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Make Your Giving Mean More

By Atlanta Jewish Foundation, CARING

I grew up in Cincinnati in a family of wonderful role models. I came to Atlanta to attend law school at Emory and practiced until my second daughter was born. Yet I found over the years, that my community engagements were incredibly fulfilling replacements for my law career.  The missions of our local nonprofits, and their impact on the community is profound. That’s why I’m thrilled to be the new chair of the advisory board of Atlanta Jewish Foundation. I deeply believe that the Foundation is the future of our Federation and that growing its assets is the best way to strengthen the Jewish community.

The time is right because Atlanta is a place of tremendous generosity of heart. People here don’t just wear one hat, and they aren’t territorial. They move between organizations and share their leadership skills and bring new energy to their volunteer work. I also love how Atlanta invests in young leadership. I am a product of that leadership incubator, and now my daughters have become active stakeholders in our Jewish future. Their generation has inherited an extremely different world than what we grew up in. They have new solutions and ideas that are ripe for innovation. What a strength!

My goal is to help build AJF into one of the best community foundations in the Southeast. We are now retooling the foundation of the Foundation and building the brand as a strong, capable investment vehicle.

I’d like to see more people open donor-advised funds (DAFs) and endowed funds. Your DAF is your philanthropic checkbook, no matter what your capacity to give. It’s also a great tax vehicle for people with highly appreciated assets who want tax advantages, and top tier customer service. As we grow, Atlanta Jewish Foundation will truly become an incubator for new ideas, and people looking for ways to make their giving mean more.

Turning Summertime into Service Time

By CARING, COMMUNITY

As young adults watched their summer camp jobs, internships, study programs and travel plans unravel due to COVID-19, a nationwide collective of Jewish service organizations (including Federations) had a flash of insight. Why not mobilize young adults, ages 18-29, to spend four weeks this summer engaged in social justice projects focusing on people disproportionately impacted by the pandemic?

Thus, Serve the Moment was born in 10 U.S. cities, including Atlanta, with Repair the World taking the lead in recruitment. Lily Brent, executive director of Repair the World, accepted the challenge and helped put together Atlanta’s cohort of nine young adults who worked on food justice, education, mental health support, and more.  The program was so successful it is now recruiting candidates for the fall. Stipends of $500 a month are provided to help offset personal costs.

“It’s been really rewarding to hear how meaningful Serve the Moment has been, both for the Corps Members who volunteered, and the organizations they served. I got multiple emails rolling in from both sides about how this program filled a need, bringing together a cohort of young people, connecting them to purpose and to each other.”

Corps members filled their time with direct or virtual service, plus learning sessions on social justice taught by nationally known guest speakers.

Marius Karolinski hails from Massachusetts, but now lives in Atlanta. His placement was with Concrete Jungle, where he worked on the food pantry team and organized fruit picks in the area. He joined Serve the Moment hoping it would help him gain experience and professional development in the food-related field he wants to pursue. Marius enjoys working in his kitchen and spends about 10 hours a week cooking or baking. This Fall, he will be working as a teacher for a local Jewish Kids group and working with WUNDERGRUBS, a sustainable alternative protein company.

Others worked with the JF&CS Kosher Food Pantry, Second Helpings, and Blue Dove Foundation. Kayla Cohen, Atlanta’s Serve the Moment coordinator, said the program also filled a big social need. “Corps members really bonded as a group, helping each other counter COVID isolation and meeting new friends from out-of-town schools.”

If you are looking to volunteer while learning about social inequities and systemic injustices (racial justice, food justice, and education justice, Serve the Moment is looking for young adults (ages 18-29) to serve alongside community partners from September 30 to December 11 in a part-time fellowship program. Learn more here: https://www.tfaforms.com/4841213.

MLK Shabbat Suppers Celebrate Diversity & Dialogue

By CARING, COMMUNITY, Federation Innovation, INNOVATION, Making Jewish Places, NextGen, People in Need, PHILANTHROPY

For Jews and their loved ones, Shabbat dinner is far more than a meal. It’s a weekly platform for holiness, hospitality, peace, plenty and conversation. With that in mind, Federation awarded a Bloom Innovation seed grant to several organizations who collaborated on ways to use MLK weekend as a moment to turn Shabbat dinners into opportunities for dialogue and understanding.

On the Friday preceding Martin Luther King Jr. Day, 144 individuals across Atlanta showed up for a “MLK Shabbat Supper,” a guided dinner and discussion to honor Dr. King made possible by the collaborative efforts of Repair the World AtlantaOneTable, the American Jewish CommitteeHands On Atlanta, and Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta. There were ten simultaneous MLK Shabbat Suppers throughout the city, in neighborhoods ranging from Sandy Springs to the Westside. The religiously, racially and gender diverse group of hosts came from among the lay leadership of Jewish community partners including the above organizations, as well as Jewish Family and Career Services, Moishe House and The Schusterman Family Foundation.

Participants at the dinners enjoyed a meal while diving into a discussion guide filled with thought-provoking quotes and questions from a Jewish perspective about civil rights, racial justice and other issues of importance to Atlanta. Feel free to download the guide.

As OneTable Atlanta Hub Manager, Shira Hahn, put it, “By joining together at the table, we work towards creating new traditions that foster authentic and thoughtful engagement across difference to recognize our past and ideate a better future. Moving forward we will continue to build solidarity and greater understanding within the Jewish community and with all Atlantans.”

For those interested in further opportunities for service and dialogue, join Repair the World and partners for an anti-human trafficking event on January 27 and cooking for the Nicholas House family shelter on February 22; details and registration here.

Mental Health Responder Toolkit

By CARING, COMMUNITY, Federation Innovation, INNOVATION, People in Need, PHILANTHROPY

Imagine if more people re-thought mental illness as a quest for mental and spiritual wellness. Imagine if more people had the tools to understand, support, and overcome the shame, stigma and challenges of substance abuse. Now, with support from a Federation Innovation Propel grant, Atlanta-based Blue Dove Foundation is moving in exactly that direction, addressing issues of mental illness and substance abuse through a compassionate Jewish lens. Blue Dove works locally and beyond to educate, equip, and ignite our Jewish community with tools to understand mental illness and substance abuse and connect them with the right local resources, such as professionals from JFC&S. They are in the midst of creating a Mental Health Toolkit packed with resources and written by local rabbis and health professionals, to increase understanding and extend hands of healing.

Blue Dove’s Toolkit begins by articulating Jewish mental health values and defines the key issues that individuals and families struggle with. For example, the concept of b’tzelem elohim — to be created in the divine image — suggests that any conversation about mental wellness must begin with a foundation of dignity and respect. This can counter the shame of illness and the tendency to hide from conversations around mental health.

Or, refuah shleimah — healing and wholeness. Judaism recognizes that healing is not just physical; it is holistic. When we pray the misheberach for healing, we pray for refuat hanefesh v’refuat haguf, a healing of spirit and of body. The Jewish emphasis is also on healing, not on curing. Even when mental illness is under control, healing and a return to wholeness is in order. We see healing as a process, one that has many components and may be a lifelong journey.

The Toolkit will also provide a comprehensive list of local resources to recognize, respond, and set people on the road to healing.  The hope is that people will become more comfortable talking openly about mental health, mental wellness and illness. Learn more at Blue Dove Foundation.

How Friendship Circle Inspired Me

By CARING, COMMUNITY, Jewish Abilities Alliance, Jewish Camp Initiative, JEWISH JOURNEYS, People in Need

By Daniel Stern

I was still a freshman at The Weber School when my older sisters suggested it was time I took part in Tikkun Olam(repairing the world.) It was at this point that I decided to volunteer with Friendship Circle’s “Buddies at Home” program. I signed up and became a buddy to a young adult with special needs named Mike. Mike and I met nearly weekly, as our schedules permitted, and we had so much fun hanging out, playing sports together, going to the dog park, having lunch, and things like that. It was a great relationship.

By the time I was a sophomore, I began to think about creating a one-week summer day camp for people with disabilities modeled on Friendship Circle, where every camper has a “buddy.” I was really pumped to do it, but I did not have a plan set in stone. My Mom said, ‘Go for it, but, remember, this is your project, not mine.’ I went to the Sandy Springs Tennis Center and asked them if they’d donate a couple of tennis courts, and they said, OK. I was excited to launch what I was then calling “Serve it Up” Summer Camp, but pretty soon it dawned on me that I needed a little backup. I wanted it to be a free camp to encourage all who wanted to participate to attend. I knew I needed to raise money and I knew I needed my friends to help pull this off. I launched a Go-Fund-Me campaign online that raised over $1,000 for us to get started.

I worked with Rickelle New, the Director of Friendship Circle, and I created the tennis program and she created the arts and crafts program. We developed a flyer and reached out to all of the families that had participated in Friendship Circle activities. Recruiting my friends to become buddies for our campers was the next challenge, but eventually more than 20 of my friends signed up to volunteer. It was a great success to be outside playing tennis with our special friends. So, the following summer, I was excited to create another camp. We decided to move the camp indoors to the gym at Atlanta Jewish Academy, so those who did not want to be outside all day could also participate. That summer, we played many sports in addition to tennis and still included arts and crafts. Many of our campers with special needs even had two buddies! I learned that many people with disabilities have other health issues. They can’t take the heat and need the comfort of air conditioning.

I really thought I was doing this for kids with special needs. But, when the parents of these kids came up to me and told me how much they valued the camp, it felt so good. I realized that not only did the kids benefit, but their entire families benefited from what we had created. So did my volunteers. Now, as a freshman at Vanderbilt University, with the benefit of hindsight and a little maturity, I can see I was also doing it because of the values I learned in my family, at school, and through Friendship Circle. When you help others and build real relationships, you are doing the work of tikkun olam.

Organ Transplant Discrimination: Gracie’s Law

By CARING, Jewish Abilities Alliance, People in Need

Our Jewish Abilities Alliance (JAA) team and other community advocates were down at GA State Capitol last week to support Gracie’s Law (HB 842), organized by Georgia Council on Developmental Disabilities. The law seeks to end organ transplant discrimination against people with a diagnosed developmental disability, based on many misconceptions about their quality of life and ability to recover from a transplant. It’s named for Gracie Nobles, who was born in March 2019 with Down syndrome. Gracie spent 17 days in neonatal intensive care, then a month later, she showed signs of congestive heart failure and developed serious kidney problems.

At 3-months-old, Gracie underwent surgery to successfully repair a hole in her heart. But, if Gracie had required a heart transplant, she could have been denied due to her diagnosis. Georgia doesn’t have discrimination prevention laws to protect people with disabilities and ensure equal access to organ transplants. Even states with discrimination laws often leave people and children with disabilities off organ transplant lists. We’ll keep you posted on the bill’s progress! Learn how to advocate with JAA for Gracie’s Law here.

Empowering Ethopian Families

By CARING, COMMUNITY, GLOBAL JEWRY, People in Need

Empowering Yokneam’s Ethiopian Families
Young Ethiopian families in our Israel Partnership city of Yokneam are more successful than earlier immigrant generations, but many are still considered at-risk due to persistent illiteracy and underemployment. A new report on Federation’s investment in the Maof empowerment program demonstrates that positive mentoring and counseling interventions can change lives. Maof, which expresses “vision, courage and imagination” in Hebrew, provides heads of households with one-on-one counseling, mentorship on budget management, higher education and career development, and Hebrew language lessons, where needed. Federation’s Global Jewish Peoplehood committee reports these encouraging outcomes:

  • 8 families received consulting in monthly income management. Four of them have kept their accounts balanced. One family improved from constant debt to saving up to 2000 NIS a month.
  • 8 individuals improved their occupational status, finding better jobs with higher salaries. At least 4 more individuals are in the process of securing jobs such as technician, bookkeeper, bus driver, and more.
  • 20 individuals improved their educational status and launched new studies to earn academic degrees or professional courses.
  • 5 families received emotional therapy or domestic consulting. In 3 families there was a situation of domestic violence. Another woman had a fear of driving which kept her from being able to work. Due to the therapy, she overcame her fear, got a driving license and found a job.

During the 2018-2019 year, thirty families were served by the Family Center in Yokneam. The support services included identification of major needs, setting goals, and working to move individuals forward in their lives toward better employment and economic independence.

One-on-one mentorship really made the difference in this empowerment program. One participant said: “I was all the time occupied with worrying about my son. I could not afford buying him a computer or sending him to after school activities. Now that this is covered by the program, I am available to take care of myself. I am forever thankful for this support.”

Another commented, “She (the mentor) didn’t give up on me! She believed in me more than I have   believed in myself. She all the time urged me and pushed me to sign up. Now I am a student and I am still going to meetings with her to get the emotional support and encouragement. Sometimes just for good advice.”

Sparking Conversations to Leave a Legacy

By Aging, Atlanta Jewish Foundation, CARING, LIFE & LEGACY, PHILANTHROPY

Sparking Conversations to Leave a Legacy
Fueled by a lifetime of volunteerism, fundraising and Jewish community advocacy, Stephanie Abes found it easy to say “yes” when asked to represent Federation Women’s Philanthropy in the LIFE & LEGACY® initiative of the Harold Grinspoon Foundation. LIFE & LEGACY, now in its second year in Atlanta, provides training, support and incentives to secure endowments for Atlanta’s Jewish future.

“It was the right time in my life to help spark and steer conversations with my peers about leaving a legacy gift to our community,” Stephanie says.  “As I’ve progressed in my commitments as a Jewish woman, I can see that all I’ve worked for over the years leads to this. There are so many motivations to support LIFE & LEGACY. When I see the outstanding education my grandchildren enjoyed in our Jewish day schools, and as I watch my grown children step up and serve on the boards of our backbone agencies, I want all these organizations to be strong and sustainable going forward. It’s up to me and my family to ensure that these Jewish institutions continue for future generations.”

LIFE & LEGACY is a joint venture between Atlanta Jewish Foundation and the Harold Grinspoon Foundation with a goal to build robust endowments that will support the financial future of Atlanta’s synagogues, day schools, and core Jewish organizations. Currently, 18 different Atlanta Jewish organizations are in training with fundraising professionals from LIFE & LEGACY, learning how identify potential donors and have values-based conversations with them to secure legacy commitments to the places they care about most. By participating in these trainings, Stephanie has discovered there are many ways to leave a legacy.

Abes underscores that anyone can make a legacy gift, not just the wealthy. “LIFE & LEGACY gifts can be after lifetime gifts, enabling the donor to give more than they ever thought possible during their lifetime.  The trainings have opened my eyes to the many options that exist for planning and ultimately committing to a legacy gift.  For example, a person can designate a portion of their IRA to organizations they care about so they can continue doing their amazing work into the future.”

Stephanie was moved by a story presented in training of a woman with modest assets. The woman wanted to support her synagogue’s future but didn’t think she had the means. She realized that her small condo was a possible resource, so she checked in with her kids to ask if, upon her death, making that asset a legacy gift was OK with them. Her children let her know that they’d be fine if she did it.

“Stories like that give me the tools to open up conversations with friends about making a legacy gift. I tell them, I’m not your financial planner, but through Atlanta Jewish Foundation, you can get the advice you need. They can help you look at your assets and determine what makes sense for you.

“My experiences co-chairing Federation’s Community Campaign, plus serving on the overseas allocations committee took me to our sister city of Minsk many times. Seeing the magnitude of human need for Jews in Minsk, made me realize how important it is to support Jewish infrastructure there. And of course, it reminds me that we should be proud and grateful for the incredible Jewish institutions we have in Atlanta. They need our support, too. If I can be an influencer to help someone make a gift that ensures the Jewish future here, I’m happy to do it.”

ALEF Made Day School Possible

By ALEF Fund, CARING, JEWISH JOURNEYS, People in Need, PHILANTHROPY

Educated and Empowered, Thanks to ALEF Fund

J. is a single parent and a survivor of domestic violence. She receives no financial support from her ex-husband, who was her abuser, and works very hard to make ends meet. One of the joys of her life is that her daughter is getting an incredible Jewish day school education at Atlanta Jewish Academy, thanks to scholarship support from ALEF Fund.

“When I moved back to Atlanta from out of state, I was pretty broken from my marriage,” she remembers. “As we looked at school options, I had concerns. Our zoned public school has an open campus and it worried me that someone could easily walk into the building off the street. When you’ve been in an abusive marriage you learn to be hyper vigilant and protective. I was thrilled to find a position at Atlanta Jewish Academy.  The school was everything I dreamed of for my daughter — amazing facilities, Hebrew language instruction, Jewish values, and great campus security, with gates and intercoms and a culture of vigilance. But the cost of tuition put it out of reach.  Then I heard about ALEF Fund.”

“When I learned about the ALEF Fund state tax credit, I opted in right away. “It makes me so happy to know that by participating in ALEF Fund I am paying it forward for others like me who depend on tuition help for Jewish schools. My small contribution helps fund substantial scholarships, so it feels like a win-win! I don’t know why everyone doesn’t do it!”

“My daughter is thriving at her school and every day she teaches me something new about Judaism. We were at Six Flags recently and she heard a family speaking another language, which she recognized as Hebrew. She went right up to them and introduced herself in Hebrew! The father was so impressed with her language skills. I was blown away!”

“I was lucky to attend Hebrew Academy as a child in Atlanta. It gave me foundational Jewish literacy and taught me to read and write Hebrew. Now my daughter has surpassed me in her Jewish education. I am so grateful to ALEF Fund, for opening these doors for my daughter. Knowing that she is educated and empowered is everything to me!”

Georgia taxpayers have until December 31, 2019 to make a 2020 pledge to ALEF Fund and redirect a portion of their GA state taxes to become scholarships at 18 Jewish day schools, preschools and high schools. Questions? Contact Nicole Flom right away!

AgeWell Atlanta: A Concierge Approach to Aging

By AgeWell Atlanta, Aging, CARING, COMMUNITY

When “R’s” mother voluntarily handed over her car keys and announced to the family that she was ready to give up driving, there was relief all around. But suddenly, new challenges emerged. How would this lively woman, now in her 90s, get to the places she needs and wants to go? Her daughter was on board to take Mom to doctor’s appointments, but how would she keep up social connections with friends, grooming sessions and vet appointments for her dog, and trips to the grocery store to maintain her vital sense of independence?

One call to Jennifer Curry, who is AgeWell Atlanta’s Information & Referral Concierge/Manager, put several good transportation options on the table for the family. Through AgeWell Atlanta, they’ve learned that rides are available on weekdays from Alterman JETS transportation, but not for pets (unless they are service animals), and that companions will take older adults grocery shopping. Curry continues to help the family strategize about Lyft and other ride services for Mom.

AgeWell Atlanta’s level of personalized and coordinated referral is something new and rare. You have a single entry point for guidance and information — you can call (1-866-AGE-WELL), send an email, or visit the website, www.agewellatl.org. Your query goes to Jennifer Curry, a real person who takes an individual approach to finding the services you need.

As the face of AgeWell Atlanta, Curry comes to this work with a Masters of Public Health and was previously an I&R specialist in aging services for the Atlanta Regional Commission’s Area Agency on Aging & Disability. Becoming AgeWell Atlanta’s Concierge Manager appealed to her because of the high level of inter-agency cooperation that exists in the Jewish community.

“I was excited to offer truly coordinated care,” Curry says. “AgeWell Atlanta takes I&R to such an intimate and personal level. With the combined resources of AVIV Older Adult Services of JF&CS, the Marcus JCC, Jewish HomeLife and Federation behind me, I have the ability to close the loop for people.  When someone asks me something I can’t answer right away, I can follow up with the right professionals and get back to them. Client confidentiality is assured and there is no charge for your call.”

Explore the AgeWell Atlanta website and learn more about the wealth of local resources that help mature adults live rich, full lives, and support for their caregivers, too.