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Scholarships Send Hundreds to Camp This Summer

By CARING, COMMUNITY, Jewish Camp Initiative

Federation’s Jewish Camp initiative has lots to celebrate as 2022 summer camp season approaches. As of mid-May 2022, our generous donors have raised $960K to help send nearly 700 kids to overnight Jewish camps. Atlanta kids aren’t just going to Jewish camps in our region, they will be attending 38 FJC (Foundation for Jewish Camp) affiliated camps across North America!

One grateful scholarship family said: “My family and I cannot thank you enough for your generous support. It has been an extremely difficult year and our daughter would not be going to camp without this help. This is the first time she has ever liked a sleep away camp, so we are thrilled to be able to send her back for a second summer! Thanks again for all of the hard work you do!”

Here’s how the funding breaks down:

  • One Happy Camper Grants: $275,550 to 363 campers
  • Needs Based Scholarships: $671,868 to 319 campers
  • Russian Speaking Jewish Access Grants: $12,000 to 11 campers

Todah rabah! We are so incredibly grateful for this gift. You have truly made camp happen for our son.  Thank you for helping us send our child to camp, it truly is his happy place.”

“Wow! I am overcome with emotions right now and am beyond grateful for this generous scholarship! It definitely alleviates the financial stress, allowing me to feel at ease with sending my daughter to camp this summer!! She had the most amazing experience as a first-time camper last year and really wanted to go back this summer! Please know that I am forever grateful. I know her Jewish camp experience will only help nurture her connection to Judaism and to becoming more connected the community in Atlanta. Thank you thank you so very much!”

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

By CARING, COMMUNITY, Eric's Blog

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.

Plan Now to Take the Israel Trip of a Lifetime

By COMMUNITY, GLOBAL JEWRY, JEWISH JOURNEYS

It has been years since Atlanta traveled to Israel as one united community. Now plans are well underway for us to return together on Federation’s 2023 Community Journey to Israel, April 17-23.

Timed to coincide with Israel’s 75th birthday, this will be a journey of personal discovery and celebration. Customized your trip by choosing from eight exciting tracks, including exploring Israel through the outdoors, an engaging culinary experience, diving into modern Israeli technology, and a hands-on experience volunteering, just to name a few.

Here’s what people are saying about the trip:

“We are excited about everything — to be back in Israel, to be in Israel celebrating a milestone birthday, and to be there with our Atlanta community that we love so much. Trips like this are all about bringing people together and now more than ever we need to be together, to feel connected, and to celebrate! There is no place better to do that than Israel. We have so much to look forward to!”  Robin & Howard Sysler

“Time in Israel recharges our spiritual batteries as we savor the people and places that make us uniquely Jewish. This trip is confirmation that the Diaspora continues to look to Israel as our spiritual homeland while creating and strengthening bonds among existing and new Atlantan and Israeli-based friends and family.” Beth & Joel Arogeti

We promise, Israel will change you. This trip will be an inspirational, innovative, and educational dive into the heart of Innovation Nation. Whether you’ve been to Israel many times, or are a first-timer, this will be a transformational journey. Learn more and reserve your place now!

Moishe House Without Walls Energizing Jewish Life OTP

By CARING, COMMUNITY, Making Jewish Places

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.”

How Baby Jack Launched a Legacy

By CARING, COMMUNITY, LIFE & LEGACY

Adam Kazinec has a long history of engagement with Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta and the wider Atlanta Jewish community. He currently serves on the Federation board and in the last couple of years, he has served on the steering committee of Federation’s Jewish Innovation Fund. Through it he learned about the Jewish Fertility Foundation (JFF) which provides financial assistance, emotional support, and educational programming to Jewish people with medical infertility. Adam was excited to see JFF launch in Atlanta, but never in his wildest dreams did he imagine that one day he and his wife Brittany would rely on JFF for emotional support in their quest to start a family.

Adam and Brittany’s road to parenthood was difficult and ultimately came to fruition through in-vitro fertilization (IVF). When their son Jack was born, Adam and Brittany celebrated their good fortune by opening a charitable Donor Advised Fund at Atlanta Jewish Foundation. And they signed the Jewish Future Pledge — a commitment that from the funds they would leave to charity at their passing, at least 50% would be earmarked to support the Jewish people and/or the State of Israel. Both of these philanthropic acts were expressions of gratitude and hope for the future Jack would inherit.

Adam Kazinec was excited when he heard Elana Frank, JFF’s CEO, make a presentation to the Innovation Fund about the Jewish Fertility Fund. “The Fund raised $50K in seed money for several startups like JFF,” Adam remembers. “It was both empowering and humbling to be a benefactor of such an important startup. The truth is, we would not have Jack right now without the educational and emotional resources they provided.”

Baby Jack is now four months old and is the center of the Kazinecs’ world. “We named him Jack HaTov Kazinec, Brittany explains. “Jack was a name on both sides of our family. We understood the power of a name and chose HaTov as his middle name in hopes he can bring out good in the world.”

The Kazinecs feel privileged to leave a legacy for the next generation through the Jewish Future Pledge and are excited to work with Atlanta Jewish Foundation to build a personal philanthropic plan. “We see this as a long-term partnership. We like how the Pledge does not lock you into giving to specific Jewish charities. Who knows what areas will need support down the road and what new social innovations will rise to the surface. We are excited to launch a legacy that our kids can steward. It is a beautiful thing.”

Brittany agrees. “We know that there’s so much for Jack to explore on his own to decide how he wants to be Jewish. It is up to us to show him the ropes along the way. There is no denying that we will be lifetime supporters of the Atlanta Jewish Community, but how unique to have Jack as a tangible sign of our commitment. We are so grateful to JFF for helping us add a Jewish baby to the world!

Collaboration Celebrated at JPro Conference

By COMMUNITY, GLOBAL JEWRY, Making Jewish Places

Earlier this month, 20 Atlanta Jewish professionals gathered in Cleveland for the JPro Conference, along with their counterparts from around the country. The theme was collaboration – a chance to unpack where Jewish professionals have been over the last two years of the COVID challenge and where we might go now, together. It was the first cross-sector gathering of Jewish community professionals since the pandemic began.

Our Atlanta professionals led two presentations that demonstrated the collaborative power of grass roots community building through our Making Jewish Places (MJP) Initiative. Atlanta is nationally known and admired for Making Jewish Places by many Federation communities. So, we were excited to share MJP’s strategic vision that empowers people to grow their own community in authentic and relevant Jewish ways.

An important MJP vehicle are our $180 Gather Grants which allow people to create their own Jewish events. Gather grants cross generational lines and are offered to young adults, PJ Library families, and families in targeted areas of Atlanta.  Past grantees have built community sukkahs, created Hanukkah block parties, even established a Jewish culture group in a 50+ community. Another example of MJP’s grass roots power is how it transformed an annual East Cobb/Roswell Hanukkah party from a top-down Federation organized event, to a collaborative, locally driven celebration that brought together several synagogues in the area.

Listen to Danniell Nadiv, Federation’s Senior Director of Jewish Journeys, Places and Welcoming, talk about the power and potential of Making Jewish Places.

He Hadn’t Been to Israel Since His Bar Mitzvah. What a Journey!

By COMMUNITY, GLOBAL JEWRY, JEWISH JOURNEYS

Seventeen men have just returned from Federation’s Men’s Journey to Israel, and they have some stories to tell! On their ten-day adventure, they grappled with the many challenges, achievements, and miracles of life in modern day Israel. They also met with nine Israelis from Yokneam and Megiddo.  And, yes, there was plenty of male bonding!

Jerry Draluck, who had not been to Israel since his Bar Mitzvah 52 years ago, called the trip “one of the most memorable experiences of my life.”  He detailed the many ways the trip touched his soul: “We had in-depth discussions about life in Israel along with visiting historic sites. It helped me better understand modern Israel and what the future holds for citizens of Israel and for Jews around the world. The trip brought home all the reasons why it is so important for us to continue to support Israel with money and visits to the country. It is impossible to explain to an individual about the passion and love the Israelis have for their country.”

Howard Katz, who served on the Federation board and chairs Atlanta Jewish Foundation’s board said, “This was my first time in Israel but it will not be my last. If you have the opportunity to go on a Federation trip, do it!  It is time (and money) well spent!” Katz was especially moved that the trip ended with the observance Yom Hazikaron (Memorial Day) and then Yom Ha’atzmaut (Israeli Independence Day). “Just about every Israeli knows someone who has been killed in battle or in support of Israel.  We observed it at a high school in Ber Sheva which had lost many of its students over the years. The ceremony was an unbelievable opportunity to feel the collective loss, support, and love for one another. This somber day led right into an amazing celebration of Israeli Independence Day, an almost Mardi Gras-like celebration. Prior to these holidays we did roughly four community visits or events every day. Highlights included a visit to an active archaeological dig, presentations by bereaved families, visits with folks from Yokneam and Megiddo, a site visit to the Sports Center for the Disabled, and IDF training.”

“The time in Israel opened my eyes to the plight of our people there (and elsewhere), reminded me about the politics surrounding the country, and deepened my pride at how our community thrives despite the constant threat.  It was amazing to be in a country comprised entirely of Jews (at least where we were) where you can speak freely about Jewish topics without looking over your shoulder. We learned so much, had such great experiences and built such strong bonds with one another that we are already planning our follow up missions together.”

Registration for Federation’s 2023 Community Journey to Israel is now open! It’s a tremendous opportunity to see modern Israel with our Atlanta Jewish community and celebrate Israel’s 75th birthday. Learn more here

Host a Shinshin Next School Year!

By COMMUNITY, GLOBAL JEWRY, Shinshinim Atlanta

Last year the Davis family opened their hearts and their home to host Yael Yankelevitch, one of Atlanta’s Schoenbaum Shinshinim. It was a decision that impacted everyone in the family in the best possible way, and one they’ll never regret. As Mom Sara Davis says, ‘The most rewarding part of hosting a Shinshin was Yael herself. She became an older sister to my children as well as a close friend to me. She became a part of our family — the piece we didn’t know we were missing.”

Who are the Shinshinim? They are exuberant 18-year-old Israelis who just graduated high school who are taking a gap year in Atlanta before their army service. They are here to share and infuse their authentic Israeli experience across the Atlanta Jewish community.

What would you tell someone considering hosting a Shinshin? 

Hosting a Shinshin I would say, is the best gift you can give your family. I would advise going into the experience with an open mind, compassion, and understanding. These are young adults who most likely haven’t been away from home for longer than a month. They are in a foreign country and may or may not know the language. You can be the safe place for them to ask their questions, voice their concerns, and have a warm place to unwind at the end of the day. In the end, you will gain more from the program than they do.

What hesitations did you have before hosting? How have they been resolved? 

One hesitation I had before hosting was having a stranger in my home who might not do things the way I would hope or expect. Another hesitation was what if she didn’t blend well with our family, or if her differences made it awkward and uncomfortable. These hesitations were resolved by being open and having clear communication. Don’t just assume someone else will know your routines and how you keep your home. At the same time, understanding goes a long way, they are the ones alone and far from their family and everything they know. Compassion is key.

What has been the impact on your children by hosting a Shinshin? 

My young children had an older sister they looked forward to snuggling with at bedtime, playing games together, and learning the Hebrew word of the week. My now 3-year-old still talks about “Yael Bestie” regularly and asks to call her. The guest room in our home is no longer called a guest room but “Yael’s room.”

Host families are needed right away! Contact Jenn Handel and learn more about how hosting a Shinshin for the 2022-23 school year can bring joy to your family.

Help Resettle Ukrainian Refugees in Atlanta

By CARING, COMMUNITY, GLOBAL JEWRY

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 ukraine@jfcsatl.org. The message can be English, Russian or Ukrainian and we will have it translated.

Remembering my Father-in-Law

By COMMUNITY, GLOBAL JEWRY

By Matt Bronfman, Federation Board Chair
The State of Israel was born seventy-four years ago on May 14, 1948. Coincidentally, my father-in-law, Ben Walker, who was living in a small town in Romania after surviving the Holocaust, celebrated his bar mitzvah on the same day. Ben loves to tell people that no one paid any attention to him that day because the focus was on a much more important event!

Ben has lived in Atlanta for over fifty years and is one of the greatest people I know. He has shared so many stories with me that reflect this community’s generosity and resilience. In that vein, I am proud to highlight not only Federation’s role as a philanthropic champion (which I frequently note), but also as a community champion. To offer a few examples, we work to hold disparate organizations together; we direct people to the right organizations that can help provide them with the opportunities they need; we develop the next generation of leadership; and ensure that there is appropriate security so that we can convene in peace without fear. Our role as community champion is vital and helps ensure that we are even more vibrant and engaged moving forward.