Thank you for your suggestions to identify Trustees to serve on the Board of Trustees for Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta. Self-nominations are welcome, but please note that all other nominations are confidential, and those being nominated should not be notified. Notification will occur after the selection process. Nominations are due by February 22.
Ron Lieber is a financial journalist who not only talks the talk, also walks the walk about family philanthropy. His keynote address at last week’s 15th Annual Balser Symposium underscored something many high net-worth families know to be true — raising generous kids cannot be left to chance. It requires real intention to teach and to model philanthropic giving. Too few families know how.
Lieber learned it early. He was a Jewish kid from Chicago whose middle-class family experienced a series of big financial setbacks. His parents divorced. Then, one parent lost their job. Suddenly there wasn’t an adequate income stream to send three children to private school. Fortunately, his private school literally passed the hat to raise tuition assistance for Ron and his siblings. “It was the nicest thing anybody has ever done for me,” he says. When it was time to apply for college, a savvy financial counselor shared tricks and tips that got Ron into Amherst College. That education, in turn, led to a journalism career at the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times. Ron never forgot the people who helped him along the way.
So, when his 3-year-old daughter asked out of the blue, “Daddy, why don’t we have a summer house?” Lieber realized he had work to do.
Kids aren’t born spoiled, Ron Lieber asserts. They’re made that way. Parents can seize teachable moments simply by sharing their own family stories about gratitude. In Lieber’s case it went beyond his own scholarship story. His daughter didn’t know the story of her own grandmother, who helped create a breast cancer research foundation. Or that his wife’s mother was a Holocaust survivor whose family got on its feet in America with help from refugee aid organizations. Those family stories illustrate philanthropy in a deeply personal way. Once she knew that story, Ron’s daughter got up in front of 1,500 people at a charity dinner and made the ask for her grandma’s breast cancer foundation. “She killed it,” he says.
Other tangible techniques Lieber discussed: Create a Generosity Jar for coins where very young children can see money collected and then donate it, preferably in person, to something they care about. Teach philanthropic budgeting with 100 Beans. Tell your kids that each bean equals $100 and show them where and how YOU decide what each charity will receive. Then give them a few beans of their own to allocate to things they care about.
Lieber told of a Jewish day school where parents created a policy that instead of individual bar and bat mitzvah gifts, students put money into a single pot and then decided what charities were deserving. “They pooled $25,000 in the first year,” Lieber said. “Suddenly charities started pitching the kids with grant proposals. They became foundation trustees!”
Start to schedule a formal discussion with your children and grandchildren and introduce them to your philanthropic decision-making process. Let them participate as they mature. Show what you’re giving and why! Lieber’s advice can have profound results and can help create the next generation of givers, right in your own family.
Food and booze are omnipresent in Jewish life, marking most holidays and every Shabbat. How should we, along with Jews in recovery, and their loved ones, approach the ubiquity of alcohol, even when it is part of sanctifying our observances? And with Purim coming, how can we make a holiday where getting drunk is actually encouraged, a safe and holy experience for everyone?
“We definitely need more healthy places for Jews and other people in recovery,” says Marc Pimsler, a founder of Sober Shabbat events in Atlanta. His pivotal moment of commitment to recovery happened in 2004 at Congregation Kol Emeth during the high holy days. Today, with a decade of sobriety under his belt, Marc knows how precarious the road to recovery can be. “I think a lot about the challenges of leading a sober Jewish life. Purim is the holiday that exemplifies the addict’s dilemma. It’s all about hiding, putting on a show. My substance abuse was a kind of pageantry, finding a way to numb myself, take away the pain by creating a disguise. Like Esther, I was hiding my authentic self.”
Rabbi Malka Packer-Monroe, Director of InterfaithFamily Atlanta, and Mandy Wright, Program Manager of JF&CS’s HAMSA program (Helping Atlantans Manage Substance Abuse), have been partnering to create sober spiritual options. Rabbi Packer-Monroe speaks to the special challenges of Purim: “According to Jewish law, those who identify as Jewish are supposed to become so inebriated on Purim that they don’t know the difference between Mordechai and Haman. There is a teaching that we are to get so drunk that we experience everything as G-d. Good and evil are both part of G-d’s world and we should experience them as one.”
“The irony is that for people in recovery from addiction, it is drinking and drugging and using other substances that blocks them from their connection to a Higher Power. Using substances was their way to check out and not be present with the “Mystery.” One way to the Source of Life for many people is through quiet meditation and spiritual community. We’re creating places for Jews and their loved ones to celebrate in spaces where there is no alcohol. We would like to support Jewish organizations and institutions who are hosting Sober Purim experiences for adults.”
Taking their lead from InterfaithFamily and HAMSA, more and more organizations in Jewish Atlanta are adjusting their practices. This year’s Purim Off Ponce event will not be fully dry, but there will be a signature non-alcoholic drink served, crafted by a mixologist who caters to sober events. Other Jewish events are featuring “mocktails” and other alcohol-free options. There have been national Birthright Israel trips for people in recovery. It’s also possible to host a virtual sober shabbat through OneTable Atlanta and OneTable offers a guide to creating a OneTable sober Shabbat.
HAMSA’s Mandy Wright says, “We want to push our community to shift the culture around drinking by offering fun, appealing, non-alcoholic alternatives either in place of, or in conjunction with, the traditional alcoholic offerings at fundraisers, celebrations, and more.”
“And remember, the word ‘sober’ doesn’t just refer to alcohol. Sobriety is for all people in recovery, whether from trauma, abuse, mental illness, or substance abuse. For years I thanked G-d for alcohol and drugs. They saved me from killing myself. But now, I’m married and in the first healthy relationship of my life. My husband Ashley is a Christian whose depth of spirit is amazing. He re-inspires me every day to cherish Judaism and stay on a healthy path.” says Marc Pimsler.
Despite the pandemic, the 2021 MLK Weekend of Jewish Service and Learning, planned and organized by Repair the World Atlanta, had a terrific turnout, exceeding all expectations. Our community accomplished so much together! See our impact!
Lily Brent, Executive Director of Repair the World Atlanta, said, “You joined us in reimagining service in the context of a global pandemic by volunteering and learning from the comfort of your home or masked-up from six feet away. All of us at Repair the World Atlanta are so gratified to see the engagement from the community. We are so grateful to the partners and committee members who shared their knowledge and experience to make this possible.”
Repair’s first annual Jewish Racial Justice Learn-In was also successful, engaging 201 participants across all the events. You can find all three Learn-In program recordings here and copies of the presentations here.
In the Talmud, Eruvin 54b, states, “Rabbi Perida had a certain student whom he would have to teach four hundred times, and only then would he learn the material, as he was incapable of understanding it otherwise.” One day this student was particularly distracted, and Rabbi Perida said, “Pay attention this time and I will teach you and know that I will not leave until you have fully mastered the lesson.” He taught him again an additional four hundred times.
Even in the times of the Talmud, meeting the needs of individuals with diverse abilities was not a new idea. But what Rabbi Perida did for his students was new. Rabbi Perida prioritized relationship-building. He was trying to learn his students’ learning styles to better understand what impacted their learning. Although this piece of Talmud does not explain what this student’s learning style was, it demonstrates that Rabbi Perida took the time and energy to create a norm of patience with this student’s learning.
Much like Rabbi Perida, Jewish educators have the daunting role of determining what may be impacting each student’s learning — whether physical, social-emotional, or other. Now, with the unprecedented impacts of a pandemic and virtual engagement, it is more important than ever for educators to understand the intricacies of each student’s learning.
According to a 2015 national survey about inclusion challenges and solutions conducted by Erin Barton and Barbara Smith, an educator’s attitude is often one the greatest roadblocks to creating an inclusive culture and space. One of the most impactful strategies of overcoming attitudinal barriers is through continuing education and training.
The Jewish Abilities Alliance (JAA) provides exactly this: training in disability sensitivity and awareness, educational support and resources, and assistance in developing strategies to support students of all abilities. These trainings are available to all Atlanta Jewish organizations at no cost and are appropriate for all ages. This year JAA is continuing to grow our community trainings by adapting curriculum to reflect our new virtual learning reality. We are able to offer Bright from the Start certified trainings, which allow preschool teachers to receive state-required continuing education credits. And we have provided trainings to larger, more diverse audiences in Jewish Atlanta than ever before.
I am so proud to be part of a community that, even during a pandemic, understands the importance of inclusive teaching and seeks to create a more inclusive Jewish Atlanta.
If your synagogue, school, or Jewish organization would like to learn more about our sensitivity and awareness trainings, educational resources, or support in inclusive best practices, please contact Lisa Houben, Community Training and Inclusion Coordinator.
In 1939, shortly after Kristallnacht, 19-year-old Frances Bertha Hamburger escaped Germany and eventually made it to Atlanta. The Jewish community here helped her connect with other European Jewish immigrants. A few years later, she met Walter Bunzl and three months later they were married. The family never forgot the support of the Atlanta Jewish community and now, the Frances Bunzl Family Trust will disburse an approximately $5.6MM gift in equal shares to Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta and Jewish Family & Career Services of Atlanta (JF&CS). It is the largest endowed gift in both Federation and JF&CS’s history.
“Frances was a visionary and a pioneer in communal service. Her personal experience as a lay leader inspired her desire to make a lasting imprint on our community,” noted Beth A. Warner, Federation’s Chief Philanthropy Officer. “This gift was many years in the making. Federation professionals and communal leaders met with Frances to discuss community priorities and goals to help her create a legacy that reflected her life-long philanthropic passions,” she explained.
At Federation, the endowed funds will be directed for three initiatives. This includes funding the lead fundraising professional for the organization – the Frances Bunzl Chief Philanthropy Officer – the first time a Federation position has been endowed; the creation of the Frances and Walter Bunzl Perpetual Annual Campaign Endowment (PACE), which will ensure a major gift to Federation’s annual community campaign in perpetuity; and funding the Frances Bunzl NextGen initiative to support Jewish journeys for the next generation of Jewish community leaders. “It is also our hope that this endowment will inspire others to consider gifts of this magnitude and impact,” said Warner.
Generosity has always been a core value for the Bunzl family.
“Throughout her life, my mother spoke of growing up in a family (both in Germany and here in Atlanta) that was focused on helping others,” said Suzy Wilner. “We believe her gifts to Federation and JF&CS will continue that legacy.”
Jeff Alperin, Chair of the JF&CS Board commented, “This gift increases the JF&CS Foundation by 50%. This will have a direct impact on the agency’s ability to serve the needs of the Atlanta community. We are honored to receive this gift and will make sure these dollars are used to deliver the greatest impact.”
At JF&CS, the generosity of Frances Bunzl will live on in perpetuity through its continued support of the nonsectarian agency’s operations. In honor of this generous gift, JF&CS will name its Clinical Service practice, ‘The Frances Bunzl Clinical Services.’ This service area provides mental health support for people of all ages and from all walks of life, offering both individual and group therapies across a broad spectrum of issues. “Naming this practice for the late Frances Bunzl honors the tremendous impact her gift will have on the health and well-being of our community,” said Chief Development Officer, Amanda La Kier.
JF&CS CEO, Terri Bonoff said, “The challenges of the past year underscore the importance of planning for the unknown and ensuring vibrant Jewish life for generations to come. Choosing to spotlight the importance of mental health support by naming this service area in Frances Bunzl’s honor reflects the deep commitment JF&CS has to providing best-in-class support for the health and well-being of this community. Legacy gifts such as this one support Jewish Atlanta long into the future.”
“This gift is indicative of the generosity we hope to inspire as part of our LIFE & LEGACY initiative, in which participating organizations embark on a legacy building program benefiting the entire Jewish community,” said Federation President and CEO, Eric Robbins.
In the first two years of this four-year program, more than 270 local donors have made legacy commitments which will support Atlanta’s Jewish community with more than $23.3 million in future gifts. Worldwide, the LIFE & LEGACY program has motivated more than 17,000 donors in 63 communities across North America to commit more than a billion dollars in current as well as after-lifetime assets to the Jewish organizations which shaped their lives. For those interested in creating a legacy for the Jewish community, contact the Atlanta Jewish Foundation at firstname.lastname@example.org or www.atlantajewishfoundation.org.
Photo courtesy of the William Breman Jewish Heritage Museum.
We are very proud to announce that Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta has been selected to be part of a national grant that expands national capacity to provide Person-Centered, Trauma Informed (PCTI) care to Holocaust survivors, other older adults with a history of trauma, and their family caregivers. Atlanta was one of just 10 Federations invited to apply for funding.
Rich Walter, Federation’s VP of Programs and Grantmaking said, “Supporting Holocaust survivors and other victims of trauma has never been more necessary than during the current pandemic. This grant will enable us to not only provide crucial support to these populations but to their caregivers as well. It builds on the great work being done in our community through Holocaust Survivor Support Fund, led by Cherie Aviv, and AgeWell Atlanta as we continue to put forward a coordinated model of care and support.”
The grant offers the opportunity for invited Jewish Federations to:
• Serve more Holocaust survivors
• Develop new partnerships with agencies that work with traumatized older populations and their family caregivers
• Facilitate and foster the innovation and expansion of PCTI services
• Share promising practices in community-building and PCTI care on a national level
The 21st edition of the Atlanta Jewish Film Festival (AJFF) will be a hybrid event running for 12 days, Feb. 17-28, 2021. With audience safety and comfort in mind, AJFF has reimagined the festival experience to combine at-home virtual screenings with select drive-in movies, and expanded conversation with filmmakers and special guests.
“It’s gratifying to see that despite the pandemic, the pipeline of new films on Jewish themes is as strong as ever,” says AJFF Executive Director Kenny Blank. “Cinematic stories feed the soul at a time when we need to reignite our shared sense of humanity. We have gone to extraordinary lengths to ensure the core tenets of the festival – community, representation, storytelling, and experience – are preserved in our 2021 hybrid edition. We look forward to being ‘together through film’ in February, our motto for these COVID times.”
The 2021 AJFF film lineup, which goes live today, will include over 30 narrative and documentary features plus short film offerings, representing a diversity of genres and subjects. One very special film is Atlanta: A City Too Busy to Wait, created by three young Jewish Atlantans, Adam Hirsch, Jacob Ross, and Gabby Spatt. It documents how the Atlanta Jewish community responded to the complex challenges caused by the COVID-19 crisis with unprecedented generosity, creativity, selflessness, and collaboration, and was funded with support from a Propel Grant from Federation Innovation and AJFF’s new Filmmaker Fund.
Audiences will be able to view films from a smart TV, home theater, computer, tablet, or other mobile device. Thanks to an exclusive partnership with Mercedes-Benz Stadium, AJFF will also offer a limited number of drive-in screenings in the 11-acre The Home Depot Backyard greenspace, for a physically distanced but shared moviegoing experience.
AJFF 2021 will offer community conversation with enhanced guest programming, including speaker introductions and extensive Q&A panels that further explore the themes and topics presented onscreen.
Robin Sysler likes to say she has “a Federation heart.” “I was trained by the best of the best in the Greater Metro West Federation,” she says with pride. “From my college field placement with JESNA, the former Jewish education agency, to getting a Federation scholarship for my master’s degree in social work at the Wurzweiler school, Federation has been a huge influence. Learning from the professionals at Federation informs how I think about programs, how I see the big picture, and how I reach out to engage people.”
Robin was an active leader in Federation up north, and though she’s been in Atlanta for less than two years, her “Federation heart” kicked in immediately. Before officially moving here, a passion for Holocaust education led Robin to become a docent at The Breman Museum. It’s work she had done previously with the Holocaust Council of Greater Metro West. There she helped write Holocaust exhibition materials and gave talks and tours to groups of all ages.
Federation connections deepened when Robin went on the Women’s Philanthropy mission to Cuba. “I had been to Cuba before and understood the issues. It was the friendships we forged that were so powerful.” Poised to become the next president of Women’s Philanthropy, Robin reflects, “My passion for Federation is being hands-on, and seeing what we can do together. I want to diversify our membership and increase involvement in a significant, tangible way. I want every woman to experience the warm welcome Atlanta gave to me.”
Last week’s Propel Pitch was fast-paced and fun! With a lively virtual audience of over 225 people to cheer them on, these five current Propel grantees moved into the final round competing for the top prizes of $35K, $25K, and $20K: AgeWell Atlanta, Be’chol Lashon, OneTable Atlanta, Jewish Fertility Foundation, and Tikkun Olam Makers (TOM).
“Our panel of prestigious judges asked their organization’s representatives tough questions about their impact, leadership, plans for scale, and more.” The stakes grew higher as AgeWell Atlanta, JFF, and TOM moved to the top three.
Then BOOM! A panel of stellardeclared Georgia Tech’s Tikkun Olam Makers the first- place winner, followed by Jewish Fertility Foundation in second place, and AgeWell Atlanta in third. Learn more about all the competitors and see their presentation videos here.
Georgia Tech’s TOM, which stands for Tikkun Olam Makers, is part of a global movement that is bringing together people with disabilities (known as “Need Knowers”) and people with creative abilities (known as “Makers”). TOM’s mission is to develop open-source assistive technology to address the everyday challenges faced by people with disabilities.
The TOM movement started in Israel with a mission to serve 250 of the most neglected members of society — the elderly, people with disabilities, and the poor. At Georgia Tech, there are currently 10 projects in development. This new infusion of funding will help TOM scale up its team at Tech, and establish new teams on other Georgia campuses.
Georgia Tech’s TOM team is supported by Hillels of Georgia and has established partnerships with JF&CS,Camp Twin Lakes, and Jewish Abilities Alliance of Atlanta.You can see this talented TOM team in action at their upcoming Make-A-Thon, March 12-13, 2021 where student prototypes will be on display.