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Plan Now to Take the Israel Trip of a Lifetime

By COMMUNITY, GLOBAL JEWRY, JEWISH JOURNEYS

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

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

Here’s what people are saying about the trip:

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

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

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

Collaboration Celebrated at JPro Conference

By COMMUNITY, GLOBAL JEWRY, Making Jewish Places

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

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

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

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

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

By COMMUNITY, GLOBAL JEWRY, JEWISH JOURNEYS

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

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

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

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

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

Host a Shinshin Next School Year!

By COMMUNITY, GLOBAL JEWRY, Shinshinim Atlanta

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

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

What would you tell someone considering hosting a Shinshin? 

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Safe Haven in Israel for Ukrainian Refugee Teens

By GLOBAL JEWRY

Twenty-two Ukrainian teens who have escaped the war are finding safety and refuge at Yemin Orde, Israel’s home for at-risk and immigrant youth from around the world. Many of them came by themselves, while their parents stayed in Ukraine. Most are children of divorced parents, and many are severely traumatized. They are lucky to be at Yemin Orde whose mission for nearly 70 years has been to work with this type of population, saving and lifting lives in what they call “The Village Way.”

Support for these Ukrainian teens centers on immediate needs like providing housing, food, medicine, and clothing to these youth. A comprehensive plan is being deployed to address their therapeutic, educational, and social needs with the immediate hiring of new teachers and additional social workers to provide on-site therapy. Respite is also a priority for these teens. Yemin Orde, which receives support from the Atlanta Federation, hopes that additional funding can provide pocket money, trips, and activities like swimming, bowling, and touring Israel.

Yemin Orde is doing heroic work to provide emergency grants to help families escape Ukraine and to provide them with support for living expenses in Israel. Without any financial commitment from the government of Israel at this point, it must provide this critical support from current core operating budget which is already being stretched by the current increase in food, gas, electricity, and other prices we see around the world. Contact Keren Rosenberg at Federation to learn more about supporting Yemin Orde.

Help Resettle Ukrainian Refugees in Atlanta

By CARING, COMMUNITY, GLOBAL JEWRY

As the U.S. begins to open its borders for immigration, we will likely see many refugees come to Atlanta. If you would like to be on JF&CS’s list to help with the needs of Ukrainian refugees, please fill out this form. We will let you know when housing or items such as furniture are needed. JF&CS and Federation will keep you updated as this situation continues to evolve.

With the recent White House announcement of the admission of 100,000 Ukrainian refugees into the US, JF&CS is gearing up to assist refugees. We are currently awaiting guidance on what this process will look like, and how many will come to the Georgia area. We want to encourage anyone in the state of Georgia who considers themselves Jewish and entered the U.S. from Ukraine prior to 3/1 on a temporary visa, with or seeking, Temporary Protective Status, or received humanitarian parole status at a land border who needs assistance (financial, food, housing) to send an email to ukraine@jfcsatl.org. The message can be English, Russian or Ukrainian and we will have it translated.

Remembering my Father-in-Law

By COMMUNITY, GLOBAL JEWRY

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

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

Passover Seders in Ukraine and Ethiopia Target Future Olim

By CARING, GLOBAL JEWRY

The Jewish Agency for Israel held a special Passover seder for hundreds of Ukrainian refugees who are staying at the organization’s Aliyah (immigration to Israel) processing centers in the region and are preparing for their departure to Israel. In addition, The Jewish Agency also hosted special seders in Ethiopia for its future olim (immigrants) set to make Aliyah. 

The organization’s main seder event for Ukrainian refugees took place in Warsaw and was led by the organization’s Director of the Aliyah and Absorption Unit and Deputy Director General, Shay Felber. The Jewish Agency’s Shlichim (Israeli emissaries) also hosted parallel seders in Romania and Hungary for future olim who are currently taking refuge there and awaiting their flight to Israel. 

The Jewish Agency worked with the Harold Grinspoon Foundation’s PJ Library and the Ministry of Aliyah and Integration to publish and translate the Haggadot into Russian. The Haggadot will contain the classic cornerstones of the Passover story, including traditional songs, and are written to be enjoyed by the whole family. 

Meanwhile, in Gondar and Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, The Jewish Agency held a seder for thousands of future Ethiopian olim. The Passover seders in Ethiopia were conducted as The Jewish Agency and the Ministry of Aliyah and Integration are set to resume their Tzur Israel initiative, which is being resumed in accordance with the decision made by the Government of Israel. 

The preparations for these seders in Ethiopia was a tremendous undertaking, overseen by the community’s Rabbi Menachem Waldman, and included 100,000 baked matzahs made from 3,000 kilograms of flour locally ground by the community, 400 liters of raisin wine, and a charoset recipe unique to Ethiopian culture that includes dates, bananas, ginger, sugar, and wine. 

The Gondar seder was led by former leader of the community Metiku Yalew, a Jewish educator who made Aliyah to Israel in 2001. In Addis Ababa, the seder was led by Fekadu Maru, the community’s local Jewish educator. Seder leaders were assisted by volunteers from Israel and cantors in the community, and participants will sing special holiday songs in both Hebrew and Aramaic.  

Those seders are in addition to the dozens being held worldwide thanks to Jewish Agency Shlichim stationed around the world. They will help organize seders in Australia, New Zealand, Europe, South Africa, Latin America, North America and the former Soviet Union. As for olim in absorption centers here in Israel, they are preparing for their seder’s with the organization’s assistance. 

“From Ukraine to Ethiopia, we’re seeing a very modern exodus which proves that the Zionist dream is continuing to be fulfilled.” Hagoel added. 

More Family Camp Weekends!

By CARING, COMMUNITY, GLOBAL JEWRY, Jewish Camp Initiative

Earlier this month 27 families totaling nearly 100 people gathered for Family Camp: Passover Edition at Ramah Darom. Once again, Federation helped create and convene an immersive family camp weekend along with partners 18Doors, Be’Chol Lashon, PJ Library Atlanta, Ma’alot, and the Israeli American Council.  Other family camp experiences have included PJ Library Atlanta’s Book it to Shabbat celebrating the love of Jewish books. In March, families gathered at camp for The Grand Getaway, bringing grandparents and grandkids together in partnership with Ramah Darom, the Jewish Grandparents Network, and PJ Our Way.

The Passover themed weekend targeted diverse families and was specifically geared for little ones, ages 0-5. Over the weekend families connected with one another in Hebrew, Russian, and Spanish. Bonds were forged over fireside chats, making charoset recipes from around the world, and dancing with handmade tambourines. Families who had previously felt marginalized due to their cultural identity, family structure, etc. shared that it was the first time they felt not only welcomed but embraced and celebrated by the Atlanta Jewish community.

Families said:

  • Our favorite part of the weekend was simply being immersed in Jewish culture with other Jewish families. All of the hosts and co-leaders were extremely welcoming, nice, and accommodating. It truly made us feel welcome, at home, and less-stressed in a new environment, when surrounded by so many new families.
  • We’ve always wanted to attend a weekend like this. We aren’t as involved in our Jewish community as we once were, and we’d love to be more involved again. After attending this weekend we know that there is a space for us in the community

Following the success of these weekends Federation is interested in expanding additional experiential offerings as well as a weeklong family camp. Interested? Let Melissa Scholten-Gutierrez, Director of Family Engagement & Education, know what kind of experience you’re looking for.

JF&CS Supports Ukrainian Holocaust Survivors in the Southeast

By GLOBAL JEWRY, People in Need

By Cherie Aviv, Founder Holocaust Survivor Support Fund (HSSF)

The news out of Ukraine is heartbreaking for all, but there is one group that has been deeply impacted: Holocaust survivors. Many of them once called Ukraine and Russia their homes. And though they left for a better life, it is still incredibly difficult to watch their former homeland be attacked. Many still have loved ones in Ukraine.

JF&CS provides supportive services, with Claims Conference funds from Germany for Holocaust survivors in Georgia, and 10 states in the Southeast region. The Holocaust Survivor Support Fund (HSSF), convened by Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta, provides funds that meet the shortfall from Claims Conference funding, so survivors receive needed homecare, grocery food gift cards, home-delivered meals, prescription assistance, and more. Of the 229 Holocaust survivors who get support services, 93 are from Ukraine (62 live in Georgia and 31 live in other areas of the Southeast region). In addition, there are 40+ survivors from Russia.

The Russian invasion of Ukraine has added to the already snowballing anxiety experienced by survivors over the last few years—increased significantly during the pandemic. They witnessed empty shelves at grocery stores, became socially isolated, saw people get sick, and knew people who died. Many experienced flashbacks to World War II.

Hence, stress level is high, and those who have family there are scared. Thankfully, JF&CS case managers are in regular contact with survivors and stepped up their outreach with survivors from Ukraine, Russia, and other parts of the Former Soviet Union to provide crucial support during this challenging time. They call survivors, listen to them, and attend to their emotional needs. And continue to provide them with much needed services to help with food insecurity, homecare, and more.