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Sign Up Now for a Shabbat Gather Grant

By COMMUNITY, Making Jewish Places, NextGen, PJ LIbrary

Applications are open now for the next round of Gather Grants! Are you looking to grow your community? Have you considered hosting a Shabbat dinner, but feel like it might be too expensive? Apply for a Gather Grant this month and let Federation support your celebration!

The program gives $180 microgrants to individuals in the Atlanta metro area who host a gathering in their community for a designated holiday or initiative. The theme for the winter 2023 cycle is “Embracing and Elevating Shabbat.”

Gather Grant applications are open now and will be accepted until Tuesday, January 31. The gatherings which receive grants must be completed between February 1 and February 26.

Shabbat is arguably the most important holiday in Judaism—and it happens every week! Every seven days, we have the opportunity to rest and reflect with our loved ones. If you already host a Shabbat gathering, or if you would like to host your first one, sign up for a Gather Grant and let Federation help you celebrate.

Past Gather Grant recipients say:

“My husband and I just bought our home this year, and I had not before been able to host people in the way I can now. I always celebrated shabbat growing up and being able to host others this year really felt like an amazing full circle moment. Also, a friend who recently converted helped me plan; it was the first time she helped organize a shabbat meal!”

The biggest impact for my family was the ability to make new friends in our community. It is so important for my children to have Jewish friends to grow up with and see at services. Thanks to this program we are getting invitations to come for meals at the homes of the other participants. I am excited to watch these relationships grow.”

If you’re new to Shabbat, don’t worry. One Table says, “There is not one single way to celebrate Shabbat, so don’t worry that you’re going to do something wrong! Shabbat is always there for the taking and does not require anything fancy.” Their website is an excellent resource for first-time Shabbat-celebrators and hosts.

Your Shabbat event could be a sundown dinner, a Havdalah celebration, or a daytime Saturday gathering. There is no one way to celebrate Shabbat—get creative! Apply today for your Gather Grant and plan a Shabbat celebration to bring some warmth to the winter months.

Commemorate MLK Day with a Weekend of Service

By CARING, COMMUNITY

Repair the World and Federation are calling on the Jewish community to make Martin Luther King Jr. Day “a day on, not a day off.” Beginning this Friday, Federation, Repair the World, and our coalition partners will observe MLK Day with a weekend of service opportunities across Atlanta inspired by Dr. King—and you’re invited to join.

The 2023 MLK Weekend of Service is a way for Jews in Atlanta to connect with each other, care for our neighbors, and build resilience for the times we need support. Choose from service projects like tree planting, park clean up, daffodil planting, meal delivery, cooking meals for shelters at home, packing hygiene supplies, and more.

The Weekend of Service will begin with a Racial Justice Shabbat this Friday, January 13. This evening, presented in partnership with Atlanta Jews of Color Council (AJOCC) and OneTable, is an opportunity to begin this impactful weekend with learning, reflection, and mindfulness with and from our Jews of Color (JOC) community.

Service projects will take place January 14 – 16. There are a variety of meaningful service options for all ages, but spots are limited, so be sure to sign up in advance.

This weekend is an opportunity for all to engage in tikkun olam (repairing the world) and in meaningful learning around the legacy of Dr. King.

Click here to register for projects around the Atlanta area. Please join us this weekend and have a Day On!

We Need Your Philanthropic Support!

By Atlanta Jewish Foundation

Jewish Family & Career Services Receives $500,000 Matching Grant from The Zalik Foundation to Address Youth Mental Health and Wellbeing 

One of the most troubling side effects of the COVID-19 pandemic has been a serious global mental health crisis. It is especially tragic to see that children and adolescents are the most vulnerable. Depression and self-harm are rising among teens and suicide has now become the second-leading cause of death among American adolescents ages 10 to 14 years old. We have seen alarming amounts of anxiety and depression among teens right here in Atlanta. 

Now, a generous $500,000 matching grant from The Zalik Foundation will help address this urgent problem in Atlanta. The $500,000 matching grant, created in collaboration with Jewish Federations of North America’s national BeWell initiative, will fund a wide range of support services to Jewish teens in the community facing mental health and wellbeing challenges.

The funds, secured through the Atlanta Jewish Foundation’s Funders Collaborative, will be used by Jewish Family & Career Services to increase programs that support Jewish youth and those that care for them in the community facing mental health and wellbeing challenges. This funding will provide for the hiring of two professionals to build resiliency and support cross-community partnerships, to connect the community to services while decreasing barriers to services and increase skills and capacity to better respond to community needs. 

The Zalik Foundation grant is rooted in work that the Atlanta Jewish Foundation conducted back in 2020. In partnership with Jewish Federations of North America, the Foundation helped convene a group of local funders who identified teen mental health as a community priority and then set about to address it.  

“We are grateful to Helen and David Zalik for this generous donation and the Atlanta Jewish Foundation for focusing on this critical need that will help to address this alarming wave of mental health challenges by young people and those that care for them in the Atlanta region,” said Terri Bonoff, CEO of Jewish Family & Career Services. “Our teens are our future, and it is imperative that we do all we can to help those who are dealing with mental instability.” 

Atlanta Jewish Foundation and Jewish community partners are actively raising funds to match the Zalik Foundation’s $500,000 investment. “The Be Well initiative is a unique, donor-driven effort that is committed to improving teen and youth mental health and wellbeing. It couldn’t come at a more relevant moment,” said Jori Mendel, Chief Foundation Officer. “I encourage Atlanta philanthropists and all who are concerned about mental health to contact me at jmendel@jewishatlanta.org to learn how you can amplify the impact of the Zalik Foundation’s grant.  

RootOne Lets Teens Experience Israel 

By JEWISH JOURNEYS, JumpSpark

RootOne is a program powered by The Jewish Education Project and seeded by the generosity of The Marcus Foundation. Each summer, RootOne helps thousands of Jewish teens travel to Israel on a journey that will shape the rest of their lives. Last summer, RootOne supported 129 Atlanta teens to experience Israel for themselves.   

Lainey Weissman went on one such trip with a group of rising 11th-graders from Camp Coleman. There was a group of teenagers from Atlanta who all attended together—they began their journey at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport and were able to bond before even meeting up with the others on their trip.   

“We shared our experiences from all different parts of Atlanta,” she says. Having a group of people from her hometown made her feel more at ease right away. “We had a debate about which was best: Willy’s, Moe’s or Chipotle, and only the Atlanta kids knew what Willy’s was.”   

RootOne trips offer a diverse range of programs to fit any interest. Whether a student is interested in sports, entrepreneurship, or social justice, they can find an Israel experience that will speak to them. But Lainey says that some of her favorite moments on the trip happened on the bus in between activities—the casual downtime “was such great bonding experience.”   

Israel journeys funded by RootOne are highly educational, even before students step on the plane. Groups learn about all sides of Israeli life and culture, from the familiar to the nuanced. American travelers meet Israeli peers and make connections that will span the globe. Lainey says, “I have heard about these places for so long and seeing them in real life was such a cool experience.”   

When asked what surprised her most about Israel, she says, “There are so many cats! But really, it’s how similar it is to America. Obviously, they are different cultures, but seeing some similar chain restaurants and how many people speak English was surprising. I was expecting a language barrier, but there wasn’t one.”  

These inspiring and engaging journeys change the students’ perspectives on life, and on Israel. 76% of RootOne alums report learning more about themselves, and 75% think about Israel differently than before. These trips teach teenagers to be independent and confident.   

“I think it’s really valuable to go when you’re young; getting away from your parents allows you to explore who you are. It was very impactful.” Lainey says this trip specifically taught her about managing money. She says she learned a lot about “How to spend one’s free time and not buy everything in sight.” A very important lesson for any world-traveler.   

Visit https://rootone.org/ to learn more about RootOne and see a list of trip providers. Applications open January 1. 

New Online Form Makes It Easier to Report Threats Against the Jewish Community

By Secure Community Network

Federation is partnering with the Secure Community Network (SCN) to launch an online form for the public to report threats, incidents, and suspicious activity related to the Jewish community. This standardized form will be available nationwide and will ensure a timely and accurate response to any threat against Jewish organizations, facilities, or community members. 

SCN is the official safety and security organization for the Jewish community in North America. Information reported through the form goes immediately to Federation’s security professionals, as well as the 24-hour Duty Desk at SCN’s National Jewish Security Operations Command Center. SCN’s team of intelligence analysts will communicate with local Federation security personnel and determine which people or facilities are at risk, and the appropriate next steps. Credible threats will be referred to local, state, or federal law enforcement agencies, as needed. 

The new form can, and should, be used to report in-person assaults or threats, suspicious activity, vandalism, suspicious packages or letters, antisemitic flyers, threatening phone calls, text messages, or social media posts, or any other incident of concern to the Jewish community. Reports can also be made anonymously.   

The form is available on Federation’s website. Please bookmark it so you can access it quickly if you ever need to do so.  

Eric M. Robbins, President and CEO of Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta, says, “Our new online reporting form is one of the many ways that Federation is working to protect the Jewish community, along with our partner organizations such as ADL, The American Jewish Committee, and the Jewish Community Relations Council. Together with the Secure Community Network, we urge everyone to report anything suspicious or concerning so the appropriate action can be taken.” 

Atlanta is just one of more than 30 Jewish Federations that will be using this reporting system. “This is the first nationally standardized incident reporting effort that ties together local Federation security initiatives and SCN as a national partner, ensuring that wherever someone is, there can be timely, consistent, and accurate reporting of threats, incidents, and suspicious activity,” said SCN National Director and CEO Michael Masters.  

Masters says, “Through a coordinated, best practice approach to information sharing, this initiative will help us more effectively and efficiently address threats and issues before they turn to action.”  

Please remember that in an emergency, you should always contact 911 first. If you find yourself in a situation where online reporting is not practical, you should follow established protocol to report suspicious activity, including contacting local law enforcement, and/or the SCN Duty Desk at 844-SCN-DESK. 

PJ Library is Hosting a “Grand” Getaway

By PJ LIbrary

Calling all grandparents and grandkids! PJ Library is hosting its second Grand Getaway in partnership with Ramah Darom from January 27 to 29. This weekend is designed for grandparents and grandchildren to connect via interactive and engaging programming while celebrating Shabbat in the beautiful North Georgia mountains (and parents are invited, too!).  

Grand Getaway is a great opportunity for grandparents and their grandkids to spend time together while exploring Jewish traditions and different ways of telling their family’s stories. Ramah Darom in Clayton, Georgia, is a beautiful place to unplug from the hectic pace of modern life and connect as a family. This casual weekend of fun will be as relaxing as it is interactive. 

The program is designed for children ages 4 to 12 and will feature unique activity tracks for different age groups. Musical guest Hannah Zale will bring ruach (spirit) on this Grand Getaway weekend, providing storytelling and music to help bridge generations.  

The retreat begins on Friday afternoon with challah-braiding and decorating in preparation for a festive Shabbat dinner. Throughout the weekend, grandparents and grandkids will participate in Jewish-themed activities and crafts. Shabbat will close with a Ramah Darom favorite—Havdalah service around the campfire, followed by s’mores!   

Pam Cohen, the Family Engagement Coordinator at Federation, says “While much of our PJ Library Atlanta programming focuses on connecting families to others within the Jewish community, we love that this program is designed to enhance the connection within generations of a family.” 

Last year’s inaugural Grand Getaway was so much fun, and PJ Library is thrilled to be hosting this special event once again. Here are a few words from two of last year’s participants: 

“We are so grateful to Ramah and PJ because we’d never make the time to spend time together like this on our own.” 

“We very much enjoyed the concept of multi-generational family get together. Actually, the weekend served a dual purpose of spending significant time with our children and grandchildren, but also providing an outlet for discussion regarding the roles we play as Jewish grandparents in our youngster’s lives.” 

Additional information and registration information can be found here. Please reach out to Pam (PCohen@JewishAtlanta.org) if you have any questions.  

We hope to see you at the Grand Getaway! 

Happy New Year from Our Campaign Chairs

By COMMUNITY

By Joel Arogeti and Seth Greenberg, 2023 Campaign Chair and Campaign Vice Chair 

As we approach the end of 2022 and begin 2023, we wish you and your family well. Thank you so much for your dedication to Federation and our mission to care for and connect Jewish people in Atlanta, Israel, and throughout the world.  

Thanks to your gifts, we have reached our first major goal for the 2023 Community Campaign: donations to Partners Fund currently total more than $10 million! This is a key milestone, and we are so grateful for the generosity of our community. However, we still have donors to speak with and funds to raise to reach our $15 million goal for the Partners Fund. These funds are essential for our supporting organizations and the incredible work they do every day. 

Organizations like the Marcus Jewish Community Center of Atlanta, our community Day Schools, Jewish HomeLife, and Jewish Family & Career Services, to name a few, rely on their partnership with Federation to provide the essential services they offer. When you give to Federation, you are giving to each of these vital institutions.  

Please consider donating to our Community Campaign before year’s end to ensure that our partners can continue helping Jews and non-Jews around the world.  

Thank you for being part of the Federation Family. Here’s to a happy and safe 2023! 

Operation Ethiopia Helps Thousands See Clearly

By GLOBAL JEWRY

Very soon, Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta is launching a new quarterly magazine: Generosity. Generosity will highlight stories of philanthropy and community in Jewish Atlanta. Here is an excerpt of the cover story from our inaugural issue:

This past August, Dr. Morris Hartstein, his wife Elisa Minsk Hartstein, their son Jonah, and six other volunteers were preparing for a trip to Ethiopia—their third in 2022. “Next year we have four medical missions planned,” Morris said.

Morris is an Ophthalmologist who moved to Israel with his family in 2004, and he was prepping for an extremely busy week. Between August 28 and September 2, he and his team (including an eye surgeon and three EMTs) would collectively be operating on 15 patients needing complex oculoplastic surgery, running mobile eye clinics in rural villages, overseeing a cataract campaign funded by their organization where 291 patients would receive sight-restoring cataract surgery, and running first-aid training for local medical staff. Morris and Elisa Hartstein founded Operation Ethiopia to help bring eye care to a population badly in need of medical intervention.

In 2014, the Hartstein children were between the ages of 11 and 16. They and their parents, wanted to do something meaningful with their summer, rather than take a typical family vacation. They decided to volunteer at the Jewish compound in Gondar, in Ethiopia. About 85% of the Jewish population in Ethiopia lives in Gondar, in conditions that were shocking to the Hartsteins.

Word got out that Morris was an eye doctor. “Most of the people in the Jewish community in Gondar had never been seen by a doctor before,” he said—let alone an eye doctor.

Morris immediately recognized that many in the village suffered from conditions that could be quickly and easily treated in the United States—like cataracts. Most cases of cataracts are caught and treated early here, before reaching advanced stages. But in Ethiopia, lack of access to medical care, and lack of funds to pay for surgery, means that people eventually become blind. Morris did what he could for the patients he examined that week, but his whole family knew they had to do more.

For the Hartsteins, helping others really is a family affair. Elisa was born a second-generation Jewish Atlantan; she is a graduate of the Hebrew Academy and Yeshiva high school (now known collectively as the Atlanta Jewish Academy). Her parents, Betty and Malcolm Minsk, were stalwart supporters of Federation and other local Jewish organizations. She says that her family’s dedication to helping their community made a major impact on her life, and the work she and Morris do.

The Hartsteins returned home from Gondar and set to work—they purchased medications and eyeglasses using their own money. A year after their first trip to Ethiopia, they returned with 12 suitcases of supplies and set up their first mobile eye triage clinic in the Jewish compound of Gondar.

Over the next few years, the Hartsteins expanded their services beyond the Jewish community to nearby villages. They partnered with Struggle to Save Ethiopian Jewry (SSEJ) to start a feeding program for malnourished children in the Jewish community. They connected with the University of Gondar Hospital and began working with their eye department. Morris started a doctor training program to bring Ethiopian ophthalmologists to his hospital in Israel for advanced specialized training.

Since 2014, Morris has volunteered his time to personally examine and treat nearly 7,000 patients through mobile eye clinics, performed complex oculoplastic surgeries in Gondar and in Addis Abba, and trained Ethiopian eye care professionals. He and his team of volunteers have distributed thousands of units of eye medications and eyeglasses and lead three cataract campaigns. Thanks to these efforts, 1,000 people have regained their eyesight.

Elisa says “the people we treat are the poorest of the poor and have no access to eye doctors or eye care. Even the relatively ‘small’ amount of money that these exams and procedures cost is onerous.” She urges people who want to help to visit operationethiopia.com.

Summer Camp Professionals Meet in Atlanta

By Jewish Camp Initiative

It may be winter, but summer will be here before we know it. Luckily, the hardworking professionals behind Jewish Summer Camps don’t hibernate til spring. Last week, hundreds of them met in Atlanta for the Foundation for Jewish Camp (FJC) Leaders Assembly—the largest one ever!

Leaders Assembly is for professionals at Jewish day and overnight camps and everyone who works with those people—including representatives from the camps, other Federations, funders, Jewish Foundations, lay leaders, and board members. It’s a chance for camp pros to swap ideas, hear from experienced colleagues, and build relationships.

Due to COVID, it was the first in-person Leaders Assembly in four years, and the first for Melissa Scholten-Gutierrez, Federation’s Director of Family Education and Engagement. “My favorite thing was meeting so many other camp and Federation partners. It was amazing to be in the same room as so many of my colleagues, many of whom I’ve only met online,” Melissa says.

The biannual gathering began at the Westin Peachtree Plaza on Sunday, December 4 and finished on Tuesday, December 6. It was the largest-ever Leaders Assembly, with approximately 850 people in attendance. Melissa says, “The energy was beyond amazing, it was palpable.”

Sunday night, Federation had the honor of co-hosting an event with the Foundation for Jewish Camp (FJC) celebrating the 10th anniversary of Atlanta’s Jewish Camp Initiative and honoring Mark Silberman’s contributions to the field. In a video which was played during the event, FJC’s CEO Jeremy Fingerman said “FJC relies on camps and communities working together to help advance the field, and the Atlanta Jewish Camp Initiative, along with Mark’s relentless efforts, truly serve as an example for all.”

Melissa was on the host committee, as well as the One Happy Camper and Federation planning committee. She also gave a talk during the closing plenary that touched on Chanukah and the opportunity to “celebrate the miracle of Jewish camp.”

It was very meaningful for the attendees to meet again after a tumultuous two years. Melissa says she’s spoken to several other attendees, and they already greatly anticipating Leaders 2024. Just like campers, these professionals are energized and ready to collaborate once again.

Pinch Hitters Step in on Christmas Day

By COMMUNITY, People in Need

There are several stereotypes about what Jews do on Christmas Day—like eat Chinese food or go to the movies. But what about acts of community service? For many Jews, Christmas Day is an opportunity to step up for their friends and neighbors.

B’nai B’rith’s Pinch Hitters do just that. The Pinch Hitters include members of Achim/Gate City Lodge, plus hundreds of other Jewish Atlantans. Every year on Christmas Day, they volunteer at area hospitals and assisted living facilities so non-medical personnel who celebrate Christmas can take the day off to be with family.

Pinch Hitters began in 1980 with just 18 volunteers at one hospital. This year, hundreds of volunteers will spend the day at nine local hospitals and assisted living centers. Over the years, Pinch Hitters has become a tradition for many families. On December 25, 1990, President George H. W. Bush awarded Pinch Hitters the 355th Daily Point of Light Award.

This year’s facilities include Veterans Administration Medical Center, Dunwoody Place, Historic Place of Roswell, William Breman Jewish Home, Solana of East Cobb, Berman Commons, Georgian Lakeside and The Cohen Home. Volunteers work in four-hour shifts, from approximately 7 to 11, 11 to 3, or 3 to 7.

It is invaluable to give back to the hardworking staff of these essential facilities, who do so much for so many. It is incredibly special to walk a mile in their shoes while they enjoy some well-deserved rest time on a holiday that is meaningful for them. The Pinch Hitters program is a real mitzvah.

If you would like to become a Pinch Hitter, visit their website at www.pinchhitters.org. For any questions, call Harry Lutz at 678-485-8179.