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Online Hebrew Instruction for Unaffiliated Families

By CARING, Jewish Education Collaborative

Atlanta Hebrew Connection is growing! This exciting online program for Hebrew language learning is the product of a partnership between the Jewish Education Collaborative (JEC) and ShalomLearning, a nationally renowned Jewish education organization. What began as a pilot program involving learners from three local synagogues has grown to include six congregations for the upcoming school year. In addition, Atlanta Hebrew Connection will now be open to individual students who are not affiliated with a synagogue or religious school.

Atlanta Hebrew Connection focuses on teaching students to decode Hebrew, learn prayers, and understand their meaning. It offers small classes, flexible scheduling, and excellent instruction right at home. Key components include:

  • Synchronous, small group learning sessions (3-5 students in each)
  • Excellent curriculum and instruction methods
  • Top-quality teachers
  • Social connections among students from different parts of the community
  • Choosing a class time that works best for your family
  • NOT having to battle Atlanta traffic in the middle of the week!

“My son didn’t know Hebrew at all and now when we go to Shabbat services, he shows me all the words he can read. It’s awesome!”

“I love that I don’t have to rush through rush hour traffic. Yay virtual! My son LOVES learning Hebrew, and their teacher is wonderful.”

For more information about Atlanta Hebrew Connection, please contact Rabbi Elana Perry: eperry@jewishatlana.org.

Never Underestimate the Power of Jewish Day Camp

By COMMUNITY, Jewish Camp Initiative

By Melissa Scholten-Gutierrez, 
There is no question that summer is in full swing in Atlanta and summer means day camp for so many of Atlanta’s families. Each summer, approximately 3,000 children will attend Jewish day camps, where they will experience unique joyful Judaism and experiential education which they get to bring home to their families each evening.

“Jewish Day Camp is where my children can be most proudly, happily and authentically themselves,” says Eliana Leader. “They can be joyfully and loudly Jewish, explore their creativity, take chances, and expand their horizons. As a parent I love seeing the connections my kids make with their counselors as cool Jewish role models.”

Another day camp parent shared that they love that their children get to meet kids from a wide array of Jewish backgrounds, while other parents love that the language of Shabbat and kashrut is interwoven throughout the programming.

Jewish Atlanta is blessed to have so many phenomenal day camps to meet the needs of the diversity of our community. We know that the impact goes beyond the summer as these connections continue throughout the year and into the future summers and their families’ collective Jewish journeys.

Meeting the Moment Together

By CARING, COMMUNITY, Eric's Blog

Summer is here and July lies before us with its promise of fun, family, travel, and leisurely light-filled nights. Friends, we have earned it! As Campaign 2022 closes, I am buoyed by the satisfaction of knowing that our Jewish community has again gone above and beyond to meet human needs in Atlanta and around the world.

It wasn’t easy. This year, unanticipated issues hit us relentlessly — the refugee crisis in Ukraine, deadly antisemitic acts in the U.S. and around the world, serious challenges that continue to face us in the aftermath of COVID-19, and the opportunity to reunite Ethiopian Jews with their loved ones in Israel.

None of these issues are “over.” All of them will require ongoing philanthropic support. But there is no denying that in 2022, Jewish Atlanta met the moment! Here are the incredible numbers:

  • The Partners Fund, which supports local, Israel, and overseas needs, is to exceed its ambitious goal of $14.2M.
  • Thousands of you stepped up to raise more than $2.6M supporting the urgent needs of Ukrainian Jews through the Ukraine Emergency Response Fund.
  • Today, as Ukrainian evacuees make their way to safety in metro Atlanta, you continue to support them through Atlanta Ukraine Relief Assistance AURA, in collaboration with our partner, Jewish Family & Career Services.
  • Atlanta Jewish Foundation fundholders sent grants of more than $51.7M to 1,169 grantee organizations. Atlanta Jewish Foundation fundholders directed 80% of their grants to Jewish organizations, and 70% of those dollars stayed local.
  • Funding for special projects in education, mental health, housing for older adults, support for Holocaust survivors, feeding the hungry, responding to antisemitism, and more, added significant revenue to Federation this year.
  • We tallied $23.5M in total philanthropic dollars, which includes direct fundraising, incoming grants, and donor advised funds.

With passion and purpose, Jewish Atlanta demonstrated its ability to pivot, to raise funds, and strengthen our people. I have never been prouder of us. Thank you.

 

Walking In . . . Reflections on My Trip to Ethiopia

By CARING, GLOBAL JEWRY

June 2022
By Michael Kogon

Why am I in Gondor, Ethiopia with Jewish Federation board members, Federation leadership from Europe and Canada, members of the Jewish Agency leadership, and community CEOs? Why is the Jewish Agency bringing us here to this place now?

Newly arrived in Ethiopia, it is still not altogether clear. Yes, I’m sure there is a Jewish family or 10 that want to get to Israel. Dollars are needed to make sure that while we rescue lives in Ukraine, we don’t leave the remnants behind in Ethiopia.

Walking In — I arrive for services bright and early; after a long flight, a long day before, no AC in our hotel, no tv, and no internet. Why? To see the few remaining Jews, to see another place that Jews USED to be, a handful of orphans and some elderly?

Walking In — I cannot believe my eyes, not a handful, not a few dozen, not even a few hundred, but 1,000, 1,500, maybe 2,000 people! Men, women, children, old, young, teenagers, mothers and fathers. There is an ark, a bimah, a mechitzah (partition separating men and women in prayer), tallitot, (prayer shawls), tefillin (small black leather boxes with leather straps containing scrolls with verses from the Torah), prayers that are as familiar as a day school and synagogue prayers. The tune may be different, but words of praise of our G-d hit all of us.

If you want to be in the presence of Zionists who love Israel with their soul, fly to Gondor and sing Hatikvah with Ethiopian Jews who pray with their hearts to one day be allowed to go to Israel, to step foot in the old city, to pray at the Kotel, to kiss the wall!

This is not a dying community. There are more kids here than most of our day schools back home have enrolled. There are more young mothers and fathers attending services and raising Jewish kids here in Gondor than in Sandy Springs, or Dunwoody, John’s Creek, or Intown. This community is working to be more Jewish, and we want to make sure that there is a Jewish Future for them. For a glimpse of a Jewish Community of Tomorrow, Jewish Continuity, look to Gondor.

It is surprising and delightful. Now I get why we are here and why we need to help get this community to the promised land. I am excited now to visit with this community and hear their story and talk about getting to Israel, packing, making plans, and their future in our Promised land.

Walking In…as we enter the courtyard that 8 families share; it hits you!

The poverty, the dirt, the unclean lavatory conditions. The eight one-room “apartments” or “human self-storage bays” — four to eight or more family members living on a shared mattress, footstools for chairs, a single light bulb, no privacy, no cleanliness. What we are seeing is the day-to-day reality for the Community of Waiting in Ethiopia.

5 years, 10 years, 15 and 23 and more — years of waiting and longing and yearning. Not only to be in Israel but wanting, praying to be reunified with parents, siblings, children, cousins, and others that made it out. They are our Jewish family; our Community in Waiting. There are 15,000 – 20,000 left behind Jews, separated Jews, some born after their families had already been separated, others that stayed to care for elderly, sick, or young.

These are the Ethiopian Jews of today. They have been waiting. They do not have reliable work. They are living in poverty. And they want to be reunited with family members in Israel—some they never forget and others that they have never met.

This is why we are here! To help finish the work we have done. To allow mothers to hug their children again. For parents, to see that their children are alive and made it to Israel. To close the hole in thousands of families’ lives.

Atlanta Jews of Color Reflect on Juneteenth

By COMMUNITY

Juneteenth (the 19th of June) commemorates the emancipation of enslaved African Americans, and also is a celebration of African American culture. Originating in Galveston, Texas, it has been celebrated annually on June 19 in various parts of the United States since 1865. This is the second year that Juneteenth is an official federal U.S. holiday.

Atlanta Jews of Color Council will be co-hosting a local hybrid (in-person and Zoom) Juneteenth Celebration on June 17. It will center the voices of Jewish spiritual leaders of Color. All denominations and faiths are welcome to join for this cross community building experience to raise awareness about the multiplicity of Jewish identity. We’ll honor the emancipation of enslaved African Americans in the United States through a Jewish lens. Services will be led by Rabbi Sandra Lawson, Rabbinical student Koach Baruch Frazier, Rabbi Joshua Lesser, and Victoria Raggs.

The in-person event will be held at The Distillery of Modern Art in Chamblee. The virtual event is free, but registration is required at Eventbrite.

We asked several local Jews of Color to reflect on the meaning of Juneteenth.

Jada Garrett is a consultant to Be’chol Lashon, an organization that strengthens Jewish identity by raising awareness about the ethnic, racial and cultural diversity of Jewish identity and experience.

Juneteenth is a reminder that the end of slavery was not about a moment in time but rather about a process of liberation. 157 years later, that process is still ongoing. As Jews who understand the power of the stories of the past, we need to learn from history and remain committed to changing the future.

Dr. Tarece Johnson, EdD serves on the Gwinnett County Board of Education. She is a womanist, entrepreneur, diversity and inclusion expert, poet, artist, author, activist, and advocate. This poem, “Juneteenth,” is from her book #ResilientHope

As we bask in the jubilation of freedom from slavery may we also reflect on the actions we need to take to continue to be FREE.

May we focus inwardly to accept and love ourselves. May we reach outwardly to authentically connect with one another and collaborate to build and maintain strong communities together.

May we deliberately seek to relearn our history to understand our truths and celebrate our contributions to the world. May we honor our ancestors and value our own beauty and glory.

May we reconnect with our motherland and rebirth the spirit of redemptive love, empathetic unity, purposeful peace, and resilient hope.

Victoria Raggs is Co-Founder & Executive Director of Atlanta Jews of Color Council. She is a cultural innovator, global justice strategist and consultant. Victoria also serves on the board of Jewish Family & Career Services.

To me, Juneteenth is a time for rejoicing and a time for our country to reckon with a very painful historical legacy that continues to impact our society today. Gaining a deeper historical analysis around this national holiday is useful for everyone experiencing true equity, justice, and liberation. The Jewish dimension of Juneteenth is that no people exist in isolation. Because our liberation is bound together by our shared humanity, no group is free until we all are free.

18Doors Offers Innovative Wedding Tool

By CARING, COMMUNITY

18Doors helps interfaith couples build confidence in their relationship with Jewish tradition. They have now created a brand new, first-of-its-kind wedding tool and script builder. It is designed specifically for interfaith couples who have chosen to have a friend or family member officiate their wedding ceremony— a growing trend among engaged couples today.

The script builder was actually piloted by 18Doors Atlanta, with a Propel Grant from Federation. After months of research, prototyping and development, it’s now available for free! While this tool will help interfaith couples bring Judaism into their wedding ceremonies and their lives, in Atlanta, 18Doors’ very own Rabbi Malka Packer-Monroe is available to interfaith couples as they plan their weddings and other lifecycle events, and when they seek to engage in Jewish life and community.

SOJOURN Celebrates Pride in Atlanta

By COMMUNITY, INNOVATION

Atlanta is a bit of an outlier when it comes to celebrating national Pride month in June. In Atlanta the Pride parade and related events happen in October. Nevertheless, SOJOURN, Atlanta’s Jewish advocacy organization for LGBTQ+ issues, has two exciting events happening during June for national Pride month.

The first is a special edition of our Words Matter Book Club, which will be reading The Soul of the Stranger by Joy Ladin. Joy will lead a virtual discussion on June 22 at 7:30 PM via Zoom. There will also be a Pride Outside musical celebration. Registration details for both events can be found at www.sojourngsd.org/upcoming-events.

Ben Massell Clinic Offers Lessons for Dentists

By CARING, COMMUNITY, People in Need

The Ben Massell Dental Clinic of JF&CS is the most advanced free dental treatment facility in Georgia. Yes, that’s right – treatment is free. The Clinic changes the lives and smiles of underserved patients in the Atlanta area who otherwise could not afford dental services. They receive top notch care from a caring staff of dental residents and interns, seasoned volunteer dentists and hygienists who are dedicated to serving people in need.

Two of those caring professionals are dental residents, Dr. Poonam Kalaria and Dr. Jean Chien who recently served as volunteers at the clinic. Both women learned that for patients at the Ben Massell Dental Clinic, there are many barriers to receiving quality dental treatment.

“Patients at Ben Massell often reveal that they have been in pain for months or even years, because financial, transportation, language, education barriers have prevented them from getting care,” said Dr. Chien. “From the brief time I have been with Ben Massell, however, I have witnessed the dedication of the staff and volunteers to eliminate these barriers.”

“The clients are unbelievably appreciative of the care we provide,” added Dr. Kalaria. “We treat our patients for more than just the bare minimum. We want to go above and beyond, make dentures, and make sure you like the smile we make you, the color of the teeth, all of that. We understand that teeth are important for self-confidence. We don’t treat teeth like a luxury, but as a basic right.”

Dr. Chien agreed. “The dental volunteers are always extremely supportive in making sure all patients are provided timely and excellent care. The patients may not always see the same volunteer dentist, but they always see the same staff at the front desk and the same dental assistants in the operatories. It is evident that these familiar faces put patients at ease and make the environment at Ben Massell a very pleasant one for clients.”

“On numerous occasions patients confide in us about their struggles to find a job, medical care, or affordable housing,” Dr. Chien said. “As a dental resident at the clinic, I can immediately refer these patients to our team of on-site social workers and help patients find solutions to non-dental problems. It has been amazing to be able to learn from the volunteers as well as Ben Massell’s team of staff about providing compassionate and holistic care to underserved clients.”

“Dr. Kalaria recalled a patient in his 40s, whose life was positively impacted by the Ben Massell Dental Clinic. “He was in a car accident with an 18-wheeler, and he was left for dead on the side of the road,” she said. “His teeth were ruined, he lost his job and his house, and his relationship with his family was strained. It seemed like he had lost everything, including his teeth.

Dr. Kalaria was the resident who took out this patient’s remaining teeth, as none of them were salvageable. “He was fitted and set up with dentures and is set to get his permanent implants soon. Today, Dr. Kalaria said he is an entirely different person. Every time we see him, he is happy, hugging all of us and shedding tears of joy. He calls me his guardian angel, and we all want the best for him.”

Dr. Kalaria graduated from UNC Chapel Hill with a major in economics and served as a risk analyst for seven years before deciding she wanted to switch careers to have more work life balance, and a career that was more meaningful. She eventually settled on going to dental school.”

Dr. Chien comes from a family of those in the healthcare field. Like the rest of her family, she is passionate about healthcare, but she is also an artist. “My search for a career in which I can combine my passion in health care and art landed me in dentistry,” Dr. Chien explained. “To be able to make art that is functional, aesthetic, and comfortable in people’s mouths has been very rewarding!”

The Ben Massell Dental Clinic is always looking for volunteer dentists and hygienists. To learn more about how you can make a difference, like Dr. Chien and Dr. Kalaria, visit www.benmasselldentalclinic.org/volunteer

 

Atlanta: Always Punching Above its Weight

By COMMUNITY

By Matt Bronfman, Federation Board Chair
People always lament that time is going by too fast. I have that same feeling about being the board chair of Federation. It’s only been one year, but the time is zooming by. Honestly, I think I have the coolest, most fun job in Jewish Atlanta, where I’m always meeting great people and helping our community thrive. I love working with you to build a more engaging, welcoming community across our region.

We are a Federation that continually punches above its weight. This year we set a new record for Total Philanthropy at $24M. We saw unprecedented generosity with an outpouring of support for the Ukraine Emergency Fund which raised more than $2.7M in the last two months. And we are known throughout the Federation system as a community dedicated to innovation and being a radically welcoming organization through many initiatives. We are also amplifying the good we do through Atlanta Jewish Foundation. This fiscal year fundholders have authorized more than $45 million in nonprofit grants with over 80% going to Jewish local causes.

Going forward, I am optimistic about setting a $25M goal for the 2023 Community Campaign and continuing to respond to emergencies.

Hadassah’s doctors dispense medicine and expertise

By COMMUNITY, GLOBAL JEWRY, People in Need

After Russian shelling intensified last month and a rocket exploded close to the Zhytomyr home of Nina, 76, she fled for Ukraine’s Polish border. When she arrived several days later after a long trip by car with other Zhytomyr residents, Nina was experiencing severe back pain.

She was directed to the Przemyśl Humanitarian Aid Center, a repurposed shopping mall near the Medyka border crossing in southeastern Poland, where doctors from Jerusalem’s Hadassah Medical Organization, one of Israel’s leading hospitals, have been running the medical clinic since March. There, she received treatment by doctors and Russian- and Ukrainian-speaking nurses who had volunteered to go to Poland as part of Hadassah’s ongoing Ukraine relief effort.

Nina was far from alone.

At what felt like the last possible minute, Elena escaped Kharkiv, Ukraine, with her 13-year-old twins and her autistic 15-year-old son, Daniel, who cannot speak. Janna, 77, who ran from the devastated Ukrainian port city of Mariupol, contracted a severe case of pneumonia during her three-day road trip to Lviv. When Lviv itself came under air attack, the main hospital there discharged Janna and evacuated her to Poland.

All these refugees ended up at Hadassah’s clinic.

“My grandfather’s cousin perished in Bialystok, not far away from where we were,” Rivka Brooks, director of pediatrics at Hadassah’s Mount Scopus campus in Jerusalem, said in an interview from Poland. “Imagine seeing the same Polish scenery and women standing with one suitcase 80 years after the Holocaust, when no one was there for us. You can’t not feel emotional about it.”

Brooks, 52, is among dozens of Hadassah doctors and nurses — both Jews and Arabs — who have volunteered over the last two and a half months for the humanitarian mission, a collaboration among the Hadassah Medical Organization, which operates two hospitals in Jerusalem; the New York-based Hadassah, The Women’s Zionist Organization of America, which is funding the effort; and Hadassah International, the organization’s global fundraising arm.

Dr. Yoram Weiss, acting director-general of the Jerusalem medical center and the person who designed and oversees the Ukraine program, said Hadassah began sending medical teams to the Polish border in early March. Now on its 10th mission, Hadassah already has treated more than 10,000 refugees and plans to maintain its presence in Poland at least through early June.

In addition to running the medical clinic at the Przemyśl refugee center, Hadassah doctors and nurses are treating children at a second refugee center in nearby Korczowa, Poland, and, in partnership with Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders), triaging trauma patients at the border. In addition, Hadassah sent trauma experts to train their Polish counterparts at the Medical University of Lublin, a regional trauma center about 125 miles to the north, in how to handle major traumatic injuries and mass casualty situations.

“Unlike other organizations, our physicians do not come independently, but as a group — four physicians, including two pediatricians, four nurses and an administrator,” Weiss said. “All are volunteers, and sometimes we have more people who want to go than we can accommodate.”

David “Dush” Barashi, Hadassah’s head medical clown, has been one of the medical center’s volunteers, putting sick and often anxious children at ease with his pranks and silliness. It was Dush who noticed a fragile 8-year-old boy and gently convinced him and his mother to come to the clinic, where the boy received a thorough check-up.

“The amount of respect we have gained with the WHO [World Health Organization], Médecins Sans Frontières and the Polish Red Cross is really amazing,” Weiss said. “They look at Hadassah and our impact on treating refugees, and they see us as an example of how things should have been done.”

The Jewish Federations of North America (JFNA) has been supportive. JFNA president Eric Fingerhut visited the Hadassah border clinic and JFNA has given Hadassah two grants to support the humanitarian mission.