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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Oh, How We’ll Miss You, Brenda!


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Using Foundation Tools to Build the Jewish Future


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

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

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

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

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




NextGen Steps Up


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

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

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

Mississippi Jewish Childhood Inspires 25+ Years of Giving


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

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

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

Mircrogrants Generate Amazing Collaborations!

By CARING, COMMUNITY, Making Jewish Places

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

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


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

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


Hanukkah In A Box


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

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

Pivoting from Fashion to Service


Pivoting from Fashion to Service
by Deborah Plotsky

I spent the first seven years of my career in fashion, but I’ve always had another passion for food and gardening. In 2019, after seven years of attempts to grow basil and compost in my tiny New York City apartment, I decided it was time to return to the hometown of my alma mater, Atlanta. I convinced my company to let me work remotely in Atlanta and decided I would find a more food or earth-focused job once I got here. Before I even really began networking in my new city, COVID-19 struck and left me jobless for the first time in my adult life. In good company and in the face of an overwhelming wave of need, I saw it as an opportunity to finally redirect my time and attention to a career of service.

It was all quite serendipitous; I happened to run into Claire, a Repair the World Fellow, at my community garden, she happened to mention Serve the Moment, a program that mobilizes young adults to engage in critical racial justice work, tackle food insecurity, strengthen our education system, and combat social isolation. And I happened to apply right on the application deadline. I knew it was my moment to pivot my career, but I knew no one in the field in my new city. Serve the Moment came to the rescue. After explaining my interests, my city coordinator paired me with Wholesome Wave Georgia, a nonprofit that facilitates access to and awareness of healthy food for all Georgians in need through local farmers and community partners. I’ve specifically focused on building a program to offer highly discounted Thanksgiving produce and protein boxes to families receiving SNAP food assistance. I’m able to leverage my relationship building and program management skills from my fashion career to deliver nutritional, sustainable food to the community in Atlanta.

Serve the Moment has been an excellent crash course into food injustice and the extreme needs in my community. Aside from my work with Wholesome Wave Georgia, we have weekly national and city learning sessions. Coming from a completely different background, the national fsessions with Mazon: A Jewish Response to Hunger are invaluable to me. At the local level, last week, we had the director of Grove Park Renewal talk to our city cohort about gentrification and how they’re working to protect citizens’ historic homes. I’m getting both a macro and micro view of the needs all around me while building a network of changemakers in my community.

The Jewish teachings of Tikkun Olam are at the root of this work. I’ve been able to meet people in my community who dedicate their lives to leaving this world better than how they found it. Together, we are able to spread the message and the work in a meaningful way. I’m so thankful for my Serve the Moment experience, I know it’s just the beginning of an impactful service-oriented career for me and perhaps even more importantly, the foundation of my new community (and especially the Jewish community) in my new home.

About Serve the Moment: In response to the COVID-19 crisis, Repair the World and a coalition of partners created “Serve the Moment.” This part-time program connects Jewish young adults and college students (ages 18-29) to meaningful service and learning to address the COVID-19 crisis, its economic fallout, and the current movement for racial justice. Corps Members earn a stipend for 10 hours a week volunteering with service partners, and an additional 2 hours a week elevating their professional skills and accelerating their personal growth through virtual learning sessions. Applications for the spring cohort open December14

Young Adults “Serve the Moment” for Older Adults

By Aging, CARING, COMMUNITY, People in Need

Following a highly successful summer of service, Atlanta’s Serve the Moment program has now mobilized a fall cohort of young adults to address the COVID-19 crisis, its economic fallout, and the movement for racial justice here in Atlanta.

Sarah Arogeti is one of the cohort members, and she has chosen to serve through virtual visits with older adults who have been living socially isolated lives at two Jewish HomeLife residences, Berman Commons, and the William Breman Jewish Home. Due to COVID-19, Jewish HomeLife residences have not allowed visitors for many months and are only beginning to facilitate limited socially distanced in-person family visits in outdoor spaces.

Cory Shaw, who manages volunteers for Jewish HomeLife Communities, was skeptical at first. “I had my reservations about how effective virtual visits would be, but Sarah has made it a ‘natural thing.’ She has jumped in and asked our residents lots of questions about their families, where they grew up, memories of great places they’ve traveled, and helped them feel ‘connected’ and appreciative of their lives. The impact has been HUGE!  in just her first six days Sarah visited with 18 residents — only two were repeat visits. Serve the Moment’s “get-to-know-you visits” have been a wonderful antidote to feelings of isolation and loneliness.”

Serve the Moment received $60,000 to run a Summer and Fall Service Corps with Repair the World, and is now working with more than 15 service partners.


Melton for All! New Class for Adults with Diverse Learning Needs

By CARING, COMMUNITY, Jewish Abilities Alliance

The MJCCA’s Lisa F. Brill Institute for Jewish Learning is extremely proud to have one of the largest Melton adult learning programs in the world! The Florence Melton School of Adult Jewish Learning is the largest pluralistic adult Jewish education network in the world, and now it is pioneering an inclusive class for Atlanta adults who have diverse learning needs.

“My passion for adult Jewish education extends to include all adults, so I was thrilled when Lisa Houben, Federation’s Community Training and Inclusion Coordinator at the Jewish Abilities Alliance, approached me to engage in this initiative. To my knowledge this has never been done with the Melton community before,” said Talya Gorsetman, Director of the Lisa F. Brill Institute for Jewish Learning. “We loved the idea of an inclusive and multi-sensory format that would embrace neurodiversity, so together with the Jewish Abilities Alliance (JAA), we’ve created a six-session class that begins in November.”

The class, which is supported by the Glen Friedman Bnei Mitzvah fund and Jay and Judy Kessler, will be taught by Rabbi Steven Rau, RJE, Director of Lifelong Learning at The Temple. He is the author of Everyone is Welcome: Creating a Culture of Inclusion in Congregational Schools and has been a Melton faculty member for 10 years. For more information about the class please contact Talya Gorsetman, 678-812-4153.