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Second Round of Gap Year Scholarships are Sending Teens to Israel

By COMMUNITY, GLOBAL JEWRY, JEWISH JOURNEYS

JumpSpark’s Atlanta Israel Gap Year Scholarship is helping to build a bridge between Atlanta and Israel. Last year, thanks to the generosity of Federation’s community, 25 Atlanta teens were able to live abroad in Israel for a year. The second cohort is about to embark on this incredible expedition, and this year, there are 28 of them.

The young adults who embark on this journey are recent high school graduates. They each receive a $10,000 grant provided by JumpSpark and the Zalik Foundation Fund. Students who commit to working for a partner organization in the summer after they complete this program receive an additional $5,000 service subsidy.

Many students in this program will continue their studies in Israel—they may take classes at Hebrew University in Jerusalem or elsewhere. This is an incredible opportunity to learn and explore the world before college. The Atlanta Israel Gap Year Scholarships allow young adults to experience an entirely new way of life and have experiences they would never get at home.

Our year one cohort returned to Atlanta in May. Here’s what two of our participants had to say about their experience:

“I am forever indebted to my gap year experience. I did not realize how much a break before entering my college/adult life would be beneficial. I am so much more confident in what I want to study and in myself. My Jewish identity has never been stronger, and I don’t have a question on whether or not I will keep those practices in my life.”

“As a Jew, my gap year provided me all the resources needed to explore different levels of observance while educating me on Israel’s history. This combination gave me a basis to find how I will choose to live my life as a Jew in America and on a college campus.”

This grant is the first of its kind. We are thrilled that so far, we have been able to support 53 teens in this program, and our number of interested teens continue to grow each year.

If you want to learn more about the Atlanta Israel Gap Year Scholarship, contact Susie Mackler at smackler@jewishatlanta.org.

Hillel International Student Cabinet Spotlight

By GLOBAL JEWRY

The Hillel International Student Cabinet is a selective leadership opportunity for current undergraduate students. The cabinet serves as a vehicle to connect the global Jewish student community and as an advisory council to Hillel International’s leadership in its efforts to engage Jewish college students worldwide.

This year, Avery Adelman, a rising Junior at Emory studying cultural anthropology and Chinese studies, was one of 17 students from all over the world selected to help guide the International Hillel movement. “It is a great honor to have been selected and for the chance to represent Emory Hillel on this international committee representing over 850 global campuses,” explains Avery. “It is extra exciting to be representing the whole of Hillels of Georgia and making sure there is a southerner’s voice in the room!”

Avery is an experienced leader who last year chaired Emory Hillel’s Keshet Council, a Hillel student club advocating for and creating a safe space for Jewish LGBTQ+ students at Emory. Through her role on the Hillel International Student Cabinet, she not only intends to represent the voices of southern and Georgian Jews but to bolster Hillel’s efforts to fight antisemitism on college campuses.

Avery embodies Hillel’s vision of inspiring the next generation of Jewish leaders. The Georgia and Atlanta community are so proud to have one of our own students representing the interests of our community on an international scale. Kol Kavod, Avery!

Ana Sazanov is Leading Relief Efforts for Ukrainians

By COMMUNITY, GLOBAL JEWRY

Ana Sazonov is the Executive Director of the Columbia Jewish Federation in South Carolina and one of the Southeast’s most prominent voices on the humanitarian crisis facing Ukrainians. This issue is deeply personal to her: Ana is Ukrainian herself.

As a young girl in Ukraine, Ana didn’t know that she had Jewish heritage—her father had kept his identity a secret in the oppressive USSR. Their family lived only 90 miles from the Chernobyl disaster site, and after the fall of the Soviet Union, Ana’s parents felt they were no longer safe. When they heard a radio ad from the Jewish Agency for Israel (JAFI) about making Aliyah to Israel, they knew they had to take the opportunity. At 6 years old, Ana left Ukraine to begin life as an openly Jewish girl in Israel.

Ana began her journey in the nonprofit Jewish world working for Emory Hillel. She went on to earn a master’s degree in Jewish Professional Leadership and a master’s in Nonprofit Management at the Hornstein Jewish Professional Leadership Program and The Heller School for Social Policy and Management at Brandeis University. In 2021, she became the Executive Director of the Columbia Jewish Federation. “I felt a call to lead, as a triple-outsider: a young, female, foreigner,” she says.

When the war in Ukraine began this spring, Ana’s resolve and leadership were immediately put to the test. She and her parents planned to meet in Israel in early April for Passover—a week before Russia invaded. Her parents had only brought small suitcases with them, but they found themselves stuck, unable to return home. It would have been easy to feel paralyzed, but Ana leaped into action instead.

She changed her travel plans, and instead of going to Israel, she traveled to the Ukraine/Poland border and spent two weeks volunteering with refugees. While there, she met many Jewish and non-Jewish people whose lives would never be the same. She remembered what it felt like to flee her home at 6 years old.

“I think my story is one of going from hiding to providing,” she says. But she is adamant that you don’t have to give much to give back. “You don’t need to be rich to make a difference; my family was changed forever because of a radio ad.” She thinks of that ad often, mainly because JAFI is one of Federation’s partner organizations.

“The money we allocate impacts people on so many different levels. I’m a living example of someone who benefitted from the Federation system and now can give back to it.”

Supporting Federation means supporting people in need worldwide, and Ana wants people to understand how meaningful their time and donations are to those who are struggling. “People need to keep Ukrainians in their hearts, their minds, and their actions. That’s how we make a difference.”

Ana Sazonov is the featured speaker at the Women’s Philanthropy Fall Event on October 26, 2022. To learn more about the event, click here.

To support Federation’s mission, please click here.

To give to Federation’s Ukrainian Relief Fund, click here.

An Update on Recent Hostilities in Gaza

By GLOBAL JEWRY

We are grateful a cease-fire agreement was reached following a weekend of fighting in Gaza. This was the worst flare-up of violence in over a year and, unfortunately, led to attacks by both sides on Tisha B’Av. We stand with our brethren in Israel and are proud to support groups that keep people safe when hostilities arise.  

Federation’s Partners Fund contributes to organizations like The Jewish Agency For Israel, which helped to evacuate 1,000 recent immigrants who were in an area receiving heavy fire over the weekend. They also helped to maintain care for 4,000 seniors in Amigour nursing homes, and in the coming weeks, they will provide social and psychological assistance to the 2,000 Masa participants currently living in Israel.  

The Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta will continue to monitor the situation and keep our community updated. Our hearts are with those affected by the fighting, and we pray for peace. 

AURA Receives Matching Grant

By CARING, COMMUNITY, GLOBAL JEWRY

The Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta is proud to announce that we have been awarded a $73,000 matching grant from the Jewish Federations of North America in partnership with the Shapiro Foundation. 

This grant is part of a $1 million national initiative to support Ukrainians seeking safety in the U.S. Eric M. Robbins, President of the Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta, says, “This grant will support the work of Jewish Family & Career Services (JF&CS) to build capacity within social service organizations to support displaced Ukrainians in the community.” 

The grant award is a dollar-for-dollar match; The Shapiro Foundation will match all donations to AURA (Atlanta Ukrainian Relief Assistance) up to $73,000. These funds will help Ukrainians who have made their way to Atlanta as they escape the war in their home. 

Zane Blechner, Program Manager of AURA, says, “Achieving this $73,000 goal from our community would open up the opportunity for AURA to help many more people.” So far, AURA has supported 56 individuals in Atlanta. 

Most people fleeing the war are on “humanitarian parolee” status in the US. Until their work permits are approved, they may not take a job to support themselves and their families—and work visas are backed-up. 

Blechner says that visa approvals are taking upwards of 10 months, causing a cascade of financial needs for these families. “Resettling a family usually costs about $8,000, but our families so far need more like $30 or $40 thousand.” 

While only about 10% of Ukrainians fleeing the war are Jewish, Blechner says that the Jewish community has been instrumental in offering support. “The Jewish community has stepped up,” he says. “We have had so many generous offers, but what these families need most are funds.” 

It is vital that these families are supported and comfortable while they shelter in Atlanta and that they can live with dignity. Your monetary donations ensure that they are fed, clothed, and housed and that their medical needs are covered while they wait for the conflict to end. 

Click here to take advantage of this matching grant and donate to AURA. Your generosity makes Atlanta a haven for those seeking safety during war. 

AURA Funding Needs Increase as More Families Arrive in Atlanta

By GLOBAL JEWRY, People in Need

Many Ukrainians are arriving in Atlanta with nothing but the clothes on their backs. They are not eligible for government relief programs and have no access to food stamps, medical intervention, or housing assistance. The need for funds to support them is urgent.

Federation has partnered with Jewish Family & Career Services to launch AURA, a fundraising effort dedicated to helping displaced Ukrainians in metro Atlanta. Federation has set aside an initial $200K from the Emergency Relief Fund to support this vital work, but fundraising will continue to meet anticipated needs. These funds, in coordination with volunteers at Atlanta area synagogues, temples, and other organizations, are currently supporting 56 individuals who have traveled to Atlanta to escape the war in Ukraine.

The Lotner family, members of Congregation Or Hadash, opened their hearts and their home to one Ukrainian family that was lucky enough to escape. Click below to read their story

Confessions of a Jewish Gap Year Mom

By GLOBAL JEWRY, JumpSpark

By Robin Rosen
My son Jack was just beginning to find his way socially when COVID hit in March of 2020. He is a fairly reserved kid with a late birthday, so he came to being social later than his peers. Camp had always been where he felt most comfortable socially, but COVID upended everything. It cancelled soccer, the prom, and his summer plan after Junior year to go on the Ramah Israel Seminar.

Just as Jack was applying to colleges online I heard about the JumpSpark gap year scholarship opportunity. I wanted to find a gap year program that was the right fit for him—religious but not too religious, a program where he could learn to make decisions for himself but with supervision. Social, but not a party program, with plenty of travel and experiences with Israeli kids. I wanted him to experience Israel, grow as a young adult, and come back excited to start college and still love being Jewish. After I researched and talked with a dozen different programs, I came to the same conclusion that Jack had all along—Nativ was the right choice.

Once the volumes of paperwork were sent and sent again, we gathered everything on the packing list and tried to fit everything he needed for the year into two duffel bags. Lucky for us, he is a bit of a minimalist, so we managed to fit everything in. I was ready for him to go.

I got asked often, “Aren’t you worried about sending him to Israel?” I wasn’t worried about Israel–I was worried about him making friends, that he got enough to eat, that he would do his laundry. Things have changed a lot since I went to Israel as a student in 1989. There are no more payphones, tokens, or collect calls. Jack had a cell phone with an Israel SIM card and could call or text when he wanted to.

It turned out that once or twice a week was what he wanted—and we were happy to get that! His calls were brief, his texts even shorter, but it was clear he was having a good time and busy. He was staying up late–his phone calls were often at 1:00 am Israeli time. His credit card bills were mostly for food and occasionally a bar tab. Jack figured out how to do his laundry, how to navigate roommates who were as messy as he was, how to navigate the bus system and how to get invited to a friend’s house for Shabbat.

I did worry when he got COVID so far away from home. Turns out that he ended up missing some programming he did not want to attend and played video games for a few days. In every picture that Nativ posted (no social media for my kid), he was smiling and surrounded by friends. I knew he was doing well. About six weeks after he got to Israel, he said to me, “Mom, you were right. I am so glad I am here.”

Mostly, I just missed him. Nine months is a long time to go without seeing your child. COVID prevented me from visiting him. We had a great trip planned but Israel shut their borders to tourists, just a few weeks before our departure.

Jack returned home a bit shaggier, a bit taller, and much more attached to his cell phone. He misses his friends desperately. He is speaking up for himself more, and he is working through his college online orientation without nagging. He set up his summer job and gets himself to work every day. He is much more confident in who he is as a young adult and as an American Jew. Now, I feel like he is ready for college and independent living. I am so grateful that he had this opportunity. It was a gift for him and for us.

To learn more about Gap Year scholarships and programs, contact Susie Mackler, or visit JumpSpark’s Gap Year Page.

ethiopian-jewry

Ethiopia: Where Jews Cling to Hope and Promise

By GLOBAL JEWRY, People in Need

In a trip that inspired a wide range of emotions, Federation board member Michael Kogon visited Ethiopia’s community of devoted Jews in Gondar. He, along with other Jewish leaders from Europe and Canada, were ushered into this remote region nestled beneath the Simeon Mountains, a range Kogon describes as both beautiful and foreboding. Michael Kogon’s account of his journey to Gondor brings you closer than ever to the great need of the Ethiopian Jewish community. Read the moving account of his visit, a true eye-opener.

That thousands of Jews have escaped the area’s abject poverty and famine to make Aliyah to Israel is a wonderful thing. Yet many more Ethiopians yearn to rejoin their family members already in Israel who they have not seen for years as they wait for permission to emigrate. Following his trip, Michael Kogon is spearheading an effort to raise money to support the Ethiopian Jewish community and to help fund flights to their land of promise. Your donations to the Struggle to Save Ethiopian Jewry (SSEJ) Fund will help.

Walking In . . . Reflections on My Trip to Ethiopia

By CARING, GLOBAL JEWRY

June 2022
By Michael Kogon

Why am I in Gondor, Ethiopia with Jewish Federation board members, Federation leadership from Europe and Canada, members of the Jewish Agency leadership, and community CEOs? Why is the Jewish Agency bringing us here to this place now?

Newly arrived in Ethiopia, it is still not altogether clear. Yes, I’m sure there is a Jewish family or 10 that want to get to Israel. Dollars are needed to make sure that while we rescue lives in Ukraine, we don’t leave the remnants behind in Ethiopia.

Walking In — I arrive for services bright and early; after a long flight, a long day before, no AC in our hotel, no tv, and no internet. Why? To see the few remaining Jews, to see another place that Jews USED to be, a handful of orphans and some elderly?

Walking In — I cannot believe my eyes, not a handful, not a few dozen, not even a few hundred, but 1,000, 1,500, maybe 2,000 people! Men, women, children, old, young, teenagers, mothers and fathers. There is an ark, a bimah, a mechitzah (partition separating men and women in prayer), tallitot, (prayer shawls), tefillin (small black leather boxes with leather straps containing scrolls with verses from the Torah), prayers that are as familiar as a day school and synagogue prayers. The tune may be different, but words of praise of our G-d hit all of us.

If you want to be in the presence of Zionists who love Israel with their soul, fly to Gondor and sing Hatikvah with Ethiopian Jews who pray with their hearts to one day be allowed to go to Israel, to step foot in the old city, to pray at the Kotel, to kiss the wall!

This is not a dying community. There are more kids here than most of our day schools back home have enrolled. There are more young mothers and fathers attending services and raising Jewish kids here in Gondor than in Sandy Springs, or Dunwoody, John’s Creek, or Intown. This community is working to be more Jewish, and we want to make sure that there is a Jewish Future for them. For a glimpse of a Jewish Community of Tomorrow, Jewish Continuity, look to Gondor.

It is surprising and delightful. Now I get why we are here and why we need to help get this community to the promised land. I am excited now to visit with this community and hear their story and talk about getting to Israel, packing, making plans, and their future in our Promised land.

Walking In…as we enter the courtyard that 8 families share; it hits you!

The poverty, the dirt, the unclean lavatory conditions. The eight one-room “apartments” or “human self-storage bays” — four to eight or more family members living on a shared mattress, footstools for chairs, a single light bulb, no privacy, no cleanliness. What we are seeing is the day-to-day reality for the Community of Waiting in Ethiopia.

5 years, 10 years, 15 and 23 and more — years of waiting and longing and yearning. Not only to be in Israel but wanting, praying to be reunified with parents, siblings, children, cousins, and others that made it out. They are our Jewish family; our Community in Waiting. There are 15,000 – 20,000 left behind Jews, separated Jews, some born after their families had already been separated, others that stayed to care for elderly, sick, or young.

These are the Ethiopian Jews of today. They have been waiting. They do not have reliable work. They are living in poverty. And they want to be reunited with family members in Israel—some they never forget and others that they have never met.

This is why we are here! To help finish the work we have done. To allow mothers to hug their children again. For parents, to see that their children are alive and made it to Israel. To close the hole in thousands of families’ lives.

Hadassah’s doctors dispense medicine and expertise

By COMMUNITY, GLOBAL JEWRY, People in Need

After Russian shelling intensified last month and a rocket exploded close to the Zhytomyr home of Nina, 76, she fled for Ukraine’s Polish border. When she arrived several days later after a long trip by car with other Zhytomyr residents, Nina was experiencing severe back pain.

She was directed to the Przemyśl Humanitarian Aid Center, a repurposed shopping mall near the Medyka border crossing in southeastern Poland, where doctors from Jerusalem’s Hadassah Medical Organization, one of Israel’s leading hospitals, have been running the medical clinic since March. There, she received treatment by doctors and Russian- and Ukrainian-speaking nurses who had volunteered to go to Poland as part of Hadassah’s ongoing Ukraine relief effort.

Nina was far from alone.

At what felt like the last possible minute, Elena escaped Kharkiv, Ukraine, with her 13-year-old twins and her autistic 15-year-old son, Daniel, who cannot speak. Janna, 77, who ran from the devastated Ukrainian port city of Mariupol, contracted a severe case of pneumonia during her three-day road trip to Lviv. When Lviv itself came under air attack, the main hospital there discharged Janna and evacuated her to Poland.

All these refugees ended up at Hadassah’s clinic.

“My grandfather’s cousin perished in Bialystok, not far away from where we were,” Rivka Brooks, director of pediatrics at Hadassah’s Mount Scopus campus in Jerusalem, said in an interview from Poland. “Imagine seeing the same Polish scenery and women standing with one suitcase 80 years after the Holocaust, when no one was there for us. You can’t not feel emotional about it.”

Brooks, 52, is among dozens of Hadassah doctors and nurses — both Jews and Arabs — who have volunteered over the last two and a half months for the humanitarian mission, a collaboration among the Hadassah Medical Organization, which operates two hospitals in Jerusalem; the New York-based Hadassah, The Women’s Zionist Organization of America, which is funding the effort; and Hadassah International, the organization’s global fundraising arm.

Dr. Yoram Weiss, acting director-general of the Jerusalem medical center and the person who designed and oversees the Ukraine program, said Hadassah began sending medical teams to the Polish border in early March. Now on its 10th mission, Hadassah already has treated more than 10,000 refugees and plans to maintain its presence in Poland at least through early June.

In addition to running the medical clinic at the Przemyśl refugee center, Hadassah doctors and nurses are treating children at a second refugee center in nearby Korczowa, Poland, and, in partnership with Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders), triaging trauma patients at the border. In addition, Hadassah sent trauma experts to train their Polish counterparts at the Medical University of Lublin, a regional trauma center about 125 miles to the north, in how to handle major traumatic injuries and mass casualty situations.

“Unlike other organizations, our physicians do not come independently, but as a group — four physicians, including two pediatricians, four nurses and an administrator,” Weiss said. “All are volunteers, and sometimes we have more people who want to go than we can accommodate.”

David “Dush” Barashi, Hadassah’s head medical clown, has been one of the medical center’s volunteers, putting sick and often anxious children at ease with his pranks and silliness. It was Dush who noticed a fragile 8-year-old boy and gently convinced him and his mother to come to the clinic, where the boy received a thorough check-up.

“The amount of respect we have gained with the WHO [World Health Organization], Médecins Sans Frontières and the Polish Red Cross is really amazing,” Weiss said. “They look at Hadassah and our impact on treating refugees, and they see us as an example of how things should have been done.”

The Jewish Federations of North America (JFNA) has been supportive. JFNA president Eric Fingerhut visited the Hadassah border clinic and JFNA has given Hadassah two grants to support the humanitarian mission.