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We Went to the Mikvah Together Before Our Wedding

By CARING, COMMUNITY

By Shari Rabin & Matt Berkman

Note: MACoM is the only mikvah in Atlanta open to the entire Jewish community regardless of affiliation, observance level, sexual orientation, or capacity for physical mobility. The possibilities for traditional and modern immersions at MACoM are almost limitless. Below, Shari Rabin and Matt Berkman, who are faculty members at Oberlin College, share their experience immersing right before their wedding

Neither one of us had immersed in a mikvah before, but Shari had taught about mikvah many times in her Jewish studies courses and accompanied several friends and relatives as they immersed in preparation for their weddings. Matt is open-minded about engaging with tradition and agreed to go as well. We set up our appointments for the Thursday evening before our Sunday wedding. This was in early August 2021, just as the Delta variant was rising worldwide, and so the weeks leading up to our immersion were filled with stress as guests pulled out and we grappled with how to safely hold our already long-postponed wedding.

We were able to serve as each other’s mikvah guides, each of us undergoing the ritual with only the other present. While we understood that this went beyond the bounds of Jewish law, we were grateful MACoM allowed us to do this. During the immersion ritual, we each felt vulnerable, open, and powerfully rooted within Jewish tradition. It marked a moment of transition for each of us as individuals but serving as one another’s guides added an additional layer of meaning. That we were doing this amidst a global pandemic also felt momentous, honoring the fact that our bodies are more than just vectors for disease.

We came out of the mikvah to the cheers of our waiting family members, who whisked us away to a celebratory dinner. While COVID-related stress did not totally dissipate until after the wedding, at that moment we felt lighter, happier, and spiritually prepared to become a Jewishly married couple.

Celebrating Jews in Civil Rights

By COMMUNITY

With the MLK weekend and the hostage crisis at Congregation Beth Israel still fresh in our minds, we want to lift up the historic role Jews have played in advocating and “showing up” for justice and human rights in America. What inspired them should inspire us — the Jewish imperative to seek justice, and the wisdom of Pirke Avot that “You are not obligated to complete the work, but neither are you free to desist from it (2:21).”

Ready for Whatever Comes Next

By CARING, COMMUNITY, Eric's Blog

Many Jewish leaders around the country tell me they are exhausted and dispirited. I am not.

It is a blessing to be a part of Jewish Atlanta. There is a generous spirit here, an optimism as tall as the buildings rising in Midtown, and as fresh as the burgeoning neighborhoods of our northern suburbs. These qualities have taken us from the darkest days of COVID to our current moment — not quite “normal,” but resilient, limber, ready for whatever comes next.

Jewish Atlanta thrives because of you. Not quite six months into the 2022 Community Campaign you have helped us pass 77% of our goal for the Partners Fund. Total Philanthropy is robust at $15.4M — well on its way to the $22.2M goal. All of our Targeted Philanthropy initiatives are more than 50% towards goal or higher. Atlanta Jewish Foundation is growing, helping more and more people do good in our community. These are all healthy signs.

As 2022 gets underway, here are some things that excite me:

  • Federation’s North Metro Making Jewish Places (MJP) initiative has been a huge success. It’s all about connecting people right in their own neighborhoods and encouraging local collaboration. In 2021, MJP engaged 7,000 individuals, awarded 80 Gather Grants, and 31 Organizational grants. We will be expanding the program to a new geographic area, soon to be announced.
  • Spearheaded by the Zalik Foundation and supported by generous community donors, the Jewish Community Professional High School Tuition Grant Program, continues as part of our effort to attract and retain great Jewish professionals. Full-time Jewish professionals, clergy, and educators are eligible to receive up to a 50 percent tuition reduction if their children are currently enrolled or have been accepted to a SACS accredited Jewish high school in Atlanta. It has created a new source of risk capital, enabling the day schools to fund new investments in educational and co-curricular excellence. It has been a token of appreciation and gratitude for the work Jewish professionals and educators do on behalf of our Jewish community.
  • Our teens are loving life in Israel. With generous second year funding from The Zalik Foundation for Gap Year programs in Israel, and new support for Root One from the Marcus Foundation, we are sending more young people to Israel than ever before.

Dreaming big about our community’s future, as I do, means securing big resources. We all know people who, for a myriad of reasons, don’t give to Federation and don’t feel connected to us. This is where you can help. If there are people in your social or professional network who might benefit from a thoughtful conversation with me about our impact and mission, please let me know. I would be honored to reach out and tell them about the good we do, and the things their generosity can empower. Email me.

If you have not already made a commitment to support the 2022 Community Campaign, or to any of Federation’s five Targeted Philanthropy options: AgeWell Atlanta, Jewish Abilities Alliance, Jewish Camp Initiative, Jewish Innovation Fund, and PJ Library, please make your gift now. You’ll feel great about it!

2021: A Year of Impact and Generosity

By CARING, COMMUNITY

Thanks to Atlanta Jewish Foundation fundholders, 2021 was a year of

tremendous generosity and impact. They made grants totaling more than $40M to 5,4000 nonprofits in Atlanta, the U.S., and around the world. With $365.4M in assets under management, these investments and legacy gifts through Atlanta Jewish Foundation made big things happen.

In 2021, Foundation fundholders made 5,400 grants:

  • 70% went to local nonprofits
  • 16% went to overseas Jewish nonprofits
  • 14% went to national nonprofits

One local beneficiary was Creating Connected Communities (CCC), formerly known as Amy’s Holiday Party. This is a small local nonprofit that provides leadership training to Atlanta teens so they can effectively serve children in need. This year CCC received 43 separate grants from Atlanta Jewish Foundation totaling $93K, providing meaningful and sustaining funding for the organization.

Amy Zeide, Co-Executive Director and founder, expressed her thanks. “Creating Connected Communities is so thankful for the support we have received from Atlanta Jewish Foundation and its donors. Whether through monetary gifts, opportunities to attend and network at events, or spotlights in newsletters, Federation and Atlanta Jewish Foundation have supported CCC in countless ways over the years. It is an honor that Atlanta’s Jewish leaders and philanthropists have the confidence in our program and the impact we make in the community to so generally support our work.”

“It’s very special when we can speak with a donor and recommend a grant opportunity to a deserving nonprofit that aligns with his or her values,” said Jori Mendel, Chief Operating Officer. Such was the case this year when Repair the World Atlanta received a substantial gift from Dr. Craig C. White, who wanted to support Jewish social justice work. Lily Brent, Executive Director of Repair said, “This investment is game-changing for us in terms of cementing a sustainable future for Repair the World in Atlanta. This gift will allow us to grow our impact by increasing our ability to do what we do best: connect young adults to opportunities to live their Jewish values by meeting urgent needs in our community.”

“Although we never had the opportunity to know Dr. White personally, we are humbled that the impact of our fellows, corps members, volunteers, and partners inspired Dr. White’s generosity. We are honored to continue Dr. White’s legacy. We hope his trust in Repair will illuminate our work for others who are able to contribute to our unique approach to mobilizing the Atlanta Jewish community to support our neighbors through meaningful service and learning. We’re grateful to the Atlanta Jewish Foundation both for facilitating the connections that made this gift possible and for helping us raise awareness about our work.”

Never underestimate the power of your generosity. Speak with us about local, national, and international nonprofits where your gift will have tremendous impact.

Eat Environmentally & Deliciously on Tu B’Shevat

By COMMUNITY

By Anastasia Pixler, Federation Social Media Coordinator
Tu B’Shevat, the 15th day of the month of Shevat on the Hebrew calendar, is known as the New Year for Trees. It begins on the evening of January 16th and continues the following day. In contemporary Israel, the day is celebrated as an ecological awareness day and is also commonly called Israeli Arbor Day. Another observance is the Tu B’Shevat seder, a meal that honors the seven agricultural species of Israel: wheat, barley, grapes, figs, pomegranate, olives, and dates.

I took on the challenge of using some of these ingredients to create a Tu B’Shevat inspired meal of Maple Pomegranate Roasted Chicken with a Barley Arugula Salad. The chicken has wheat, grapes, pomegranate, and olives. The salad has barley, figs, dates, and olives. I’ve also added goat cheese and date honey to honor Israel as “the land of milk and honey.” Enjoy the recipes!

Gather Grants Made Hanukkah Even Brighter

By CARING, COMMUNITY

It’s amazing what a mini grant of $180 can do! For Hanukkah, Federation awarded 70 Gather Grants of $180 to people in 18 zip codes throughout Atlanta and the Northern Suburbs. Applicants were invited to create welcoming Hanukkah events in their local communities. The warmth and friendliness of these events engaged people of all ages, and fully 92% of participants reported they feel a stronger connection to the Jewish community after attending them.

My Scorecard for 2021

By COMMUNITY, Eric's Blog

Here comes 2022! I love how the secular new year gives us a chance to revisit the resolutions we wrestled with at Rosh Hashanah. Now, nearly six months later, I am taking a gentle look back at my August blog post which outlined Federation’s top priorities for 2021. They are all still Federation priorities, but the last 20 months and the last two weeks have taught us how quickly the virus can upend our progress. As our Yiddische sages said, “Mann Tracht, Un Gott Lacht,” — Man plans, G-d laughs.

As for planning, you’ll be interested to know that inside Federation all our professionals have adopted a business accountability and management model called EOS — Entrepreneurial Operating System. EOS disciplines us to establish goals and create scorecards to evaluate them with measurable inputs and outputs. So, through an EOS lens, I want to revisit our priority projects to see where we are, and where we are heading.

Israel Travel | (Uncertain)
People are hungry to travel to Israel, but Omicron has put a halt to it for now. We hope to move forward with our Men’s Journey, 40-Under-40, and other experiences in 2022.

Jewish Education Collaborative (JEC) | (Moving Forward)
JEC is doing bold work at Congregation Or Hadash to reimagine bar/bat mitzvah. Busy families at five local synagogues no longer battle traffic for midweek Hebrew as part of the Atlanta Hebrew Connection, where learning is done from home.

Gap Year Programs in Israel | (Thriving. Funding Renewed)
With generous funding from The Zalik Foundation, JumpSpark recruited twenty-five students from fifteen different Atlanta high schools who have received scholarships of $10,000 – $15,000 to attend a gap year program in Israel. They are thriving and sending incredible reports back home.

1440 Spring Street: A Center for Jewish Life | (Excitement Continues)
The building boom in Midtown makes our dream of turning 1440 Spring Street into a Center for Jewish Life very much alive. We envision a dynamic space where Jewish entrepreneurs and innovative nonprofits will interact and where cultural experiences will happen.

Toco Hills Housing Initiative |(Exploration Continues)
Exploration of the feasibility of building affordable apartments for older adults in Toco Hills continues.

Family Camp |(Happening)
An immersive family camp weekend for young families is planned for early April at Ramah Darom.

Tuition Assistance for Jewish Professionals | (In Effect)
Full-time Jewish professionals, clergy, and educators are now eligible to receive up to a 50 percent tuition reduction if their children are currently enrolled or have been accepted to an accredited Jewish high school in Atlanta. It has helped boost enrollment at our Jewish high schools and has been renewed for a second cohort of students.

Camp Scholarships | (Back for Summer 2022)
Camp scholarships helped send more than 1,000 kids Jewish camp in 2021. Applications for camp scholarships are open for summer 2022.

Bloom Grantee Brings Bagels to Intown Atlanta and Beyond!

By COMMUNITY, INNOVATION

By: Nichole “Niki” Hetchkop, Founder of Beeline Bagels

“By making bagels more accessible and on-demand, Beeline Bagels is an innovative idea that celebrates Jewish culture and creates community. We are proud to support a more dynamic Jewish Atlanta by funding Beeline Bagel’s mobile cart. Here’s Nichole’s Bloom grant story.”  —Russell Gottschalk, Federation Director of Innovation.

As a Federation Innovation Bloom grantee, and a graduate of the Path course, I have made a lot of progress in my journey to deliver the best bagels to Atlanta through the creation of my company, Beeline Bagels.Over the last six months I’ve refined my mission and overcome a lot of the logistical hurdles presented in creating a food business in Atlanta. My Bloom grant allowed me to think way beyond my initial concept.

My first inclination was to sell bagels through a brick-and-mortar space, but it was proving to be a struggle with Covid and getting the space I needed to create my bagel magic. That’s when I decided to go mobile. The Bloom grant allowed me to invest in developing a custom mobile cart, one that would allow space for the pre-packaged bagels and a place to refrigerate the cream cheeses. I worked with a company in Bayside, NY to create this cart that includes custom ice plates at the bottom of the cart to keep cream cheeses cold and has room for 200 bagels. The wheels on the cart allow me to set up shop mostly anywhere!”

The grant has allowed me to practice and perfect my bagel-making skills. I said yes to every opportunity to make my bagels for a new person, including creating samples for the Kosher Atlanta BBQ Festival. I made bagels for all my friends and asked them for feedback and to help spread the word. One friend who tried my bagel and is a contributor to Good Day Atlanta named Beeline Bagels as one of the best bagels in Atlanta – something I now proudly proclaim in my marketing.

I am also focused on becoming an event vendor. My goal is to book wedding brunches, bar/bat mitzvahs, fundraisers, tailgates, events in the Jewish community, and beyond. Because I am mobile, the geographic potential is endless! I have an amazing network of talented friends who have helped me photograph my bagels, build my website, create my logo and help design my merchandise so I can sell apparel and create another revenue stream. I can’t forget to mention the dozens of family and friends who have provided me with honest feedback to help get my bagels and schmear to where they are today.

My overarching goal, one day, is to have multiple carts where I can employ adults with special needs to help sell goods from the carts. For now, I am continuing to focus on my go-to-market strategy, revising as I go, while creating heavy buzz for Beeline Bagels. As a one-woman business, I am determined to keep pushing the boundaries of what is possible to establish Beeline Bagels as the go-to bagel vendor in Atlanta for all Jewish events and beyond.

I thank the Bloom Grant team for believing in me, and I look forward to wheeling my cart into an event for them soon. For all bagel orders and inquiries for events, please e-mail BeelineBagels@gmail.com. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram at @BeelineBagels and visit us on our website at www.beelinebagels.com

Atlanta Day Schools Maintain Enrollment Uptick

By ALEF Fund, COMMUNITY, JEWISH JOURNEYS, PHILANTHROPY

A unique silver lining of the pandemic has been a significant spike in enrollment at Atlanta’s Jewish day schools. Last year and this year, many Atlanta parents who were frustrated by school closings and virtual learning, opted for the high-quality, in-person education found at our Jewish day schools.

Tallying re-enrollment and new enrollments, nearly all our day schools are seeing their highest numbers in recent history. The Davis Academy added an additional section of first grade last year. They now have 54 students in second grade. Enrollment at The Weber School is at an all-time high.

The Zalik Foundation’s Jewish Community Professional High School Tuition Grant has also been a driver. It offers full-time Jewish professionals, clergy, and educators up to a 50 percent tuition reduction if their children are currently enrolled or have been accepted to an accredited Jewish high school in Atlanta.

Prizmah, national Jewish day school network, confirms the trend. Their 2021 report said, “After two decades of slow erosion in the numbers of students enrolled in non-Orthodox Jewish day schools in North America, the 18 months since the onset of COVID-19 have seen an unanticipated change. Many schools have reported a spate of inquiries and enrollments among children transferring from public schools, sometimes in the middle of the year. Families noticed how well day schools were responding to the challenge of offering a solid and stable education during the pandemic. They preferred what they saw to what their children were experiencing in their previous schools.”

In-migration and remote working are also part of the story. Because of COVID parents were able to work remotely and choose a community with great day school options. In the Atlanta Jewish Times, Erica Gal, a former admissions director at Atlanta Jewish Academy (AJA) said, “Though AJA did have families coming from local public school, we also had a lot of families move here from out of town.”

Here in Atlanta, preparing our schools to receive these new students and to operate in the COVID environment came at a cost. Jewish day schools received grants from the CARES Act and from Federation’s COVID-19 Emergency Relief Fund to offset the increased cost of additional staffing, building adaptations, increased cleaning, PPE, and many other costs associated with safe operations. That investment really paid off.

It’s great to hear comments like this one from a new day school parent: “Ok, I can’t help it! I just have to tell you how insanely happy our daughter is this year already. She literally cannot wait to come to school every day, and when I pick her up, she is just going a mile a minute, telling me all about her day and how much fun she had. She absolutely adores her teachers, and so do we. They have just been so above and beyond in every way already.”

Another way to support our Jewish day schools is to make a pledge to the ALEF Fund to redirect a portion of your Georgia state taxes to become tuition scholarships. Hurry, the deadline is December 31, 2021.

Canton GA’s Shalom Club — Way More Than Mah Jongg

By COMMUNITY, Making Jewish Places

The name Soleil at Laurel Canyon has a bit of a California ring to it, but actually it’s a 55+ residential community in Canton, GA.You might be surprised to learn that 110 out of 900 residents at Soleil are living in Jewish households, most of whom moved from all over the U.S. to be closer to their grandchildren and adult children. (Federation identified this trend in its last Community Study). You probably won’t be surprised to learn that Soleil’s Jewish residents launched a vibrant Jewish group called the Shalom Club, back in 2016. It is open to anyone in the community who has an interest in Jewish heritage and currently has 92 members!

Federation’s Relational Engagement Manager, Carla Birnbaum recently “discovered” the Shalom Club and its lively President Marvin Polikov. “They’ve truly made a Jewish place at Soleil, and Federation’s Making Jewish Places grant has supported several of their programs. Most recently club members came downtown to tour The Breman Museum’s History with Chutzpah exhibit”

Sure, some folks play mah jonng at Soleil, after all, most of them are retired. They love to look at life through a Jewish lens. The club had a virtual second night Passover seder. They built a sukkah for Sukkot. They baked hamantaschen for Purim. They decorated Soleil’s public spaces for Hanukkah. There is a Yiddish group, a genealogy group, a current events group, a book and movie group, and a Lunch Out group for meeting, eating, and conversation.

Many Soleil residents were synagogue members in their former communities, but for many, the Shalom Club gives them new ways to continue to engage Jewishly.

Marvin Polikov’s wife Sheila commented, Marvin and I were born and raised in Omaha, Nebraska where we were very active in many Jewish organizations such as the JCC preschool, B’nai Brith, ORT, Council of Jewish Women, and our synagogue.”

We moved to Georgia from the Midwest three years ago, mainly because two of our sons moved to Atlanta after they graduated college. They are both married, joined a Temple, and gave us five grandchildren. One of our granddaughters just celebrated her bat mitzvah. We love that Soleil has a viable Jewish community with the Shalom Club offering many educational activities and celebrations of all the Jewish holidays. Marvin and I have made many new friends because of the Shalom Club and have continued our involvement in our new community as we did in Omaha.”

Roberta B already lived in Atlanta but still found the move to Canton an adjustment. Moving to Soleil was a big life change. We didn’t know anyone here. And we were the only Jewish family in our section. I met several Jewish people through other friends from my previous neighborhood and from my teaching days in a Jewish day school here in Atlanta. When the Shalom Club was started, I became involved with activities and was on the original board for three years. I have made many wonderful friends through the Shalom Club. Many of us are originally from New York and even though we all have different backstories our Jewish faith gives us a common bond”

Ex-New Yorkers, Sunny L. and Arlene Z explain why they’ve joined. “We want to be a part of a Jewish organization. There is a strong camaraderie between Soleil residents and a stronger bond among other Shalom Club members. Living here in Georgia, and being Jewish, is not an easy combination. Things are very different here. A feeling of belonging motivates participation. Celebrating Holidays with others is just wonderful.”

These Shalom Club members are Jewish ambassadors. Rodney B.said, “What I value most is that the Shalom Club of Soleil provides a means for its Jewish residents, and non-Jewish residents who wish to belong, to gather, socialize, celebrate our heritage, and share our life experiences with one another.”

Birnbaum agrees. “The people I’ve met who live at Soleil are enthusiastic, confident Jews, who continuously create ways to engage in their faith. We can learn so much from them and I can’t wait to see what they plan next!” Contact Marvin Polikov to learn more about the Shalom Club.