appear strongest for the youngest and lowest performing students.

“Our daughter had many students who received free and reduced lunch at school but were not eating well over the weekend. Staci knew firsthand about kids who took turns eating over the weekend because there wasn’t enough food at home. She understood that kids who eat poorly or come in hungry on Monday mornings are not primed to learn,” Tamra Robbins said.

Though they lived in Savannah, GA, Ron and Tamra Robbins moved back to Atlanta in 2017 as Staci’s illness progressed. “Even when she was on dialysis, she remained a fierce advocate for her kids and for Backpack Buddies. We established Backpack Buddies of Metro Atlanta in Staci’s memory. It has grown beyond our wildest dreams and has become a meaningful mitzvah in her memory,” her parents said.

They started small at Congregation Beth Shalom where a group of volunteers gathered weekly to pack shelf-stable food items in backpacks that were discretely distributed to 10 kids at nearby Kingsley Elementary School in Dunwoody. Though Kingsley was perceived as an “affluent” school, there was a need. The extent of food insecurity in suburban schools was eye-opening.

Jonathan Halitsky, who is now Backpack Buddies Director of Operations and its only paid staff member, underscores the dimension of the problem. “One in six children in Georgia are hungry. “There is hunger in virtually every public school in the metro area.”

As Ron and Tamra became cheerleaders for Backpack Buddies in Atlanta, they reached out to churches, school groups, and synagogues to grow the volunteer base. “It was a tremendous service opportunity. High school students, and bar/bat mitzvah kids got involved. The phone rang and rang as organizations asked how to get involved and became our Community Partners.  Today the program works with 25 partner organizations.

At first, each organization purchased its own food, packed bags, and delivered to local schools. Terri Bagin, a volunteer, described what happened as Backpack Buddies took off.  “Ron had the idea that Backpack Buddies should cultivate new sources of food donation. He developed relationships with local food banks so Backpack Buddies could receive shelf-stable food donations. Thanks to several “angels’ in the community, Backpack Buddies became a 501c3 in order to receive charitable and food donations. Debbie Levinson, who manages the Helen Marie Stern Fund was an early funder. Eventually, as space for bulk food storage became a challenge, realtor Debbie Sonenshine found an affordable 2,000 square foot space in a strip mall that hadn’t been rented in seven years.

The pandemic threw the organization some curveballs, but by spring of the 21-22 school year, Backpack Buddies and its community partners were processing and packing 6-8 weeks’ worth of food supplies. “We took last summer to really ramp up and acquire more food, refine our operations, and train Community Buddies on the distribution system. Digital ordering means that organizations can choose the most convenient pickup times. Each student’s weekend bag consists of five proteins, two vegetables, two cereals, two fruits, three snacks and two juices. There is no charge for the food, and all items are purchased by Backpack Buddies or donated by charitable food sources. The offerings are varied and include tuna, chicken, ravioli and macaroni and cheese.

Toward the end of the last school year, Backpack Buddies served 800 children a week, and this school year nearly 1250-1500 children a week receive food. “We’d love to be at 2,000 children a week,” Halitsky says with pride. “This will require more donations and an expanded Backpack Buddies partner network.”

Halitsky says, “Now that Backpack Buddies provides its partners with all the food and has perfected its order and delivery system, we are running on a pure donation model. This makes it possible for any school with a need to get involved, and any organization that wants to volunteer, to help. We can’t eradicate hunger, but we’re addressing children’s weekend needs in an efficient and targeted way.”

Staci Robbins would be proud!

Learn more and volunteer to combat hunger among children at www.backpackbuddiesatl.org.

Camp Barney Medintz Announces a New Executive Director

By Jewish Camp Initiative

The Marcus Jewish Community Center of Atlanta (MJCCA) has announced that Danny Herz will be the new Executive Director of Camp Barney Medintz, following a nationwide search.

Herz’s role will be to lead and oversee strategic planning, day-to-day operations, facilities management, programming, and staff development. He will also partner with MJCCA leadership to set the vision for the future of Camp Barney Medintz.

MJCCA’s CEO, Jared Powers, says, “As we got to know Danny and learned about his commitment to helping campers, staff, students, and athletes fulfill their goals, build Jewish identity, and develop personally, it became clear his vision and ideology were the right fit for Camp Barney Medintz. We’re thrilled to have him taking the helm at Camp Barney Medintz.”

Camp Barney Medintz is a leading Jewish summer overnight camp, and one of the largest in the country. The camp sits on more than 500 acres in the North Georgia mountains and features two lakes. Established in 1963, the camp gives children from across the country the opportunity to make lifelong friends, explore their hobbies, build a sense of independence, and be immersed in Jewish culture.

Herz is currently the Executive Director of the Union for Reform Judaism’s summer camps 6 Points Sports Academy, 6 Points Creative Arts Academy, and 6 Points Sci-Tech Academy. He has been an integral part of that organization for more than 13 years. Previously, he worked for more than 15 years in education, serving on the senior administrative team at Jewish schools in Southern California and South Florida, as well as being a teacher, coach, dean of students, and athletic director.

He will officially assume his new position as executive director on Tuesday, January 3rd, 2023. Herz says, “Camp Barney Medintz has established itself as a premiere Jewish summer camp for families nationwide, and I’m extremely excited to take on this role. I look forward to bringing my experiences in overnight camping, education, and athletics to the Camp Barney Medintz community and to meeting our campers, staff, and alumni.”

Federation is proud to support MJCCA and thrilled to welcome Herz to Jewish Atlanta!

Israel@75 Student Competition Celebrates Creativity

By GLOBAL JEWRY

The Center for Israel Education (CIE) is holding a competition in honor of Israel’s 75th birthday. In May, 2023, Israel will celebrate its 75th year as a sovereign nation, and students from all over the world are invited to participate in this contest and submit their “creative representations of Israel’s challenges, successes and visions for the future.”

CIE hopes that the Israel@75 International Student Competition will allow students to think deeply and critically about their relationship to Israel and what the country means to them, their families, and humanity at large.

The competition is open to any student who can submit their project in English, and each entry should have three parts: a visual element, a written description, and a submission form. The contest is split into three categories by age:

  • Third to fifth graders: create a commemorative Israel@75 stamp and explain their design in no more than 150 words.
  • Sixth to eighth graders: design their own Zionist poster, using historical references, and describe the need it identifies in 250 words.
  • Ninth to twelfth graders: create a museum exhibit that depicts 75 years of change in Israel. Use images, artifacts, newspaper clippings, video clips or other media, and explain the exhibit in a 500-word essay.

Awards and recognition will be given to the top three submissions in each age group. While there is a creative element to each entry, this competition will not be judged solely on artistic merit and will weigh the written portion of the entries along with the visual component.

The deadline for submissions is midnight, Eastern Time, Feb. 15, 2023. Submit online at israeled.org/israel-at-75/contest. The winners will be announced on April 20, 2023.

The Israel@75 International Student Competition is part of CIE’s broader learning initiative to celebrate Israel’s 75th year of independence. Visit israeled.org/israel-at-75 to learn more.

For more information about the competition, contact Debbie Sasson at debbie.sasson@israeled.org.

Welcome Amy Murphy to Jewish Abilities Atlanta

By Jewish Abilities Alliance

Meet Amy Murphy, our new Manager of Jewish Abilities Atlanta (JAA). Amy joined the Federation team in September, and we are thrilled to have her onboard.

JAA works to make the Jewish community inclusive for people with varying abilities. The initiative raises community awareness, teaches best practices for inclusion, provides sensitivity and awareness training, holds educational consultations with Jewish preschools, and engages in advocacy work with other organizations.

Amy comes to Federation from the Marcus Jewish Community Center of Atlanta (MJCCA), where she was the director of the Blonder Family Department of Special Needs, and she has been working with marginalized people for decades. Amy began her career as a social worker in the U.S., and later in the UK.

Amy lived in Ireland for 23 years, where she started her family. She took a break from professional life when her children were small, but in 2001 she returned to work. She felt that moving into advocacy work for people with disabilities was “a good transition” from social work. It was a different way of “supporting and empowering vulnerable people.”

The Covid-19 pandemic brought Amy back to Atlanta to be near family. She quickly became part of the Jewish disability community here, working with advocates like Annie Garrett, Howie Rosenberg, Sheryl Arno, Jan Jay and more. Amy was previously a member of the JAA’s external community inclusion committee. She says that working towards inclusion is vital because it is “accepting people for who they are so they can be their authentic self.”

With her work at JAA, she constantly asks herself, “How can we support individuals and families to have better experiences and be part of community?” Educating people about best practices for inclusion (including communication and language) is vital. Recently, JAA created and distributed an information guide for ushers at a synagogue on inclusive language so they can make visitors to their congregations feel welcomed and included.

Amy also says that as a community, we must challenge our ideas about the ways things have “always been done” and be open to change and new ways.

Current JAA initiatives include providing sign language interpretation for Nyle DeMarco’s presentation at the 31st Edition of the Book Festival of the MJCCA. DeMarco, a deaf author and filmmaker, will be discussing his book, Deaf Utopia: A Memoir—and a Love Letter to a Way of Life. Additionally, JAA is currently accepting applications for Inclusion Microgrants. These microgrants will give up to $1500 a piece to selected organizations to create opportunities for inclusion for people with disabilities. Applications will be accepted through November 28.

Amy is excited to be at JAA and working towards a more inclusive Jewish community. She is passionate about making sure that all people feel welcomed and considered in public spaces. “Inclusivity touches every aspect of our lives – it’s in where we work, where we learn, where we worship and where we shop.”

 

Federation Shabbat

By COMMUNITY

After a long hiatus, Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta is pleased to announce that on Friday, November 11 and Saturday, November 12, synagogues across metro Atlanta will observe Federation Shabbat! This weekend, congregants will learn how Federation and our Atlanta Jewish Foundation work to make life better for Jews (and all people) in Atlanta and around the world.

During this weekend’s services, congregations throughout Atlanta will hear about Federation’s partnerships with synagogues and the initiatives we work on together, such as:

  • Sending children to Jewish summer camps
  • Sponsoring teens, college students and adults on trips to Israel
  • Training pre-school and religious school professionals on best practices for innovation and inclusion in the classroom
  • Helping older adults stay independent
  • Teaching our teens and young adults to address antisemitism
  • Making our synagogues safe and secure for all

Joel Arogeti, Chair of the 2023 Community Campaign, says “Federation Shabbat is a celebration of the power of our community. For over 170 years, synagogues have served as the foundation of Jewish life in Atlanta. For over 120 years Federation has worked hand in hand with synagogue leadership to help build a growing and thriving Atlanta Jewish community.”

To join in the festivities, all you have to do is attend your synagogue’s regular Shabbat services. The following synagogues will be participating:

 

Ahavath Achim Synagogue
Chabad Intown
Chabad of North Fulton
Congregation Bet Haverim
Congregation Beth Shalom
Congregation B’nai Torah
Congregation Etz Chaim
Congregation Gesher L’Torah
Congregation Ohr HaTorah
Congregation Or Hadash
Congregation Or VeShalom
Congregation Shearith Israel
Temple Beth Tikvah
Temple Emanu-El
Temple Kehillat Chaim
Temple Kol Emeth
Temple Sinai
The Temple

We look forward to celebrating Federation Shabbat with you!

Paying it Forward with Philanthropy

By COMMUNITY, PHILANTHROPY

By Matt M. Bronfman

I recently had the good fortune to attend the Women’s Philanthropy Fall Event featuring Ana Sazonov as a speaker. Ana was born in Ukraine, and with the support of the Jewish Federation, her family immigrated to Israel when she was six years old, where she began her Jewish journey. Through a fascinating series of twists and turns, Ana now is the Executive Director of the Jewish Federation of Columbia, South Carolina—one of the youngest Federation leaders in North America.

Her story, from being a beneficiary of services to working to ensure other Jews receive the services they need, drives home the importance of paying it forward.

It is now campaign season, and I hope when you receive the call, you will think of the unknown future Ana of the world. I also hope you realize that your gift to the campaign benefits not merely the individuals and organizations that directly receive funding, but also lays the foundation for the next generation of donors and doers in the Jewish community.