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COMMUNITY

What Brad Does

By COMMUNITY, Federation Innovation, INNOVATION, PHILANTHROPY

You don’t need to save the future of Jewish Atlanta by yourself, Brad Cook already has an idea for that – it’s called Career Up Now and it creates professional connections for young people through a Jewish lens.

Setting Young Jews on Amazing Career Paths

Dr. Bradley Caro Cook

As a Jewish entrepreneur and innovator (and an Atlanta native), I create simple solutions to engage Jewish young adults with low to no current Jewish connection or engagement. I believe that unless there’s a drastic shift in how we grab the attention of 18-26 year-olds, keep them engaged with Judaism, and inspire them to become the next generation of leadership, our Jewish communal infrastructure is at risk. When I learned about Federation Innovation’s Propel Grant program, I got excited.

I know that college students and recent graduates are hungry to advance their careers, grow their networks, and build community. So, in 2015, Rabbi Adam Grossman and I launched Career Up Now, combining mentorship and engagement, through a Jewish lens, to help emerging professionals form personal, professional, and soulful connections with industry leaders in the Jewish community. Since launching we have piloted in 9 U.S. cities and are scaling in four of those cities. Now, thanks to a Bloom seed grant from Federation Innovation, and support from the Joyce and Ramie Tritt Family Foundation and Mark Silberman, Career Up Now is in Atlanta.

In Atlanta, our first cohort consisted of 12 student leaders from Emory University. I soon thereafter realized there is little support or mentoring for young Jewish women entering business and STEM fields.  As time went on I found this to be true on a national level and kept hearing Rabbi Tarfon, our ancient Jewish cheerleader and rebbe say, “while you don’t have to complete the task, you are not free to desist from this critical endeavor.”

While examining our mentor demographic, I discovered that we had only one woman industry leader contact or mentor for every 20 men. To address that imbalance, we doubled down to solve the problem we’ve launched Women of Wisdom https://www.careerupnow.org/atlanta-spring-2019.

While we achieved gender balance for our initial Atlanta Career Up Now due to the high demand for more women’s programs in Atlanta we needed to rapidly grow the number of women industry leaders in our network. To do this, we leveraged growth hacking for engagement,  a process of rapid engagement growth enabling non-profits to accomplish in three months that which would take years to do. Using these strategies, we recruited 200 women industry leaders into our network in just three months. Now these Women of Wisdom are helping expand our network by engaging their colleagues and friends with Career Up Now programming.

Atlanta has been a pivotal experience and we are excited to continue to grow Career Up Now in Atlanta.

Yo Tech Initiative

By COMMUNITY, GLOBAL JEWRY

Yo-Tech Opens Doors to Tech Careers in Yokneam

Across the road from a residential neighborhood in Yokneam lies Hi-Tech Park, the shining economic jewel of this northern Israel community, and home to roughly 160 successful tech firms that generate approximately $6 billion in revenue annually. For some young people in Yokneam, their professional future may happen there. For others who lack digital skills, jobs in technology seem impossibly out of reach. That’s about to change.

Coming out of Federation’s 2019 Partnership visit, a commitment was made to establish a formal relationship with the Hi-Tech community to support local youth in need. The vision  is to leverage Yokneam Hi-Tech park as a platform for Ethiopian and at-risk youth to gain the skills that will lead to success in the technology job market.

Federation’s Global Jewish Peoplehood Committee has given the green light to invest in Yo-Tech, an applications development and technology course for youth in Yokneam. Working with our partners from Machshava Tova, (a nonprofit that bring technological access and empowerment to underserved populations), and the city of Yokneam, a select group of 15 students will begin a year-long course that will culminate in an internship with one of the Hi-Tech companies at Yokneam Hi-Tech village.

“It’s really the first time that our tech community has partnered with the community in a formal way,” said Eliad Elyahu Ben Shushan, Partnership director, Jewish Agency for Israel. “It’s vitally important to build this relationship and create a shared sense of destiny and opportunity for our youth.”

Yo-Tech will address skill areas that are essential to a 21st century work environment: technological training, coupled with a mindset that fosters independent research and learning in a warm and supportive framework.  At risk youth will also learn equally critical “soft skills” of personal and social responsibility, teamwork and cooperation. Internships will provide practical experience in a sought-after technological field.”

Yo-Tech has already selected 15 local teenagers ages 14-18. The group will include 10 students from the Ethiopian community and 5 from the general population. We’re excited to update you on their progress as the program moves forward.

I Honestly Didn’t Want To Leave

By Atlanta Birthright Community Trips, COMMUNITY, NextGen

When I signed up for my Taglit-Birthright Israel trip, I hadn’t thought much about being Jewish since my bar mitzvah at Temple Kol Emeth. My college years at Georgia Tech had been about the usual stuff – studying, football, swim team and my friends. This Birthright trip touched me in ways I didn’t expect. I honestly didn’t want to leave.

I’m too tall to sleep well on an airplane, so when we landed in Israel I was exhausted. But I couldn’t sleep. On the bus to Tiberius I kept looking out the window – Israel is so lush and green!

After spending a few days up North, my group headed to Jerusalem to celebrate Shabbat, my favorite experience of the trip. During this sacred time, six people on my trip, some of whom had never even been to synagogue, celebrated their bar/bat mitzvahs.  They learned the Torah blessings, studied the Torah portion and prepared personal stories about what this experience meant to them.  One participant wore his grandfather’s tallit for the service. It really heightened my awareness of what being Jewish means to me; even my thoughts about Judaism and marriage are evolving now. It’s important to me to raise Jewish kids.

This fall, I’ll be starting dental school at University of Florida. There’s an active Hillel on campus and I can join the International Jewish dental fraternity, Alpha Omega.  Birthright was my first trip to Israel, but I hope it won’t be my last.

Federation, in partnership with Birthright Israel Foundation, invests in subsidized Birthright Israel trips for young adults (ages 22-26) to deepen their Jewish identity and build lifetime connections to Israel.

MLK Shabbat Suppers Celebrate Diversity & Dialogue

By CARING, COMMUNITY, Federation Innovation, INNOVATION, Making Jewish Places, NextGen, People in Need, PHILANTHROPY

For Jews and their loved ones, Shabbat dinner is far more than a meal. It’s a weekly platform for holiness, hospitality, peace, plenty and conversation. With that in mind, Federation awarded a Bloom Innovation seed grant to several organizations who collaborated on ways to use MLK weekend as a moment to turn Shabbat dinners into opportunities for dialogue and understanding.

On the Friday preceding Martin Luther King Jr. Day, 144 individuals across Atlanta showed up for a “MLK Shabbat Supper,” a guided dinner and discussion to honor Dr. King made possible by the collaborative efforts of Repair the World AtlantaOneTable, the American Jewish CommitteeHands On Atlanta, and Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta. There were ten simultaneous MLK Shabbat Suppers throughout the city, in neighborhoods ranging from Sandy Springs to the Westside. The religiously, racially and gender diverse group of hosts came from among the lay leadership of Jewish community partners including the above organizations, as well as Jewish Family and Career Services, Moishe House and The Schusterman Family Foundation.

Participants at the dinners enjoyed a meal while diving into a discussion guide filled with thought-provoking quotes and questions from a Jewish perspective about civil rights, racial justice and other issues of importance to Atlanta. Feel free to download the guide.

As OneTable Atlanta Hub Manager, Shira Hahn, put it, “By joining together at the table, we work towards creating new traditions that foster authentic and thoughtful engagement across difference to recognize our past and ideate a better future. Moving forward we will continue to build solidarity and greater understanding within the Jewish community and with all Atlantans.”

For those interested in further opportunities for service and dialogue, join Repair the World and partners for an anti-human trafficking event on January 27 and cooking for the Nicholas House family shelter on February 22; details and registration here.

A New Way to Invest in Yokneam

By COMMUNITY, Federation Innovation, GLOBAL JEWRY, INNOVATION

Growing Opportunity for Israeli Teens at Risk
For teenagers at-risk who live in our Partnership cities of Yokneam and Megiddo, the world of high tech is literally at their doorstep, and yet without the right job skills, it can feel inaccessible. Yokneam’s High Tech Park is Israel’s fastest growing startup ecosystem, home to more than 140 tech firms. Now, through a series of innovative partnerships, Federation is providing tech training opportunities for at-risk students, many of whom are Ethiopian. We are determined to make investments in skill-building, mentorship and entrepreneurial skills that can lift them out of poverty and into tech jobs that will change the course of their lives.

Ofir Dubovi, founder and CEO of Open Valley, and a dynamic driver of high tech in the region, is one of our partners in this work. “The world knows Israel as startup nation, but 93% of all startups are based in a 20 kilometer area centered in Tel Aviv,” Ofir says. “I want to extend those borders by focusing on the north of Israel. We’re creating Academies of Innovation that make technology accessible to youth. We work with NGO’s, the IDF, High Schools and the Ministry of Education to train and to teach entrepreneurship and intrapreneurship outside of Tel Aviv.”

Yokneam was founded in 1950, but in 1989 a new mayor, Simon Alfassi, was elected, and the economic structure of Yokneam changed from a centralized dependence on two large factories to a dispersed base of small high-tech companies. As the number and size of the companies grew, Yokneam and the small communities around it began to attract young entrepreneurs and developers who were looking for a less urban alternative to the Tel Aviv area. It now has over 160 high-tech companies and exports of approximately 6 billion US dollars annually.

Craig Kornblum, who chairs Federation’s Global Jewish Peoplehood Committee, has visited the region many times over many years and understands these changes. He sees the possibilities of a tech education partnership and has become a champion for the initiative.  “Over the last 25 years Federation supported this community in a traditional way, using a welfare model. Back then we could barely have imagined the growth of high tech in Israel, let alone in Yokneam. What an incredible opportunity it is to leverage existing tech assets and prepare disadvantaged teens to build a better future,” he said.

Eliad Ben Shushan, Yokneam and Megiddo Partnership Manger at the Jewish Agency, emphasizes the potential of the new initiative to connect teens from Atlanta to teens in Israel. “High tech and innovation is a common language shared by teens all around the world. We hope to bring teens to work together on mutual innovative projects, that will shorten the distance between the communities and mainly tell the modern story of Israel, the strong and innovative Israel!”

Leadership Lessons on Birthright

By Atlanta Birthright Community Trips, COMMUNITY, NextGen

Five years ago, Maddie Cook traveled to Israel with Birthright Israel Atlanta. Her encounter with Israel came full circle when she became a leader on our 2019 Summer Birthright trip. Curiosity about Israel drove Maddie to sign up for her first trip. Creating community was her motivation to lead one.

“Growing up Jewish, I often felt like an odd one out, but traveling to Israel and experiencing it with people like me was incredibly comforting. Experiencing Birthright with people like me from Atlanta created a built-in community I never realized I had.”

“There were several new activities on this past Atlanta Birthright trip that were not part of my original trip. Some favorite additions include rafting down the Jordan River and visiting Buza Ice-Cream Parlor, an Arab-Jewish collaboration in the Galilee Region. Not only does it represent a beautiful story and partnership, but the ice cream is delicious.”

“Our time in Yokneam, Atlanta’s Partnership city, was very memorable. On my first visit, we only were there for an evening event. This time, we played soccer with kids from one of the local schools. Soccer is truly the international sport and ultimate language barrier breaker. In no time, we were laughing and playing with the kids. This part of the trip was a favorite among the group.”

“Staffing an Atlanta Birthright trip was perhaps even more rewarding than my first visit. I had the chance to shape and guide others experiencing Israel and exploring their Jewish identities. The relationships that developed over our ten days in Israel have now come stateside, and that’s not always an easy thing to do. It brings a smile to my face seeing people from our trip make plans to socialize, do Shabbat dinners and work on the itineraries for the Israeli soldiers visiting Atlanta in the coming months.”

Tradition Kitchens

By COMMUNITY, Federation Innovation, INNOVATION, PHILANTHROPY

Julia Levy’s Tradition Kitchens’ Hands-on Learning Programs

At Hanukkah, when the latkes sizzle, Tradition Kitchens celebrates both the classics and the modern — the gluten free, Southern sweet potato with leek latkes and organic pepper jelly garnish from Ivy Rose Farm, a family venture with Jewish roots.

This is our first Hanukkah with Tradition Kitchens, our mother-daughter start-up transforming kitchens into classrooms to connect cultures, generations and neighborhoods. By empowering home chefs and restaurateurs to teach family recipes with history, we host pop-up affordable cooking classes around Atlanta, from intown to the suburbs.

When we think of food, we think of family. This year, we’ve been learning our Jewish Atlanta family’s favorite foods and the stories behind them — Noodle Kugel with Leslie Kalick Wolfe’s mother’s recipe, Challah with Sara Franco, Molly’s Mandel Bread with Michele Glazer Hirsh and Jennifer Glazer Malkin —to name just a few. And we’ve been welcomed into the Federation family as PROPEL Innovation grantees with a cohort, coach, ecosystem of Jewish organizations across the city, mentors, workshops with Zingerman’s Deli and so much more.

Along the way, we’ve discovered a treasure trove of Atlanta Jewish recipes — some scribbled down between friends and others recorded in beautiful cookbooks by The Breman Museum and Congregation Or Ve Shalom. We strive to elevate the foods that have thrived for generations and put Atlanta on the Jewish food map while also discovering the home chefs whose delicious dishes should be shared. Our goal is to create community through our gatherings and build upon it organically.

As you sit down for a Hanukkah holiday meal — whether it’s with family or friends — our winter wish is simply to ask about the story behind the food. And if you’re inspired by what you discover, as we have been, send the story our way and nominate the home cook to teach. We hope to sample old and new culinary traditions with you in 2020.

Empowering Ethopian Families

By CARING, COMMUNITY, GLOBAL JEWRY, People in Need

Empowering Yokneam’s Ethiopian Families
Young Ethiopian families in our Israel Partnership city of Yokneam are more successful than earlier immigrant generations, but many are still considered at-risk due to persistent illiteracy and underemployment. A new report on Federation’s investment in the Maof empowerment program demonstrates that positive mentoring and counseling interventions can change lives. Maof, which expresses “vision, courage and imagination” in Hebrew, provides heads of households with one-on-one counseling, mentorship on budget management, higher education and career development, and Hebrew language lessons, where needed. Federation’s Global Jewish Peoplehood committee reports these encouraging outcomes:

  • 8 families received consulting in monthly income management. Four of them have kept their accounts balanced. One family improved from constant debt to saving up to 2000 NIS a month.
  • 8 individuals improved their occupational status, finding better jobs with higher salaries. At least 4 more individuals are in the process of securing jobs such as technician, bookkeeper, bus driver, and more.
  • 20 individuals improved their educational status and launched new studies to earn academic degrees or professional courses.
  • 5 families received emotional therapy or domestic consulting. In 3 families there was a situation of domestic violence. Another woman had a fear of driving which kept her from being able to work. Due to the therapy, she overcame her fear, got a driving license and found a job.

During the 2018-2019 year, thirty families were served by the Family Center in Yokneam. The support services included identification of major needs, setting goals, and working to move individuals forward in their lives toward better employment and economic independence.

One-on-one mentorship really made the difference in this empowerment program. One participant said: “I was all the time occupied with worrying about my son. I could not afford buying him a computer or sending him to after school activities. Now that this is covered by the program, I am available to take care of myself. I am forever thankful for this support.”

Another commented, “She (the mentor) didn’t give up on me! She believed in me more than I have   believed in myself. She all the time urged me and pushed me to sign up. Now I am a student and I am still going to meetings with her to get the emotional support and encouragement. Sometimes just for good advice.”

What Does Secular Judaism Mean?

By Atlanta Birthright Community Trips, COMMUNITY, JEWISH JOURNEYS, NextGen

By: Robin Glaubman

Just six weeks ago I traveled to Israel for the first time with 38 strangers on Atlanta’s Birthright Israel summer trip. Quite honestly, I’d never been around so many Jews in my life! I grew up never going to synagogue, attending one Passover seder, one bar mitzvah, and the only Jewish holiday we ever celebrated was Hanukkah. Still, I have always strongly identified as Jewish. I’ve called myself a Heritage Jew, meaning that I was not a religious Jew. The concept of being a “secular” Jew wasn’t even part of my vocabulary. I didn’t realize before the trip that it was yet another way to be Jewish.

Our Birthright bus ranged from people who attended synagogue every week and spoke Hebrew, to myself and eight others who struggled through a phonetic pronunciation of the Torah blessings during our bar/bat mitzvah ceremonies in Jerusalem, and just about every shade of observance in between. When we arrived in Israel we were told to make the trip about ourselves. Not to be self-absorbed, but to make sure we were experiencing our own authentic Jewish journey.  It was good advice. I never felt like my opinion wasn’t valid or didn’t want to be heard. I never felt like any less of a Jew than anyone else on the trip.

One night I had a conversation with a fellow secular Jew that really stands out in my mind. We were debating what were the most important aspects of being Jewish. Raising Jewish families? Supporting Israel? Studying Torah? His ideas startled me. And his definition of what is a secular Jew challenged me deeply.

For many years growing up he’d attended a havurah, which I learned is not a synagogue, but a group of people who get together for Shabbat and holidays, usually without a rabbi. He spoke some Hebrew, and he had a bar mitzvah at age thirteen. This shocked me! How could you call yourself a secular Jew and be so involved, so connected to Judaism as a religion. His definition of secular vs. religious hinged on whether or not a person believes in G-d.  He also implied that he could not be considered ‘religious’ because he was not Orthodox. This too shocked me. Growing up he was surrounded by Orthodox Jews, so that was what religious Judaism looked like to him.

To me, he was one of the most Jewishly connected people I’d ever met. I may have been one of the least connected Jews he’d ever met. And yet here we were in Israel, on a trip for Jewish young adults, attempting to reconcile some very macro-level questions of what it means to be Jewish. These were big conversations for me. And they’re big conversations for all of us.

While each day of Birthright was filled with a whirlwind of hikes, history lessons, monuments, water activities and limitless information, this conversation remains my biggest takeaway. There are no bad Jews. There are no lesser Jews. We all do Judaism differently and we all do it right. By making the trip about my own Jewish journey, I found a place in Judaism that I could call my own.

Mental Health Responder Toolkit

By CARING, COMMUNITY, Federation Innovation, INNOVATION, People in Need, PHILANTHROPY

Imagine if more people re-thought mental illness as a quest for mental and spiritual wellness. Imagine if more people had the tools to understand, support, and overcome the shame, stigma and challenges of substance abuse. Now, with support from a Federation Innovation Propel grant, Atlanta-based Blue Dove Foundation is moving in exactly that direction, addressing issues of mental illness and substance abuse through a compassionate Jewish lens. Blue Dove works locally and beyond to educate, equip, and ignite our Jewish community with tools to understand mental illness and substance abuse and connect them with the right local resources, such as professionals from JFC&S. They are in the midst of creating a Mental Health Toolkit packed with resources and written by local rabbis and health professionals, to increase understanding and extend hands of healing.

Blue Dove’s Toolkit begins by articulating Jewish mental health values and defines the key issues that individuals and families struggle with. For example, the concept of b’tzelem elohim — to be created in the divine image — suggests that any conversation about mental wellness must begin with a foundation of dignity and respect. This can counter the shame of illness and the tendency to hide from conversations around mental health.

Or, refuah shleimah — healing and wholeness. Judaism recognizes that healing is not just physical; it is holistic. When we pray the misheberach for healing, we pray for refuat hanefesh v’refuat haguf, a healing of spirit and of body. The Jewish emphasis is also on healing, not on curing. Even when mental illness is under control, healing and a return to wholeness is in order. We see healing as a process, one that has many components and may be a lifelong journey.

The Toolkit will also provide a comprehensive list of local resources to recognize, respond, and set people on the road to healing.  The hope is that people will become more comfortable talking openly about mental health, mental wellness and illness. Learn more at Blue Dove Foundation.