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ALEF Made Day School Possible


Educated and Empowered, Thanks to ALEF Fund

J. is a single parent and a survivor of domestic violence. She receives no financial support from her ex-husband, who was her abuser, and works very hard to make ends meet. One of the joys of her life is that her daughter is getting an incredible Jewish day school education at Atlanta Jewish Academy, thanks to scholarship support from ALEF Fund.

“When I moved back to Atlanta from out of state, I was pretty broken from my marriage,” she remembers. “As we looked at school options, I had concerns. Our zoned public school has an open campus and it worried me that someone could easily walk into the building off the street. When you’ve been in an abusive marriage you learn to be hyper vigilant and protective. I was thrilled to find a position at Atlanta Jewish Academy.  The school was everything I dreamed of for my daughter — amazing facilities, Hebrew language instruction, Jewish values, and great campus security, with gates and intercoms and a culture of vigilance. But the cost of tuition put it out of reach.  Then I heard about ALEF Fund.”

“When I learned about the ALEF Fund state tax credit, I opted in right away. “It makes me so happy to know that by participating in ALEF Fund I am paying it forward for others like me who depend on tuition help for Jewish schools. My small contribution helps fund substantial scholarships, so it feels like a win-win! I don’t know why everyone doesn’t do it!”

“My daughter is thriving at her school and every day she teaches me something new about Judaism. We were at Six Flags recently and she heard a family speaking another language, which she recognized as Hebrew. She went right up to them and introduced herself in Hebrew! The father was so impressed with her language skills. I was blown away!”

“I was lucky to attend Hebrew Academy as a child in Atlanta. It gave me foundational Jewish literacy and taught me to read and write Hebrew. Now my daughter has surpassed me in her Jewish education. I am so grateful to ALEF Fund, for opening these doors for my daughter. Knowing that she is educated and empowered is everything to me!”

Georgia taxpayers have until December 31, 2019 to make a 2020 pledge to ALEF Fund and redirect a portion of their GA state taxes to become scholarships at 18 Jewish day schools, preschools and high schools. Questions? Contact Nicole Flom right away!

Federation Women in Cuba


Federation Women Support Nutrition and Education in Cuba

Cuba’s Jewish population, once 15,000 strong, is now a tiny remnant estimated at about 1,100 people. Since the government lifted the ban on religious practice, they are thriving as a community, however they remain economically fragile. Like all Cubans, Jews live with food rationing and lack many basic resources. Milk, which has so many nutritional benefits, is a commodity in short supply and is only provided to children under the age of seven. That’s why, on their recent Federation and Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) mission to Cuba, Atlanta women took on the mitzvah of supporting a milk program and a Sunday school for Cuban Jewish children and teenagers. The Sunday school is held at El Patronato, Havana’s Jewish Community Center and Conservative synagogue. Children learn about Jewish holidays, and culture, study bible and learn Hebrew. Adults have classes at the nearby Sephardic Hebrew Center. “Cuba’s Jews are so vulnerable,” said Debbie Schafer, Director of Women’s Philanthropy. “The Atlanta women chose the milk project because they are mothers! It was a simple and satisfying way enhance the educational and nutritional needs of children and teens.”

In Cuba, the government provides 1 kg. of powdered milk per month per child through its ration stores. Thanks to the generosity of our Women’s Mission, extra powdered milk is now given to all Jewish students (under age 25) who attend classes at El Patronato, are enrolled in school during the week and do not have jobs. The same 1 kg. of milk is also given to the fourteen Sunday school teachers. In addition, all students — children, teens, youth and adults — are offered a glass of milk with their snack during a break in Sunday school.

This October 10-14, Federation and JDC are offering another Atlanta community mission to Cuba to shine a light on Jewish community needs. Like all JDC-sponsored trips, participants will also have opportunities to support ongoing projects in Cuba to make the lives of Cuban Jews better. Reservations are on a first-come-first-served basis. If you would like more information about the trip, please contact Staci Eichelbaum, Director of Philanthropy.

Conversations With Local Pandemic Heroes


large audience of 189 people logged onto Zoom to hear Dr. Howard Silverboard, Pulmonologist and Critical Care Physician at Northside Hospital anTony Levitas, a COVID-19 survivor, share their experiences on the frontlines of the pandemic. Sponsored by the Maimonides Society, Federation’s network for medical professionals, this was the first in a series of upcoming programs that will look at how people in our community are responding to urgent needs now. If you missed it, watch the video here

Next in the series, Thursday, May 7, from 45 pm, Jenny Levison, owner of Souper Jenny, and Jean Millkey, Manager of the JF&CS Kosher Food Pantry, will share how they are helping meet the demand for food. Register and join this Zoom conversation to learn how Jenny and Jean are working to make a difference during this crisis and how nonprofits and businesses can partner to meet the challenge. Register for their talk here to receive a link to the Zoom call. 

If you missed Dr. Silverboard and Tony Levitas in conversation, watch the video here

On the Maimonides Society call, Dr. Silverboard described his mounting fear as COVID-19 was gaining strength in Italy and threatened to overwhelm the U.S. healthcare system. By March 15 it was clear that a surge was coming, and Atlanta began to prepare for COVID-19 patients,” he said. Disaster management is something critical care doctors are trained for but most of us had never truly experienced it. It’s been harrowing to treat patients while wearing gas masks under strict protective protocols. There’s a routine for staying safe now, and I am less concerned about bringing the disease home, but ware learning as we go. Thankfully, we are not in a situation like New York City.

Tony Levitas, a psychologist and musician, is the father of two children. He was admitted to Northside Hospital on March 17, was on a ventilator for 18 days, and was not discharged until April 13. Tony is slowly gaining strength and recuperating at home. His doctors have told him that he had received medication at “veterinary levels” while in the hospital, and it clearly saved his life.

Medical Mission Inspires Jewish Innovators


A group of Atlanta medical professionals who are passionate about medical innovation, have just returned from Federation’s inaugural Medical Mission to Israel. The week-long trip showcased Israeli medical achievements and exposed participants to the many ways Israelis think out of the box to solve complex problems. “Innovation appears to be woven into the fabric of Israeli life,” said James Rains, PE, Professor of Practice at Georgia Tech. “Seeing the underground hospital at Rambam that can handle 2,000 patients, or learning how Israel sets up field hospitals in disaster areas, demonstrated an amazing level of preparedness. I was also blown away by the maturity of Israeli young people. After investing 2-3 years in army service, they are problem solvers and team players who are ready to launch careers. We can learn from that.”

Dr. Zachary Bercu, Assistant Professor of Interventional Radiology at Emory, helped plan the trip along with Roey Shoshan, Federation’s Israel and Overseas Director. Dr. Bercu has lived in Israel and his Israeli-American wife, Sivan, is a physician who specializes in geriatrics and palliative care. “I wanted this group to witness the unusual drive and creativity of Israel’s medical innovation infrastructure and take that spirit home,” he said. “Between Emory and Georgia Tech we already have an incredible innovation ecosystem in Atlanta. Trips like this one help deepen our professional relationships, and the possibilities for future medical innovation are exciting.”

Starla Longfellow, Director of Technology & Innovation at Emory Healthcare, Department of Radiology, was struck by Israel’s capacity to handle adversity. “Visiting the Israel Trauma Center we saw that Israel uniquely understands trauma and PTSD and shares that knowledge with communities in crisis around the world.” Asked why Israel is known as Startup Nation, Longfellow said her biggest takeaway from the trip was that “Israelis always figure out a way to say ‘yes.’ In the U.S. we often unconsciously look for ways to say ‘no.’ But it’s in the Israeli culture to make the impossible possible.”

The medical mission was such a hit that a second trip is planned for next year, possibly timed to coincide with Israel’s annual Innovation in Cardiology Intervention (ICI). “We met with top level ICI presenters on our trip,” said Dr. Bercu. “It brought us closer to the people who are on the forefront of change, and next year I hope to have twice as many people on the mission.”

Leadership Lessons on Birthright

By Atlanta Birthright Community Trips, COMMUNITY, NextGen

Five years ago, Maddie Cook traveled to Israel with Birthright Israel Atlanta. Her encounter with Israel came full circle when she became a leader on our 2019 Summer Birthright trip. Curiosity about Israel drove Maddie to sign up for her first trip. Creating community was her motivation to lead one.

“Growing up Jewish, I often felt like an odd one out, but traveling to Israel and experiencing it with people like me was incredibly comforting. Experiencing Birthright with people like me from Atlanta created a built-in community I never realized I had.”

“There were several new activities on this past Atlanta Birthright trip that were not part of my original trip. Some favorite additions include rafting down the Jordan River and visiting Buza Ice-Cream Parlor, an Arab-Jewish collaboration in the Galilee Region. Not only does it represent a beautiful story and partnership, but the ice cream is delicious.”

“Our time in Yokneam, Atlanta’s Partnership city, was very memorable. On my first visit, we only were there for an evening event. This time, we played soccer with kids from one of the local schools. Soccer is truly the international sport and ultimate language barrier breaker. In no time, we were laughing and playing with the kids. This part of the trip was a favorite among the group.”

“Staffing an Atlanta Birthright trip was perhaps even more rewarding than my first visit. I had the chance to shape and guide others experiencing Israel and exploring their Jewish identities. The relationships that developed over our ten days in Israel have now come stateside, and that’s not always an easy thing to do. It brings a smile to my face seeing people from our trip make plans to socialize, do Shabbat dinners and work on the itineraries for the Israeli soldiers visiting Atlanta in the coming months.”

What Teens Say About the Strong Women Fellowship


JumpSpark’s Strong Women Fellowship Expanding to Serve More Teens

Applications are now open for the second cohort of the Strong Women Fellowship. With the success of last year’s launch, and the support of Federation, JumpSpark is excited to expand the program to include peer leadership opportunities, community groups for ongoing connection and interaction based on geographic location.  Each month teens in the Strong Women Fellowship meet speakers, visit organizations and engage in relevant learning that speaks to what it means to be a woman in our times. Year two will feature an all-new, incredible slate of speakers including, Lindy Miller a former candidate for GA Public Service Commission, Whitney Fisch of Jewhungry the blog, Dr. Tarece JohnsonSOJOURN, and more. The program targets teens in grades 9-12. 

Here’s what participants say about the program: 

“My expectation of the Strong Women’s Fellowship cohort was totally different from the experience I actually had. Much to my surprise, and delight, there were no parasha readings or lessons on the history of Israel. Instead, I met so many accomplished, empowered, women at every meeting, I was inspired by their unique stories and enjoyed the discussions we had…but most of all I enjoyed having the opportunity to make friends with other Jewish girls. I’ve met so many amazing people from all over the city that I would have never met otherwise.”  – Ariel Raggs 

“The fellowship provided the opportunity to speak with other women across a range of ages, and through these discussions I grew as a woman and become a stronger and prouder Jewish woman, too. Women across the globe have been using their voices to advocate for what they believe in, and through this fellowship, I too, have been given tools to do the same in my Jewish community and hopefully across the world.” – Tamar Guggenhei

“[The Strong Women Fellowship] ended up being a place I could safely share my ideas and opinions with other girls who would listen. I didn’t think this group would affect my life very much, but it’s left me with new ideas and new friends. It gave me a whole new perspective on the world and other girls; it was so much more than I expected, and I’m grateful for all the experiences.” – Maya Laufer 

Learn more here. Applications are open to all Jewish teens in grades 9-12 from the Atlanta metro area. Reach out to Laura Gronek with any questions.

JumpSpark Professional Builds Careers


JumpSpark, Atlanta’s initiative for teen engagement, isn’t just for teens and parents of teens; it’s also for the professionals who work with them. JumpSpark Professional is a complementary initiative that’s building an infrastructure for Atlanta’s network of teen educators and engagement professionals. “We want them to be equipped to do great work, feel great about their jobs and build solid career paths. Our monthly events give professionals an opportunity to learn from experts. We are offering grants for Atlanta professionals to attend the Pardes Beit Midrash B’Darom, Feb. 15-18, and there’s an April workshop on Jewish Multiculturalism with Dr. Tarece Johnson of Global Purpose Approach,” Director Kelly Cohen said. 

Adam Griff, Director of NFTY-Southern Regional Area and Camp Coleman Machon Director, said, “JumpSpark is doing a phenomenal job of providing youth professionals with access to a really diverse set of opportunities. For me, the social media workshop last year provided some very tangible and useful tools and skills. The trip to Israel last year also gave me both an inspiring experience as well as some great new program ideas.” 

Ezra Flom, who runs the Shinshinim program in Atlanta, and manages the activities of eight post-high school Israeli teens, has already benefitted from JumpSpark Professional. “Thanks to JumpSpark Professional I was able to participate in the Teen Educators’ Innovation Conference in Israel. I brought back an array of tools and connections that helped me in my previous job, directing youth and family programs at Temple Kol Emeth, and now with the Shinshinim. Because of connections I made and strengthened, Shinshinim Altanta nearly doubled in its second year”  

AgeWell Atlanta: A Concierge Approach to Aging

By AgeWell Atlanta, Aging, CARING, COMMUNITY

When “R’s” mother voluntarily handed over her car keys and announced to the family that she was ready to give up driving, there was relief all around. But suddenly, new challenges emerged. How would this lively woman, now in her 90’s, get to the places she needs and wants to go? Her daughter was on board to take Mom to doctor’s appointments, but how would she keep up social connections with friends, grooming sessions and vet appointments for her dog, and trips to the grocery store to maintain her vital sense of independence?

One call to Jennifer Curry, who is AgeWell Atlanta’s Information & Referral Concierge/Manager, put several good transportation options on the table for the family. Through AgeWell Atlanta, they’ve learned that rides are available on weekdays from Alterman JETS transportation, but not for pets (unless they are service animals), and that companions will take older adults grocery shopping. Curry continues to help the family strategize about Lyft and other ride services for Mom.

AgeWell Atlanta’s level of personalized and coordinated referral is something new and rare. You have a single entry point for guidance and information — you can call (1-866-AGE-WELL), send an email, or visit the website, Your query goes to Jennifer Curry, a real person who takes an individual approach to finding the services you need.

As the face of AgeWell Atlanta, Curry comes to this work with a Masters of Public Health and was previously an I&R specialist in aging services for the Atlanta Regional Commission’s Area Agency on Aging & Disability. Becoming AgeWell Atlanta’s Concierge Manager appealed to her because of the high level of inter-agency cooperation that exists in the Jewish community.

“I was excited to offer truly coordinated care,” Curry says. “AgeWell Atlanta takes I&R to a such an intimate and personal level. With the combined resources of AVIV Older Adult Services of JF&CS, the Marcus JCC, Jewish HomeLife and Federation behind me, I have the ability to close the loop for people.  When someone asks me something I can’t answer right away, I can follow up with the right professionals and get back to them. Client confidentiality is assured and there is no charge for your call.”

Explore the AgeWell Atlanta website and learn more about the wealth of local resources that help mature adults live a rich, full lives, and supports for their caregivers too.

Creativity and Change in Part-Time Jewish Education

By Jewish Education Collaborative

By Rabbi Elana Perry, Director Jewish Education Collaborative

“You can’t teach an old dog new tricks,” they say. Many people in the Jewish community think of part-time Jewish education as the “old dog,” imagining that today’s children are enduring the same rote lessons in Hebrew School that they remember from childhood. In reality, supplemental Jewish education has been changing rapidly, even before Covid-19 turned the world upside down. And it is because of the unprecedented ability of our educational leaders to pivot and innovate, that part-time Jewish education will grow and thrive in the months and years to come. 

The ability maintain connections, has been key. And while some people may be skeptical about what can be accomplished from a distance, Atlanta’s Jewish educators are proving that anything is possible. In the face of the global pandemic, religious schools throughout metro Atlanta transitioned quickly to online platforms like Zoom to deliver engaging and interactive virtual learning. As Temple Emanu-El’s Diamond Family Religious School Director Beth Blick says, “From Kahoot! and YouTube to BimBam and [online] “field trips,” our students have continued to learn with a larger focus on staying connected to their community.”

At Congregation Etz Chaim, faculty members created their own online videos and have met in small groups and with individual students to keep them engaged with Hebrew, while utilizing additional online games for interactive learning. Congregation Bet Haverim hosts Netflix watch parties featuring Jewish-themed films with older students and provides fun weekly “mitzvah bingo cards” for kids to complete with their families. 

Jewish Kids Groups created JKG at Home, broadcasting on Facebook Live every weekday afternoon. Favorite sessions have included interactive Jewish Art and Hebrew Yoga online. Some families have enjoyed the experiences live, while others access the recorded content at a time that works best for them. 

Students in Temple Sinai’s Noar Sunday program celebrated Yom Ha’Atzmaut, Israel Independence Day, by choosing real-time interactive electives such as Israeli Army training, pita-baking, or maker-space technology. And Congregation Beth Shalom has used Zoom to make sure to keep students connected to their beloved Shishin, Yael, dialing in from across the world. 

Congregation Or Hadash scrapped their curriculum entirely and shifted to a “gym-like” schedule, offering live subject-based classes, allowing families to self-select how and when they participate. “Our main goals,” said Director of Education Rachel Herman, “are to offer flexibility for our families, to stay connected with one another and to foster community.”  

I can jump into a Zoom classroom and immediately see the joy on the kids’ faces in seeing their TBT friends,” says Temple Beth Tikvah Religious School Director Suzanne Hurwitz. “It’s reassuring that we are able to remain connected and productive in these times.” 

Jewish tradition teaches us: “One should always be flexible like a reed, and not hardened like a cedar tree. For the reed, when the winds blow, moves with the wind... But the cedar tree, when the strong southern wind blows, is uprooted and turned on its head” (Avot D’Rabbi Natan, 41). Atlanta’s Jewish supplemental education leaders – directors, teachers, clergy, and more – have embraced the role of the reed. They have moved swiftly as demanded by this moment in time, demonstrating flexibility and creativity to support and enrich Jewish families during an incredibly challenging period. And while nobody has a crystal ball to say what the future will hold, whether our children can learn in-person or from a distance, it is because of the unprecedented ability of our leaders to pivot and innovate, that part-time Jewish education will grow and thrive in the months and years to come. 

3 Questions for Jodi Mansbach


Federation Chief Impact Officer

Q: What is the Placemaking movement all about? How has it inspired Federation’s work to make more Jewish places?
Placemaking comes from the world of urban design. Traditionally it’s about how we create high quality public spaces like parks, plazas, streets and markets where people want to live, work, and play. Placemaking professionals do a lot of observation on how people interact with each other in a space. They consider community input and design for what is happening in the space, not just what it looks like. This thinking deeply influenced our Jewish community vision, beginning with the process of inviting input in impact areas of Making Jewish Places and being a Radically Welcoming Jewish community. It makes us think about how non-traditional places can serve as Jewish places and how we can use existing Jewish places for more than what they were initially built for.

Q:  Describe some of the new Jewish places popping up around Atlanta and how they are changing the ways we work, interact and collaborate.
Our elementATL co-working spaces on the BeltLine and in Dunwoody are places where people can work, collaborate and convene meetings or events that take us outside traditional Jewish venues. They have a different vibe than conference rooms or offices, and we’ve seen that they encourage serendipitous interactions. Lily Brent, new director of Repair the World, ran into Rabbi Ruth Abusch-Magder at elementATL and made an important connection – Lily felt that elementATL was a true crossroads in Jewish Atlanta. Co-working is also happening with our JumpSpark Professional cohort. They’ve begun co-working from time to time, at Director Kelley Cohen’s home. Since many of these educators work alone in their own homes, coming together periodically creates great collaborative energy.

New Jewish places can also be temporary pop ups. When our PJ Library connectors create events in local parks or at a coffee shop, they take on a Jewish identity and are experienced differently. We sometimes call these transformations “low-barrier” spaces because they are familiar, easy to access and unintimidating.

Q: How can “traditional” Jewish places – synagogues, organizations and schools –  learn from what we are doing and create their own new spaces?
Jodi:  Some already have. The Temple has created a space with casual seating where you can get coffee and gather. We’ve knocked down about a dozen cubicles here at Federation and created open work spaces with comfy couches and seating areas nearby. We need a lot more of that, and the more moveable seating the better!  It’s also important to think about a place for a 24-hour period. What can you do in the space during a time it’s not in use?

Our Synagogues Without Borders prototype group has really looked at the possibilities for creating new spaces and pushing them to be welcoming. They curated three High Holiday experiences that turned non-traditional spaces into Jewish ones. For Rosh Hashanah they held a family-friendly celebration, Prayground, at Old Fourth Ward Park. They created a musical group worship experience, Shofar on the Mountain, atop Stone Mountain. And they partnered with HAMSA for a reflective, meditative Yom Kippur event called Nourishment for the Soul, inviting people in recovery. That’s placemaking, too!

Placemakers often say that successful public spaces don’t require a big investment, in fact they should be LQC — lighter, quicker, cheaper. One of my favorite lines from the Project for Public Spaces is “Start with Petunias!” Adding simple and inexpensive amenities and elements make spaces happy and fun.  I’d love to see more groups in Atlanta just dive in, experiment with short term ideas, see what works, and try again if they don’t.