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Welcome Our New Deputy Security Director

By Secure Community Network

Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta is pleased to welcome our new Deputy Community Security Director, Bryan Underwood! Bryan comes to us with an extensive background in law enforcement and we are thrilled to have him.

Bryan served for 25 years with the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). He performed tours of duty in Kansas City, Washington, St. Louis, Memphis, and Louisville. In 2015, he retired from the FBI as the Assistant Special Agent in Charge of the Louisville Division. Bryan then served for six years as the Assistant Vice President and Director of Law Enforcement for the Eighth District of the Federal Reserve.

At Federation, he will help administer security programs not only for our organization, but for the larger Atlanta Jewish Community. His work will help protect schools, daycare centers, synagogues, camps, assisted living facilities, and other centers of Jewish life.

Bryan holds a bachelor’s degree in political science and Bible from Lipscomb University and a juris doctor degree from the University of Alabama School of Law. We are so pleased to have him on our team!

Camp is such a special time for kids

By CARING, COMMUNITY, Eric's Blog

When you think of “summer camp,” what comes to mind? Swimming, singing songs, roasting marshmallows over a fire?

When I think of Jewish summer camp, I think of smiling faces. Camp is such a special time for kids—it gives them space to grow and learn, and introduces them to lifelong friends. Those bonds, and the joy they bring, are the hallmark of summer camp.

Last week, I had the immense pleasure of visiting Camp Coleman on Camp Kindness Day. After two tumultuous summers disrupted by Covid-19, Jewish summer camps are once again thriving.

Covid proved an enormous challenge for our camps. Staffing issues, kids leaving early—kids having to quarantine at camp! Our camp professionals deserve recognition for facing these challenges and making sure their campers had fun while still being safe.

This summer, our camps are seeing pre-covid registration rates. Camp Coleman was buzzing with excited energy, alive with laughter. All day, I saw children helping each other, making each other laugh, creating memories they’ll never forget.

Camp isn’t just a couple weeks or months; it’s an experience that changes kids and impacts them for the rest of their lives. Camp Kindness Day is a chance to celebrate the hardworking pros who make camp happen, and it was my honor to share it with them.

Have a Jewish July

By COMMUNITY

We’re in the dog days of summer, and while it’s tempting to chill out by the pool or stay cool in your air-conditioned digs, there’s also a tempting array of Jewish activities in metro Atlanta. Check out what’s happening around town and take some time to connect with the rich social and cultural Jewish community just outside your door. Here are just a few options—for other ideas, see our online calendar of happenings at Atlanta Jewish Connector.

Dive Into ShabbatJuly 15 and July 29 at 5pm. Marcus Jewish Community Center of Atlanta invites everyone to celebrate Shabbat with an open swim followed by songs and blessings with Rabbi G at 6 pm. Bring your own food; drinks available for purchase at the Snack Bar. For information call the MJCCA at 678-812-4000.

Hillel Tour D’Ice CreamJuly 12, July 19, and July 26 at 2 pm. It’s Hillel of Georgia’s answer to cooling off this summer! Meet Hillel at a different ice creamery Every Tuesday through July. July 12 is Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams, Westside; July 19 is Big Softie, Summerhill; July 26 chill down at Roll It Up Ice Cream, Buford Highway. RSVP at hga.engage.hillel.org

Chabad of North Fulton WorkshopThursday nights at 8 pm. Explore Jewish Spirituality and Mysticism during this weekly workshop designed to create meaningful personal growth. Phone: 770-410-9000

Shabbat Learners’ ServiceJuly 16 (second Shabbat of each month) from 10:45 to 11:45 am. Bathe in the spirit of Shabbat in a warm, friendly setting. Enjoy inspirational stories, discussions, moving prayer and intelligent commentary. After the main service and Musaf, there is a Kiddush luncheon. Intown Jewish Academy, 730 Ponce de Leon Place, NE, 30306. RSVP at www.intownjewishacademy.org/shabbat

Book Festival of the MJCCA July 26, 2022 at 7:30 pm. Daniel Silva, New York Times bestselling author of Portrait of an Unknown Woman: A Novel, in Conversation with Nadia Bilchik, CNN editorial producer, author, and speaker. $40. Become a Patron, Pacesetter, or Sponsor of the Book Festival to receive a complimentary ticket and pre-signed book. Tickets: https://www.showclix.com/event/daniel-silva-portrait

Splish Splash Shabbat July 30 at 12 pm. Bring your little ones for a Kiddush lunch followed by water play at Congregation Etz Chaim. Learn more at www.etzchaim.net/event/splishsplash.

Sojourn’s Drawing from The WellEvery Friday from 12 to 1 pm. SOJOURN, the Southern Jewish Resource Network for Gender and Sexual Diversity, holds a weekly LGBTQ+Jews+Allies Meetup via ZOOM. Gather with an all-inclusive community and connect around the Torah, holidays, and relevant happenings around the world. LINK: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/992253992⁠

CIE’s 21st Annual Educator Workshop From July 24, 2022 at 11 am until July 26, 2022 at 3:30 pm. Sponsored by The Center for Israel Education helps build a comprehensive understanding of modern Israel’s history, politics, economy, and culture with a focus on curriculum enhancement. Get 14 hours of learning over three days. Registration: $150. Register at israeled.org/workshop. Questions? Contact workshop coordinator Heather Waters at heatherwaters@israeled.org.

Working Hard to Have Fun at Camp

By COMMUNITY, Jewish Camp Initiative

By Allyson and Mark Tibor
Our daughter, Rachel, has attended Camp Barney Medintz since she was a rising 3rd grader. There was no two-week session for her, as she was ALL IN from the very beginning. (She was so excited to have a vacation from her brothers!) Camp quickly became her true happy place.

Rachel entered 10th grade last Fall, along with her twin brother. She was returning to school in-person, like so many other kids, after a year and a half of remote learning. Unfortunately, this school year would prove to be very different. The pandemic had taken its toll, and it became evident that she would need extra assistance, and likely also summer school.

Panic began to set in, since her whole world revolves around camp and the friends she’s made there. She was devastated to learn that she might not be able to go. This summer she would be a JIT, which is the last year teens are eligible to be campers. Her friends were all registered and chattering about camp. But our hands were tied—with only a month or so left in school, nobody had any hope that she would pass her classes.

But Rachel became a machine, churning out her work and staying after school. Two weeks before school got out, she had brought up all her grades, and even passed an online course to make up for a science class from the Fall. I had always told her that if she could make it happen, I could make it happen. So now it was my turn.

I kicked it into high gear, much like she had. I made calls, completed paperwork, and prayed. I hoped the donors in our community would want a deserving young girl to have the opportunity to go to camp. Camp Barney was very understanding, supportive, and generous. The Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta’s Jewish Camp Initiative placed the last piece into the puzzle. Though we were very late in making our request, they understood our predicament and played a big role in “making it happen.”

Rachel attended Camp Barney’s first session, making new friends and participating in experiences that she could never have had anywhere else. This was the year for “solo,” in which she had to survive alone for 24 hours. She was so proud of herself for not only surviving but thriving! The confidence she gained from that one activity will surely serve her well in the future. If she could do that, she will have faith in herself, knowing what a strong woman she is becoming.

We are forever grateful to our Jewish community for assisting our child in having this life-changing opportunity. She was truly happy, and it showed in all the photos and letters from camp!

Inside the Allocations Process

By CARING, COMMUNITY, People in Need

By Avery Kastin

I’ve always heard that a gift to Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta supports the entire Jewish community. But what process ensures that those funds are wisely distributed? It seemed so opaque from the outside. It wasn’t until I became a volunteer on Federation’s Allocations Committee that I saw firsthand the incredible work we do.

See how we make allocation decisions.

The scale of our work is vast: Over 60 volunteers plus numerous Federation staff work year-round to identify and evaluate those organizations that will 1) take care of Jews in need and 2) build a stronger Jewish community today and tomorrow. Everyone is committed to the same goal: making informed decisions on how best to allocate the dollars Federation has raised.

The work of our committee is year-round: we have detailed discussions and site visits with partner organizations, address overlooked needs within our community, identify future issues that could impact our neighbors, and study best practices and trends in the Jewish world. Last year, those efforts culminated in our Allocations Committee distributing over $23 million in Jewish philanthropy to over 70 partner organizations!

Yes, the community has entrusted us with an enormous responsibility, but it is also the most wonderful and rewarding volunteer job. We facilitate all the good made possible by our collective Federation dollars. Together we create a more caring, more connected and stronger Jewish Atlanta.

We need your help to further our sacred work. Pease consider joining the Allocations Committee, a pearl of Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta, and help us shape our future together.

Avery Kastin is Vice Chair of the Community Planning and Impact Cabinet

AURA Funding Needs Increase as More Families Arrive in Atlanta

By GLOBAL JEWRY, People in Need

Many Ukrainians are arriving in Atlanta with nothing but the clothes on their backs. They are not eligible for government relief programs and have no access to food stamps, medical intervention, or housing assistance. The need for funds to support them is urgent.

Federation has partnered with Jewish Family & Career Services to launch AURA, a fundraising effort dedicated to helping displaced Ukrainians in metro Atlanta. Federation has set aside an initial $200K from the Emergency Relief Fund to support this vital work, but fundraising will continue to meet anticipated needs. These funds, in coordination with volunteers at Atlanta area synagogues, temples, and other organizations, are currently supporting 56 individuals who have traveled to Atlanta to escape the war in Ukraine.

The Lotner family, members of Congregation Or Hadash, opened their hearts and their home to one Ukrainian family that was lucky enough to escape. Click below to read their story

A Sanctuary for our Children

By COMMUNITY

By Matt Bronfman, Federation Board Chair
It is summer, which for many of us means Jewish summer camp. More than ever, camp is a sanctuary for our children and many of us remember our camp days as some of the happiest and most carefree times of our lives. Federation’s targeted fundraising plays a key role behind the scenes to make sure that camp is accessible, dynamic, and safe for our children.

This summer we have provided over $1M in aid to eliminate financial barriers for over 700 campers. We are on the ground training camp staff to work with children who have disabilities. We also make camps better by providing grants that support inclusion, as well as obtaining and disbursing outside grants. Federation awards Innovation Grants that launch and develop new programs like In the City Camps.

Most importantly, Federation makes sure that camp is safe. We provided additional Covid relief funds to overnight camps to help with testing and other preparations. On the security front, we have trained over 340 overnight staff and provided security assessments for multiple camps. Through your generosity and support, we are providing the infrastructure to make summertime for Jewish Atlanta better. I hope you enjoy your summer!

Yokneam Opens Arms to Ukrainian Olim

By CARING, People in Need

By Eliad Ben Shushan, Israel Partnership Director
Yokneam has welcomed over 100 Ukrainian refuges who escaped from Europe, most of them carrying only a small bag and a lot of fear. I met with some of them, together with Yokneam’s deputy mayor Roman Peres (a native Russian speaker) who is also the leading professional in the municipality responsible for the absorption process.

Roman and other amazing staff and volunteers from Yokneam traveled to the hotels housing these families as they arrived. When I refer to “a family,” I mean mostly mothers and their kids, since the fathers ages 18-60 are not allowed to leave Ukraine and must stay and fight against the Russians. In the hotels they met with the families, listened to them, found out what they needed, invited them to come live in Yokneam, and offered support that some of it is given by the Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta and the Jewish Federation of St. Louis.

As I gather with professionals from the welfare and education departments of the municipality, we talk about their needs, what the municipality and the government can give, and what is the support the federations can provide to make their absorption in Yokneam easier – things like help with summer programs for kids that the mothers will be able to go to work, mental support for kids and moms and coupons they can go independent and buy things they need.

Two months ago, I met with Georgy Chujik, an 88-year-old Holocaust survivor from Ukraine whose home in Kiev was bombed in March. I learned from Roman before the meeting, that Georgy was born in Vinnytsia, Ukraine and his mother got him out right before the Nazis came. After they returned to their home, they realized that no one who remained in Vinnytsia survived. Georgy moved to Ukraine and when this conflict started 8 years ago, his home was destroyed, and he moved to Kyiv. This March his home was bombed by the Russians, and he had to leave. Three times in his life he saw his home destroyed and needed to escape.  Now at 88 he has chosen to come to Israel, and to Yokneam. He said his apartment in Yokneam is where he will stay.

I shared with Georgy the concept of the Partnership and that good people from the other side of the ocean are thinking about him and want to share their support and love. Georgy was moved by it and told me that it brings light to his soul, and he gave me a hug. I really felt like I was hugging a piece of history.

Confessions of a Jewish Gap Year Mom

By GLOBAL JEWRY, JumpSpark

By Robin Rosen
My son Jack was just beginning to find his way socially when COVID hit in March of 2020. He is a fairly reserved kid with a late birthday, so he came to being social later than his peers. Camp had always been where he felt most comfortable socially, but COVID upended everything. It cancelled soccer, the prom, and his summer plan after Junior year to go on the Ramah Israel Seminar.

Just as Jack was applying to colleges online I heard about the JumpSpark gap year scholarship opportunity. I wanted to find a gap year program that was the right fit for him—religious but not too religious, a program where he could learn to make decisions for himself but with supervision. Social, but not a party program, with plenty of travel and experiences with Israeli kids. I wanted him to experience Israel, grow as a young adult, and come back excited to start college and still love being Jewish. After I researched and talked with a dozen different programs, I came to the same conclusion that Jack had all along—Nativ was the right choice.

Once the volumes of paperwork were sent and sent again, we gathered everything on the packing list and tried to fit everything he needed for the year into two duffel bags. Lucky for us, he is a bit of a minimalist, so we managed to fit everything in. I was ready for him to go.

I got asked often, “Aren’t you worried about sending him to Israel?” I wasn’t worried about Israel–I was worried about him making friends, that he got enough to eat, that he would do his laundry. Things have changed a lot since I went to Israel as a student in 1989. There are no more payphones, tokens, or collect calls. Jack had a cell phone with an Israel SIM card and could call or text when he wanted to.

It turned out that once or twice a week was what he wanted—and we were happy to get that! His calls were brief, his texts even shorter, but it was clear he was having a good time and busy. He was staying up late–his phone calls were often at 1:00 am Israeli time. His credit card bills were mostly for food and occasionally a bar tab. Jack figured out how to do his laundry, how to navigate roommates who were as messy as he was, how to navigate the bus system and how to get invited to a friend’s house for Shabbat.

I did worry when he got COVID so far away from home. Turns out that he ended up missing some programming he did not want to attend and played video games for a few days. In every picture that Nativ posted (no social media for my kid), he was smiling and surrounded by friends. I knew he was doing well. About six weeks after he got to Israel, he said to me, “Mom, you were right. I am so glad I am here.”

Mostly, I just missed him. Nine months is a long time to go without seeing your child. COVID prevented me from visiting him. We had a great trip planned but Israel shut their borders to tourists, just a few weeks before our departure.

Jack returned home a bit shaggier, a bit taller, and much more attached to his cell phone. He misses his friends desperately. He is speaking up for himself more, and he is working through his college online orientation without nagging. He set up his summer job and gets himself to work every day. He is much more confident in who he is as a young adult and as an American Jew. Now, I feel like he is ready for college and independent living. I am so grateful that he had this opportunity. It was a gift for him and for us.

To learn more about Gap Year scholarships and programs, contact Susie Mackler, or visit JumpSpark’s Gap Year Page.

ethiopian-jewry

Ethiopia: Where Jews Cling to Hope and Promise

By GLOBAL JEWRY, People in Need

In a trip that inspired a wide range of emotions, Federation board member Michael Kogon visited Ethiopia’s community of devoted Jews in Gondar. He, along with other Jewish leaders from Europe and Canada, were ushered into this remote region nestled beneath the Simeon Mountains, a range Kogon describes as both beautiful and foreboding. Michael Kogon’s account of his journey to Gondor brings you closer than ever to the great need of the Ethiopian Jewish community. Read the moving account of his visit, a true eye-opener.

That thousands of Jews have escaped the area’s abject poverty and famine to make Aliyah to Israel is a wonderful thing. Yet many more Ethiopians yearn to rejoin their family members already in Israel who they have not seen for years as they wait for permission to emigrate. Following his trip, Michael Kogon is spearheading an effort to raise money to support the Ethiopian Jewish community and to help fund flights to their land of promise. Your donations to the Struggle to Save Ethiopian Jewry (SSEJ) Fund will help.