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Because Of You, Ali Found Jewish Connection For Her & Her Family

By Atlanta Jewish Community

I am a wife and mother to a 4-year-old, currently residing in Atlanta but originally from South Florida. When I first moved to town, I encountered numerous challenges such as the absence of Jewish friends, a synagogue, or a strong Jewish identity.

But when I met my husband (who is not Jewish), things changed. Together, we have cultivated a thriving interfaith life filled with traditions and a close-knit group of interfaith friends thanks to initiatives funded by Federation.

Honeymoon Israel was instrumental in helping me find my community. In 2018, my husband and I traveled to Israel, an experience that proved to be transformational for both our lives and our marriage.

Shortly after our return, we welcomed our son into the world, and I became a PJ Library mom. Due to the constraints of COVID-19, we were confined to our home, making the monthly book deliveries from PJ Library our son’s first exposure to Judaism.

Now, we incorporate various elements of Jewish tradition into our lives. We use Honeymoon Israel candle holders to recite blessings together on Friday nights, and my husband has adopted his favorite Honeymoon Israel challah recipe and cover. Recently, my son joined me in services with Ma’alot, and he has formed incredible friendships through community events and neighborhood groups.

I am immensely grateful for the programs supported by Federation in our community. My love for Atlanta runs deep, and I am thrilled to have the opportunity to give back through my work in my new professional role at Federation. I aspire to provide support to another families in the same way that Federation supported me.

From Ali and all of us at Federation: Thank you.

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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Women’s History Month with Beth Weiller Arogeti

By Atlanta Jewish Community, Federation News

March is Women’s History Month and we couldn’t miss the opportunity to highlight a woman who has shaped, inspired, and led our Federation community, Beth Weiller Arogeti, the Chair of the Board of Trustees at the Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta. We asked her to share with us her journey, advice, and wisdom.

Rooted in a familial connection to the Atlanta Jewish community since the mid-1860s, Beth, a fifth-generation Atlantan, grew up at The Temple and was involved in community service through organizations like the Councilettes.  We asked her the following questions for Women’s History Month.

What inspired you to volunteer as Chair of the Board of Trustees at the Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta, and how has your journey led you to that position? 

The Atlanta Jewish community has been here for me and my family since the mid-1860s. As a fifth-generation Atlantan, my journey mirrors that of others who have held the role of Board Chair, albeit with some unique aspects. Growing up in Atlanta, my family attended The Temple, where I was confirmed in 1970 from the Sunday School and became a part of the Temple Youth Group, marking my initiation into community service. As a teenager, I joined Councilettes, the junior division of the National Council of Jewish Women, laying the foundation for years of volunteering in the community.

Since my early teens, the Federation has been a priority for my family. I had an exceptional role model in my mother, Margaret Strauss Weiller, who worked for the Women’s Division (now Women’s Philanthropy). Following in her footsteps, I’ve volunteered in various roles within the Federation organization, serving as President, Chair of Women’s Philanthropy, and Chair and Vice-Chair of our Community Campaign.

Can you share a significant achievement or project that you are particularly proud of during your time as a Federation community member? 

As a Jewish woman, I believe that the simple act of one Jew asking another Jew to help a third makes you a leader. This philosophy has attracted many wonderful people to our organization, turning them into leaders and stakeholders. The difference between being a leader or staying on the sidelines often lies in the act of asking.

Who are some women that have influenced or inspired you in your Federation journey, and how have they impacted your approach to leadership? 

My mother, Margaret Strauss Weiller, remains the most influential woman in my lifetime, leading by example. Her friends, Marilyn Shubin and Lois Blonder, along with my friend, Viki Freeman, have served as role models and mentors, guiding and supporting me in my community endeavors. Additionally, the five women who preceded me as Board Chairs—Betty Ann Jacobson, Carol Cooper, Linda Selig, Lisa Galanti, and Lori Kagen Schwarz—have also been significant role models.

Has anything else inspired you on your leadership journey? 

Seeing my children, Michelle and Ian Stribling, Jonathan and Sarah, involved in our Jewish community each in their own way is inspiration for me to continue trying to make this community the best that it can be for generations to come.  Now with the recent addition of 3 grandchildren being raised here in Atlanta, I feel more driven to work harder so all young people can have a wonderful upbringing in this wonderful city.  Also, I recently discovered fascinating information about my great-grandfather, Joseph Hirsch, on my mother’s side.  He came from Gimbheim, Germany, a small town between Frankfurt A/M and Darmstadt, and served as the first President of the Hebrew Orphans’ Home in 1914. This revelation reinforced my sense of destiny in being a leader in this community.

As a successful woman, what advice do you have for other women aspiring to leadership roles within the Jewish Federation or similar organizations? 

My advice for those aspiring to leadership roles is to take advantage of all the opportunities the community offers. Be curious, ask questions, and find something that excites you. The journey is more enjoyable when shared with a friend.

Beth Arogeti’s leadership journey is a testament to her enduring commitment to our community, her strong familial legacy, and her love for Jewish life. From her roots in the Atlanta Jewish community to pivotal roles within Federation, Beth exemplifies the power of leadership grounded in a passion for service and a deep understanding of community needs. We hope that this narrative encourages the future generation of female leaders, especially during Women’s History Month, when we reflect on the contributions of women in the past and present.

Innovation Initiative and Jewish Abilities Atlanta Team Up

By Atlanta Jewish Community, Federation Innovation, Jewish Abilities Atlanta

Jewish Atlanta’s growth and development depend on our ability to address the ever-changing needs of our community with creativity, foresight, and courage. Federation’s Jewish Innovation Initiative offers local changemakers the opportunity to expand the dynamic ecosystem of our city and brings exciting global ventures into Atlanta. One such program is Tikkun Olam Makers (TOM), a global movement of communities that create and disseminate affordable solutions that address the challenges faced by people with disabilities, older adults, and more. Teams of volunteer “makers” join those who have identified a need in the disability community to create concepts, working models, prototypes, or products that are specifically designed to solve identified challenges.

Last week, Jewish Atlanta was thrilled to host the TOM Fellowship Kickoff Event. 75 students from around the globe,  representing schools in the U.S., Israel, and other countries worked across a variety of disciplines, from engineering to occupational therapy to meet, share ideas, and become inspired by the ways they can work together to benefit the disabled community. It was an incredible example of the many ways Federation supports the Jewish landscape in Atlanta.

TOM, started in 2014 and has grown from one community in Israel to dozens of locations around the world. TOM’S partnership with Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta started through Hillels of Georgia. In 2019, Hillel was awarded a grant by the Innovation Initiative to introduce TOM to Georgia Tech. Since then, in collaboration with Hillel, the Innovation Fund has supported TOM’s growth. In January of 2019, TOM presented at Federation’s Propel Pitch Competition and was awarded as one of the events finalists.

Over the past 4 years, Federation’s Innovation and Jewish Abilities Atlanta (JAA) initiatives have been instrumental in providing resources to TOM such as grant funding, training, and help to build relationships with our local community. On Tuesday, JAA’s Training Coordinator Lindsey Flax led an accessibility training session for the TOM fellows. JAA promotes an inclusive community that celebrates the uniqueness and abilities of every person across the lifespan and lifts the voices and perspectives of people with disabilities. The training taught fellows about interacting with people with disabilities online and in person. Topics included inclusive language and social media accessibility.

Society disables people by designing everything to meet the needs of only people who are not disabled. For social media accessibility, Lindsey spoke about how to make social media content accessible for users with disabilities.

TOM’s Director of Monitoring, Evaluation and Learning, Mikhal Kotlyar, says “The Jewish values behind TOM are so special, and it’s valuable to spread the idea of tikkun olam (repairing the world). The chance to have all our leaders and fellows in one place is unparalleled and allows us to capture the imaginations of these students in a different way.” 

A Federation Love Story

By Atlanta Jewish Community

Last Tuesday, we celebrated Tu B’Av, the Jewish holiday of love. Deborah Jacobs, our new President of Women’s Philanthropy, is part of a classic love story—and it couldn’t have happened without Federation! 

In early January 1988, there was a snowstorm in Atlanta. Deborah Jacobs, now the President of Women’s Philanthropy, was a young professional who had recently moved to Atlanta. Deborah grew-up in a small town in Mississippi and was raised to believe in helping the organizations in one’s community.  

“I always knew it’s important to build and maintain community organizations,” Deborah says. “The people you help through them are teachers, small business owners, healthcare workers. Being part of the community means supporting the community.” 

Deborah had become part of Federation’s Young Leadership Cabinet upon moving to Atlanta, and that Sunday, she was supposed to attend a volunteer calling session on behalf of Young Leadership Cabinet. She considered not going, because the weather was still bad. “I didn’t want to take the car out, but I felt so cooped-up from being in the house all week, I just had to get out.”   

Deborah arrived at the very busy bank processing center where the calling session was happening, settled herself in one of the few remaining cubicles, and started making calls to donors. Between calls she said hello to familiar faces and made jokes. When the session ended, a guy behind her struck up a conversation. He’d seen her talking with other people throughout the session and said “I knew you’d talk to me.” She exchanged numbers with the guy, Lou, and the rest is history.  

Deborah says she and Lou would never have met without that calling session—the social circles they ran in were entirely different. Now, they have two children: David, who lives in San Francisco, and Jonathan, in New York City. She hopes that young adults keep it in mind when they’re deciding how to spend their free time. “Volunteering is a social opportunity! You get to meet people who share your values.” 

She credits the good work Federation does with her determination to be involved when she first moved here. “Federation funds so many essential organizations and institutions. If I was going to be part of Jewish Atlanta, I had to get involved. When you’re part of a community, you have to help grow and maintain it. Federation is my dues to my community.”  

As the President of Women’s Philanthropy, Deborah hopes to give people more opportunities to learn about what Federation does and guide them toward philanthropic opportunities that spark their imagination. “I like being a connector—when someone tells me they’re interested in something, I make recommendations. I like to help them find an event or program that will speak to them, build relationships and bring them into a tighter orbit. I always say, ‘You have the piece to someone else’s puzzle.’” 

We’re all lucky that Federation could fit the puzzle pieces of Deborah and Lou so long ago! 

Summer Gather Grants Bring People Together

By Atlanta Jewish Community

Federation’s Gather Grants program has been celebrating all things summer! We love hearing the stories that our hosts and participants share with us every day. Gather Grants are gifts of $180 that participants can use to create a meaningful Jewish event. Hosts have complete control over the event, from the date and location to the attendees and activities. The photos and stories we receive from these events are simply amazing, and we can’t wait to share some of our favorites with you in the upcoming weeks. Today, we’re featuring a few stories from Honeymoon Israel participants who used our Gather Grants to connect with Jewish life in Atlanta!

One of our hosts, Ben, held a Guys’ Night Havdalah and Poker Tournament with 12 friends at his home. It was a special event, as Ben was able to share the personal meaning behind several pieces of Judaica. He even highlighted the Tallit he acquired on his Honeymoon Israel trip, which he plans to give to his child as a legacy gift upon their B’nai Mitzvah one day.  

Stacey held a pool gathering for friends, including two new babies! It was a fun way for Stacey to introduce new friends to older ones and build a micro community of Jewish connections. Even Stacey’s parents were able to join in on the fun and meet some of the friends they made on their Israel trip last year. And their daughter joined in and splashed with their friends! 

According to Corey, a Honeymoon Israel alumnus who hosted a Gather Grant in mid-June, our program is easy to navigate and does a great job of encouraging Jewish families to get together. If you’re interested in hosting your own Jewish event, you can apply for our Fall Gather Grants, which will open in September for gatherings to be held in October and November. Check out our website to learn more about our program and how we can help you create a meaningful event. 

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My Experience on Federation’s Domestic Allocations Committee

By Atlanta Jewish Community

By Dawid Revell Israel

When I was first asked to join Federation’s Domestic Allocations committee, I felt honored. I was humbled to assist with deciding how much to allocate to local organizations to help our Jewish community. After coming to the first meeting, I felt like a novice in the room. Yet I didn’t stop going; I kept listening and learning. With each meeting I learned more and more, and I was blown away with the impact Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta has in upholding and protecting Jewish families and lives.  

Let me explain: there is not one type of Jew in Atlanta. We are all different people with different economic statuses, ethnic backgrounds, and cultures. We are a diverse community that contains observant Jews, unaffiliated Jews, and everything in-between—and we all make up Jewish Atlanta. And because we are a part of this city, we have access to some tremendous resources that smaller communities might not have: supplementary Jewish educational support through Jewish Education Collaborative; financial, educational, and mental support for families going through fertility treatments with Jewish Fertility Foundation; access to a community mikvah (and the only accessible mikvah in the Southeast) with Metro Atlanta Community Mikvah (MACoM); traveling to Israel for a honeymoon with Honeymoon Israel; young adults coming to someone’s house to have a Shabbat dinner with OneTable. Our Domestic Allocations Committee focuses on our local area in addressing these needs, and they do a phenomenal job in providing money to organizations that transform and improve Jewish lives.

One of the things that most impressed me is the overwhelming support we provide to Jews that may feel marginalized and not accepted in society. Some of these groups are Jews of Color, Jews of ethnic diversity, interfaith couples or families, and the LGBTQ+ community. Our committee provides funds to organizations that establish safe places for these Jewish youth and adults where they can celebrate Shabbat, go to a mikvah, or interact with other Jewish people, and also participate in everyday Jewish life as they see fit. By providing these meaningful Jewish experiences, we are helping Jewish people connect with their Jewish identity and keeping them engaged in our community. If someone is in need of financial support, they can take out an interest-free loan through Jewish Interest Free Loan of Atlanta (JIFLA). Jewish undergraduate and graduate college students have the opportunity to receive an interest-free loan through Jewish Educational Loan Fund (JELF). And people struggling with food insecurity can visit the Kosher Food Pantry at Jewish Family & Career Services.  

I look forward to another term helping to uplift and support Jewish Atlanta and upholding tikkun olam (repairing the world). 

Dawid Revell Israel is a family man, teacher, and leader in Atlanta’s Jewish community. He is a member of Congregation Shaarei Shamayim and serves on the board as the Vice President of Membership. He is a businessman who owns two restaurants, Go Vegan Grill and Mama’s Yawd, with a third restaurant and bakery in the works. Dawid is also board representative of the Atlanta Jews of Color Council and volunteers on the Domestic Allocations Committee at the Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta. 

Federation Launches JTech

By Atlanta Jewish Community

Federation is excited to offer J-TECH, a new affinity group for Jews working in the technology sector that aims to help professionals network, hear from leaders in the industry, and learn about the impact of Federation in Atlanta and beyond.

This group, co-chaired by Mitchell Kopelman and Dorrie Paradies, is a fantastic resource for anyone who works in the tech industry, provides services for those in tech (such as attorneys, accountants, etc.), investors in tech companies, or those who work in tech departments in other industries.  

Our inaugural event was held in May at the offices of Nelson Mullins. David Zalik, Co-Head of Merchant Point-of-Sale Lending with Goldman Sachs and co-founder of The Zalik Foundation, was interviewed by co-chair Mitchell Kopelman.

The attendees were excited to hear directly from David Zalik about his experiences as an entrepreneur, his advice to those starting out, and what his mentors taught him over the years. They also learned about his personal connection to Federation and how the Zalik Foundation works with the Federation. “We’re very proud to partner with Federation. The Atlanta Jewish Federation has been the community leader, community organizer, community connector for our Jewish community. We are passionate about what Atlanta Jewish Federation provides as the central nervous system and the heart and soul of this Jewish community.”

J-TECH is proud to provide outstanding networking and learning opportunities while engaging new people in the work of Federation. Our next event is scheduled for Monday, October 30th at 5 PM, location TBA. Sign up for our mailing list today to receive updates.

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