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Federation-Funded NYC Journey Advances Holocaust Education for Georgia Teachers

By Atlanta Jewish Community, Federation News

The Breman and the Museum of History and Holocaust Education at Kennesaw State University recently teamed up to bring a group of Georgia teachers from 14 counties on a four-day trip to New York for their first annual Teacher Ambassador Program. The purpose of this initiative is to create more invested, competent, expert teachers in Holocaust education so they can better share this knowledge with their students in their local schools.

“It was an incredible honor to be a teacher ambassador, come together with a like-minded group of educators, and work with KSU and the Breman. They have a remarkable partnership that truly makes an impact in Holocaust education across Georgia,” said Holly Salazar, a teacher from Forsyth County. “The Federation’s Innovation Initiative was generous enough to help us fulfill the vision of helping Georgia-based teachers become deeply invested in Holocaust education and then share that passion with others,” said Rabbi Joseph Prass, Director of The Breman’s Weinberg Center for Holocaust Education.

Some highlights from the mid-June trip were visits to the Eldridge Street Synagogue, the Museum of Jewish Heritage – A Living Memorial to the Holocaust, YIVO Institute for Jewish Research, the Statue of Liberty, and Ellis Island. “My experience with working with The Breman Museum and KSU has been phenomenal! I could not promote this educational program more,” said one teacher from Butts County who participated, Calie Bates. “The wealth of knowledge learned on this trip and through this program has helped to introduce me, hook me, and motivate me to continue learning about antisemitism in America and abroad.” 

Federation’s investment in Holocaust education for teachers is well worth it. Andrea Miskewicz, the Interim Executive Director of the Museum of History and Holocaust Education at Kennesaw State University, surveyed 25 of their teacher partners, and 96% said they spend more time on the topic after traveling because they are inspired and have a deeper knowledge base.

“The funding from Federation has inspired teachers to spend significantly more time in Holocaust education and Jewish life and culture.” Andrea said. “As an educator, this was a highlight of my career, and I know the teachers feel the same way.”

Andrea and Rabbi Prass are already planning for subsequent cohorts. They are going international with the next one with plans to visit Munich, Dachau, Nuremberg, and more.

“We are so grateful to Federation for being supportive of this because it really is making a significant impact,” said Andrea. “It’s just amazing and and we’re so thankful.”

Jewish Georgians Find a Lifeline in Interest-Free Loans

By Atlanta Jewish Community, Federation Innovation, Federation News

Jewish Georgians facing a crisis have a place to turn to for financial support in their own community: the Jewish Interest-Free Loan Association (JIFLA).

Federation and the Atlanta Jewish Foundation are proud to partner with JIFLA, where Donor-Advised Fund fund-holders can become anonymous guarantors for loans and help the organization stretch their dollars 4:1, meaning that for every $10,000 guaranteed, JIFLA can give out loans for $40,000.

The funds stay in the Donor-Advised Funds, and thanks to JIFLA’s repayment rate of over 99%, there is minimal risk of default. Whether it is medical bills, job loss, emergency home repairs, or other major life expenses, JIFLA offers comprehensive financial support, financial education, and budget counseling, bringing peace of mind, opportunity, and hope to those in need.

“We were in a very vulnerable moment in our lives and did not know who to turn to. When you feel alone in the world financially when you are struggling, things go through your head that probably shouldn’t,” said a recent loan recipient. “To be given a chance and being heard and not being charged astronomical fees is huge. We can never thank JIFLA enough for the mitzvah you are granting by putting your money somewhere that helps everyday people feel like they have a chance at living again and some breathing room.” 

Another recent JIFLA borrower was a single woman in our community who faced significant health challenges. She shared her story with Federation: “I got cancer, had a year of surgeries and treatment, and just as I was ready to go back full-time, the company I worked for lost their biggest client, and I was out of work and lost my health insurance. I was completely at a loss, with no money and little hope. I was close to being on the street. I cannot tell you how grateful I am and how much all you do makes a difference.”

“With the support of our amazing partners at the Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta, these [counseling and advisory] sessions are free for those interested and are designed to help anyone reach their financial goals,” said Nancy Weissmann, JIFLA’s Executive Director. “We continue to be committed to the health and prosperity of Jewish Atlantans and will always look for new ways to best help our community and support financial stability for all.” 

JIFLA is looking for donors and hopes to start an endowment fund soon. These donations are making a huge impact on our community. If interested, head to their website here.

Fed5: Celebrating $37M in Community Impact & Introducing Our New Interim CEO!

By Federation News

Drum roll, please…

The Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta’s FY24 Community Campaign is allocating $37,659,558 in community impact! 

As we close the books on FY2024, we are filled with immense gratitude and pride. This past year has been a testament to the power of our community’s generosity, resilience, and shared vision to strengthen Jewish ATL, Israel, and Jewish communities around the world. We extend our heartfelt thanks to our donors for your unwavering support and dedication during a year of immense heartbreak, triumph, and unity.

Your contributions have enabled us to achieve remarkable milestones. Through your generosity, we have expanded our programs, raised $12.5 million for Israel via our Israel Emergency Campaign, reached more individuals and families in need, and strengthened our community bonds.

Highlights of our achievements this year include: 

  • Enhanced Services: With your support, we have been able to introduce new services and improve existing ones, ensuring that our community members receive the assistance, security, and care they deserve. This includes $1.1 million in security funding for infrastructure and personnel across the community.
  • Community Outreach:  Our outreach programs have touched the lives of countless individuals, fostering a sense of belonging and support within the community. This includes $1.2 million in funding for programs that serve young adults, interfaith families, and Federation’s Gather Grants initiative.
  • Education and Empowerment:  We have invested in educational initiatives that empower individuals with the knowledge and skills needed to thrive. This includes over $2.1 million in direct funding to schools, educator professional development, and development of innovative curricula.
  • Standing Strong with Israel: One of the most significant endeavors of this past year was our Israel Emergency Campaign (IEC)  which was launched immediately after October 7th. IEC raised $12.5 million for Israel to address both immediate and long-term needs on the ground.

Highlights of the Israel Emergency Campaign include: 

  • Rapid Response: Thanks to your quick and generous donations, we were able to mobilize resources swiftly, providing critical aid to those affected by the emergency.
  • Sustainable Support: Beyond immediate relief, your contributions have helped lay the groundwork for long-term recovery and resilience in affected communities.
  • Global Solidarity: This campaign has not only supported those in need but also reinforced the bond of solidarity within our global community, demonstrating that we stand together in times of crisis.

(To learn more about our work in Israel since October 7, please visit our Israel Emergency Campaign Impact Report here.)

As we reflect on our past successes, we are also looking forward to the future with renewed determination and optimism. Together, we will continue to build on our achievements, address new challenges, and create a brighter future for all.

Thank you for making the Fiscal Year 2024 a resounding success. Your contributions have made a profound impact, and we are deeply grateful for your partnership. Here’s to another year of growth, resilience, and strength as a united Jewish ATL.

We are so thrilled to welcome David Fisher as our new Interim CEO at Federation! David has spent almost all of his adult life volunteering in the Jewish community alongside his professional endeavors and is now excited to join our team.  

Originally from Cincinnati, David grew up at Jewish summer camp in northern Wisconsin, which he later owned. In 1986, as he was entering his senior year of college, he and his brothers were approached by the camp owners and asked if they’d be interested in buying the camp, as they were ready to retire. They decided to buy it, and David ran the camp for the next six summers.

He became involved in the Jewish Federation of North America’s (JFNA) Young Leadership Cabinet and co-chaired the initiative with a fellow Atlantan in early 2003. He then became the National Campaign Chair for JFNA in 2007. 

In 2011 after many years of volunteering in the Jewish community, he was selected to become the CEO of the Birthright Israel Foundation. A few years later, in 2015, he and his wife, Stacy, moved to Atlanta, where they’ve been ever since. 

As for his vision for the next fiscal year, David feels there is so much opportunity in Federation and Jewish ATL. Since October 7, David describes the notion of “October 8 Jews” – Jews who now have a renewed interest in Jewish life here in Atlanta, causing an increased demand and need for Federation’s programming, services, and community leadership. 

“There is a lot of opportunity for greater engagement here at Federation. It’s going to require more resources, and I think there’s energy to do that,” said David. “We need to do a better job of educating people on what we do and why it’s so important to continue to invest in the community, because there’s so much opportunity that people want to take advantage of today.” 

Welcome to the Federation team, David! 

Jewish Georgians facing a crisis have a place to turn to for financial support in their own community: the Jewish Interest-Free Loan Association (JIFLA). 

Federation and the Atlanta Jewish Foundation are proud to partner with JIFLA, where Donor-Advised Fund fund-holders can become anonymous guarantors for loans and help the organization stretch their dollars 4:1, meaning that for every $10,000 guaranteed, JIFLA can give out loans for $40,000.

The funds stay in the Donor-Advised Funds, and thanks to JIFLA’s repayment rate of over 99%, there is minimal risk of default. Whether it is medical bills, job loss, emergency home repairs, or other major life expenses, JIFLA offers comprehensive financial support, financial education, and budget counseling, bringing peace of mind, opportunity, and hope to those in need.  

“We were in a very vulnerable moment in our lives and did not know who to turn to. When you feel alone in the world financially when you are struggling, things go through your head that probably shouldn’t,” said a recent loan recipient. “To be given a chance and being heard and not being charged astronomical fees is huge. We can never thank JIFLA enough for the mitzvah you are granting by putting your money somewhere that helps everyday people feel like they have a chance at living again and some breathing room.” 

Another recent JIFLA borrower was a single woman in our community who faced significant health challenges. She shared her story with Federation: “I got cancer, had a year of surgeries and treatment, and just as I was ready to go back full-time, the company I worked for lost their biggest client, and I was out of work and lost my health insurance. I was completely at a loss, with no money and little hope. I was close to being on the street. I cannot tell you how grateful I am and how much all you do makes a difference.” 

“With the support of our amazing partners at the Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta, these [counseling and advisory] sessions are free for those interested and are designed to help anyone reach their financial goals,” said Nancy Weissmann, JIFLA’s Executive Director. “We continue to be committed to the health and prosperity of Jewish Atlantans and will always look for new ways to best help our community and support financial stability for all.” JIFLA is looking for donors and hopes to start an endowment fund soon. These donations are making a huge impact on our community. If interested, head to their website here.

The Breman and the Museum of History and Holocaust Education at Kennesaw State University recently teamed up to bring a group of Georgia teachers from 14 counties on a four-day trip to New York for their first annual Teacher Ambassador Program. The purpose of this initiative is to create more invested, competent, expert teachers in Holocaust education so they can better share this knowledge with their students in their local schools. 

“It was an incredible honor to be a teacher ambassador, come together with a like-minded group of educators, and work with KSU and the Breman. They have a remarkable partnership that truly makes an impact in Holocaust education across Georgia,” said Holly Salazar, a teacher from Forsyth County. “The Federation’s Innovation Initiative was generous enough to help us fulfill the vision of helping Georgia-based teachers become deeply invested in Holocaust education and then share that passion with others,” said Rabbi Joseph Prass, Director of The Breman’s Weinberg Center for Holocaust Education. 

Some highlights from the mid-June trip were visits to the Eldridge Street Synagogue, the Museum of Jewish Heritage – A Living Memorial to the Holocaust, YIVO Institute for Jewish Research, the Statue of Liberty, and Ellis Island. “My experience with working with The Breman Museum and KSU has been phenomenal! I could not promote this educational program more,” said one teacher from Butts County who participated, Calie Bates. “The wealth of knowledge learned on this trip and through this program has helped to introduce me, hook me, and motivate me to continue learning about antisemitism in America and abroad.” 

Federation’s investment in Holocaust education for teachers is well worth it. Andrea Miskewicz, the Interim Executive Director of the Museum of History and Holocaust Education at Kennesaw State University, surveyed 25 of their teacher partners, and 96% said they spend more time on the topic after traveling because they are inspired and have a deeper knowledge base.

“The funding from Federation has inspired teachers to spend significantly more time in Holocaust education and Jewish life and culture.” Andrea said. “As an educator, this was a highlight of my career, and I know the teachers feel the same way.”

Andrea and Rabbi Prass are already planning for subsequent cohorts. They are going international with the next one with plans to visit Munich, Dachau, Nuremberg, and more. 

“We are so grateful to Federation for being supportive of this because it really is making a significant impact,” said Andrea. “It’s just amazing and and we’re so thankful.”

Through Federation’s national partnership with Secure Community Network (SCN), the Federation Community-Wide Security Program works to enhance the safety and security of the Greater Atlanta Jewish community. Recently, two security events took place to foster a culture of empowerment, collaboration, and vigilance, ensuring that all Jewish organizations operate safely and securely. 

The first was on June 24 for Major’s Night Out, an opportunity for Toco Hills residents to meet their Precinct Commander, Major E. McCown, and share their concerns and thoughts about safety and crime in the Toco Hills community. Federation’s Community Security Director (CSD) Brian Davis accompanied him as he visited local businesses to discuss security issues, concerns, and solutions for local store owners. The Major, knowing the Toco Hills area had a large centralized orthodox Jewish community, asked Brian to join him. 

Prior to that, on June 17, Brian presented at the Chabad Rabbis Conference to share crucial insights and resources dedicated to ensuring the safety of their community.

Brian discussed current safety concerns facing the community, emphasizing the support provided by the Jewish Federation and the Secure Community Network. He outlined various training programs designed to empower individuals, including Situational Awareness, Countering Active Threat, and Stop the Bleed.

Each training is aimed to equip community members with the skills needed to respond effectively in emergencies. He spoke about comprehensive threats, vulnerability, and risk assessments offered to all community partners and organizations. Brian also highlighted the personalized consultations available to organizations, ensuring they received the best practice security recommendations tailored to their specific needs. 

“It is imperative for our community to actively participate in our security training events. By doing so, we can collectively empower our facilities, staff, and congregants with the critical knowledge and skills necessary to safeguard what matters most to us,” said Brian. “These training sessions are designed not only to enhance our preparedness but also to foster a sense of unity and resilience. Together, we can create a safer and more secure environment for everyone.” 

The session ended on a note of solidarity and proactive engagement, as the rabbis left with a renewed sense of purpose and the assurance that they were not alone in their mission to safeguard their community. 

Fed5: Stories of Connection and Faith

By Federation News

The Salvation Army of Metro Atlanta, in conjunction with The Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta, hosted a Box Fan Giveaway on Friday, June 14. This inspiring initiative distributed one thousand free electric box fans on a first-come, first-served basis at various metro Atlanta locations.

This was all made possible thanks to a gift from an anonymous Federation donor via their Atlanta Jewish Foundation donor-advised fund.  The event was so meaningful to the community that it even made the local news!

An Atlanta Jewish Foundation donor-advised fund (DAF) is, simply put, a “charitable checking account” that makes donating to non-profits of your choice easy. The funds from this anonymous donor’s DAF were directed to support the Box Fan Giveaway event, helping many Atlanta residents stay cool and safe during the hot summer months.

The event addressed a significant need in the Atlanta area, and the collaboration between The Salvation Army and Federation, along with the media coverage, highlighted the importance of community support and working together to make a better ATL.

“For the past 30 plus years, the community has been blessed by the generosity of one particular person who has made it his mission to help others stay cool during the extremely hot Atlanta summers,” said Major Thomas McWilliams, area commander for The Salvation Army Metro Atlanta Area Command. “With his annual gift from a donor-advised fund through the Atlanta Jewish Foundation at Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta, The Salvation Army of Metro Atlanta has provided a free box fan to tens of thousands of individuals and families who might not have access to working air conditioning in their homes. We are very thankful for the donor’s generosity and partnership in providing heat relief to the community.” 

Please find more information on donor-advised funds here.

23 high school students who deferred their first year of college recently returned to the community after spending a Gap Year in Israel. All of these young adults participated in Federation’s prestigious Atlanta Israel Gap Year Fellowship, which provides funding, supplementary programming, and growth opportunities prior to, during, and after their Israel experience so that they can head to their various college campuses with a strong sense of Jewish and pro-Israel identity.

This program is made possible through the generous support of The Zalik Foundation Fund, and in partnership with Masa, our partner in Israel. Haiden Borak, a 2023 graduate of Riverwood High School, participated on Young Judaea Year Course Program and was in Israel during the October 7th attacks. He shared part of his experience with Federation:

“After the events that transpired on October 7th, there was a sense of unease throughout our campus, Kiryat Moriah, and the surrounding community. As a precautionary measure, our program made the decision to impose restrictions on leaving the campus. This abrupt change in plans meant that the trips around Israel had to be put on hold indefinitely. 

However, during the uncertainty around the situation, our community prevailed. Rather than allowing fear to prevail, me, my friends, and the staff rallied together to adapt to the new circumstances. In lieu of off-campus excursions, alternative activities were organized within the confines of the campus grounds. These activities, ranging from group games planned by our scouts to team-building exercises, brought us closer together. 

After a while, restrictions started to get more and more relaxed. We were allowed to leave campus if we filled out a form saying who we left with and where we were going. We also need to fill out the same form when we came back. Soon after that, things went slightly back to normal, we would go out without the form, trips around Israel were going again, and our daily schedule started taking shape.”

Federation is looking forward to next year’s cohort of Gap Year Fellows. We are preparing to send 34 high school graduates to a variety of Gap Year programs.

Click here for more information.

Wendy Kalman had always wanted to apply for a Federation Gather Grant, but it wasn’t until she began planning her late April trip to Israel that her vision became clear.

Inspired by her trip, she decided to use the Gather Grant money and buy supplies in Israel to bring back for her event. “This way, the money goes into Israel’s economy,” Wendy said. Wendy found two Israeli artists — one sold supplies to make unity charm bracelets, and the other provided designs to create coloring magnets.

“I also brought back three different kinds of Rugalach (cookies) from the shuk (market), and PJ Library children’s books about Israel from Federation they could take home,” Wendy added. “The idea was to host something in my house, a place where we could feel connected, safe, and comfortable supporting Israel in its time of need.”

Fourteen women attended, and it wound up being a place where they could express concern for what Jews are going through today in America and elsewhere in the world, and discuss the antisemitism that’s ramped up since October 7.

Wendy also shared her experiences on her trip to Israel and all the powerful things she witnessed. “Being able to defray the cost of ways to bring the community together is a wonderful thing,” said Wendy. “It’s finding other reasons and other ways to bring us together…it’s really a great thing that Federation does.”

Jewish summer camp fuses activities, experiences, and friendships with Jewish values, traditions, and culture. At camp, young people make connections that last a lifetime and develop skills that shape their Jewish identities.

This uniquely immersive experience provides a confidence-building opportunity that deeply and profoundly impacts them, making them more likely to engage in Jewish life as adults. When you help young people go to camp, you make it possible for them to be connected to Judaism for a lifetime. Rabbi Elana Perry, Federation’s Director of Jewish Education, sends her daughter, Lilah Perry, age 14, to Camp Coleman. She says it is a special, magical place for her.

“This is her 4th summer there, and throughout the school year, she was counting down the days until she could return “home” to camp. It’s a place that is joyfully Jewish, a place where she can express herself freely and grow as a person, and a place where she has built the kind of meaningful friendships that one can only find at camp,” said Rabbi Perry. “I love that she can be carefree (and screen-free), and that she can have so much FUN in a safe and loving environment, all while strengthening her sense of pride in being Jewish. As a parent, I’m so grateful for the gift of Jewish camp!”

Thanks to your generous support of Federation’s Jewish Camp Initiative, hundreds of kids are heading to camp this summer and will create lifelong connections to Judaism.

Here are just a few of the statistics you helped cultivate. Federation’s Camp Initiative:

  • Awarded 290 One Happy Campers (first year campers) incentive grants
  • Raised 1.5 million for campers and their families
  • Financially assisted 438 Atlanta campers through our Scholarship Program

Federation is extremely proud to have sent these kids to camp with your generous donations. For more information and ways to donate to help even more kids go to camp, please click here.

Federation’s Interfaith Connector initiative strives to support interfaith couples and families through inclusive programming, enhanced communication, and fostering genuine acceptance and connection to the Jewish community.

The Interfaith Connector held their fourth session of their Reset & Refresh program on Friday evening, June 14, at the home of facilitator Rabbi Elizabeth Breit of Congregation B’nai Torah. The cohort of multifaith couples enjoyed a Shabbat dinner together as they put into practice the spiritual and communal elements of Shabbat that were illustrated in the earlier sessions. The program will culminate on Saturday evening, June 29th, as the couples gather for Havdalah and, of course, more food!

The event helps interfaith couples and families integrate Jewish traditions into their lives in a meaningful and inclusive way, enhancing their connection to the Jewish community while respecting their diverse backgrounds.

“Relax and Refresh has been a great opportunity to meet other interfaith couples in Atlanta,” said one of the couples in attendance, Ben Schapira and Elisse Jean-Pierre. “We have enjoyed discovering different ways to incorporate Jewish traditions into our family. Thanks to Doug, Elana, and Rabbi Breit for making this a memorable experience.”

It provides a setting for them to form their own community of people exploring similar values, facing similar challenges, and striving to achieve similar goals. Reset & Refresh was developed by Rabbi Samuel Klein of the Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle and is being piloted in this spring/summer in Portland, Austin and Buffalo in addition to Atlanta.

It is being funded by both the Federation’s Interfaith Connector and JFNA (Jewish Federations of North America) and is being implemented locally in partnership with Honeymoon Israel and their Director of Community Engagement, Elana Pollack Halfaker.

“The Reset & Refresh event is vital for supporting interfaith couples, enriching their lives, and strengthening the broader community through inclusivity and shared experiences,” said Doug Konkel, Interfaith Director. “It provides interfaith couples with tools and experiences to navigate their spiritual and cultural differences, fostering deeper understanding and connection within the relationship.”

Because of You, Parents Like Susie Can Help Their Kids Connect to Judaism

By Atlanta Jewish Community, Federation News

“Our family has always been connected to Judaism. We’re longtime members of Congregation Shearith Israel, the in-town conservative synagogue, my kids went through religious school, and my oldest daughter, Stella, who’s now 20, grew up going to Camp Ramah Darom.

When Stella was in ninth grade, she was nominated to be part of a leadership learning program, a JumpSpark program called Strong Women Fellowship. JumpSpark’s Strong Women Fellowship was an empowering educational cohort that provided female-identifying Jewish teens in Atlanta with unparalleled access to strong women leaders, thinkers, and voices shaping the world we live in today. This program exposed her to different partner agencies in the Atlanta Jewish Community and strong women within them.

Through that, our family learned about JumpSpark. I later met the director who invited me and other parents to meaningful programming and learning opportunities.

I’m sure I am just one of many parents who knew of the Jewish Federation but did not realize that JumpSpark is the Atlanta Jewish teen initiative at the Federation and serves as a hub for teen engagement. Knowing that JumpSpark works with teens, parents, and professionals to increase Jewish teen engagement through Atlanta is empowering.

This program inspired Stella to take the initiative to learn about Israel. She had never been to Israel, and it exposed her to the Jewish world in Atlanta outside of her intown community. This also led her to participate in The American Jewish Committee’s Leaders for Tomorrow (LFT) program.

LFT is AJC’s education and advocacy program for teens that empowers young Jews to speak up for Israel and the Jewish people. It helps high school students develop a strong Jewish identity and trains them as advocates for Israel, and to be voices against antisemitism.

It was eye opening for her to see Jewish communities beyond where she grew up. These programs exposed her to the greater Jewish world.

Later in high school, she joined the Amplify Israel Teen Fellowship, a JumpSpark program that connects Jewish teens in Atlanta to Jewish teens in Israel. The Federation’s partnership with RootOne and the Ramah Seminar provided Stella with the opportunity to travel to Israel. These programs exposed her to the global diversity of the Jewish community.

As Stella got older, I now had a parent cohort to connect with. JumpSpark has become a key resource for parents like me. Whether it’s about what’s going on college campuses, or how to best support our kids. It provides exposure and tools to better talk to my kids about these bigger, important issues.

This connection has helped to play a role in passing on Jewish education, traditions, and values to our kids. As a parent, my husband and I agree it is our responsibility to expose our kids to different opportunities. Kind of like, here’s your “menu of opportunities” of things to become connected to take part in if you want to.

JumpSpark has helped us provide these opportunities, by providing resources to us, and to our children. It has exposed us to other organizations, and connected us with other parents, including other Jewish teen parents. 

It exposed us to Project Launch, by providing programming on the transition from middle school to high school and high school to college. You could listen to a zoom or a webinar every night of the week, whether it’s an ADL program, AJC, Hillel, or JF&CS about teen resources on mental health, especially during COVID.

My parents gave us every tool, but really, what made us connect to our Judaism, feel proud, and want to explore more, was having the opportunity to do it with other Jewish teens, and also being able to connect with Israeli teens.

That’s what I love about JumpSpark; it’s not just coming from the parents, and it’s not just coming from professionals. It provides opportunities for kids to connect together and learn from each other, and it is helping make Atlanta a thriving hub for Jewish teens. 

The best thing about JumpSpark is that it didn’t just have a huge impact on Stella. We all sort of learned along with it.”

From Susie and other Jewish Atlanta teen parents: Thank you.

Fed5: Tikkun Olam, Inclusion, and Celebration Across Community

By Federation News

Every year at the Weinstein School, graduating preschoolers do a mitzvah project. With this year’s theme being rock and roll, they were eager to find a connection between their love for music and helping other children.

The parents in the committee felt very strongly about doing a mitzvah project that showed support for Israel,” said Cobi Cohen, who is on the committee for the graduation mitzvah project. In response, Federation connected Cobi with Eliad Eliyahu Ben Shushan, Federation’s Israel Partnership Director in Yokneam Meggido.

Eliad shared that there are pre-K classes in Yokneam for special education students who receive Music Therapy workshops and that any donated music sets would significantly enhance their learning experience. In response, around 60 Weinstein students made nearly 200 music kits and added a personal touch by drawing pictures to include with them. The kits were delivered by Jennifer Handel, Federation’s Director of Israel Engagement, who happened to be traveling to Israel to staff a local Birthright trip.

Receiving this musical gift was a ray of light amidst the darkness of war, a reminder of the enduring strength of Am Israel and the powerful bond between Atlanta and Yokneam,” said Eliad. “We are profoundly thankful for your thoughtfulness, especially for the special needs children who will benefit the most from these music therapy sets. Your generosity has brought joy and hope to our community during these challenging times.”

Eliad said that the children will not only enjoy the instruments, but knowing that these were made by friends from Atlanta warms their hearts and exemplifies the true spirit of our partnership.

David Kulp, an Emory medical student, recently orchestrated a gathering that showcases the power of community and unity. Thanks to the support of a Gather Grant from Federation, he brought to life a vibrant Shabbat dinner for the Emory Medical School Jewish community.

In the wake of challenging times post-October 7, David recognized a need for fostering connections among Jewish students and faculty. Thus, the visionary concept of the Emory School of Medicine JMed Mentoring Program was born, buoyed by the generosity of Gather Grants.

The gathering unfolded at a venue perfectly situated at the heart of the community. Against a backdrop of kosher cuisine, around 30 individuals came together, bridging gaps and forging bonds that would resonate far beyond the evening.

For David, this endeavor is more than just an event—it’s a journey of self-discovery and communal enrichment. He reflects, “I am learning how to embrace and design my own Judaism, which I know will ebb and flow as I grow.” The support from Gather Grants has empowered him to chart his path and extend an open invitation for others to join him on this journey.

David underscores the transformative impact of Gather Grants, ensuring inclusivity and accessibility within the Jewish community. He speaks of the financial barriers often faced by graduate students and the pivotal role Federation plays in breaking down these barriers, enabling individuals like him to cultivate vibrant communities of support and belonging.

David emphasized, “This was a much-needed event to bring our Jewish faculty, students, and residents together in a moment when we have all been feeling isolated, marginalized, and misunderstood by those outside of our community.” In expressing his deep gratitude to the Federation, David echoes the sentiments of a community united in purpose and uplifted by the spirit of togetherness, reminding us of the strength and support we have from our larger community.

Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta held its 118th Annual Meeting on Monday, June 3, at Temple Sinai in Sandy Springs. The annual meeting included the election of new trustees, the celebration of eight years of leadership with our President and CEO, Eric M. Robbins, a presentation of community awards, a message from Board Chair Beth Arogeti, and much more. Hundreds of people attended the annual meeting to hear about Federation’s impact over the past year and honor all who are involved in our thriving community.

We’d like to take a moment to recognize the Community Award Winners. Mazel Tov to all the award recipients:

  • Abe Schwartz Young Leadership Award: Dorrie Paradies
  • Gerald H. Cohen Community Development Award: Rami Genauer
  • Sylvia Newman Memorial Teacher of the Year Award: Dodie Sachs | Congregation Beth Shalom & Jessica Brown | Congregation Bet Haverim
  • Max & Mary London People Power Award: Richard Bressler | Weinstein Hospice
  • Marilyn Shubin Professional Staff Development Award: Jeremy Lichtig | UGA Hillel & Melissa Silver | The Epstein School
  • Tikkun Olam/Community Impact Award: Aaron Goldman | Open Doors

We also had the pleasure of honoring our 2024 Lifetime of Achievement award recipient, Jack Halpern.

“The challenges facing our people change from time to time, but Jewish resilience is a story that is thousands of years old,” Jack said. “Our community thrives and continues to renew itself through the support that we provide for each other.”

Thank you to our Federation leadership and everyone who attended. We appreciate you being a part of the Federation community and are deeply grateful for your presence at our Annual Meeting this year. Your participation and engagement were crucial in making the event a success. We are looking forward to achieving even more together in the new year!

To view all the photos from the event, please CLICK HERE.

On May 30th, Jewish Abilities Atlanta consultant Jenna Swartzman Sommers along with the Jewish Abilities Atlanta Training Coordinator, Lindsey Flax collaborated with Camp Ramah Darom in Clayton, Georgia, to provide neurodiversity training for summer camp staff.

“Every child deserves the transformative experience of a Jewish summer camp. With our programs, we’re not only creating inclusive environments but also providing a space to learn for future leaders who will make these experiences unforgettable for every camper,” said Lindsey Flax, the JAA Training Coordinator. “We are grateful for the donors who generously help make JAA training possible for organizations like this in Atlanta. Together, Jewish Atlanta can be a place where we can all belong.”

Jenna, a seasoned Speech-Language Pathologist, emphasized the importance of embracing neurodiversity, celebrating the diversity in thinking and learning in a camp setting, and fostering a sense of belonging at a Jewish summer camp. The training participants included directors, unit heads, new and returning staff, Shinshinim, and Tikvah program counselors. “I’m very passionate about this project.  I started this because I saw the need for more awareness, understanding, and empathy when it comes to neurodiversity and disabilities,” said Jenna Sommer, Founder, Neurodiverse at Camp. “Often, there are young staff members are working with kids for the first time, and it can feel really overwhelming or intimidating to some.”

With newfound knowledge, the camp staff is ready and motivated to create a supportive environment where every camper feels understood and empowered to thrive at a Jewish summer camp. Jewish Abilities Atlanta will provide support and additional training throughout the summer to ensure we are fostering a more inclusive Jewish Atlanta where every individual is valued for their unique contributions.

“Thank you for the awesome professional development. Once again, I’m blown away by how you are able to turn complex concepts into manageable information. I love learning from you,” said one returning staff member.

Meet Sai Mukkamala, a Jewish community member and NextGen participant who grew up Hindu and converted to Judaism in 2023. In fact, he celebrated his Bar Mitzvah at the NextGen Israel Independence Day party just recently!

Sai’s connection and passion for Judaism runs deep. He is especially driven by its core values, the Ten Commandments, the principle of Tikkun Olam (repairing the world), and its guidance for everyday ethical living. Throughout his conversion journey, his involvement in Federation events grew, and he especially valued Federation’s prompt and meaningful response after October 7.

“Federation organized an event at a local synagogue where they flew in seven survivors from the attack, and they shared their testimony. Very powerful,” Sai recounted.

Becca Langfelder, Director of NextGen with Federation, suggested that they honor Sai’s Bar Mitzvah at the Federation’s Yom Ha’atzmaut party the day following his Bar Mitzvah, noting that it symbolized not only Israeli Independence but also something deeper for Sai.

“I felt truly honored to be able to celebrate my Bar Mitzvah that way. I’m so grateful to the Jewish Federation for being my extended family,” Sai expressed warmly. Looking forward, Sai’s next step in his Jewish Journey includes finding his soulmate and wife to build a Jewish family with, as well as learning further about Jewish spirituality from The Temple and his friend Rabbi Ari Sollish.

In honor of his Bar Mitzvah, Sai made a gift to Partners Fund at the Ben-Gurion Society Level. “I feel that it is important to help others the same way that you would want G-d to help you, and the Federation truly provides cradle-to-grave services for the Jewish community.”

Mazel tov, Sai!

Fed5: Championing Israel, Mental Health & Federation’s Professional Staff

By Federation News

Jenn Handel, Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta’s Director of Israel Engagement, was featured among Hadassah’s “18 American Zionist Women You Should Know.”

Jenn is from North Babylon, NY, holds a BA in history education from SUNY Cortland, an MA from Stony Brook University, and spent nearly a decade working at Jewish Life at Duke and Stony Brook Hillel. She was recently recognized as one of Atlanta’s “Jewish 40 Under 40” and has spoken on a variety of panels related to antisemitism and Zionism. 

A 2010 Birthright Israel trip deepened her spiritual connection to her Jewish faith and Israel. She later participated in the first Masa Israel Teaching Fellows cohort in Rishon LeZion. “I don’t come from a Zionist home, or a very Jewish home. I didn’t go to Hebrew school. I came into the Jewish community in my 20s. I didn’t have it growing up; it wasn’t part of my upbringing,” said Jenn. “So, to be able to rise from really no connection with Judaism or Israel at all, to being included on a list of these female giants, is proof that you can opt in at any age. You can find what Judaism, and what Zionism is for you at any point that you’re ready to do so. It’s never too late.”

Hadassah’s “18 American Zionist Women You Should Know” list highlights a diverse group of women who are making an impact and shaping the future of Zionism. The Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta is proud to call Jenn one of our own. This is a well-earned recognition, and we are so proud of her. Mazel tov, Jenn!

HERE is the complete list of winners.

Federation held its annual staff retreat at Camp Ramah Darom from May 6-7. The Federation professional team used this time for team building, setting new goals, yearly planning, and bonding with co-workers in nature.

Two staff members took the initiative to make paper plate awards, which highlighted something unique about each team member. We set time aside to talk about pressing issues and how we can actively work together to find solutions.

“You leave with such a great feeling, knowing the work that we’re doing is so important,” said Tova Baruch, Senior Director of Operations and Donor Services. “You’re making connections with your people, connecting with your colleagues in a way that you don’t often get to when you’re in the office and doing your day-to-day work, and learning something new about different parts of the organization and our various initiatives.”

There were also plenty of fun activities and lively entertainment including a fun improv group that came to perform, live DJ’ing by Federation’s IT Systems Administrator, Voyech Szyrejko (also known as DJ Voytech), hiking, dancing, and much more.

This was our last team retreat with Federation’s CEO & President, Eric M. Robbins. Federation staff used this as an opportunity to spend quality time with him and share their immense gratitude for his nearly 8-year contribution to Federation. 

Federation is committed to ensuring that our Jewish community has the mental health resources and support it needs. One of the ways we’ve done that recently is by partnering with JF&CS and the MJCCA in a “play therapy” initiative which is a type of therapy primarily designed for children and young adolescents.

Children often struggle to understand and express their emotions or communicate their issues to adults, which is why this form of therapy has been so innovative and life-changing for many.

JF&CS and MJCCA collaborated to pilot this program and it was funded by a grant from Federation’s Core Partner Allocations Committee. The mental health program provides play therapy for MJCCA preschool kids, coaching for their parents, and professional development for their teachers. In an ever-changing world with rampant antisemitism, mental health is more important than ever, which is why Federation funded and supported the development of this program.

“This program has really brought such wonderful strategies for our children. Our teachers are able to use some of the strategies that have been presented in trainings through JF&CS, which is so graciously provided by Federation. Our parents are able to use these strategies as well,” said Kim Sucan, Director, MJCCA Preschools.

Learn more about the program and its impact by watching this video HERE.

On Sunday, May 19th, NextGen, Federation’s young adult division (for 20s and 30s), hosted an afternoon of festivities in honor of Yom Ha’atzmaut, Israel’s Independence Day. 

Nearly 200 young professionals from all over Metro Atlanta came together to network, connect, raise a toast, dance to lively beats, and show their Israel pride.

There were Israeli flags hanging, everyone was decked out in blue and white, and there was Israeli street food like shawarma and falafel from a kosher caterer. There were games, Federation educational components, and the weather was perfect!

“Attendees were happy and outwardly proud to be pro-Israel. One couple brought Israeli flags and wore them tied around their necks. Where else can you hang out at a brewery in Atlanta and do that?” said Becca Langfelder, Director of NextGen. “We received a lot of positive feedback like, “I didn’t know Federation put on events like this!” Or “I haven’t seen my camp counselor since I was 10 years old,” or “I ran into my BBYO advisor!” These are 30-year-olds, connecting with people 15-plus years later.”

The afternoon party was an unforgettable celebration that included an Israeli DJ, drinks, food, and, most importantly, fun! “We’re trying to reinvent NextGen and what it means to be a Jewish young adult in Atlanta. There are clearly people who want to be involved, and we’re trying to give them the vessel to do so,” added Langfelder. “I feel that if this type of event, and others that we’ve done, like Shabbat dinners, meaningful Israel educational programs, and networking events didn’t exist, then these young adults wouldn’t have that connection to their Judaism and especially what Jewish Atlanta has to offer.”

Now, more than ever, it’s crucial to strengthen our Jewish community and show our Israel pride. Am Yisrael Chai! Together, we will dance again.

You can always register for fun Federation events like this through our website calendar.

On Tuesday, May 21, Federation held a Business and Professional networking breakfast and program about the state of the city with Rabbi Peter Berg and Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens.

“The Business and Professional Breakfast Series is an opportunity for our donors to network, get updates on the goings on at the Federation, and hear from newsmakers both locally and nationally. Having Mayor Dickens participate in our most recent program, along with Rabbi Peter Berg, just reinforces the Federations’ place in the Greater Atlanta community,” said Kenny Silverboard, Senior Director, Business and Professionals.

Rabbi Berg, The Lynne and Howard Halpern Senior Rabbinic Chair at The Temple, and Mayor Dickens, the 61st Mayor of the City of Atlanta, discussed Atlanta’s past, present, and the mayor’s vision for the future of the city.

The networking and breakfast preceded the program, and more than 100 hundred people were in attendance.

“I want to say thank you to you for our extraordinary men and women who wear the police uniform, who are protecting the Jewish community during a time in which we have never had to have a stronger security presence,” said Rabbi Berg.

Rabbi Berg brought up other public safety issues in addition to security, and Mayor Dickens discussed the need for more police training, de-escalation training, and anti-bias training.

Since October 7, Federation has invested more than $1.5 million in community security focusing on infrastructure improvements, grants to support increased personnel needs, and trainings and consultations for community partners.

Rabbi Berg expressed his gratitude to the mayor for his support, as having elected officials stand by us in times of need helps with our commitment to ensuring the safety and security of our community.

Fed5: Supporting Students on Campus, at Camp & Beyond

By Federation News

We’ve all been watching with worry as protests and encampments take over college campuses nationwide. Federation’s Community Security Director Brian Davis and Chief of Programs & Grantmaking Rich Walter have been diligently following the anti-Israel, antisemitic incidents on our local college campuses. Most importantly, our teams are working closely with our partners at Hillels of Georgia, the local ADL, and others to ensure the safety of our students on campus and ensure there is no disruption to their learning or their ability to participate in Jewish life.

In the long term, as we finalize this grant-making cycle, we are doubling down on our investments in initiatives that will make long-term change, such as helping students identify more strongly with Israel and giving them the tools to develop the language and voice to stand as strong, proud Jews.

CLICK ON THE PHOTO BELOW to watch the video of Brian and Rich explaining in more detail.

Post-October 7, the needs within our community have grown exponentially. In response, Federation recently made some special allocations to address the most pressing concerns.

Overnight Security Personnel at Regional Camps
In just a few weeks, thousands of young people will make the pilgrimage to camps across Georgia. But with the state of the world, there is heightened concern for the safety and security of these kids and camp staff. Federation’s grant will enhance the camps’ abilities to take additional strategic security measures, bringing peace of mind to staff, children, and parents.

BeWell with Hillel
According to a recent report, US college students stated that ramifications of the war in Israel caused a decline in their ability to focus on schoolwork. A shocking 50% mentioned a feeling of alienation on campus and 44% mentioned difficulty relating to friends. Federation’s grant will reinstate a partnership with BeWell, Hillels of Georgia, and Jewish Family & Career Services to provide one-on-one counseling for students, provide workshops for students, and conduct staff training about wellness.

Supporting Displaced Israelis at Local Summer Camps

For displaced Israeli families living in Atlanta, getting settled and establishing a sense of “normalcy” for their young children has been challenging.

In response, Federation’s grant will subsidize the difference between the generous discounts made available by the camps and the fees required to send five local Israeli children to camp.

Maintaining the positive health and wellness of older adults is a priority for Federation’s AgeWell Atlanta initiative, which combats isolation and other challenges through warm handoffs, helpful resources, and a most beloved signature program, Senior Day at the Marcus JCC of Atlanta (MJCCA). Senior Day recently brought together more than 70 older adults for an afternoon of activities tailored to their interests and abilities with focuses on art, fitness, health and wellness, Jewish culture, and more. It is a wonderful opportunity for seniors from all parts of metro Atlanta seeking social interaction to enjoy a day out with their peers that includes lunch, transportation (if needed), and even the ability to use the facilities of the MJCCA for the rest of the day.

AgeWell Atlanta is a four-agency collaborative, including Federation, Jewish Family & Career Services, Jewish HomeLife, and the Marcus JCC of Atlanta. The partner agencies’ offerings address the most pressing needs of Atlanta’s aging population, connecting seniors and caregivers with local resources that include recreational activities, social services, long-term care options, caregiver support groups, and much more. A single call to the warm line can often result in a referral to three to four services that will benefit that senior or caregiver.

An older adult in Atlanta never needs to feel isolated or alone. Seniors and caregivers in need of support should call 866-243-9355 or email info@agewellatl.org. Learn more at agewellatl.org.

Atlanta’s Victoria Kimerling Oliphant recently traveled to Argentina and Uruguay on National Young Leadership Cabinet’s Study Mission. Cabinet is the premier leadership training program of the Jewish philanthropic community. Grounded in Jewish values, this program engages current and future global leaders and philanthropists through education, connection, and inspiration.

“I, along with 180 other young leaders from across the US & Canada, had the opportunity to visit with the local Jewish communities in Buenos Aires and Montevideo and see the impact of our Federation dollars in action.

Thanks to Federation’s Partners Fund, our core Israel & Overseas partners – the Joint Distribution Committee (JDC), the Jewish Agency for Israel, and World ORT- use those allocations to make an incredible impact on the lives of Jews throughout the world. Seeing the work that we’re able to accomplish together as part of the Federation system, work that would be impossible for the Atlanta Jewish community, or any one Jewish community, to do on its own, reminded me of our unique power as a collective to truly make a difference in the lives of Jews in Israel & around the world.

At a time when antisemitism is on the rise and many Jews around the world are scared to openly express their Jewish identity, it can be easy to feel worried about the future of Israel and the future of the Jewish people. But this Study Mission gave me hope.”

For more information about National Young Leadership Cabinet, email Director of NextGen Becca Langfelder at rlangfelder@jewishatlanta.org

TOM – Tikkun Olam Makers – is an Israeli-turned-global venture that creates affordable and innovative solutions to challenges in the disability community. Federation’s Jewish Ability Atlanta and its Innovation Initiative are proud funders of this program that creates solutions for these individuals/families entirely free of charge.

The Atlanta TOM community is comprised of Makers (engineers, designers, developers from Georgia Tech and Emory) and ‘Need-Knowers’ (individuals with a personal understanding of a neglected challenge). The Atlanta Makeathon recently brought together five project teams which represented one ‘need knower’. The winning team created a solution for a 10th grade student classically trained pianist who, following a recent accident, was unable to use the piano pedals thus inhibiting his ability to play at a high level. The team of ‘Makers’ created a bite sensor to allow pressure to be put on the pedals, enabling this young man to continue to play, which is something he loves.

Not only does TOM create solutions that enable individuals with disabilities to have an ordinary life, it also creates a community of students who are aware of barriers that society creates and the need for universal design so individuals with disabilities can be contributing members to the community.

Fed5: Marking Our Past While Programming for the Future

By Federation News

The Breman, a core partner agency of the Federation, leads the way in Holocaust and antisemitism education by offering student groups and visitors storytelling through contemporary art that combats prejudice, hatred, and indifference. A new addition to their gallery Absence of Humanity: The Holocaust Years, includes an intimate immersive digital theater that will showcase the works of video and multimedia artists starting with a conceptual film work by Atlanta-based artist Jason Francisco called “18:18:18.” Each film, made at a site of Holocaust memory, is a single take lasting exactly 18 minutes, 18 seconds and 18 frames. The films question what it means to bear witness to memory, suggesting that remembering is not only the overcoming of tensions but also the courage to dwell within them.

Yom HaShoah, known as Holocaust Remembrance Day will take place on Sunday, May 5, commemorating the atrocities that were committed against the Jewish people during World War II and those who died in the Shoah (Holocaust).

Join the community-wide celebration at 11 am on May 5th. Details shared in the calendar listings below.

Post October 7, many of us have looked for ways to more closely connect with and support Israel. Among those searching for meaningful ways to feel a connection were our local Atlanta Schoenbaum Shinshinim and our RootOne Shliach (emissary), Lior Fridman. As an act of honor, they brought to Atlanta, A Recipe With a Memory, a unique initiative that was launched a few years before to commemorate fallen Israeli Defense Force soldiers and victims of terror by cooking their favorite recipes and telling their life stories.

The centerpiece of this project is two cooking sessions where participants will gather on zoom to cook these recipes while learning about the person and family behind the dish – through pictures, stories, videos, and anecdotes shared by their families to keep their memories alive. In addition to the classes, Lior and the shinshinim have also put together a downloadable cookbook as a way for you to continue to honor them throughout the year. The program’s organizers hope that these cooking sessions and cookbook become a way to celebrate the beautiful lives of those we have lost and not the story of their death. 


CLICK HERE to download the cookbook.

More than 3,600 families in Greater Atlanta share the love of Jewish life, learning and culture with their children thanks to the PJ Library program. Books, programs, activities, and gatherings make it possible for children ages 0-12 to learn and get excited about being Jewish thanks to the program. Each year, professionals that work on the PJ program gather from around the world for networking, education, and inspiration.

The theme of this year’s conference was “joy”. Participants experienced two days of ideas, activities, and inspiration for how to bring “joy” to life for Jewish families,  including presentations by three members of our team. Our community’s PJ professional, parent connectors, marketers, and other staff, returned home with fresh ideas, best practices, and excitement for all the ways they now can spread joy through Jewish values within the Atlanta community.

“As a parent and Jewish communal professional, finding Jewish joy and celebrating the gift that is PJ Library with my colleagues and new friends was incredible for my well-being in this moment. Sometimes we forget how important it is to find joy in times of crisis.” – Ali White, Federation professional

If you have a child ages 0-12 and would like to learn more or sign up for this FREE program, CLICK HERE. You can also make a gift to PJ Library HERE.

Federation’s new Interfaith Connector Initiative awarded its first round of grants in mid-April to support the programming of several organizations that are serving Atlanta’s multi-faith community.

“I am so excited that The Interfaith Connector has taken this first significant step towards fulfilling the needs of our interfaith community. Our research has shown that families of multiple faiths want programming and opportunities more frequently, with greater geographic reach and for people of all ages and stages. I think these programs do just that and provide a great roadmap towards bigger and better offerings to come.” -Doug Konkel, Federation’s Director of Interfaith Engagement

The Awardees include:

  • Honeymoon Israel – Purim in the Park
    A gathering of mostly interfaith in-town families to celebrate Purim together in an outdoor setting.
  • 18Doors – Couples and Conversation
    A cohort of interfaith couples is taken through a multiple session journey of the challenges and joys of their relationships.
  • Congregation Gesher L’Torah – Lag BaOmer Family Tree Painting Party
    Participants paint family trees and explore, celebrate and appreciate both the Jewish and non-Jewish portions of their families.
  • Ma’a lot – Immersive Shabbat Campout
    A weekend-long campout outside of Atlanta that will provide their diverse community, including an interfaith cohort, the opportunity to learn more deeply about Shabbat in an accepting and natural environment.
  • Jewish Grandparent Network – Opening the Heart: Being Grandparents – Different Traditions, One Family
    This pilot program will explore and discuss what it means to be a grandparent both for Jewish and non-Jewish participants
  • PJ Library – The Purim Grandparent Program, the Brookhaven Passover Party and the Passover Box Program
    PJ Library inclusive programming provides a low-barrier entry for those possessing any level of Jewish knowledge

CLICK HERE – For more information on programming for interfaith families.

Traveling is an action, that when taken with like-minded people on a journey that has such deep meaning to each of you, the experience can be something transformative. For the more than 40 women who traveled with Federation on the Women’s Philanthropy Journey to Mexico, that’s exactly what this trip was. A five-day exploration of the Jewish community in Mexico City, founded in the 1900s by Jews immigrating from Syria followed by a second migration of Eastern European Jews in the 1920s. Today they remain a tight-knit community of 46,000 Jews living in a city of more than 22 million people committed to making Jewish life vibrant and flourishing for all their citizens.

This trip was filled with so many highlights for the participants including the special time they spent with two lone soldiers from Mexico City who have been on the front lines in Gaza since Oct 7. These young men shared important perspective with the women including their commitment to the care, feeding and safety they are trying to bring to the citizens of Gaza. “What you see on CNN is just not true” they shared.

The picture below shows the women enjoying the beauty of the first and oldest synagogue in Mexico City founded in 1923. But one of the most long-lasting memories of the trip will be the deep conversations these women shared about the state of our world, what keeps them up at night, and how our communities must stay strong in order for Judaism to continue to prosper.

“Our journey was not merely a series of sightseeing excursions, but rather an exploration of meaning and impact. Every experience left an indelible mark on my heart, reminding me of the power we possess to make a difference in the lives of others.”

CLICK HERE to read the full reflection shared by participant Mitzi Solomon.

Fed5: Investing in Jewish Education and Our Community’s Future

By Federation News

JScreen, a recipient of the Federation’s Jewish Innovation Fund, is a genetic screening and education program that offers comprehensive at-home testing on saliva. In 2019, Federation’s Innovation initiative funded JScreen’s pilot project, “CancerGEN,” an innovative genetic test that identifies changes associated with increased risks for the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes, as well as various types of cancer such as breast, prostate, and colon cancer. With Federation’s support, this initiative has expanded, including cost-saving opportunities for our NextGen age group through carrier screenings.

Karen Shmerling and her daughter shared that their JScreen test unveiled a genetic revelation that prompted them to devise an action plan. “Michelle volunteered for a BRCA study held by JScreen, a test that literally saved my life and Michelle’s,” recalls Karen. Karen urges everyone, regardless of gender, to undergo genetic testing, emphasizing the importance of having a choice before cancer dictates it for them.

CLICK HERE to learn more about JScreen and your options for testing and read more about Karen and Michelle’s story here.

JumpSpark, Federation’s Jewish teen initiative, is uniquely positioned to create positive environments where not only Jewish learning happens, but also mental health and wellness can flourish. JumpSpark recently brought in BaMidBar, an organization that works to ensure that Jewish youth and young adults have the confidence, skills, and community support to navigate life’s challenges and thrive in the face of adversity.

This in-person learning experience for Jewish teen professionals was an opportunity to expand their understanding of mental health and wellness through a Jewish lens. Professionals explored ways in which they can foster social and emotional growth in the young adults they serve and build the tools and supportive network they need to actively promote resilience and help their students thrive.

Federation’s JumpSpark initiative brings a strong culture of collaboration and strength amongst youth-serving professionals in Atlanta by providing them with relevant and tactical professional development opportunities that they can apply in their daily lives.

Jewish Abilities Atlanta grants support community partners in launching projects that create more inclusive and accessible communities for people with disabilities. Grantee, Ahavath Achim Synagogue, recently received funds to install an adjustable torah table that enables people of all statures and in wheelchairs to read from the Torah. They also installed an automatic door opener which enables those with disabilities easier access to the sanctuary. The synagogue staff shared that the JAA grant is far greater than the grant itself. The door not only gives disabled members easier access to the sanctuary but also creates greater independence and an overall positive experience for the person using the door opener. These installations provide the synagogue with an opportunity to educate their youth in areas of kindness while actively improving the physical access to the sanctuary and elevating the entire spiritual worship of the congregation.

Federation’s Jewish Education Collaborative is constantly working toward improving supplemental Jewish education in Atlanta. JEC elevates Jewish education as a communal priority by improving teacher quality and investing in talent, exploring innovation, strengthening collaboration, creating networks, improving where and how Jewish learning is experienced, and changing perceptions about Jewish education.

One of its latest initiatives, BOOST Micro-Grants (Building On Our Strengths Together) is intended to grow and enhance nascent educational programs and help creative ideas move from the pilot phase to model status. Sometimes all it takes to transform programs from “good” to “great” is a little BOOST! Grants range from $500-$2,500.

FY24 Grantees Include:

  • MJCCA– Launching a new “Reading the Omer” program for children and families throughout the community
  • Temple Beth Tikvah– Launching a new serious of Religious School Family Shabbat programs throughout the year
  • Congregation Gesher L’Torah– Launching a new series of Gesher Limmud Family Education programs
  • Diamond Family Religious School at Temple Emanu-El– Launching a new series of Honeybee Jewish Environmental Education programs
  • Temple Kahillat Chaim– Creating a new outdoor classroom for Jewish learning programs
  • Congregation Shearith Israel– Launching a new Chugim Elective program in the Machanei Shai religious school

As a community that believes in the value and importance of Jewish education, it is heartwarming when we see the impact Jewish learning has on young people. Davis Academy graduate Vivian Kohn recently presented a Ted Talk on the topic of “Igniting the Ruach Within”. During these 10 minutes, she beautifully shares her perspective on being a Jewish young person, her experience as a student in Israel at the Alexander Muss High School in Israel, and her reflections on Oct 7.

Last year, Federation invested more than $1.2 million dollars into Jewish education including its allocation to Vivian’s alma mater, Davis Academy. Federation is also committed to growing the number of teens who take part in an immersive Israel experience like Vivian did when she attended the Alexander Muss High School in Israel (AMHSI). AMHSI is a part of RootOne, a partner of Federation’s, which provides $3,000 vouchers for eligible programs to teens in Greater Atlanta.
CLICK HERE to see Vivian’s Ted Talk.

To learn more about opportunities for teen experiences in Israel, email Atlanta’s RootOne Shlicha (emissary), Lior Fridman, at lfridman@jewishatlanta.org.

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