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Adapting Camp Culture

By CARING, COMMUNITY, Jewish Camp Initiative

Atlanta’s Jewish day camps have had months of experience perfecting fun, safe, and engaging programs for kids during COVID-19. Now, In the City Camps and MJCCA Camps are using everything they’ve learned about combining fun and safety to plan memorable summer experiences in 2021 — both virtually and in person.  

In the City Camps pivoted to virtual Jewish family programming right away in March, as schools closed and families began quarantining.  Last summer they moved into both virtual camp and in-person camp at The Weber School. For summer 2021 In the City Camp will host inperson camps at Chabad on the BeltLine for three weeks in June, and at The Weber School for four weeks in July. Virtual camp will also be an option. Registration begins in January 

MJCCA Day Camps also pivoted immediately to meet the needs of families, offering daily virtual programming that included arts & crafts, cooking, sing-a-longs, STEM projects, and more. For the first four weeks of summer, MJCCA Day Camps hosted virtual camps and then pivoted again to offer in-person camp. Director Jodi Sonenshine said, “When we realized the pandemic was not going to be short lived, we reviewed all public health guidelines and planned a safe in-person camp that still had all the magic, fun, friends, and adventure of summer. We reimagined the entire day, from temperature checks in the morning, to small groups, no mixing between groups, masks indoors, and more. Campers were outside as much as possible enjoying our pools, lake, bumper boats, fields, ropes course, and more on our 52-acre campus. Our campers had the best summer and their parents were so thankful.”    

Both programs have developed their own unique formulas for a winning camp culture.  

“2021 will be In the City Camp’s 10thanniversary year,” said spokesperson Tali Benjamin. “We’ve perfected a program that puts the best parts of overnight camp into an intentionally Jewish day camp package. We are uniquely based on Jewish values, connection to Israel, and Hebrew language in a kidfriendly way. We continue to help kids build self-confidence through choices, so they discover what they are good at, and try new things too.”

As a result, In the City Camps has built a large community of families that loves doing Jewish things together all year long. They meet virtually for Shabbat, Hanukkah candle-lighting, and havdalah. Even summer staff members who are away at college sometimes join in! You can get a taste of In the City Camps and meet some of their lead staff, at their free virtual pop-ups held twice a month. Information here. 

The MJCCA also leveraged its strengths. When many schools announced a virtual start, the MJCCA reimagined their Club-J afterschool program as Club-J Your Way. They took the proven framework and protocols of in-person day camp and created Club-J Your Way — a full day, or school day program with an after-school option. Kids are in small groups, in dedicated spaces, wearing masks, while their virtual learning is facilitated. They get to enjoy amazing activities during learning breaks and when the school day is over. 

“Club-J Your Way kids appreciate the structure of our school-like atmosphere and also love being able to enjoy camp activities all year long,” Jodi Sonenshine says. “Parents tell us how thankful they are to have a safe, engaging place for their kids so they can be back to work.”

MJCCA Day Camps is gearing up for Summer 2021 and will offer campers CIA Summer Days @ the J, Sports, Performing Arts, Theme, and Teen camp options. MJCCA Day Camps Summer 2021 registration begins January 10 at 10am. Club J Your Way registration is ongoing. 

Be Part of the Impact


When DeKalb County Public Schools announced that they would start the 2020-21 school year virtually, Susan and Scott Rosenbaum were worried.  

“We were desperate for a safe, highquality, face-to-face learning option. Our second-grade son had a miserable spring with worksheets and videos. He needed a small class and a real live teacher. Our daughter was entering kindergarten. We wanted her to learn with other kids, not on a computer. We toured The Epstein School and loved their model — two teachers in each classroom, small class size, and the wonderful mix of Judaics and secular studies. But tuition for two kids was not do-able for us. When we learned we qualified for scholarship support for both kids through ALEF Fund we were overjoyed.  

Susan and Scott were contributors to ALEF Fund even when their kids were in public school, years before they transferred to a Jewish day school. They knew it was an easy way to take the state taxes they’d have to pay anyway and turn them into scholarships supporting 20 different Jewish day schools and Jewish preschools in Georgia. “Everyone should support ALEF Fund,” Susan says. “Right now is the time to do it at

ALEF Fund has tremendous impact on Jewish education and depends on taxpayers like you to generate scholarship support. Hurry and renew your pledge. You have until December 31 to apply for a 2021 tax credit. Don’t miss this opportunity to support Jewish education.  

ALEF’s website,, is open for pledges. Renewing is easy — just log on as a returning user and follow the prompts. If you need assistance, call Rachel Rosner at 404-870-1879 and she will be happy to assist you. 

KSU Hillel Thrives


“New York, Boston, or bust!” When I began looking for colleges, I never really considered Georgia schools despite having grown up in Atlanta. As the son of Jewish immigrants, it seemed that only colleges far from the south, in cities with historic Jewish connections, offered an environment where I could feel comfortable with my Judaism, explore it, and grow. Following that logic and being largely out of the loop when it came to Atlanta’s own Jewish world, I left for colder weather. There I stayed for eight years 

That is, until I got the chance to return home to work with Hillels of Georgia as the Kennesaw State University (KSU) Hillel Director. It’s been a year since I made Atlanta my home again and KSU Hillel my day to day, and you know what I can say? For Jewish students in GA there‘s a great Jewish community right in your own backyard Kennesaw State University! 

KSU Hillel closed the books this semester with a record number of new, engaged Jewish student members, dozens of programs run, and big plans to build on that momentum next termThat’s not how we started off in August. Sure, we knew there were tons of Jews on campus, but most were anonymous. What we had for sure were three committed student leaders and big dreams. And through dedication, zealous drive, and passion, KSU Hillel skyrocketed and proudly engaged more students than anyone anticipated in one semester  all thirsty for a Jewish connection despite the COVID-19 obstacle.  

Dedication  what a word! Funny that when we celebrate Hanukkah, the word itself literally meaning “to dedicate.”  KSU Hillel students come from all over with vastly different backgrounds, but dedication is one thing they have in commonOur Hillel is the “make your own adventure” sort of place, where a student’s idea goes from a program to a weekly event in no time! Where we think big and make it happen! It’s all done through equal parts enthusiasm, resourcefulness, creativity, and dedication. KSU students are actively shaping their Jewish home away from home, and they want the whole Atlanta community to know that “if you’re a Jewish student, you’ll find your place here.”  

We began with our eager group of three undergraduate students, a single bagel break program, and the attention and zealous support of the larger Hillels of Georgia system. These students had a vision of revamping their KSU “brand” and building Jewish life even amidst the pandemic. Just because classes were remote didn’t mean the need for community vanishedWhat did they want to see for their community? Weekly Jewish learning experiences, social programming, movies in the park, leadership retreats, Israel activism, and more. Some were possible during the weird time, others not so much, but Hillels of Georgia said to run with it so long as it was COVIDsafe. And we did! 

One coffee date after another, some friendto-friend outreach, and we learned the names of dozens of Jewish students and invited them to create a special space tailored to their interests. Do you like to run? Cool, let’s start a running club! Maybe theatre? Community Service? Philanthropy? Let’s build the program! Each month saw dozens of novel programs come to fruition, more and more students seeking excitement and connection in the pandemic. Our weekly bagel breaks became moments for our student leaders to challenge attendees to offer what they wanted to see from Hillel. They introduced themselves to every new face they saw at every event, created programming lists, worked long hours into the night with me on our year-long programming strategies, and effectively built their Jewish home on campus from scratch 

Of course, this rise didn’t go unnoticed by the university administration or our community partners. Our students have gratefully hosted President Pamela Whitten for a Thursday brunch, Elliot Karp, CEO of Hillels of Georgia, for a running club run, and Vice President Eric Arneson for a Holocaust remembrance daffodil planting. Imagine all that after only a few months!It all comes back to dedication. 

Fast forward to 2020, how far have we come?  Well, welcome to a place where around 200 students know we’re here for them. Hillel is a place where our programs see anywhere from small cohorts to dozens of new friends all at once (socially distanced, of course), where every student, freshmen or senior, is a leader with a voice in our programming. KSU Hillel is where former couch potatoes can become runners, where any student can learn deeply about Jewish thought, study Hebrew, go to Israel, network with Atlanta professionals, or get to know students across every Georgia campus. Welcome to a place for KSU’s Jewish students to call a home away from home.And we’re just getting started! 

Virtual Learning Wasn’t Cutting it for their Kids: Thanks to ALEF Fund, they’re an Epstein family now


When DeKalb County Public Schools announced that they would start the 2020-21 school year virtually, Susan and Scott Rosenbaum were worried.

“We were desperate for a safe, high quality, face-to-face learning option. Our second-grade son had a miserable spring with worksheets and videos. He needed a small class and a real live teacher. Our daughter was entering kindergarten. We wanted her to learn with other kids, not on a computer.”

“We toured The Epstein School and loved their model — two teachers in each classroom, small class size, and the wonderful mix of Judaics and secular studies. But tuition for two kids was not do-able for us. When we learned we qualified for scholarship support for both kids through ALEF Fund we were overjoyed. “

“This year at the Thanksgiving table when we went around to say what we were thankful for, my son said, ‘I’m thankful for my awesome school.’”

Susan and Scott were contributors to ALEF Fund even when their kids were in public school, years before they transferred to a Jewish day school. They knew it was an easy way to take the state taxes they’d have to pay anyway and turn them into scholarships supporting 20 different Jewish day schools and Jewish preschools in Georgia. “Everyone should support ALEF Fund,” Susan says. “The impact is huge.”

ALEF Fund needs you to support Jewish education! Hurry and renew your pledge. You have until December 31 to apply for a 2021 tax credit. Don’t miss this opportunity to support Jewish education. Our website,, is open for pledges. Renewing is easy — just log on as a returning user and follow the prompts. If you need assistance, call Rachel Rosner at 404-870-1879 and she will be happy to assist you.

As a past participant, you know that ALEF Fund is a win-win: redirecting state tax dollars to scholarships for hundreds of families a year.

Oh, How We’ll Miss You, Brenda!


After 34 years of loyal service, Federation’s Office Services Associate, Brenda Hamilton, is retiring on December 31. Miss Brenda is not only our longest-serving Federation professional, she is a living repository of Federation history, sharing stories of how things used to be, and how much we have changed. Even more, Brenda is someone who understands and lives our mission.

Two years ago, Ms. Hamilton shared this personal story with us. “When I started at Federation in 1986, I was newly divorced, with three kids under 13, and just out of business school. Early on, JF&CS helped me through two rough patches: first helping with my phone bill, then with a rent dispute. That’s why I’ve worked here for 32 years and am also a Silver Circle donor (25+ years of giving). Giving is automatic to me. When I needed them, they were there for me. Donating to Federation supports the work they do in lifting people up in times of need, Jews and non-Jews alike.”

We asked community members and Federation colleagues what they love about Brenda, and their answers are wonderful!

Eliot Arnovitz: When Edward Levine, who had cerebral palsy, worked in the Federation mailroom, Brenda gave him a new lease on life. Instead of sitting in a residential home, Ed looked forward to coming to work.  Brenda was instrumental in his success and happiness at being around people and making a big difference.

Robin Glaubman: Ms. Brenda has boundless patience with me whenever I try to mail something in the mail room and -again- forget how to use the stamp machine.

Ligi George: What struck from the minute I met Brenda was her wealth of knowledge and how much she leads with her heart. Her life has truly been in the service of others professionally and personally. She is simply an institution and will be so deeply missed!

Daniell Nadiv: Ms. Brenda was the first person I met at the Federation, her warmth and attentiveness shows through in everything she does. I will miss sitting beside her in the lunchroom and hearing stories about the past four decades.

Cindy Weik: I have known Brenda for 14 ½ years. We have seen so many changes over the years. We shared pictures of children and grandchildren and my grandson Mikael (now 14) used to love to come to the office just to see Miss Brenda. She would take the time and do crafts with him to keep him occupied. Good luck on your retirement, Brenda, time to live life to the fullest!

Dakota Penza: My first desk at Federation was directly across from the mailroom. I would hear Brenda laughing all day, every day, and it always put a smile on my face. I have never met anyone so positive, patient, and willing to help. Brenda is the brightest light!

Jodi Lox Mansbach: Brenda always makes me laugh and I loved watching shows with her in the break room!

Marsha Hurwitz: Always smiling, always lending a helping hand, and so proud of her family!

Nathan Brodsky: Brenda is amazing, she’s kind, thoughtful, and clever. Whenever she tells a story about her family, her history, or Federation from decades ago, I stop what I’m doing, put down my phone,and truly listen to her.  She is willing to help anyone and honestly believes in what we do. I will miss working with her.


Using Foundation Tools to Build the Jewish Future


Elaine and Jerry Blumenthal’s oldest son Matthew was five years old when he was diagnosed with Muscular Dystrophy. Matthew’s special needs, and a deepening commitment to Jewish life set a chain of events in motion that had a profound impact on the whole family.  I grew up in a warm, orthodox Jewish family in Savannah,” Jerry says. “Elaine grew up in Topeka, Kansas where there were only about 100 Jews in the whole town. It wasn’t until we attended a retreat at Camp Barney where Rabbi Irving (Yitz”) Greenberg was the scholar in residence, that our family began to walk a road to greater Jewish observance.It became clear to us that Matthew and all our kids really belonged in Jewish day school. The Hebrew Academy, which is now Atlanta Jewish Academy, was the community day school that made sense for us. Matthew attended from first grade through graduation. Eventually, with the encouragement of Rabbi Goodman at the Ahavath Achim Synagogue, we decided to have a kosher home.”

“Matthew’s positive experience showed us how day school could knit a Jewish community together,” says Elaine. “Hebrew Academy enrolled kids from every denomination. When Matthew was in his bar mitzvah year, he attended his classmates’ simchas (celebrations) at every single synagogue in town. When it was his turn to become a bar mitzvah, we were members of Temple Sinai, but even the more observant students came. They took a hotel room together so they could walk to synagogue and celebrate with us. They were among Matthew’s best friends.”

After Matthew died at age 24, the head of school at Hebrew Academy knew we were looking for a way to memorialize him. Mathew’s grandparents, Saul and Adele Blumenthal, donated the seed money to start up the Matthew Blumenthal M’silot (Pathways) Program supporting children with special needs. With their sustaining gift and support from our endowment fund at Atlanta Jewish Foundation, the M’silot program continues at Atlanta Jewish Academy.”

To this day we depend on Atlanta Jewish Foundation to manage and grow our investments, not only for M’silot, but for The Jewish Home, JF&CS, Birthright Israel, Hillels of Georgia, Limmud Atlanta, and non-Jewish charities as well. When you have your funds put away in an endowment you can continue to support the things you care about. You don’t have to worry that the funds won’t be there or that current income won’t be adequate. You can use stocks, bonds, and appreciated assets to build a solid foundation for your charitable portfolio.”

“The Foundation supports things we don’t even know about! By using the tools provided by Atlanta Jewish Foundation like donor-advised funds and endowments, we feel like we’re securing the Jewish future.”




NextGen Steps Up


In partnership with Repair the World Atlanta and Shalom Corps, NextGen is excited to launch a virtual volunteer program to bring together young adults to work with seniors living in assisted living and skilled nursing and rehabilitation homes. COVID-19 has brought many challenges, and one we continue to see are the effects COVID-19 have on seniors who are living in assisted living. It’s not as easy for families to visit, and technology can often be challenging to navigate.

We’re launching a handful of ways for NextGen in Atlanta to make a different. You can create playlists and listen to the music with a resident – often a source of conversation and happiness. You can talk to a resident and work to capture their history through a conversation – there is nothing families value more than having stories written down to share with future generations. And we can’t forget about the amazing professionals who have worked day in and day out during COVID to bring fantastic care to residents – we’ll be working on ways to send them exciting surprises to thank them for their care.

Registration will open soon. Please fill out the interest form below and we will be in touch when we launch our first round of volunteer activities.

Mississippi Jewish Childhood Inspires 25+ Years of Giving


Growing up Jewish in rural Cary, Mississippi, in a cotton farming family, Deborah Lamensdorf Jacobs quickly understood that she was a living exemplar of her faith. She reflects, “It was really an honor to represent Judaism in our small community. The way we treated our neighbors underscored what we believed in. We valued education and opportunity. At my father’s funeral two years ago in Vicksburg, a man came through the receiving line and told me how when he was trying to raise funds to establish the Cary Christian Health Center to help minorities, the churches turned him down. My uncle and my father were the first ones who stepped up to fund the center. That’s an early example of how I saw philanthropy as a child. It was how we lived our values.”

Years later, as a young woman, that imprint remained strong. Deborah ventured to Atlanta and quickly became involved in Jewish organizational life. While volunteering at a Federation phone-a-thon, a single guy named Lou Jacobs asked for her phone number. They married soon after and together raised a family whose life was enriched by synagogue, Jewish day school, Jewish camp, BBYO, and the MJCCA, to name just a few. No surprise then, that for more than 25 years the Jacobs have made their largest annual gift to Federation. As a Silver Circle donor Deborah says with pride, “Life showed me that Jews are community builders — people who see a need and fulfill it. That’s the spirit of Federation.”

Have you made your 2021 Community Campaign pledge yet? Donate here.

Mircrogrants Generate Amazing Collaborations!

By CARING, COMMUNITY, Making Jewish Places

Federation’s Making Jewish Places (MJP) continues to foster community partnerships like never before! In our latest round of microgrants, we’ve invested $25,500 into the North Fulton/East Cobb community, by green-lighting an array of collaborative proposals that meet Jewish needs around mental health support, communitywide holiday celebrations, young family programming, and adult education. It’s exciting to see organizations pool their talents and resources to make impactful Jewish things happen.

“With this latest round we have also grown our partnership network to nearly 30 unique organizations creating meaningful Jewish opportunities in North Metro Atlanta,” said Danniell Nadiv, Senior Director of Jewish Journeys, Places and Welcoming. For information on the next round of MJP microgrants, contact Carla Birnbaum. Anyone can apply, whether you come from a large organization, small organization, or no organization at all. Applications are accepted and awarded on a rolling basis, with awards of up to $5,000.


  • Amy’s Holiday Party$5,000 to engage teens in the planning of the annual party that serves underprivileged children. With COVID-19, individual experiences are planned and implemented for all the agencies who normally attend Amy’s Party. Both North Fulton cohorts of Creating Connected Communities will develop and implement these experiences.
  • Blue Dove Foundation — $1,500 for community discussions on the emotional impact of COVID-19, including a multi-synagogue discussion surrounding Blue Dove’s Quieting the Silence book on mental health and addiction in the Jewish community.
  • Hanukkah House Challenge $5,000 for a Hanukkah program for the entire North Fulton community. This HGTV inspired competition involves 80 families who received an edible Hanukkah house kit to create and submit for judging. The winners will be announced at a virtual Hanukkah party hosted by the Bible Players. This celebration is a joint program of Congregation Gesher L’Torah, Congregation Dor Tamid & JumpSpark.
  • Keshet Ofek of North Fulton$3,500 Supporting a program and platform that empowers young Israelis and Jewish American families to connect and learn Israeli culture and Hebrew language. Interactive sessions will follow CDC safety protocols.
  • Mezuzah Project$5,000 for Gary Rosenthal hiddur mitzvah (beautifying the mitzvah) mezuzah art kits. This program encourages families to create artistic mezuzot for their homes. Participants have the unique opportunity to attend a workshop with Mr. Rosenthal. Joint project of Temple Beth Tikvah & Congregation Dor Tamid.
  • Support Group for Parents who Have Lost a Child to Suicide — $1,500 to an individual applicant for this important community support group. JF&CS will be partnering with an individual in the community for this support group.
  • PJ Library Family Microgrants — Microgrants of $100 each awarded to 35 families and neighbors for small holiday programs occurring round Hanukkah, Tu B’Shevat, Havdalah or Shabbat.

Mitzvah Expo — $1,500 to help Atlanta Mitzvah Connection build a website that will help b’nai mitzvah age teens explore projects that benefit our community, presented in a virtual Expo. Jumpspark helped facilitate this discussion, which included several non-profit leaders and participants.


Hanukkah In A Box


NextGen Federation is partnering with Moishe House to bring you Hanukkah in a box! Why sit on Zoom for another hour when you can get everything you need to celebrate your way sent right to your house? We’ll send you a menorah, candles, gelt, and more!

Thank you for your interest. This form is now closed.