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Innovation Initiative and Jewish Abilities Atlanta Team Up

By COMMUNITY, INNOVATION, Jewish Abilities Alliance, Jewish Abilities Atlanta

Jewish Atlanta’s growth and development depend on our ability to address the ever-changing needs of our community with creativity, foresight, and courage. Federation’s Jewish Innovation Initiative offers local changemakers the opportunity to expand the dynamic ecosystem of our city and brings exciting global ventures into Atlanta. One such program is Tikkun Olam Makers (TOM), a global movement of communities that create and disseminate affordable solutions that address the challenges faced by people with disabilities, older adults, and more. Teams of volunteer “makers” join those who have identified a need in the disability community to create concepts, working models, prototypes, or products that are specifically designed to solve identified challenges.

Last week, Jewish Atlanta was thrilled to host the TOM Fellowship Kickoff Event. 75 students from around the globe,  representing schools in the U.S., Israel, and other countries worked across a variety of disciplines, from engineering to occupational therapy to meet, share ideas, and become inspired by the ways they can work together to benefit the disabled community. It was an incredible example of the many ways Federation supports the Jewish landscape in Atlanta.

TOM, started in 2014 and has grown from one community in Israel to dozens of locations around the world. TOM’S partnership with Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta started through Hillels of Georgia. In 2019, Hillel was awarded a grant by the Innovation Initiative to introduce TOM to Georgia Tech. Since then, in collaboration with Hillel, the Innovation Fund has supported TOM’s growth. In January of 2019, TOM presented at Federation’s Propel Pitch Competition and was awarded as one of the events finalists.

Over the past 4 years, Federation’s Innovation and Jewish Abilities Atlanta (JAA) initiatives have been instrumental in providing resources to TOM such as grant funding, training, and help to build relationships with our local community. On Tuesday, JAA’s Training Coordinator Lindsey Flax led an accessibility training session for the TOM fellows. JAA promotes an inclusive community that celebrates the uniqueness and abilities of every person across the lifespan and lifts the voices and perspectives of people with disabilities. The training taught fellows about interacting with people with disabilities online and in person. Topics included inclusive language and social media accessibility.

Society disables people by designing everything to meet the needs of only people who are not disabled. For social media accessibility, Lindsey spoke about how to make social media content accessible for users with disabilities.

TOM’s Director of Monitoring, Evaluation and Learning, Mikhal Kotlyar, says “The Jewish values behind TOM are so special, and it’s valuable to spread the idea of tikkun olam (repairing the world). The chance to have all our leaders and fellows in one place is unparalleled and allows us to capture the imaginations of these students in a different way.” 

A Federation Love Story


Last Tuesday, we celebrated Tu B’Av, the Jewish holiday of love. Deborah Jacobs, our new President of Women’s Philanthropy, is part of a classic love story—and it couldn’t have happened without Federation! 

In early January 1988, there was a snowstorm in Atlanta. Deborah Jacobs, now the President of Women’s Philanthropy, was a young professional who had recently moved to Atlanta. Deborah grew-up in a small town in Mississippi and was raised to believe in helping the organizations in one’s community.  

“I always knew it’s important to build and maintain community organizations,” Deborah says. “The people you help through them are teachers, small business owners, healthcare workers. Being part of the community means supporting the community.” 

Deborah had become part of Federation’s Young Leadership Cabinet upon moving to Atlanta, and that Sunday, she was supposed to attend a volunteer calling session on behalf of Young Leadership Cabinet. She considered not going, because the weather was still bad. “I didn’t want to take the car out, but I felt so cooped-up from being in the house all week, I just had to get out.”   

Deborah arrived at the very busy bank processing center where the calling session was happening, settled herself in one of the few remaining cubicles, and started making calls to donors. Between calls she said hello to familiar faces and made jokes. When the session ended, a guy behind her struck up a conversation. He’d seen her talking with other people throughout the session and said “I knew you’d talk to me.” She exchanged numbers with the guy, Lou, and the rest is history.  

Deborah says she and Lou would never have met without that calling session—the social circles they ran in were entirely different. Now, they have two children: David, who lives in San Francisco, and Jonathan, in New York City. She hopes that young adults keep it in mind when they’re deciding how to spend their free time. “Volunteering is a social opportunity! You get to meet people who share your values.” 

She credits the good work Federation does with her determination to be involved when she first moved here. “Federation funds so many essential organizations and institutions. If I was going to be part of Jewish Atlanta, I had to get involved. When you’re part of a community, you have to help grow and maintain it. Federation is my dues to my community.”  

As the President of Women’s Philanthropy, Deborah hopes to give people more opportunities to learn about what Federation does and guide them toward philanthropic opportunities that spark their imagination. “I like being a connector—when someone tells me they’re interested in something, I make recommendations. I like to help them find an event or program that will speak to them, build relationships and bring them into a tighter orbit. I always say, ‘You have the piece to someone else’s puzzle.’” 

We’re all lucky that Federation could fit the puzzle pieces of Deborah and Lou so long ago! 

Summer Gather Grants Bring People Together


Federation’s Gather Grants program has been celebrating all things summer! We love hearing the stories that our hosts and participants share with us every day. Gather Grants are gifts of $180 that participants can use to create a meaningful Jewish event. Hosts have complete control over the event, from the date and location to the attendees and activities. The photos and stories we receive from these events are simply amazing, and we can’t wait to share some of our favorites with you in the upcoming weeks. Today, we’re featuring a few stories from Honeymoon Israel participants who used our Gather Grants to connect with Jewish life in Atlanta!

One of our hosts, Ben, held a Guys’ Night Havdalah and Poker Tournament with 12 friends at his home. It was a special event, as Ben was able to share the personal meaning behind several pieces of Judaica. He even highlighted the Tallit he acquired on his Honeymoon Israel trip, which he plans to give to his child as a legacy gift upon their B’nai Mitzvah one day.  

Stacey held a pool gathering for friends, including two new babies! It was a fun way for Stacey to introduce new friends to older ones and build a micro community of Jewish connections. Even Stacey’s parents were able to join in on the fun and meet some of the friends they made on their Israel trip last year. And their daughter joined in and splashed with their friends! 

According to Corey, a Honeymoon Israel alumnus who hosted a Gather Grant in mid-June, our program is easy to navigate and does a great job of encouraging Jewish families to get together. If you’re interested in hosting your own Jewish event, you can apply for our Fall Gather Grants, which will open in September for gatherings to be held in October and November. Check out our website to learn more about our program and how we can help you create a meaningful event. 


My Experience on Federation’s Domestic Allocations Committee

By COMMUNITY, Ecosystem

By Dawid Revell Israel

When I was first asked to join Federation’s Domestic Allocations committee, I felt honored. I was humbled to assist with deciding how much to allocate to local organizations to help our Jewish community. After coming to the first meeting, I felt like a novice in the room. Yet I didn’t stop going; I kept listening and learning. With each meeting I learned more and more, and I was blown away with the impact Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta has in upholding and protecting Jewish families and lives.  

Let me explain: there is not one type of Jew in Atlanta. We are all different people with different economic statuses, ethnic backgrounds, and cultures. We are a diverse community that contains observant Jews, unaffiliated Jews, and everything in-between—and we all make up Jewish Atlanta. And because we are a part of this city, we have access to some tremendous resources that smaller communities might not have: supplementary Jewish educational support through Jewish Education Collaborative; financial, educational, and mental support for families going through fertility treatments with Jewish Fertility Foundation; access to a community mikvah (and the only accessible mikvah in the Southeast) with Metro Atlanta Community Mikvah (MACoM); traveling to Israel for a honeymoon with Honeymoon Israel; young adults coming to someone’s house to have a Shabbat dinner with OneTable. Our Domestic Allocations Committee focuses on our local area in addressing these needs, and they do a phenomenal job in providing money to organizations that transform and improve Jewish lives.

One of the things that most impressed me is the overwhelming support we provide to Jews that may feel marginalized and not accepted in society. Some of these groups are Jews of Color, Jews of ethnic diversity, interfaith couples or families, and the LGBTQ+ community. Our committee provides funds to organizations that establish safe places for these Jewish youth and adults where they can celebrate Shabbat, go to a mikvah, or interact with other Jewish people, and also participate in everyday Jewish life as they see fit. By providing these meaningful Jewish experiences, we are helping Jewish people connect with their Jewish identity and keeping them engaged in our community. If someone is in need of financial support, they can take out an interest-free loan through Jewish Interest Free Loan of Atlanta (JIFLA). Jewish undergraduate and graduate college students have the opportunity to receive an interest-free loan through Jewish Educational Loan Fund (JELF). And people struggling with food insecurity can visit the Kosher Food Pantry at Jewish Family & Career Services.  

I look forward to another term helping to uplift and support Jewish Atlanta and upholding tikkun olam (repairing the world). 

Dawid Revell Israel is a family man, teacher, and leader in Atlanta’s Jewish community. He is a member of Congregation Shaarei Shamayim and serves on the board as the Vice President of Membership. He is a businessman who owns two restaurants, Go Vegan Grill and Mama’s Yawd, with a third restaurant and bakery in the works. Dawid is also board representative of the Atlanta Jews of Color Council and volunteers on the Domestic Allocations Committee at the Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta. 

Federation Launches JTech


Federation is excited to offer J-TECH, a new affinity group for Jews working in the technology sector that aims to help professionals network, hear from leaders in the industry, and learn about the impact of Federation in Atlanta and beyond.

This group, co-chaired by Mitchell Kopelman and Dorrie Paradies, is a fantastic resource for anyone who works in the tech industry, provides services for those in tech (such as attorneys, accountants, etc.), investors in tech companies, or those who work in tech departments in other industries.  

Our inaugural event was held in May at the offices of Nelson Mullins. David Zalik, Co-Head of Merchant Point-of-Sale Lending with Goldman Sachs and co-founder of The Zalik Foundation, was interviewed by co-chair Mitchell Kopelman.

The attendees were excited to hear directly from David Zalik about his experiences as an entrepreneur, his advice to those starting out, and what his mentors taught him over the years. They also learned about his personal connection to Federation and how the Zalik Foundation works with the Federation. “We’re very proud to partner with Federation. The Atlanta Jewish Federation has been the community leader, community organizer, community connector for our Jewish community. We are passionate about what Atlanta Jewish Federation provides as the central nervous system and the heart and soul of this Jewish community.”

J-TECH is proud to provide outstanding networking and learning opportunities while engaging new people in the work of Federation. Our next event is scheduled for Monday, October 30th at 5 PM, location TBA. Sign up for our mailing list today to receive updates.


PLOT Builds Bridges in Atlanta


Last week, we observed Juneteenth as a Federal Holiday for the third year. This holiday commemorates the day that enslaved people in Galveston, Texas, finally received news of the Emancipation Proclamation—two years after it was issued. This holiday is a symbol of the transition from bondage to freedom, a theme that runs through much of Jewish tradition. Federation is proud to partner with organizations like Political Leaders of Tomorrow for Blacks and Jews (PLOT), which seek to uplift the voices of Jews of color and build bridges between the Black and Jewish communities in our city.

PLOT is funded by a grant from the Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta. This April, PLOT hosted 32 Black and Jewish college students in a two-day in-person program with the theme, “Forging Alliances between Blacks and Jews to Combat Hate.” The powerful Leadership Forum made space for frank conversations, education from experts, and empathy.

“I have not been able to stop talking to my friends about all the amazing speakers we heard and the cool people I met from around the state. I will always remember the     kindness and genuine friendship that I saw between David Hoffman and Reverend Woodall even as they discussed issues that they hold dear yet disagree with each other about. The image of them smiling and shaking hands stays in my mind. I truly learned so much about cooperation when we disagree, but also that Black Americans and Jewish Americans have so much in common.”

-Participant in PLOT’s Leadership Forum

Dr. John Eaves, Founder & National Director of PLOT, says, “The Black-Jewish alliance that was so potently nurtured by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. during the Civil Rights era must be restored to address the rise of antisemitism on college campuses across the United States today. It has been refreshing and inspiring to see Black and Jewish college students from diametrical perspectives evolve from seeing the other as a stranger to understanding the common humanity that Blacks and Jews possess.”

Federation is proud to support the work of PLOT and other organizations that do this essential, intersectional work.


White House Unveils Antisemitism Plan


On May 25, the White House released the first-ever U.S. National Strategy to Counter Antisemitism: a whole-of-society, inter-agency plan to address rising antisemitism. The plan includes more than 200 recommendations and commitments from agencies and entities across the country to reverse the normalization of antisemitism, protect Jewish communities, and build cross-community solidarity.

The plan has four basic pillars:

  • Increase awareness and understanding of antisemitism, including its threat to America, and broaden appreciation of Jewish American heritage
  • Improve safety and security for Jewish communities
  • Reverse the normalization of antisemitism and counter antisemitic discrimination
  • Build cross-community solidarity and collective action to counter hate (Factsheet of the plan).

This strategy comes after years of work from national & local Jewish organizations and advocacy. The Jewish Community Relations Council of Atlanta (JCRCA) works closely with Federation to achieve these same goals and combat the delegitimization of Israel in the local, state and federal levels of government. JCRC also engage in local and state-level advocacy with other community groups around shared values, and to create more opportunities for solidarity in the face of rising extremism—especially through interfaith and intergroup coalitions and relationships. JCRCA and Federation are pleased to alert Jewish ATL to this national plan to address antisemitism.


Matan to Honor Gail Heyman


Atlanta’s own Gail Heyman is being awarded with Matan’s Leadership Award. This honor, presented since 2009, is in recognition of an individual’s efforts in promoting inclusion, respect, dignity, and services to Jewish community members who have disabilities and their families.

Dori Kirshner, Executive Director of Matan, says, “In every community we get to be a part of—whether for a short time or a longer time—there are always a handful of changemakers. They take new people under their wings, they advocate for others, and they look outside their own immediate needs. Gail thinks beyond just her own family; her advocacy doesn’t stop where her family’s needs stop. She isn’t complacent about adhering to the status quo if there’s progress to be made, and she isn’t afraid to blaze new trails.”

Gail is a longtime supporter of Federation and was a member of the disabilities task force that founded Jewish Abilities Atlanta (JAA). She then served on JAA’s advisory committee for several years and was instrumental in their 2020 community study on disability inclusion in Jewish Atlanta, in partnership with Matan. She has been involved with other projects for community members with disabilities, including The Den, a sensory-friendly cabin at Camp Barney Medintz. Her son, Scott (or Scotty), is a familiar face at Camp Barney, having worked in the kitchen for many years.

Gail is an advocate for people with disabilities and their families not only in Jewish Atlanta, but more broadly across communities. She is the Co-Founder and President of the Fragile X Foundation of Georgia and on the advisory board of JScreen, which advocates for genetic screening to identify genetic conditions like Fragile X, among others.

Of the recognition, Gail says, “I am honored to represent JAA and Greater Atlanta Jewish community with this award in recognition of the great strides that we will continue to make for inclusion.”

Dori first met Gail during the pandemic when they were collaborating on the 2020 community study. “Gail reached through the Zoom and grabbed me in both an allyship way, as well as a friend—she made it clear that by joining together in inclusion efforts, we could get more accomplished.” The two stayed in touch, and Dori was blown away by Gail’s passion for advocacy.

Matan, which means “gift,” was founded 23 years ago in the New York metro area as a local direct service organization that supported neurodiverse students at day schools, after school programs, and more. In their first decade, Matan set up Hebrew school options at JCCs across the TriState Area. As day schools and synagogues began expanding accessibility and supporting families, they became a training organization that prepares Education Directors, Teen and Youth Directors, Rabbis, Early Childhood Educators, and more to provide better s and experiences to families and individuals with and without disabilities.

Matan now supports people across the lifespan in all stages of life, “from babies to bubbies.” Dori says we “must have willing partners in the community in order to do this holy work, and Gail is certainly that. She has carried the banner and brought so many new people into the inclusion mindset; she has and will continue to affect change so that everyone is included in Jewish life.”

Survey Results Teach Us About Federation’s Community


In February, Federation conducted a Community Snapshot Survey to help us learn a little more about Jewish Atlanta. We received 1,367 responses to the survey, all from adults over 18 who live in the metro Atlanta area.

We learned some fascinating things about our Atlanta Jewish community:

  • The most important aspects of Judaism for respondents are morals and family/traditions.
  • Respondents have deep ties to Atlanta; even those who grew-up somewhere else (like New York, Florida, or Chicago) have likely lived in Atlanta for many years.
  • 82% of those who filled out the survey do not plan to move away from Atlanta, and those who are planning some sort of move are likely to move within the metro area.
  • 40% of respondents are over the age of 65, and 67% are women.
  • Over 71% of respondents either have not designated any charitable giving in their estate planning, or do not have wills at all.

This data, while not entirely surprising from what we knew of our community, still gives us valuable insight into the makeup of Jewish Atlanta. Many of the responses align with community surveys from other areas of the country—especially when it comes to the importance of Jewish morality and traditions.

These results reinforce Federation’s emphasis on investing in overnight camping (a grand tradition in the Jewish community), Gather Grants (which help people form new traditions), and to caring for the vulnerable (a pillar of Jewish morality).

It also shows us that there are opportunities for Federation’s community to consider the importance of legacy giving. Endowments and other legacy gifts are vital to the longevity of Jewish institutions and will help them continue to thrive for decades to come. Jori Mendel, Chief Foundation Officer at the Atlanta Jewish Foundation, says, “Atlanta Jewish Foundation is here to help you plan your legacy—it’s easy and so important.  Your generous endowment gifts help to secure our Jewish future and help ensure that Jewish life remains vibrant in Atlanta, in Israel and around the world.”

Thank you to everyone who answered our Community Snapshot Survey. It is one example of our overall investment in data and research. We recently completed an Early Childhood Community Assessment and are working on a qualitative report regarding interfaith families. We are dedicated to focusing on data so we can better understand our community needs and provide the most needed services to our community.