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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.


Atlanta Jewish Foundation’s Year in Summary

By Atlanta Jewish Foundation

by Steven Cadranel

What a year of growth and progress it has been at Atlanta Jewish Foundation! We have hosted numerous events that amplified our impact across the Atlanta philanthropic community, and we have seen new legacy commitments take root to ensure our community’s future. Most importantly, we have helped to create, connect, educate, and inspire philanthropists!

Over the past 12 months, we have continued to facilitate small group educational opportunities with local nonprofits about the challenges Atlanta faces and solutions that work. Last year these Community Conversations took a deep dive into issues from homelessness to education, from environmental sustainability to mental health. In the process, we have educated, advised, and inspired many people of all ages to use the resources of the Atlanta Jewish Foundation as a tool for giving and repairing the world.

Your and our impact in 2022-23 has been truly amazing! Thanks to our donors’ generosity, $41.7m+ has been granted out (as of June 2023):

  • Benefiting over 1,144 nonprofit organizations
  • 78% of funds went to Jewish causes
  • 57% stayed in our local community

Click here to see why our community should be proud and excited about the work of the Atlanta Jewish Foundation.

We Need Your Philanthropic Support!

By Atlanta Jewish Foundation

Jewish Family & Career Services Receives $500,000 Matching Grant from The Zalik Foundation to Address Youth Mental Health and Wellbeing 

One of the most troubling side effects of the COVID-19 pandemic has been a serious global mental health crisis. It is especially tragic to see that children and adolescents are the most vulnerable. Depression and self-harm are rising among teens and suicide has now become the second-leading cause of death among American adolescents ages 10 to 14 years old. We have seen alarming amounts of anxiety and depression among teens right here in Atlanta. 

Now, a generous $500,000 matching grant from The Zalik Foundation will help address this urgent problem in Atlanta. The $500,000 matching grant, created in collaboration with Jewish Federations of North America’s national BeWell initiative, will fund a wide range of support services to Jewish teens in the community facing mental health and wellbeing challenges.

The funds, secured through the Atlanta Jewish Foundation’s Funders Collaborative, will be used by Jewish Family & Career Services to increase programs that support Jewish youth and those that care for them in the community facing mental health and wellbeing challenges. This funding will provide for the hiring of two professionals to build resiliency and support cross-community partnerships, to connect the community to services while decreasing barriers to services and increase skills and capacity to better respond to community needs. 

The Zalik Foundation grant is rooted in work that the Atlanta Jewish Foundation conducted back in 2020. In partnership with Jewish Federations of North America, the Foundation helped convene a group of local funders who identified teen mental health as a community priority and then set about to address it.  

“We are grateful to Helen and David Zalik for this generous donation and the Atlanta Jewish Foundation for focusing on this critical need that will help to address this alarming wave of mental health challenges by young people and those that care for them in the Atlanta region,” said Terri Bonoff, CEO of Jewish Family & Career Services. “Our teens are our future, and it is imperative that we do all we can to help those who are dealing with mental instability.” 

Atlanta Jewish Foundation and Jewish community partners are actively raising funds to match the Zalik Foundation’s $500,000 investment. “The Be Well initiative is a unique, donor-driven effort that is committed to improving teen and youth mental health and wellbeing. It couldn’t come at a more relevant moment,” said Jori Mendel, Chief Foundation Officer. “I encourage Atlanta philanthropists and all who are concerned about mental health to contact me at to learn how you can amplify the impact of the Zalik Foundation’s grant.  

Debbie Kuniansky on Why She Endowed Her Annual Lion of Judah Commitment

By Atlanta Jewish Foundation, PHILANTHROPY

Debbie Kuniansky recently spoke to the Federation’s Women’s Philanthropy Board on why she chose to endow her annual gift to Federation and how others can accomplish the same. Debbie has been a valued Atlanta Jewish community leader for many years and is currently a Member of Federation’s Board of Trustees. Unsurprisingly, she is passionate about taking care of the Atlanta Jewish community. “I appreciate what I have here in Atlanta because I didn’t always have it,” she says.

Debbie grew up in Lakeland, Florida, where there wasn’t a significant Jewish presence. “We didn’t have BBYO or a JCC; there was no Jewish elder-care home…we had one small synagogue with a part-time Rabbi,” she says. Debbie moved to Atlanta right out of college, and immediately joined a synagogue. When her children were young, she started volunteering for their preschool at the Marcus Jewish Community Center of Atlanta. The more time she spent in the Atlanta Jewish community, the more she wanted to help sustain it.

One way that women can give to Federation is through The Lion of Judah Endowment (LOJE). This is a charitable gift of at least $5,400 established under the woman’s name. This endowment provides ongoing support to Federation and the many organizations we support.

Endowing her Lion was very important to Debbie, but she wasn’t sure how to make it happen. “I want to be able to help take care of my community even after I’m not here,” she says. “I want to make sure my kids and their kids have this vibrant Jewish community.”

Debbie’s husband, Doug, suggested she make the endowment through a life insurance policy. Each year, they make regular payments toward the policy (which are tax deductible). Someday, the payout on that policy will be donated directly to charities that mean the most to Debbie and Doug.

“I love that our community plans for the future,” she says. “People who came before me made plans and commitments, and my family and I benefitted from them.”

When she thinks of the people who came before her, she thinks of a great Jewish legacy of leaders and community builders who inspired her. Now, Debbie feels like she’s part of that group constantly striving to make things better—not maintaining the status quo.

To learn more about making endowments, the Lion of Judah Endowment, and more, Rachel Rosner.

Engaging Teenagers in Jewish Life

By Atlanta Jewish Foundation, PHILANTHROPY

Being a teenager is hard. Hormones, increasing responsibilities, and long school days can make teens feel overwhelmed and cause them to disengage with their community. Federation supports many programs for young people in Atlanta (and abroad!) to get involved in Jewish life, and hopefully help them find community and a sense of purpose.  

The Jewish Foundation of Atlanta is launching the Young Philanthropy Fellows, which aims to teach teenagers about philanthropy through firsthand experience. The inaugural cohort will open their own Young Philanthropist Funds and learn about grantmaking. This group will inform each other about organizations and issues they care about, make size visits to local nonprofits, and engage in round-table discussions with professionals. They will engage in discussions about power and privilege and learn how to mitigate the occasional unintended consequences of charitable giving. Most importantly, they’ll learn how even young people can make a big difference. Applications for the Young Philanthropy Fellows are due September 19. 

Jumpspark offer resources for connection and growth to teenagers across Atlanta. They aim to empower and educate Jews from every part of our city, and to bring them together to learn and collaborate. Their initiatives include the Strong Women Fellowship, Gap Year Israel Scholarship, the Root One Experience (a summer travel program to Israel) and Navigating Parenthood (a series of workshops for the parents of teenagers to help them better understand the struggles their kids face).  

Internationally, Federation supports the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee’s Active Jewish Teens (AJT) initiative. This is a Jewish-identity building platform for 12-17-year-olds who live in the former Soviet Union. This program brings young Jewish people together and aims to give them a sense of community. They host a range of social, cultural, and leadership building activities, as well as holiday and Shabbat celebrations. With 63 active locations, including four in Belarus, AJT is helping young people in the Former Soviet Union connect with their Jewish identity and other young Jews across the world. 

Young people are the future, and their participation in, and enthusiasm for, Jewish life is essential to the future of Jews everywhere. Federation is proud to serve them! 

How Baby Jack Launched a Legacy

By Atlanta Jewish Community, Atlanta Jewish Foundation

Adam Kazinec has a long history of engagement with Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta and the wider Atlanta Jewish community. He currently serves on the Federation board and in the last couple of years, he has served on the steering committee of Federation’s Jewish Innovation Fund. Through it he learned about the Jewish Fertility Foundation (JFF) which provides financial assistance, emotional support, and educational programming to Jewish people with medical infertility. Adam was excited to see JFF launch in Atlanta, but never in his wildest dreams did he imagine that one day he and his wife Brittany would rely on JFF for emotional support in their quest to start a family.

Adam and Brittany’s road to parenthood was difficult and ultimately came to fruition through in-vitro fertilization (IVF). When their son Jack was born, Adam and Brittany celebrated their good fortune by opening a charitable Donor Advised Fund at Atlanta Jewish Foundation. And they signed the Jewish Future Pledge — a commitment that from the funds they would leave to charity at their passing, at least 50% would be earmarked to support the Jewish people and/or the State of Israel. Both of these philanthropic acts were expressions of gratitude and hope for the future Jack would inherit.

Adam Kazinec was excited when he heard Elana Frank, JFF’s CEO, make a presentation to the Innovation Fund about the Jewish Fertility Fund. “The Fund raised $50K in seed money for several startups like JFF,” Adam remembers. “It was both empowering and humbling to be a benefactor of such an important startup. The truth is, we would not have Jack right now without the educational and emotional resources they provided.”

Baby Jack is now four months old and is the center of the Kazinecs’ world. “We named him Jack HaTov Kazinec, Brittany explains. “Jack was a name on both sides of our family. We understood the power of a name and chose HaTov as his middle name in hopes he can bring out good in the world.”

The Kazinecs feel privileged to leave a legacy for the next generation through the Jewish Future Pledge and are excited to work with Atlanta Jewish Foundation to build a personal philanthropic plan. “We see this as a long-term partnership. We like how the Pledge does not lock you into giving to specific Jewish charities. Who knows what areas will need support down the road and what new social innovations will rise to the surface. We are excited to launch a legacy that our kids can steward. It is a beautiful thing.”

Brittany agrees. “We know that there’s so much for Jack to explore on his own to decide how he wants to be Jewish. It is up to us to show him the ropes along the way. There is no denying that we will be lifetime supporters of the Atlanta Jewish Community, but how unique to have Jack as a tangible sign of our commitment. We are so grateful to JFF for helping us add a Jewish baby to the world!

Do a Major Mitzvah with Negligible Risk!

By Atlanta Jewish Community, Atlanta Jewish Foundation

Atlanta Jewish Foundation is helping the Jewish Interest-Free Loan of Atlanta (JIFLA) expand its pool of guarantors for interest-free loans by sharing an Impact Investing opportunity with its donor-advised fund (DAF) holders. Impact Investing is the term financial advisors and philanthropists use to describe investments made with an intention to generate social and environmental change alongside financial return. 

Atlanta Jewish Foundation currently offers its donor-advised fundholders an ESG Portfolio (Environmental, Social, and Governance), with a focus on companies and sectors that have positive environmental, social, and governance characteristics. Now, Atlanta Jewish Foundation is putting Impact Investing principles to work in a new partnership with JIFLA, the Jewish Interest-Free Loan Association of Atlanta. JIFLA upholds the biblical principle of interest-free lending primarily, but not exclusively, to other Jews.   

JIFLA loans are funded entirely through community donations which continually recycle to others in need, generating many times the original value to help maintain fellow Jews in challenging times. Most JIFLA loans are small, in the $4-5K range. Because JIFLA uses a ratio of 4:1, an Atlanta Jewish Foundation donor committing $10K as a guarantor makes it possible for JIFLA to loan out $40K in small loans.

A JIFLA borrower shares her story: “I was completely at a loss, with no money and little hope, and I was close to being on the street. The biggest challenge with my JIFLA application was that I didn’t have a guarantor. An anonymous guarantor was identified, and I got the loan. The generosity and faith of that guarantor…bought me the time I needed to try to land on my feet.” 

JIFLA boasts a very low default rate, so this partnership allows Foundation fundholders to become guarantors with negligible risk. It also greatly simplifies financial disclosure requirements because Atlanta Jewish Foundation acts as the DAF-holder’s reference. Guarantors can also remain anonymous. The best part is, the fundholder can keep their funds in their DAF, growing their investment, while helping those in need.  

Contact Jori Mendel to learn more about using your donor-advised fund to become an interest-free loan guarantor.   

How a Donor-advised Fund Can Honor Your Family’s Legacy

By Atlanta Jewish Foundation, PHILANTHROPY

Nancy Jacobson Freedman enjoyed an iconic and idyllic southern Jewish girlhood in the Atlanta of the 1950s and ’60s. As the daughter of Jewish community pillars, Harvey and Betty Ann Jacobson, Nancy participated in all organizations and social institutions that defined Jewish Atlanta — BBYO, the JCC on Peachtree Road, the early years of Camp Barney, The Temple, The Standard Club, Hadassah, National Council of Jewish Women, the Brandeis University Women’s Committee, and so much more.

Being Jewish was at the center of her life. Yet in an era when assimilation was giving way to deeper levels of Jewish observance the harsh lessons of history remained fresh for Atlanta Jews. “The Leo Frank lynching was embedded in our collective memory. We knew there were restricted clubs that did not accept Jews. I was in kindergarten when The Temple bombing happened. I will never forget how it galvanized our community. At the same time, I’ll never forget how the non-Jewish community supported us. After the bombing, churches, and schools opened their doors to us for services and Sunday school classes. These were wonderful lessons in community generosity.”

Today, these lessons learned and the commitments made by her family live on. Nancy Freedman has blazed her own philanthropic path, serving on numerous agency boards around Atlanta, truly “walking the walk” of her family’s values. She is winding down an education fund launched years ago by her uncle, Joe Jacobs. And she and her husband Wayne steward the family’s donor-advised fund (DAF) at Atlanta Jewish Foundation. “It means everything to us that this fund continues to support the things Mom and Dad believed in. Cindy Weik has handled our DAF for years and she makes the grant process so easy. The professional staff does a fantastic job and gives good guidance.”

“My mother was the first woman president of Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta. She was tough, a driving force. You couldn’t say ‘no’ to Betty Ann Jacobson! My father was quieter, but also a tremendous role model who was active in Federation, chaired many committees and was devoted to the Technion, Israel’s Institute of Technology. He and my mother were partners in all of these community activities. It’s no wonder that after college I became a Federation campaign volunteer.” Nancy also served on the UJA Young Leadership Cabinet, won the Abe Schwartz Young Leadership award, and worked as a campaign professional at Federation under David Sarnat up until her children were born.

All three of Freedman’s children went to The Epstein School which became another arena for the family’s engagement and learning.” I wanted my kids to be more knowledgeable than I was. I’m proud that they know how to run a service and speak Hebrew. When they were young, we were active at the Zaban Night Shelter and the Shearith Israel Shelter. Wayne and I have tried to impart to our kids that we are blessed, and that it is our obligation to make sure that others who don’t have what we have are helped. I try hard to be proactive with my kids about getting involved in community service and giving back not just your time, but your money as well.”

“Atlanta Jewish Foundation is a perfect way to accomplish these goals. We love that our financial advisor can manage our donor-advised fund.I trust them! When you invest at the Foundation, you are supporting the whole community. That’s what Mom and Dad were all about!”

Expanding Inclusion is My Calling. Atlanta Jewish Foundation Helps Make It Happen

By Atlanta Jewish Community, Atlanta Jewish Foundation, CARING

By Michelle Simon
Atlanta Jewish Foundation Operations Committee

After our middle son Kyle was born, we quickly discovered that he had differing abilities. They were not always visible to others, but it was clear to us that Kyle had unique challenges. We were fortunate to intervene early and provide him with the supportive services he needed along the way. Today at age 24, Kyle has just landed a new job where he is highly valued by his co-workers. Though he lives at home, he is quite independent, and is the heart of our family.

I became a community advocate for people with disabilities not simply for Kyle, but because so many others in our community didn’t have access to these resources. It was tragic to me that they could not access the social skills support, occupational and speech therapy, and inclusion opportunities Kyle had. There are roughly 28,000 families in our Jewish community with disability needs. I try to be a cheerleader for all of them.

Today, I’m thrilled to report that things are changing for the better in Atlanta. The Jewish community is making inclusion a priority. This year, the Jewish Abilities Alliance (JAA) is one of the Targeted Philanthropy options for Federation’s 2022 Community Campaign, enabling you to direct your gift to disability needs. As a member of the Atlanta Jewish Foundation Operations Committee and Advisory Committee, I’ve urged many friends and community members to join me in using donor-advised funds and legacy gift planning as tools. It’s an effective way to ensure that your philanthropic vision for inclusion will impact generations to come.

The Jewish Abilities Alliance has completed a community-wide disabilities needs assessment. I believe it will be a game-changer. Funded by Federation and several passionate donors, the JAA survey is the basis of a strategic plan to implement the most promising recommendations. Armed with research-based data, we have a blueprint for action. Knowing where there are gaps, we are ready to identify potential partnerships and collaborations and invest in filling as many as we can.

JAA is working alongside community partners to prioritize and implement recommendations from the community study, some of which include: Inclusion of people with disabilities in committees and decision-making processes; An inclusion certification process for Jewish communal organizations; Support for an inclusive trip to Israel; Expanded inclusion training for camps, and for all Jewish educators and synagogue professionals. Ultimately, JAA collaborates with all our community service agencies to create a seamless path of support for families and individuals across the lifespan.

Now, with additional funds we can do more of everything – the possibilities are endless and necessary! Having served on Federation’s Innovation Advisory Committee, I helped bring Innovation’s micro-grant practices to JAA. This year JAA awarded more than $19,000 in mini-grants to support local inclusion projects. These grants have funded things like an automatic door at a synagogue, sensory equipment for classrooms, and accessible shuttle services at community events.

Atlanta Jewish Foundation’s fundholders granted out close to $40 million to support our community last year, some of which supported disabilities.

I take a strategic approach to philanthropy and tikkun olam (repairing the world.) I’m not just about Kyle. I’m about the whole community. This is my calling in life, to focus on disability needs and inclusion, and to discover people’s talents and priorities. We have incredible people here who want Atlanta to be the most welcoming and inclusive community. Together, I know we can do it.

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