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How Federation Supports Ethiopian Jews

By CARING, Global News, People in Need

During Black History Month, we celebrate and commemorate the history of the African diaspora. In the United States, we often think of this month through the lens of African Americans, but it’s important to recognize much of Black History does not involve the U.S. Indeed, there are Black Jews all over the world, and their history is our history. One of the largest and most well-known Black Jewish communities is from Ethiopia, and Federation supports initiatives that help Ethiopian Jews and amplify their stories.  

The Beta Israel of Ethiopia are one of the oldest Jewish diaspora communities, in existence for over 1500  years. Across the centuries, this community has weathered poverty, persecution, war, and the threat of conversion. Many Ethiopian Jewish people have made Aliyah and now reside in Israel, having managed to escape the turmoil in their country of birth. But once in Israel, it can be difficult to assimilate.  

Since the current war in Ethiopia began in 2020, a new wave of olim have come to live in Israel. The Jewish Agency for Israel (JAFI) is one of Federation’s biggest partners, and they work closely with olim before they even leave Ethiopia. JAFI provides security on the ground in Ethiopia, pre-Aliyah medical and administrational preparation, and nutritional support programs in Addis Ababa and Gondar. Once in Israel, olim move into one of 15 absorption centers that cater to the cultural needs of Ethiopian immigrants and continue to receive Jewish Agency housing while they complete their absorption process. At JAFI centers, they receive comprehensive support services, Hebrew lessons, after-school academic enrichment for the children, opportunities for vocational training, and much more. 

Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta also works with our partner region in Israel, Yokneam-Meggido, on programs to help Ethiopian immigrants settle into their new communities once they leave JAFI housing. Funds from Federation go to initiatives to boost educational achievements among students, increase parent engagement in children’s schooling, connect children and teenagers to Community Center classes and youth movements, improve the quality of life for Amharic-speaking residents by closing language and cultural gaps, and detect developmental delays in young children, and much more.  

Here in Atlanta, Federation is proud to fund the work of the Atlanta Jews of Color Council (AJOCC) through our Innovation initiative. AJOCC aims to use the arts to drive belonging for Jews of Color in Atlanta. This year, AJOCC is hosting Jewish Ethiopian actors, producers, and filmmakers who are teaching and exhibiting their work in Atlanta. Shai Ferdo, an actor and filmmaker, is the star of Exodus 91, the film sponsored by Federation in this year’s Atlanta Jewish Film Festival. He is teaching as an adjunct at Clark Atlanta University this semester, and since arriving in Atlanta, he has spoken on a panel with the American Jewish Committee and given a talk at the Weber School about his experience as an Ethiopian Jew in Israel. Many Ethiopians who immigrate to Israel experience anti-Black discrimination, and he has spoken candidly about the need for Jews of Color to be recognized as fully Jewish in predominantly white-passing communities. AJOCC is sponsoring his stay in Atlanta, as well as other artists.  

Black Jewish History is integral to the history of Judaism across the world; we cannot speak of Jewish history without speaking of the diversity within our global community. 

Commemorate MLK Day with a Weekend of Service

By Atlanta Jewish Community, CARING

Repair the World and Federation are calling on the Jewish community to make Martin Luther King Jr. Day “a day on, not a day off.” Beginning this Friday, Federation, Repair the World, and our coalition partners will observe MLK Day with a weekend of service opportunities across Atlanta inspired by Dr. King—and you’re invited to join.

The 2023 MLK Weekend of Service is a way for Jews in Atlanta to connect with each other, care for our neighbors, and build resilience for the times we need support. Choose from service projects like tree planting, park clean up, daffodil planting, meal delivery, cooking meals for shelters at home, packing hygiene supplies, and more.

The Weekend of Service will begin with a Racial Justice Shabbat this Friday, January 13. This evening, presented in partnership with Atlanta Jews of Color Council (AJOCC) and OneTable, is an opportunity to begin this impactful weekend with learning, reflection, and mindfulness with and from our Jews of Color (JOC) community.

Service projects will take place January 14 – 16. There are a variety of meaningful service options for all ages, but spots are limited, so be sure to sign up in advance.

This weekend is an opportunity for all to engage in tikkun olam (repairing the world) and in meaningful learning around the legacy of Dr. King.

Click here to register for projects around the Atlanta area. Please join us this weekend and have a Day On!

Partner Spotlight: Jewish HomeLife

By Atlanta Jewish Community, CARING

Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta’s Community Campaign is underway. But what happens to the funds that are raised? The answer is, they are granted to our community partners—incredible organizations in Atlanta and across the world that make a difference in people’s lives. One such group that we are proud to support is Jewish HomeLife.

Jewish HomeLife is Jewish Atlanta’s senior care network that supports people at every stage of aging. Their network is comprised of nine residential communities and at-home care services, including The William Breman Jewish Home, The Cohen Home, Berman Commons, the Jewish Tower, Eckstein Home Care, and Weinstein Hospice, to name a few. Founded in 1951, Jewish HomeLife provides independent living, assisted living, skilled nursing care, rehabilitation, private home care, hospice services, and more.

Stephanie Wyatt, Jewish HomeLife’s Chief Development Officer, says “We partner with Federation in many ways. We are privileged to be part of Federation’s core partners and receive annual allocations that directly benefit our residents. A large portion of these community funds help fill the gap between Medicaid reimbursement and the actual cost of care for those residents, which can exceed $45,000 per resident per year.”

She says another major way Federation supports Jewish HomeLife is through our collaboration with Atlanta. AgeWell is a joint project between Jewish Family & Career Services, Jewish HomeLife, the Marcus Jewish Community Center of Atlanta, and Federation. “The community has a one-stop-shop where people can learn about our services, and the other available services for aging people in Atlanta. It’s expanded our reach and helped more people contact us.”

The key to Jewish HomeLife is that its network serves everyone while being guided by Jewish values. Principles like cherishing life, respecting all people, and restorative justice through family are at the core of Jewish HomeLife. For 70 years, they have served the people of Atlanta, no matter their background or ability to pay.

Stephanie says “Federation is a community resource, and we are grateful for their continued support. Not only do they provide needed financial assistance, but they provide professional development and support through programs such as LIFE AND LEGACY®,  Jacobson Leadership Institute, as well as other trainings and seminars.”

Jewish HomeLife provides numerous services for people who are recovering from surgery, require dementia care, need help with daily living, or who simply could use a companion. They partner with the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to provide subsidized housing for those who need it, and even have a home care agency, Eckstein Home Care, to help those who need caregiver support or trained companions in their own home

Even if you or a loved one do not currently need the help of Jewish HomeLife, you might someday. Stephanie says that it is vital for people to know what they do, and how to contact them. “Everyone ages,” she says, “and we support people while they do.”

To give to Federation and support the work of Jewish HomeLife, click here.

Winter Bears Down on Ukrainians

By CARING, Global News

Winter is quickly approaching in Ukraine, and sadly, the war continues. In recent weeks, critical infrastructure that provides power and water throughout the country has been destroyed. Meanwhile, refugees continue to flee the region. As it gets colder, their situation will be more dire than ever. Though the war is taking up less space in American newspapers and airwaves, our brethren still need our help.  

Since February, Jewish Atlanta has raised more than $2.5 million to assist people directly impacted by the war. Combined with the fundraising efforts of other Jewish Federations of North America, the Jewish Agency for Israel, and the Joint Distribution Committee, North American Jewish communities have provided $73 million to aid over 39,000 refugees—both Jewish and non-Jewish. 

You can help mitigate the tragic and traumatic losses experienced by our Jewish family in Ukraine, Russia, and neighboring countries. Continued humanitarian support is vital to rebuilding the Ukrainian Jewish community and ensuring safe passage for those seeking to resettle in Israel, Poland, the United States and elsewhere. 

Federation is accepting donations on behalf of Ukrainians who have been displaced and who are weathering the unrest in their country. So far, donations to Federation have already helped over 12,900 Jews evacuate a war zone. As winter bears down on Eastern Europe, your generosity can mean the difference between life and death.  

As one Ukrainian volunteer remarked, “It is a Jewish value to help others; please don’t stop. We cannot get tired.” 

Fighting Antisemitism on College Campuses

By Atlanta Jewish Community, CARING

This past Saturday night in Jacksonville, Florida, following the University of Georgia (UGA)/University of Florida (UF) football game, there was yet another high-profile instance of antisemitism in the United States. The words, “Kanye is right about the Jews” were projected onto the side of the stadium, as well as other downtown buildings.  

For weeks, the American Jewish community has endured a parade of hateful messages. In few places is this more keenly felt than on college and university campuses. Current college students report that anti-Zionist sentiment on campuses is rampant, and that non-Jewish students conflate their feelings about the Israeli government with their feelings about their Jewish classmates.  

In October, the Anti-Defamation League reported that there were 359 anti-Israel incidents on campuses during the 2021-2022 school year. And on Saturday in Jacksonville, an event between two universities was marred by American antisemitism. 

Wayne Keil, Interim CEO of Hillels of Georgia, awoke at 3:30 am on Sunday morning to a phone call about the incident in Jacksonville. He and his UGA Director, Jeremy Lichtig, spent the morning speaking with officials at UGA, UF, University of Florida Hillel, and the Anti-Defamation League, among others.  

Hillel works to support Jewish students, faculty, and staff on college campuses, and Keil says in moments like this, he sees the value of their daily work. “We’ve been preparing for this, not knowing what ‘this’ would be.” 

“What I found to be most impressive was the ability of so many different people from different organizations to quickly come together,” he says. “Hillel has managed to build bridges into the administrations at these schools so they could quickly speak to each other and release a joint message.”  

That solidarity is extremely important for Jewish college students, who face prejudice from other students, and sometimes even faculty, on campus. In September, AP reported that the University of Vermont is under investigation by the U.S. Department of Education after a teaching assistant threatened to give Zionist students lower grades.  

So what can we do? Federation supports programs and organizations, like Hillel, that work with college students. Hillel gives Jewish students a community on campus and gives them tools to address hot-button issues with their peers.  

Federation also funds The Jewish Agency for Israel’s (JAFI) Israel Campus Fellows program, which brings Israeli young adults to work on university and college campuses. The Fellows work to expose Americans, both Jewish and non-Jewish, to real Israeli people in order to diminish stereotypes and help them develop a personal relationship with the people of Israel.  

In the face of rising hatred, it is vital that Jewish people are able to tell our stories and care for our community. The Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta’s Community Campaign is currently open, and your donations will directly help Jews in Georgia and beyond. When you give to Federation’s Partners Fund, you’re supporting Hillels of Georgia, Israel Campus Fellows, and more. 

Jews are a vibrant, diverse, and strong group of people. We have overcome obstacles and lived through tumultuous times. The way our community mobilizes in a crisis is beautiful and powerful, and today you can be part of rallying against antisemitism. Please visit our website, read about the work of our partners, learn about our own programs, and consider donating to our Community Campaign 

As Keil says, “They can try to divide us, but they won’t be successful. They never are.” 

We are united against the forces of bigotry. We Are Jewish ATL.  

Federation Celebrates Sukkot!

By Atlanta Jewish Community, CARING

Nothing says “fall” like sitting under your sukkah with your loved ones and enjoying a beautiful evening. Last week, Federation celebrated Sukkot in a variety of ways, including through Gather Grants and our social media sukkah competition!

Gather Grants are a joint initiative of three Federation Programs: Making Jewish Places, Next Gen and PJ Library Atlanta. Gather Grants award microgrants of $180 to individuals in the Atlanta metro area who are hosting gatherings in their community.

Here’s what a few people who attended Gather Grant events had to say:

“This event was very meaningful and memorable, not only did I have fun, but I also learned more about the holiday. What a beautiful event!”

“It was creative and everyone enjoyed interacting. New connections were made and it was a wonderful atmosphere in the sukkah. The hostess was well prepared with supplies and encouraged and interacted with all the participants who were of varied ages. Everyone young and old enjoyed.”

“I watched my son teach his friend how to shake the lulav. We don’t have a sukkah at home, so I had no idea he knew how! My heart is full.”

We also asked our Federation Family to send in pictures of your fall festivities for our Sukkah Competition, and you delivered. Here are our three favorites. We loved seeing the beautiful and creative sukkahs of Jewish Atlanta!

Atlanta Created Federation’s Model for Disaster Relief

By Atlanta Jewish Community, CARING, People in Need

You probably know that the Jewish Federations of North America are uniquely poised to respond to domestic disasters, including hurricanes, earthquakes, floods, fires, and terrorist attacks. But did you know that the infrastructure for this rapid response was developed in Atlanta?  

Barry Swartz and his family arrived in Atlanta in July 1989. Now, Barry is the Vice President of Conexx, the America-Israel Commercial Alliance, but at the time he worked for the Council of Jewish Federations (CJF). In September, just before the High Holidays, Hurricane Hugo hit Charleston, South Carolina. Hugo affected approximately 2 million people in and around Charleston; 67 people lost their lives, and the storm inflicted $11 billion in damage. 

The continental Jewish Federation system quickly discovered they had no plan to respond to domestic emergencies. Lois Frank, a senior volunteer leader at the Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta, traveled with Barry to Savannah, where they connected with a small group of national Federation leaders. The group then drove to Charleston to meet with community leaders and view the devastation first-hand. 

Barry worked with Marilyn Shubin and David Sarnat from the Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta to coordinate the delivery of needed supplies. Thanks to Barry’s national Federation ties, Atlanta became the Jewish epicenter for providing material aid to the region. Power tools, industrial generators, kosher food, and challah for Rosh Hashanah were all transported to the disaster zone. The Charleston Jewish Community Center became the American Red Cross distribution hub for the entire area for food, water, diapers, and other necessities. The idea of using Jewish facilities as a hub for the community as a whole would be modeled in many other emergencies over the next thirty years, including Hurricane Andrew in South Florida.  

The national Jewish community raised millions of dollars for the general relief effort and to repair Jewish institutions. The area was rebuilt thanks to the generosity of Jews throughout the country. And crucially, Jewish Federations developed a method for responding to domestic disasters that is still used today.  

We are thankful for the work of these leaders so many years ago as our friends and family in Florida recover from the aftermath of Hurricane Ian. While the storm has passed, the cleanup efforts will be ongoing for months. You can donate to the national Federation recovery effort and be part of getting Jewish Florida back on its feet. 

My Rosh Hashanah Reflections

By Atlanta Jewish Community, CARING, Federation News

It’s the start of a new year, 5783, and I find myself asking, “Where do we go next?”

A new year offers a blank slate, a chance to make one’s mark. After the tumult of the last two years, the unknown can be intimidating. But when I think of how Atlanta’s Jewish community has handled recent challenges, I feel ready to face the new year and whatever it brings.

Last year, we faced many challenges that still aren’t resolved. The war in Ukraine isn’t over—every day, thousands more people are forced to leave their homes or to wonder where their next meal will come from. COVID isn’t over—new variants continue to put people at risk, and the pandemic has changed our world in many ways that we cannot yet define. But I also know that our commitment to each other has not ended.

Over the last two years, I’ve seen priorities shift for individuals and organizations. Many things we used to want are no longer relevant, and our focus has shifted. In times of crisis, we see what’s most important: safety, security, and health. The Atlanta Jewish community has stepped up in a monumental way to care for one another, as well as people in need all over the world.


So where do we go next? I hope we continue to put each other first. I believe in working towards an aligned community that pursues common goals. At Federation, we speak of “meeting the moment” and being ready when a crisis emerges. The moments we have faced in the last two years are bigger than Federation, or any one organization. And I have been so moved by the power of Jewish Atlanta when these moments occurred.

5783 holds many unknowns, but we will meet them together. That is the power of community.

L’shana tovah,
Eric M. Robbins

18Doors Invites Interfaith Families into Jewish Life

By Atlanta Jewish Community, CARING

18Doors aims to connect interfaith families with Jewish organizations and to help them feel at home in the Jewish community. This program lets couples and families learn about Jewish life without embarrassment or feelings of judgment. It also connects interfaith families with Jewish organizations that will welcome them into Jewish life. 

Rabbi Malka works closely with 18Doors to create an inviting space for all Jews. She received the following message from Hannah and Rob following their wedding:  

“Rob and I wanted to deeply thank you for officiating our wedding. We are so grateful to have met you through the process of planning our wedding. More importantly, we are so thankful for your guidance and support as we prepared for our married lives together… 

The wedding ceremony was absolutely a dream….[m]any of our guests had never been to a Jewish wedding before, and so many people told us it was the “most beautiful and loving ceremony” they had ever been to. We definitely feel this way. Thank you for teaching us more about wedding customs in Judaism and helping us cater the ceremony to fit us perfectly. Thank you for helping us to safely include our friends and families and helping to make all of our guests feel welcomed…[t]hank you for teaching us about the ketubah and giving us guidance and freedom to write it together as we wished. This ketubah, hanging in our home, is such a beautiful reminder of our love, our hopes, our dreams, and our promises to each other and God. 

Thank you for always making us feel welcome and accepted. When we first met last Spring, I remember telling Rob that you made me feel “so at home” I believe you were meant to be on this journey with us…[i]t has been so wonderful to have you as a resource in the months and weeks leading up to our wedding. Thank you for reaching out to us and offering support in the Jewish community (both through Zoom Shabbats and the Love & Marriage courses). I remember being nervous to jump into these resources at one point. Rob and I are so glad we took the leap and participated because the support and community we gained as been invaluable through some difficult times. We hope to continue to be a part of this community in the future.” 

Through the work of 18Doors, interfaith families can deepen their connection to the Jewish community and make choices that will lead to a vibrant future for the Jewish people. 18Doors is just one organization that receives grants from the Partners Fund, and your donations will help them create welcoming spaces for all Jews and their families.   

Community Love Stories

By Atlanta Jewish Community, CARING

We asked our readers to submit their tales of romance, and you delivered! Read these sweet stories from our Federation family. 

“My husband and I met in Etz Chaim preschool when we were four. We had a little crush on each other even back then, and there’s a photo of him with his arm around me at that time, and a few others of us playing together. He tried to flirt with me in middle school, but I thought boys were gross then, so, of course, I ignored him.  

My mom ran into him at Publix about 10 years ago and asked if he remembered me. He said yes. After she told me she had run into him, I looked him up on Facebook after all these years. And I thought he was cute! But I was too shy to ask him out, until about five years ago. I asked him to dinner, and we had a horrible first date. I decided I didn’t want to see him again, but he was persistent and really wanted another chance to win me over. So, I relented. We had an incredible second date and have been together ever since. We got married in August of 2020 with 11 people in attendance.” 

– Anna Streetman and Harrison Levy 


“We met on a Federation mission in 1986 and married later that same year. We remember very fondly that we had nearly 200 chaperones on our “first date.” There were five busloads of us. After all these years, I am finally comfortable admitting that I made certain that Robert and I were on the same bus. 

Robert and I have been married for nearly 36 years. We have three kids: Janine Franco and her husband Alan Pinstein, Dena Franco and her husband Jonny Newburgh, and Eli Franco and his wife Shira Berman.” 

– Sara Franco and Robert Franco 


“‘We met over a plate of kiddush tuna.'” This long-standing quip from Nachum isn’t so far from the truth.  

In 2007 we were both new to Denver, seeking community, and found ourselves in the same synagogue with a small but growing young adult community. We began spending Shabbat afternoons together and quickly became close friends. Over time that friendship grew to more, and within a few months, we knew we’d found our match.  

We got engaged a year later, on Melissa’s 25th birthday, and the community surprised us with a lovely fancy dinner (because the kosher options were so limited!) and then an impromptu party. We were married that summer in the same synagogue where we met by the rabbi at whose home we’d spent many of our Shabbat afternoons while dating. We have now lived in seven residences in four cities spanning three states/two countries and added two kids to the family.” 

-Rabba Melissa Scholten-Gutierrez and Rabbi Nachum Gutierrez  


“Where do you look for love when you’ve lived in Atlanta your whole life and worked in the Jewish Community most of your career…on JDate! After 10 years of being divorced, I was finally an empty nester and decided to try online dating.  

In early December 2015, I got an online message from Roy: “JDate says that we are a 95% match, do you agree?” After reviewing his profile, I learned he was originally from Savannah. Knowing that my friend and colleague at Federation, Susan Moray, had previously worked in the Savannah Jewish community, I walked down the hall to ask if she knew him. I was thrilled to hear, “not only do I know him, but we were next-door neighbors, and he is a great guy!” 

On Monday, December 7, 2015, which happened to be the second night of Hanukkah, we arranged to meet for dinner. There was an immediate connection, and our conversation continued after dinner at a quaint coffee house. We discovered that he had previously worked in the same office building as my father, who published The Jewish Georgian. 

At the end of our first date, he asked me what I was doing the next day. I flirtatiously shared that I was having a mammogram. The following evening, I received a thoughtful text asking how my appointment had gone. His care and concern touched me. At the end of the text, he cleverly gauged my interest by asking if I’d like to get together again and said, “is this Friday too soon or not soon enough?!”  

We talked throughout the week and had a great second date, followed by a third date where he offered to cook Shabbat dinner. He asked what I was doing on Christmas Eve, and I shared that I had plans to go to Steve’s Live Music in Sandy Springs to hear Tony Levitas, Mark Michelson, and Hannah Zale. He was also planning to go, so we were excited for our friends to meet. 

The night was filled with more coincidental connections. It ended up that the last performer of the night was his niece, Hannah Zale. Roy didn’t know that his niece’s older sister, Tali Benjamin, had been a work colleague of mine at Federation. At lunch on my second day, Tali and I realized that Hannah was the same age as my son Jonathan, also a musician, and they had common friends. As a result, Hannah and Jonathan eventually met and performed together at a music festival. 

The biggest surprise was yet to come. I woke up on December 31, making last-minute preparations to entertain friends, excited to ring in 2016 with Roy. I had to run some errands and a scheduled MRI because of some strange symptoms I had been having. Roy offered to come with me, but I told him not to worry, that I was sure it was nothing and that I would call him as soon as I was done. 

Around 1 PM, I called to let him know they were sending me to the emergency room because something didn’t look right on the scan. I called my family, all of whom live in Atlanta. Imagine Roy meeting my entire family for the first time in the hospital as we received the unimaginable news that I had a brain tumor.  

We were all in shock from the diagnosis, but then something amazing happened. Roy held my hand, reassuring my family that he was not going anywhere. He explained that in the short time we had known each other, he already knew that we had something special and that sticking around was a “no-brainer.” 

Despite my diagnosis, I did not shed a tear because my heart was filled with love. Could it be true that this amazing man was willing to be vulnerable enough to fall in love, faced with so much uncertainty about a future together? On January 7, 2016, four weeks after our first date, I had brain surgery, followed by a year of chemo. The last thing I remember before they took me back to the operating room was him whispering in my ear, “I love you.” 

Over the past six and a half years, my brain tumor has remained stable, no doubt in part because of the happiness and love Roy has added to my world. On June 14, 2020, just three months into COVID, Rabbi Berg married us in the gazebo in the backyard of our new home, surrounded by our blended family. 

I marvel at the timing of our meeting and all the connections. I have come to believe that, as Albert Einstein is quoted, “coincidences are G-d’s way of remaining anonymous.” In Judaism, we have the perfect word for this type of divine intervention, which is simply defined as ‘Beshert.'” 

-Karen Paz and Roy Cranman 

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