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Because Of You, Local Black & Jewish College Students Are Coming Together

By Atlanta Jewish Community

Jewish and Black communities have interwoven histories, values, and experiences in the United States that many don’t realize. The friendship between Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. and Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel is a shining example of how two individuals, despite their differences, came together and used their shared values to fight for equality. However, over the past several decades, the once-strong bond between the two communities that combated antisemitism and racism has faded. That’s why Dr. John Eaves decided to change that.

“It’s time to rekindle the relationship that Blacks and Jews have historically had,” said Dr. Eaves, who is a college professor, former political figure, and is both Black and Jewish himself.

Thanks to a 3-year Innovation grant, Dr. Eaves was able to establish Black and Jewish Leaders of Tomorrow, a grassroots initiative on a mission to bring together Black students from historically black colleges and universities and Jewish students from predominantly white colleges and universities. The goal is simple but powerful: bring them together for open dialogue about their experiences, perceptions, and commonalities so that they can break down barriers, find common ground, and build relationships that would likely never happen otherwise.

“I am interested in participating in this leadership forum because I believe that African Americans and Jewish people have a shared history of oppression, discrimination, and a goal of pursuing justice. Both communities have faced racism and prejudice where discussions in a forum like this can bridge connections and allow for conversations to take place,” said Mya, a student at Spelman College.

These gatherings take place in various settings, but the first event was a Unity Dinner which was funded by Federation’s Gather Grants. Thanks to the Innovation Fund, the nonprofit has been able to gain momentum and exposure, host more events, and is soon expanding its Unity Dinners to 20 cities across the United States.

“There is a cultivation of curiosity to learn more about each other,” said Dr. Eaves. “We are more alike than different.”

Inside Victoria’s Federation Mission to Argentina & Uruguay

By Missions

Atlanta’s Victoria Kimerling Oliphant recently traveled to Argentina and Uruguay on National Young Leadership Cabinet’s Study Mission. Cabinet is the premier leadership training program of the Jewish philanthropic community. Grounded in Jewish values, this program engages current and future global leaders and philanthropists through education, connection, and inspiration. Here is Victoria’s reflection.

Atlanta’s Victoria Kimerling Oliphant recently traveled to Argentina and Uruguay on the National Young Leadership Cabinet’s Study Mission. Cabinet is the premier leadership training program of the Jewish philanthropic community. Grounded in Jewish values, this program engages current and future global leaders and philanthropists through education, connection, and inspiration. Here is Victoria’s reflection:

“I recently returned from the Jewish Federation of North America’s National Young Leadership Cabinet Study Mission to Argentina & Uruguay. I, along with 180 other young leaders from across the US & Canada, had the opportunity to visit with the local Jewish communities in Buenos Aires and Montevideo and see the impact of our Federation dollars in action.

Through the Federation’s core Israel & Overseas partners – the Joint Distribution Committee (JDC), the Jewish Agency for Israel, and ORT – the money that we give to Federation is having an incredible impact on the lives of Jews throughout the world.

In Argentina, we volunteered at the Tzedakah Foundation, a JDC partner organization that helps thousands of vulnerable Argentinian Jews who are struggling economically. We visited the ORT Almagro school, where the next generation of Argentinian Jews receives state-of-the-art STEAM education coupled with Jewish cultural & religious education, fostering a strong sense of identity and community among its students. We participated in an incredibly meaningful Aliyah ceremony for a group of Argentinians who are fulfilling their life-long dream of moving to Israel with the help of the Jewish Agency.

At a time when antisemitism is on the rise and many Jews around the world are scared to openly express their Jewish identity, it can be easy to feel worried about the future of Israel and the future of the Jewish people. But this Study Mission gave me hope.

Seeing the work that we’re able to accomplish together as part of the Federation system, work that would be impossible for the Atlanta Jewish community, or any one Jewish community, to do on its own, reminded me of our unique power as a collective to truly make a difference in the lives of Jews in Israel & around the world.

I’m currently a 5th year on the National Young Leadership Cabinet, having joined in August of 2019. Despite part of my tenure being disrupted due to COVID, it has been the experience of a lifetime.

National Young Leadership Cabinet, or “Cabinet” as we call it, is a 5-year leadership development program for people in their 30s and 40s. Cabinet is the premiere leadership development pipeline in the North American Jewish community that gives young leaders the chance to hone their leadership skills, deepen their knowledge of & connection to the work that Federation does, and build a network of other Jewish leaders & friends that they’ll be connected to long after the program ends.

Through my Cabinet experience thus far, I’ve traveled to Toronto, Mexico City, Israel, Latvia, Hungary, Argentina and Uruguay, not to mention many cities across the United States.

It’s hard to put the impact that Cabinet has had on me into words. Every time I leave a Cabinet experience, I feel more inspired and more connected to the global Jewish community. Even though our Federations are different sizes and our communities may be facing different challenges, every member of the Cabinet is dedicated to building a thriving Jewish future, for their own local communities and for Jews around the world.

Since October 7, Jews have been struggling, facing some of the darkest times many of us can remember. As we head into Yom Ha’Atzmaut, celebrating 76 years of a Jewish state in our ancestral homeland, I remind myself that Jewish pride will always win out over hatred of Jews. To paraphrase Israeli activist Hen Mazzig, “We will love being Jewish 10 times more than anyone hates us for it.”

I feel hopeful being a part of the passionate group that is the National Young Leadership Cabinet, knowing that there are other, like-minded leaders who love being Jewish, and who are proud to stand up for Israel and the global Jewish community.”

Winter Gather Grants Highlights

By Gather Grants

Check out these highlights from the previous Gather Grants cycle!
Summer Gather Grants open on June 1st.

MLK Day of Service

Nurture Atlanta recently hosted a special MLK Family Day of Service at The Davis Academy, joined by various organizations including Repair the World, PJ Library, The Epstein School, several local Jewish preschools and more, showcasing the vibrant Jewish community in Atlanta. Over 110 families, totaling 300 individuals, participated in acts of kindness, emphasizing the significance of mitzvahs to preschoolers. From assembling snack bags to creating toy packs, the children experienced the joy of a Mitzvah through fun, interactive activities. This event not only addressed a need for hands-on service opportunities for young children but also fostered a sense of unity and giving back within the community. Tamar Levy, founder of That Peach Mommy and a PJ Library parent connector, expressed her gratitude for the collaborative effort, envisioning a future where such meaningful days continue to inspire families. Organizers, thrilled by the success, credited the support of partners like the Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta for the event’s expansion and success. 

“I was so grateful to be able to spend our morning with the Atlanta Jewish community. As a mom, former educator, and someone who plays an active role in our Jewish community, I was proud to see everyone come together for this meaningful day. At one point, I stood in the Davis Academy gym and looked around. There were young families everywhere. Smiling, happy to help and working together to give back to those in need. I look forward to participating in this day in the future with my two girls.”

Senior Israel Rallies

The events were two Rallies for Israel and the IDF Soldiers at Berman Commons in Dunwoody and the William Breman Jewish Home. The events were designed to engage the residents of the two Jewish senior living communities with a sense of empowerment by providing several activities that would impact the daily lives of our IDF soldiers. The rallies kicked off with a two speakers, our Jewish Federation speaker, Lior Fridman, spoke and gave us a glimpse of how daily life has changed for everyone living in Israel and Rabbi Mark Kunis spoke inspirationally on how to be strong in supporting Israel in these troubling times. We set up a photo booth where the seniors could take a photo messages to send to the soldiers as well as a thank you card station to send to the soldiers. We had a care package station where everyone packed a ‘hygiene kit’ and a virtual reality (VR) station where seniors could take a virtual tour of Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. Finally we had a refreshment station serving cake and cookies.

“The Israel rallies sparked pride and love of Israel, and the interactive nature gave the residents tangible ways to get involved, support Israel and positively impact the lives of the IDF soldiers.” – Mirie Manzour, Volunteer Services Manager at Jewish Home Life

Gathering is Great

Federation’s Gather Grants continue to spread love and community throughout Greater Atlanta. A host reported this sweet reflection from the program she hosted.

“We hosted a Love Shabbat and it was so sweet! My mom made a pink challah and everyone received a handwritten love note and after we welcomed shabbat we had a little affirmation circle and the house was filled with love and Jewish joy! The kids played games and the adults laughed and relaxed. One family couldn’t make it due to sickness, but we FaceTimed them and sent them our healing energy and love. One friend shared that she loved witnessing and partaking in Jewish rituals and traditions, and it made her feel so good and included. She also shared that she is encouraged to make Shabbat at her own home and realized that there’s no real rules for making shabbat and welcoming some rest and reflection. I loved opening our home to friends, old and new and sharing experiences with our interfaith friends too!” – Molly Levine Hunt – Gather Grant Host

A participant shared “I loved getting together with neighbors and seeing young people of all ages enjoying themselves and taking part in celebrating Jewish holidays.” – GG participant

Hosting Shabbat

“It was delightful; thank you for making it possible! We hosted three different families that we have never had for Shabbat. They attend multiple synagogues, and all had children in different age brackets. I created a tour of Asia for them (since only Chinese is available kosher in the Atlanta area). I featured food from Japan, Korea, China, and Thailand. It was delightful to see new friendships made among people who were technically nearly neighbors but complete strangers. There also was a fantastic speaker at our shul that day, Dr Frier, speaking on ‘What your children want you to know.’ I invited everyone to come beforehand, and we discussed it over lunch.” – Rachel Linkwald, Gather Grant Host

Seed Shabbat

“I hosted what I called Seed Time Shabbat! 16 families joined the event. The families came throughout the day on Shabbat. I had all the supplies including seeds, soil and containers for people to plant for their summer garden. I connected planting to Jewish learning and engaged families in the process. I made homemade bagels and served food that came from my garden. Including eggs from my chickens and honey on challah from my bees. Many families enjoyed being able to hang out throughout the day and also connect to the land.” -Amy, a Gather Grant Recipient

Spreading Jewish Joy at the PJ Library National Conference

By PJ Library Atlanta

More than 3,600 families in Greater Atlanta share the love of Jewish life, learning and culture with their children thanks to the PJ Library program. Books, programs, activities, and gatherings make it possible for children ages 0-12 to learn and get excited about being Jewish thanks to the program. Each year, professionals that work on the PJ program gather from around the world for networking, education, and inspiration.

The theme of this year’s conference was “joy”. Participants experienced two days of ideas, activities, and inspiration for how to bring “joy” to life for Jewish families,  including presentations by three members of our team. Our community’s PJ professional, parent connectors, marketers, and other staff, returned home with fresh ideas, best practices, and excitement for all the ways they now can spread joy through Jewish values within the Atlanta community.

“As a parent and Jewish communal professional, finding Jewish joy and celebrating the gift that is PJ Library with my colleagues and new friends was incredible for my well-being in this moment. Sometimes we forget how important it is to find joy in times of crisis.” – Ali White, Federation professional
If you have a child ages 0-12 and would like to learn more or sign up for this FREE program, CLICK HERE. You can also make a gift to PJ Library HERE.

Important Update on Federation Leadership

By Atlanta Jewish Community, Atlanta Jewish Foundation, Federation News

Eric Robbins, who has served as the CEO of the Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta for eight years, has announced his resignation and will be stepping down. Eric has graciously agreed to stay on board through June 30th to support a smooth transition and will continue as an advisor to Federation as needed.

Eric has many notable accomplishments but more than anything, he has brought the Atlanta Jewish community together like never before. He has been a leader in the Jewish community through an extremely challenging past five years managing the organization through world events including the Pittsburgh Tree of Life Shooting, COVID-19, the war in Ukraine, and most recently, the massacre of October 7 and the ongoing war in Israel. We are grateful for Eric’s leadership through these unprecedented challenges.

The Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta has been the philanthropic heart and soul of the Atlanta Jewish community for more than a century. A committee led by Debbie Kuniansky, Matt Bronfman, and other regional leaders will soon commence a national search for a permanent CEO who will help innovate and accelerate our mission and vision and help to build the infrastructure needed for a thriving Atlanta Jewish Community for the next 100 years.

In the coming weeks, we will connect with all community stakeholders to answer questions, discuss any needed transition plans, and more.

Beth Arogeti, Board Chair, Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta

Because Of You, 22 Israeli Children & Their Families Found Refuge at The Epstein School

By Atlanta Jewish Community, Atlanta Jewish Foundation

“We’ve never done this before, but that’s what you do as a Jewish organization. You jump in and help.”

After October 7th, dozens of Israeli families fled to Atlanta, some of whom had connections here and some who didn’t know a soul.

Many were able to come thanks to a local Chabad initiative that funded flights and arranged homestays for these families. But when it came to providing a safe and welcoming Jewish educational environment, it was Federation that stepped up to supplement the tuition and security so that 22 Israeli children could attend Epstein for the entirety of their stay.

Because of this, Epstein is one of the top schools in the country to absorb such a large number of Israeli kids in this short period.

From Pre-K to 8th grade, Epstein welcomed these children and their families with open arms, ensuring that they had what they needed to feel at home. One of the many things they did was bring in extra Hebrew-speaking teachers and support staff to help with translating, which was especially important for the younger children.

They also rallied their parent community to ensure that these Israeli families always had an invitation to Shabbat dinner, a holiday gathering, or a birthday party, and that children could participate in extracurricular activities like basketball. In every way, these families became a part of the Epstein ecosystem and developed relationships that will carry them forward for years to come.

“We got just as much out of this experience as the Israelis did,” said Dr. David Abusch-Magder, Head of School at the Epstein School.

Dr. D explained that, for some Epstein students and their parents, this was their first time connecting with native Israelis who were affected by the events of October 7th and the war that has followed. Epstein became a space for understanding, compassion, and friendship that would have never blossomed otherwise. While the circumstances are very unfortunate, many Epstein families now have a very personal connection to Israel that they did not have prior to October 7th.

“Epstein and Federation were able to do this together,” said Dr. D. “As Jews, we take care of one another.”

From the Epstein community and all of us at Federation: Thank you.

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