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A New Phase in Ukrainian Relief

By CARING, Global News, People in Need

Federation’s Ukraine Emergency Relief Fund has been essential in helping vulnerable Ukrainian Jews find safety and shelter in Europe and make aliyah to Israel. In record time, you helped us raised more than $1.6M to provide food, shelter, clothing, cash, and counseling to thousands of Ukrainians fleeing the war. And we were thrilled late last week to receive a $1M gift to the fund from the Zalik Foundation, bringing our collective impact to more than $2.6M.

Ukraine relief is now entering a new phase as an anticipated wave of Ukrainian refugees makes its way to the United States. Fifty-one individuals are currently in the metro Atlanta area. Their needs are enormous and now there’s a fund called AURA (Atlanta Ukrainian Relief Assistance) to help support them. Read on to learn how you can help these new arrivals.

Atlanta Ukrainian Relief Assistance (AURA)
Along with our partner, Jewish Family & Career Services, we are launching AURA — Atlanta Ukrainian Relief Assistance, to help displaced Ukrainians in the Atlanta metro area. We have set aside an initial $200K from the Emergency Relief Fund to support this vital humanitarian work, but fundraising will continue to meet anticipated needs.

Two Ways to Help Displaced Ukrainians

  • Ukraine Emergency Relief Fund
  • Atlanta Ukrainian Relief Assistance (AURA)

Just as America became a place of refuge for our people after the Holocaust, so too can Atlanta be a welcoming haven for our Ukrainian brothers and sisters. The costs are enormous. Please open your hearts again and donate today to the Atlanta Ukrainian Relief Assistance Fund. Learn more about their local needs and how to help: contact Zane Blechner.

Thanks to MJP, Atlanta is Full of Welcoming Jewish Places.

By Atlanta Jewish Community, CARING, Federation News

Wherever I go in the Federation world, people ask, “What’s that thing you’re doing in Atlanta with neighborhoods and mini grants? Something about Making Jewish Places?”

I’m genuinely proud to explain that here in Atlanta we have been inspired by a city planning concept called “placemaking” that reimagines and reinvents public spaces to help people connect, work, and play together in new ways. Since 2019, with generous funding from the Helen Marie Stern Memorial Fund, Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta has embraced placemaking through an initiative called Making Jewish Places, or MJP. It captures a couple of bold ideas:

  1. That people don’t always need brick and mortar spaces to do Jewish things together.
  2. That at a grassroots level, people have great ideas about what builds Jewish community and social connection. We can empower them with mini-grants.
  3. That even in metro areas lacking Jewish density, when people and organizations work collaboratively, they can dramatically deepen Jewish relational engagement.

I see MJP as a radical revamping of engagement from transactional to relational. It has a couple of unique components. MJP invites ordinary community members, (including PJ Library families and our NextGen constituents) to apply for small microgrants of $180 called Gather Grants. MJP also offers larger organizational grants for collaborative projects. Either way, funding supports whatever holiday celebrations, community service projects, and other ideas local groups can conceive. Federation professionals provide support and mentorship to help actualize whatever they dream up. It is bottom-up grantmaking offering a radically different model of how Federation can operate.

Our MJP grantees say it best:

“We are new to Atlanta and know very few people. Without the Gather Grant I would have been too shy to invite new people over. I’m so glad I did, as it seems to be the start of a new social circle for me.” — Gather Host

“This year was the first year we built a sukkah in my backyard thanks to this grant funding!” Shira Colsky – NextGen Grant Recipient.

To date, MJP activity and grantmaking has focused on two geographic areas, North Fulton, and East Cobb. The feedback from grant recipients has been enthusiastic and most people express a measurably strengthened commitment to Jewish life in their neighborhoods. Through MJP over 8,000 individuals have attended 250 unique programs, 78% of which were collaborative. Our grassroots approach has built a new level of trust and goodwill between Federation and suburbs outside the perimeter (OTP). We have learned that when organizations are in relationship with their community members and with one another, the whole ecosystem thrives.

This year, Federation successfully ran four rounds of Gather Grants, with our Shabbat Gather Grants currently in progress. We are immensely proud of the diversity in the age ranges, zip codes, languages spoken, and level of observance of the grantees.

Decatur is likely to be the next MJP target area. We are beginning a “soft launch” of outreach and activities to amplify the Jewish assets that already exist in Decatur and are excited to bring MJP’s collaborative energy to an area that we believe is ripe for engagement.

MJP is something I am personally proud of. It represents this Federation’s fearlessness about trying new things. You can reach out to our MJP professional, Carla Birnbaum, to learn more about MJP possibilities. And if you missed it in Fed5 last month, listen to Danniell Nadiv, Federation’s Senior Director of Jewish Journeys, Places and Welcoming, talk about the power and potential of Making Jewish Places.

Moishe House Without Walls Energizing Jewish Life OTP

By Atlanta Jewish Community, CARING, Gather Grants

When you think of Moishe House programming, your first thought might be one of the four physical locations inside Atlanta’s perimeter, or one of the 150+ Moishe Houses spread across 30 countries around the globe. However, in Atlanta’s Northern suburbs, Moishe House Without Walls (MHWOW) has emerged as a compelling Jewish nexus for young adults to “do Jewish” together. With support from Federation’s Making Jewish Places initiative, three young adult leaders, known as MHWOW “hosts” have cultivated a Jewish community of friends and peers away from Atlanta’s city’s center by offering consistent programming at least once per month. The hosts decide who they want to invite, where they want to host, what Jewish topics they want to explore, and when they want to gather. Activities can range from Friday night Shabbat dinners, holiday observances, learning events, to cultural celebrations.

Thanks to the support of the Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta’s Making Jewish Places (MJP) microgrants initiative, since July 2021, three MHWOW hosts – located in Kennesaw, Smyrna and Cumming – have successfully built Jewish community through 33 programs engaging 90 unique participants. “We are so grateful for the partnership that the Federation has provided since we launched this initiative in the North Atlanta suburbs,” said Dave Press, Senior Director of Advancement for Moishe House. “The demand for this programming has exceeded our expectations, and the leadership demonstrated by the MHWOW hosts has been incredible. We are so proud to be able to support these young adult leaders in their efforts to create and build community for their peers.”

Help Resettle Ukrainian Refugees in Atlanta

By Atlanta Jewish Community, CARING, Global News

As the U.S. begins to open its borders for immigration, we will likely see many refugees come to Atlanta. If you would like to be on JF&CS’s list to help with the needs of Ukrainian refugees, please fill out this form. We will let you know when housing or items such as furniture are needed. JF&CS and Federation will keep you updated as this situation continues to evolve.

With the recent White House announcement of the admission of 100,000 Ukrainian refugees into the US, JF&CS is gearing up to assist refugees. We are currently awaiting guidance on what this process will look like, and how many will come to the Georgia area. We want to encourage anyone in the state of Georgia who considers themselves Jewish and entered the U.S. from Ukraine prior to 3/1 on a temporary visa, with or seeking, Temporary Protective Status, or received humanitarian parole status at a land border who needs assistance (financial, food, housing) to send an email to The message can be English, Russian or Ukrainian and we will have it translated.

Passover Seders in Ukraine and Ethiopia Target Future Olim

By CARING, Global News

The Jewish Agency for Israel held a special Passover seder for hundreds of Ukrainian refugees who are staying at the organization’s Aliyah (immigration to Israel) processing centers in the region and are preparing for their departure to Israel. In addition, The Jewish Agency also hosted special seders in Ethiopia for its future olim (immigrants) set to make Aliyah. 

The organization’s main seder event for Ukrainian refugees took place in Warsaw and was led by the organization’s Director of the Aliyah and Absorption Unit and Deputy Director General, Shay Felber. The Jewish Agency’s Shlichim (Israeli emissaries) also hosted parallel seders in Romania and Hungary for future olim who are currently taking refuge there and awaiting their flight to Israel. 

The Jewish Agency worked with the Harold Grinspoon Foundation’s PJ Library and the Ministry of Aliyah and Integration to publish and translate the Haggadot into Russian. The Haggadot will contain the classic cornerstones of the Passover story, including traditional songs, and are written to be enjoyed by the whole family. 

Meanwhile, in Gondar and Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, The Jewish Agency held a seder for thousands of future Ethiopian olim. The Passover seders in Ethiopia were conducted as The Jewish Agency and the Ministry of Aliyah and Integration are set to resume their Tzur Israel initiative, which is being resumed in accordance with the decision made by the Government of Israel. 

The preparations for these seders in Ethiopia was a tremendous undertaking, overseen by the community’s Rabbi Menachem Waldman, and included 100,000 baked matzahs made from 3,000 kilograms of flour locally ground by the community, 400 liters of raisin wine, and a charoset recipe unique to Ethiopian culture that includes dates, bananas, ginger, sugar, and wine. 

The Gondar seder was led by former leader of the community Metiku Yalew, a Jewish educator who made Aliyah to Israel in 2001. In Addis Ababa, the seder was led by Fekadu Maru, the community’s local Jewish educator. Seder leaders were assisted by volunteers from Israel and cantors in the community, and participants will sing special holiday songs in both Hebrew and Aramaic.  

Those seders are in addition to the dozens being held worldwide thanks to Jewish Agency Shlichim stationed around the world. They will help organize seders in Australia, New Zealand, Europe, South Africa, Latin America, North America and the former Soviet Union. As for olim in absorption centers here in Israel, they are preparing for their seder’s with the organization’s assistance. 

“From Ukraine to Ethiopia, we’re seeing a very modern exodus which proves that the Zionist dream is continuing to be fulfilled.” Hagoel added. 

Propel Grantee a Leader in the “Maker” Movement

By Atlanta Jewish Community, CARING

More than a year ago, Federation Innovation sponsored a Propel Pitch funding competition for social entrepreneurs in Atlanta. The first-place winner was a team from Georgia Tech known as Tikkun Olam Makers, or TOM.  The Jewish Abilities Alliance (JAA) works closely with TOM. In 2022, JAA provided an Inclusion Microgrant to fund ASL interpreting services at the Makeathon and provided guidance and training around planning an event that is accessible and welcoming to individuals with disabilities.

The TOM movement started in Israel with a mission to serve the most neglected members of society — the elderly, people with disabilities, and the poor. This global movement brings together people with disabilities (known as “Need Knowers”) and people with creative abilities (known as “Makers”). TOM’s mission is to develop open-source assistive technology to address the everyday challenges faced by people with disabilities. At Georgia Tech, there are currently 10 projects in development. Federation’s Propel Grant provided a new infusion of funding that will help TOM scale up its team at Tech and establish new teams on other Georgia campuses.

Teddy Lambert, who leads TOM at Georgia Tech shared news about the 2022 Makeathon. “We had 30 students across 5 Maker teams working on 3 different challenges. Teams 1 and 3 developed a shower support and alert system for a Need-Knower with postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome (POTS), a condition that causes lightheadedness and fainting. They developed portable shower support handles that would provide extra grip if the Need-Knower became dizzy or lightheaded and alert a family member or partner to come to assist the Need-Knower. Team 2 was working on a visual phone notification system for a Need-Knower that is hard of hearing. They developed a lightbulb-sized LED notification device that could be placed around the house and connected to the Need-Knower’s phone. When the Need-Knower’s phone received a notification, the device would flash a certain color based on the alert type, allowing the Need-Knower to pinpoint when a call or text was received. Teams 4 and 5 created low footprint upright standers for a Need-Knower whose son has CP. The teams’ standers provided support for the child while allowing them freedom of motion in front and to the side, making it easier for the child to play with toys.

The Makeathon culminated in the virtual showcase. After an intense 48 hours of making, three judges and over 20 public spectators logged on to the virtual event to see all the work the Makers accomplished during the weekend. Team 1, which developed one of the shower support systems, was crowned the winner. Even after the Makeathon, the work continues. Multiple teams are now finalizing their designs, with hand-offs to the Need-Knowers expected by the end of the semester. The Makeathon was a huge success, and the rest of the TOM executive board and I can’t wait to start planning next year’s events!

More Family Camp Weekends!

By Atlanta Jewish Community, CARING, Global News, Jewish Camp Initiative

Earlier this month 27 families totaling nearly 100 people gathered for Family Camp: Passover Edition at Ramah Darom. Once again, Federation helped create and convene an immersive family camp weekend along with partners 18Doors, Be’Chol Lashon, PJ Library Atlanta, Ma’alot, and the Israeli American Council.  Other family camp experiences have included PJ Library Atlanta’s Book it to Shabbat celebrating the love of Jewish books. In March, families gathered at camp for The Grand Getaway, bringing grandparents and grandkids together in partnership with Ramah Darom, the Jewish Grandparents Network, and PJ Our Way.

The Passover themed weekend targeted diverse families and was specifically geared for little ones, ages 0-5. Over the weekend families connected with one another in Hebrew, Russian, and Spanish. Bonds were forged over fireside chats, making charoset recipes from around the world, and dancing with handmade tambourines. Families who had previously felt marginalized due to their cultural identity, family structure, etc. shared that it was the first time they felt not only welcomed but embraced and celebrated by the Atlanta Jewish community.

Families said:

  • Our favorite part of the weekend was simply being immersed in Jewish culture with other Jewish families. All of the hosts and co-leaders were extremely welcoming, nice, and accommodating. It truly made us feel welcome, at home, and less-stressed in a new environment, when surrounded by so many new families.
  • We’ve always wanted to attend a weekend like this. We aren’t as involved in our Jewish community as we once were, and we’d love to be more involved again. After attending this weekend we know that there is a space for us in the community

Following the success of these weekends Federation is interested in expanding additional experiential offerings as well as a weeklong family camp. Interested? Let Melissa Scholten-Gutierrez, Director of Family Engagement & Education, know what kind of experience you’re looking for.

Loving the Stranger. Paying Our Privilege Forward.

By Atlanta Jewish Community, CARING, Federation News

Nataliyah Fleshler and Masha Vaynman came to America with their families from Kyiv as young girls. They were part of the wave of Jews from the former Soviet Union who found refuge here in the late 1980’s and 90’s. In those years, Atlanta was a destination for Soviet Jews seeking a new life, and our community more than delivered.

Back then, Jewish Family & Career Services offered translation services to assist scores of refugees flocking to Atlanta. There was a Russian speaking social worker for the FSU (Former Soviet Union) Jewish community. Over time those services became less needed because Jewish refugees to Atlanta had become solid citizens, fluent in English, successful in their careers, yet still bringing their unique ethnic flavor to our city. Just like Nataliyah and Masha, who are both HR professionals and are raising families here.

Nataliyah and Masha are paying their privilege forward by organizing a massive volunteer program to send medical supplies to Ukrainian refugees. They are choosing to forget the bullying, the hatred, and the discrimination they experienced as Jewish children in Ukraine and are throwing themselves into Ukrainian relief work. To me there is something very Jewish about this.

Jews well understand the commandment to love the stranger and protect the vulnerable. Having been strangers in many hostile lands, having been isolated, persecuted, and exterminated because of our differences, we are uniquely attuned to the needs of immigrants and refugees. And baruch ha shem, we Jews have Israel — a Jewish homeland that has never stopped taking in huddled masses from North Africa, Ethiopia, Yemen, Iran, Iraq, and the former Soviet republics.

So, this Passover, let us celebrate Nataliyah and Masha, who have not turned away from the land they fled. They help renew the Passover story for us this year and remind us that we can all be part of a modern-day Exodus for millions of Ukrainians seeking safety and freedom.

Matching Fund to Feed Hungry Jews at Passover

By Atlanta Jewish Community, CARING, People in Need

With Passover ten days away, many community members will need extra funds to purchase Passover food items. Jan and Marsha Spector, longtime supporters of the Jewish community, have created a Feed the Hungry Challenge Match to feed hungry Jews at Passover. The Spectors will match dollar-for-dollar up to $25,000, for new and or increased contributions made to the Maos Chitim Fund by the end of Passover. Make your donation here.

“Food security is a basic human right,” said Jan Spector. “It saddens us to think there are Jews in Atlanta who are going hungry or who must choose between food or medicine or gas for their cars. At Purim, we learned of the halachic imperative of matanot l’evyonim — giving gifts to the poor to make sure no one is hungry. Let’s make the words of the haggadah come true, so that all who are hungry can come and eat.” To donate and learn more, please contact Arielle Orlansky.

Nataliya and Masha: Helping Ukraine, the Country They Once Fled

By Atlanta Jewish Community, CARING

Nataliya Fleshler and Masha Vaynman both came to America from Kyiv (the Russian name is Kiev) as young girls — part of the wave of Russian Jewish refugees who were resettled in America in the 1990’s.

Nataliya was 9-and-a-half when her family arrived in Atlanta. She went to Garden Hills Elementary School and studied Management and HR at Georgia State. Today she works in HR at VMware, a cloud computing company, and is the mother of two little girls. She was recently chosen to participate in Leadership Sandy Springs.

Masha’s family originally settled in St. Louis, and she later came to Atlanta. In college she studied art history, psychology, and business administration. “Eventually I became a corporate recruiter. After having my second daughter, I spent two wonderful years with PJ Library Atlanta as a Russian speaking connector. Now I do HR work full time for a local startup.”

Living safe, comfortable lives in Atlanta, both Masha and Nataliya are horrified by Russia’s brutal assault on Ukraine and the refugee crisis that has ensued. As Jewish women who also identify with the broader Russian speaking community in Atlanta, they admit it’s complicated. Masha is married to a Russian with lots of family members in Russia. “His peers and friends understand the truth about the war in Ukraine. But family not so much. It can be divisive, but I would say most of the local Russian community has stepped up to help Ukraine.”

The irony of prioritizing humanitarian support for the country they fled is not lost on Nataliya and Masha, but both women are committed to taking action in a big way.

“I mostly have sweet childhood memories of Kyiv,” Masha says, “but my family came to the United States as refugees because we were persecuted in Ukraine as Jews. Our papers and passports were stamped Jewish. Even though we were not religious, there were strange little signs. My grandparents spoke Yiddish. And once a year we had matzah, but it was kept hidden in a closet. It wasn’t until years later after attending Jewish day school in St. Louis, that I realized my father came from a religious family and knew all about Judaism. It just didn’t come up much at home.”

“Having a Jewish last name made us second-class citizens. I was picked on. Had we stayed there it would have been hard to get into college or have the career of my choice. We left Kyiv in the dark of night without telling our neighbors. But now the Ukrainians need us, and I am committed to helping. There is a lot of complexity about putting in so much effort to help the country we ran away from because we could not build a life there. For me it is a matter of humanity, and of not repeating history. We must be better, and it feels good to be able to help.”

For Nataliya, Ukraine relief has practically become a second career. She has launched a program to send medical supplies to Ukraine, in partnership with VMware and Leadership SS. “There are huge medical needs in Ukraine – drugs to perform surgeries, surgical supplies and daily medicines to treat refugees. This past month has made me self-reflect on the abundance in my life. I want to prioritize my energy and talents to help those in need. Normally we’d get our families together for Passover, but now my time is going to logistics work, getting supplies from Poland to Ukraine. My own family has understood that this is my way of coping, through giving.

Masha adds, “Today Jews in Ukraine are having a much better life, with more possibilities, and even a Jewish president! But there’s still racism and prejudice there for Jews and for people of color. With Passover coming it is impossible to not see this as a modern Exodus for Ukrainian Jews who now able to leave for Israel.  It also makes me think about how Jews risked so much to celebrate Jewish holidays in the Nazi era.  This will be a profound Passover for all of us.”

How You Can Help Send Medical Supplies to Ukraine:

For the month of April, Congregation Beth Shalom will be holding a Ukrainian Medical Supply Drive. In partnership with Project CURE and MedShare, these items will be delivered to hospitals in Ukraine. The drive will focus on medical supplies currently in shortage, as well as personal hygiene items. If you would like to contribute, please select the items created on our Amazon wish list to be sent directly to Beth Shalom. Please be sure to select Anna Shakhnovsky on the registry address so the items can be delivered directly to the synagogue.

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