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Matching Fund to Feed Hungry Jews at Passover

By CARING, COMMUNITY, 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


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.

Federation is for Good Times Too!


By Matt Bronfman, Federation Board Chair
We talk a lot about how Federation is built to carry us through difficult times. Whenever and wherever Jews are in crisis – from Covid relief in Atlanta to the Ukrainian refugee crisis – our generous donors make it possible for us to step in and make a difference. We stand with those facing emergency situations, and we also continue to build a strong foundation so that we will be here for you and your family if you need us.

But we also are built for z’manim tovim, good times. Just one year from now, in April 2023, I will be leaving for a Jewish Federation Community Journey to Israel that will showcase all that Israel has to offer. The trip will offer the opportunity to explore Israel through different “tracks,” that emphasize the unique dimensions of Israel. There will be specialized itineraries for first-time visitors, outdoor enthusiasts, technology and innovation, and even one for foodies. I really hope that you will join us as we deepen our bond with Israel and with each other. I promise, this is going to be a fantastic trip. Learn more here and if you have questions, please contact Marsha Hurwitz.

Mexico on My Mind. Ukraine in My Heart.


While my friends and colleagues are working around the clock to save lives at the borders of Ukraine, The Jewish Agency for Israel’s (JAFI) work around the globe isn’t stopping for a minute.  

And neither am I.

Last week I had a fascinating experience in Mexico City where I visited Project TEN – Be The Change. It’s a Jewish Agency for Israel (JAFI) program that targets young Jews from the entire Jewish world and brings them together to do community development work. In counterpoint to the dire situation in Ukraine where JAFI is also doing incredible work, it was uplifting to see Project TEN in action. 

But now my bags are repacked with parkas and sweaters, and by the time you read this, I’ll be in Warsaw, Poland for a first-hand look at the heroic work our overseas partners are doing at the Ukrainian border.  

In this head spinning geopolitical moment, I feel the power of global Jewry and the interconnectedness of the Jewish people as never before.  

On the bright side, my trip to Mexico connected me to meet Project 10’s young adults who are on a three-month long tikkun olam project in Chimalhuacán — a high poverty community outside of Mexico City. It was joyful to see Mexican, British, and European Jewish young adults working side by side with young Israelis who have finished their army experience. They are doing good and establishing relationships that will last a lifetime.  

Project TEN currently operates projects in Israel, Mexico, Uganda, Ghana, South Africa, Greece, Cambodia, and Ethiopia. I can easily envision it becoming a meaningful service option for our own Atlanta young adults, whether as a gap year experience or a post-college experience through an organization like Repair the World. This is the way to build a cadre of future Jewish leaders who have passion, perspective, and impact. 

Heading into the darkness and destruction of the war in Ukraine, I feel privileged and proud to witness our incredible global Jewish network in action at the border.  

You’ll likely see some photos and brief comments from me on the Federation Facebook page. I look forward to updating the community on all that I experience at the Ukraine border when I return to Atlanta. Know that your incredible support of the Ukraine Emergency Fund is making this holy work possible. 

Empathy and Action at the Strong Women Fellowship


JumpSpark’s Strong Women Fellowship is an affinity group of 40 female identifying teens who meet monthly to discuss what it means to be a strong Jewish woman. Topics have included political advocacy, meaningful volunteerism, women’s healthcare, self-care, being present, navigating friendships, being Jewish, and how to give back to their communities in meaningful ways.

Leah Moradi, an 11th grade peer leader in JumpSpark’s Strong Women Fellowship, had a revelation when Lily Brent, the director of Repair the World Atlanta, and Emma Burns, a Repair the World Fellow, spoke to her group about “period poverty”a term for inadequate access to menstrual hygiene tools and education, and sanitary products. “Before being exposed to the struggles of people who are faced with this issue, I never thought twice about my easy access to basic menstrual hygiene products. I now feel the privilege of being able to easily drive to a Walgreens and buy whatever products I need.”

After learning about this issue, Leah and her group got right to work. They concluded their session by packaging 130 period packs containing menstrual products to donate to The Homeless Period Project. This national organization distributes menstrual products to homeless and low-income schools, shelters, and community organizations.

Applications for next year’s cohort are opening soon. To learn more about the Strong Women Fellowship, reach out to Amanda at

Ukrainian Refugees Resettle in Yokneam


In recent weeks we have been overjoyed to see hundreds of Ukrainian refugees airlifted to Israel to make aliyah (immigration to Israel) and begin new lives. Among them were seven Ukrainian refugee families arriving in Yokneam, our partnership city in Israel. The photo shows Anna and Igor, new arrivals who escaped the chaos in Ukraine and arrived in Yokneam with literally nothing. As our partnership region has done so often in the past, both for Soviet refugees and for Ethiopian refugees, Yokneam residents opened their hearts and their doors to help them. Yokneam expects to settle at least 40-50 Ukrainian families in the coming months.

The Jewish Agency for Israel led a national emergency operation with the municipalities and regional councils to collect products for refugees in Ukraine. The Megiddo Regional Council provided more than 150 packages to help resettle these refugees, including blankets, coats, gloves, scarves, hygiene products and diapers.

Planting Seeds for Future Generations


Growing up in the tight-knit Jewish community of Charleston, South Carolina, Ellen Arnovitz learned early on that serving, leading, and giving were priorities in her family. All four of her grandparents were immigrants from Russia and Poland. “We were not the big givers in our community,” she says, “but we were always involved. My father was a synagogue president. My Aunt was the first woman president of our local Federation.”

In her teen years, Ellen’s leadership role in the southern region BBYO chapter frequently brought her to Atlanta. “I absolutely loved the energy and vibrancy of the big city!” She eventually moved to Atlanta and raised her family here. Today she is the proud matriarch of a blended family of 13 grandchildren, 11 of whom live in Atlanta, and two in London. More and more, leaving a legacy is on her mind.

“My kids are the beneficiaries of everything this Jewish community offers — our Jewish day schools, Jewish camps, the MJCCA, and our synagogues. How could I not put my energy into making sure that these organizations survive and thrive for future generations? Through Atlanta Jewish Foundation’s LIFE & LEGACY initiative, I’ve enjoyed helping people think creatively about how to structure legacy gifts.”

“We’ve all seen those astonishing stories about people of modest means who steadily put aside funds for something they cared about, and then when they passed, they made incredibly meaningful gifts. You don’t have to be wealthy or old to leave a legacy, you simply have to have the intention. That’s why it’s so rewarding to speak with young couples who are still saving for college and building their nest-egg and explain that they can project their generosity forward. When I tell them that a small life insurance policy set aside today as a legacy gift can grow into something big in 50 years, they get excited.”

Years ago, as a participant in the Wexner Heritage leadership cohort, Ellen wrote an ethical will. “It was the first time I really thought about legacy giving. It made me reflect on what values I wanted my kids to remember and was very clarifying.”

“I continually ask myself, why am I so lucky? When you have had a full and blessed life like mine, you want to share and invest in the community’s future. It not only helps to build a vibrant Jewish community for future generations, it enriches your life now. Through I have learned that sharing is a mindset. Giving back to the community and helping others is the legacy I want to pass on to my children.”

Camp is for Families!


Family Weekend: Passover Edition April 1-3

Jewish camp isn’t just for kids anymore, it is for entire families! Federation wants you to experience the fun, freedom, and Jewish community that a camp retreat can create at Family Weekend: Passover Edition, April 1-3 at Ramah Darom.

Family Weekend is an early Spring retreat tailored for families with children ages 0-5, with a focus on fun activities to help families get ready for Passover. Activities will be specifically geared for little ones, with plenty of opportunities to be outdoors and connect with nature. You’ll spend time crafting, cooking, creating, and learning more about the traditions of Passover. There will also be enriching adult experiences, all in a beautiful camp atmosphere that is relaxed and casual.

With help from Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta, the cost for the entire weekend is just $400 – an incredible price that makes it possible for whole families to attend. We are proud to partner with these organizations to bring you this weekend: 18Doors, Be’Chol Lashon, Ma’alot Atlanta, PJ Library Atlanta, and the Israeli American Council.

Making an Impact in a Crisis


By Matt Bronfman, Federation Board Chair
Part of the premise of the Federation is to have an organization that is ready to step in when emergencies arise. Federation has the infrastructure, the relationships, and the know-how to make a difference quickly. That is what the Federation did during Covid when we raised over $4 million in a few weeks and distributed it right away to those in need. That is what we are doing right now with the Ukraine Emergency Fund which has already raised more than $1.1 million in humanitarian aid for the Jews of Ukraine.

As the situation in Ukraine deteriorates, the 200,000+ Jews across Ukraine are truly in peril.  Our campaign directs %100 of funds to our on-the-ground partners, JDC, World ORT, and the Jewish Agency for Israel. It’s gratifying to see Federation play such a crucial role in marshalling significant resources. As we said when we launched the 2022 Community Campaign, Federation is built for this!