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Gap Years Change Lives

By JumpSpark

Atlanta’s most recent group of 28 Atlanta Israel Gap Year Fellows has just returned home from an incredible, transformative year in Israel! These adventurous teenagers didn’t start college straight out of high school; instead, they spent a year exploring their interests, traveling an incredible country, exploring their connections to the Jewish world, and living independently. The Atlanta Israel Gap Year Fellowship is made possible through the generous support of The Zalik Foundation Fund. Here are reflections from a just-returned fellow and a parent:

“My gap year meant the world to me! I can’t imagine the person I would’ve been without it. I grew so much—both emotionally and spiritually—and feel incredibly more prepared for college because of it. My favorite experiences on my gap year program were definitely Yom HaShoah and Yom Hazikaron. It was truly a privilege to be in Israel for these days that had always been sacred, yet distant from my identity. I will always remember the sirens that stopped every person, taxi, car, and bus. It was so meaningful to see the people of Israel honor and remember their brothers and sisters on both of these days. I am planning to take my independence and maturity with me, as well as my love for Israel! My gap year elevated all 3 of these parts of me tremendously and I can’t wait to use them to my advantage next year.”

Pnina Sasson, participant in Young Judaea Year Course, attending Tulane University in the fall

“Since my son, Gideon, began his Gap Year, he has matured and grown both physically and mentally. He’s more independent and self-sufficient—we also noticed that he is more aware of what is happening in the world around him. I know he will be able to manage his time and study better when he goes to college; he knows better, now, how to balance his work and fun. To any other families whose kids are considering a Gap Year, I say, “Do it!” Life is short, and giving them the gift of a year away is life changing for them and for you.”

-Dani Oren, son Gideon participant in Nativ College Leadership Program

Chesed Student Awards Honor Standout Teens

By JumpSpark

Teens and families, mark your calendars: the Chesed Student Awards are on May 7! JumpSpark and Hadassah are thrilled to honor these outstanding young people from across metro Atlanta. 

The Chesed Student Awards have been presented annually by Hadassah since 1992 to one student from each of the local Jewish day schools, participating synagogue religious schools, and Jewish organizations. Each organization chooses its own recipient based on criteria that are paramount to Hadassah and its members: concern for Jews and Jewish culture and heritage, concern for fellow human beings as exemplified through manner and deed, and good academic standing. 

Since 2019, two monetary awards have been presented based on student essay submissions:  

The Phyllis M. Cohen Leadership Award is named for Hadassah Greater Atlanta Chapter’s past president and major donor, who conceived and developed the Chesed Student Awards program in 1992. Throughout the past 32 years, Phyllis has continued to support this program wholeheartedly. She has been committed to developing young leaders and new leaders, encouraging them to take an active role.  

The Linda & Michael Weinroth Chesed Community Service Award is named for Hadassah Ein Karem Chapter’s past president, and her husband, whose support have enabled the Chesed Student Awards for years. Linda is probably best known for her beautiful and thoughtful descriptions of the student recipients, which she delivered so eloquently at each Chesed Awards Program for 20+ years.  

The winners of these two awards will be announced at the award ceremony on May 7. Click here to meet this year’s honorees and register for your seat! 

Calling All Jewish Teens—We want to hear from you!

By JumpSpark

JumpSpark, Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta’s teen initiative, is conducting a survey to better understand the needs and experiences of Jewish teens in our area. Findings from this survey will be used to further develop meaningful Jewish experiences for teenagers, addressing their interests, passions, and needs, to better serve them and their families.  

Teens who complete the survey will have the opportunity to win a $100 Amazon gift card every week the survey is open! The survey closes soon, so click here to complete it now!  

To protect respondent privacy, survey responses will be collected, aggregated, and anonymized by a third-party research firm, Informing Change, which has many years of experience evaluating Jewish youth programming. 

Please contact Rebekah Blume at Informing Change ( if you have any questions about the survey, or Director of JumpSpark, Nathan Brodsky ( for any questions about the larger evaluation effort. 

Remember, the survey will close soon, so please share the link with the Atlanta teens in your life today! 

Navigating Parenthood Workshop—Helping with the Transition to High School

By JumpSpark

During the pandemic, JumpSpark, Atlanta’s Jewish teen initiative, started a program to help parents of teens prepare for the transition from high school to college. On February 1st at 7 pm at Temple Sinai, they’re hosting an event for the parents of 7th-9th graders called Navigating Parenthood: Transitioning to High School.

The leap from middle to high school is a major one. Parents often wonder, “What will my child’s journey in high school be like? How will their Jewish identity fit into the puzzle? How can I support them?” This event is a chance for parents to learn from experts and connect with other families who are in the same stage of life.

Jenn Caplovitz is on the host committee for this event. She has two sets of twins: one pair is in 8th grade, and the younger duo is in 6th. As the first of her kids prepare for high school, she is eager to learn more about this major life transition.

“High school is scary these days—it’s competitive, it’s much more intense than it was when I was a kid.” She says that through her network and through social media, she notices these differences. “Teenagers are drinking earlier, partying earlier; their workload and expectations are very different, there’s more pressure on kids to do well.”

Social media is a major life complication for teens, and it’s one most parents did not grow-up with. Jenn says, “It affects them both positively and negatively. Girls and boys experience pressure from what they see online—it’s not just magazine covers anymore. It comes from Tik Tok and Instagram. It’s a different experience than we had.”

Navigating Parenthood: Transitioning to High School will feature experts who will give parents tools to support their teens on the topics of emotional well-being, academic success, learning differences, and Jewish engagement. Parents will have the option to attend breakout sessions led by Judy Wolman, Ph.D., of Sandy Springs Psychological Center, P.C; Carrie Poline, D.O., FAPA, CEDS, double-board certified child, adolescent, and adult psychiatrist and Certified Eating Disorder Specialist; and Jed Applerouth, Ph.D., certified counselor and Founder & President of Applerouth Tutoring, and Marisa Kaiser, Charles S. Ackerman Senior Director of Learning & Engagement at Temple Sinai Atlanta.

Jenn was already looking forward to the event, and then she found out who the speakers were. She is excited to learn from these experts and draw on their experience. “You can go into high school blind, or you can go in with knowledge. The more resources you have for your kid, the better.”

Click here to register for this engaging and informative night!

JumpSpark Events for Parents of Teenagers

By JumpSpark

Debra Siegel is a mother of two: her son, Zack, is a sophomore in high school, and her daughter, Zoe, is a freshman at the University of Wisconsin in Madison. Both of her children attended elementary and middle school at The Epstein School, and then Riverwood International Charter School. Zoe became involved with JumpSpark’s Strong Women Fellowship  while she was in high school, and Zack  also participates in JumpSpark programs. Before long, Debra learned that JumpSpark isn’t just for teens—it’s for parents, too.

JumpSpark is the Atlanta Jewish teen initiative at Federation and serves as a hub for teen engagement. But JumpSpark also offers programming for parents, families, and guardians of teenagers. Next week, JumpSpark is hosting two events for parents in Atlanta’s Jewish community: an in-person event called “Let’s Talk About Being a Parent of a Jewish College/Gap Year Student,” and an online workshop for parents of pre-teen and teen boys called “Helping Boys Thrive.”

Last spring, Debra participated in a JumpSpark program called “Project Launch” which helped parents of high school seniors with the transition from high school to college or a gap year.

Debra found it hugely helpful to connect with other parents who were approaching the same milestone. Participants were given support and helpful tips as they navigated this emotional time. “There are so many pieces that go into it—budgeting, parent/student communication, social and emotional wellness, learning about antisemitism, and how our children can be involved in Jewish campus life, even if not necessarily in a religious way.”

Now, Debra is on the Host Committee for an in-person event for parents called “Let’s Talk About Being a Parent of a Jewish College/Gap Year Student” on December 1, 2022, at 6:30 pm at Temple Sinai. This event is for parents and guardians of current college and gap year students. Debra says she’s excited to come together with her peers to “share what we’ve learned through this experience of sending our kids to college—the ups and downs, and how we can best support our children.”

In a year or so, Debra will be starting the post-high school planning process with Zack. JumpSpark’s goal is to help families through the transitions they go through during their teen years, and Debra is excited to access those programs for her son.

For many families with boys, the teenage years can be difficult. Boys often have a hard time communicating their feelings or opening up to parents about their struggles. JumpSpark is offering the program “Helping Boys Thrive” on Wednesday, November 30, at 12 pm.

This free, online workshop will be presented in collaboration with the Jewish Education Collaborative and will feature speakers from Moving Traditions. Parents and guardians of middle and early high school boys will have the opportunity to build community with other parents and get access to valuable resources from experts. Participants will leave the program with practical tools they can use with their families.

Parenting a teenager can sometimes feel isolating, and JumpSpark wants parents to know they are not alone as they navigate challenging waters. These two events are opportunities for families to build community and access valuable resources. As Debra says, such programs are important because, “We are reminded that we are all going through this together.”

Amplify Israel Spring 2022 Project: Books with Jewish Representation

By JumpSpark

When a person thinks about Judaism represented in literature,they often think of Holocaust books. Many of these books are incredible and definite must-reads. However, sometimes we could all use a more modern Jewish story that focuses on more than the mistreatment of our people. For this project, we decided to compile a diverse list of books featuring Jewish characters in a modern-day society. We all deserve to see ourselves represented, and this is a good way to do so.

  • My Year Zero

By Rachel Gold

This book is about a love triangle, and one of the characters is Jewish 

  • Dancing at the Pity Party

By Tyler Feder, 

In this graphic novel, the main character tells her story ten years after her mother’s death. She is also Jewish and writes about her experiences.

  • You Asked for Perfect

By Laura Sliverman

The main character, Ariel Stone, is Jewish.

  • Books by Becky Albertalli
    • Becky is a Jewish author who features Jewish themes and character is her books. 
    • Simon vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda series and spinoffs (Upside especially), all have diverse representation of Jews of all races, genders, sexualities, etc.
    • What If It’s Us series
    • Kate in Waiting
  • Fever King (series)
    • By Victoria Lee
    • Two of the main characters are Jewish

Other books we have heard of:

  • Cool for the Summer by Dahlia Adler
  • As If on Cue by marissa kanter
  • Today, Tonight, and Tomorrow  by Rachel Lynn Solomon
  • It’s a Whole Spiel- anthology of Jewish stories

A Day in a Life as an Israeli Teenager

By JumpSpark

Hi! My name is Oria Yosef, I’m 11th grader and I live in Yokneam Illit. 

My day starts at school at 8:30 and sometimes I study on zoom. My two majors are physics and biology. After school ends at 15:30 I’m going home. I eat lunch, rest a little bit, then I do my homework. When there is a test coming us soon, I study for it. 

I volunteer at MDA (Magen David Adom, an emergency organization in Israel). I’m also a guide in the scouts.

I like to read books, listen to music, dance, going shopping, design clothes, and travel in Israel and abroad. Now that I’m in 11th grade, there isn’t a lot of time to do all these things because there are many tests (for example, Bagrut exams). I used to dance twice a week, but because of school I stopped dancing and hope to get back to it really soon.

I also like to spend time with my friends, we like to go out , places like restaurants, and the movies when we can. When the day ends, I like to watch a tv show or a movie before I go to sleep.

Amplify Israel: Teen Music Playlist 2022

By JumpSpark

Our project is to show each other what songs we like as well as songs that will represent our countries and their cultures. We decided to make a playlist: 5 songs from each country. Click here to listen to our PLAYLIST now!

Han Ben Hari – Wikipedia

This song is talk about how people are bullying some race, and this song is telling to stop it.

חנן בן ארי הודף את הביקורת נגדו | ערוץ 7

Abba – Dancing Queen :

The song was released in September 1975 as one of the 7 singles from the band’s third studio album titled ABBA. It is known in a famous American musical Mamma Mia, which has both been on Broadway as well as made into a movie!

Mamma Mia! The ABBA Club Night | The List

Moshe Peretz – Flight 5325

This song talks about how exciting it is to fly for the first time on a plane with someone you love.

Stream משה פרץ - טיסה 5325 by MANDILO | Listen online for free on SoundCloud

Eagles – Hotel California

The song tells the story of a weary traveler who stumbles upon a night hotel, which for the first time seems inviting and tempting. The song became known as an allegory of hedonism and self-destruction in the Southern California music industry in the late 1970s. While it is definitely a “dad” song, it is a classic to Americans

Eagles - Hotel California - YouTube

Omer Adam – I thank:

The song talks about thanking God and how He gives us every day opportunities to live a better life and in general gives us the opportunity to live

עומר אדם - מודה אני - YouTube

Marvin Gaye – Ain’t no Mountain High Enough:

The song was written by Ashford and Simpson before joining Motown. British soul singer Dusty Springfield. It speaks of a tale of a man experiencing New York for the first time, and not letting anything stand in the way of his dream, which represents the idea of the “American Dream”.

שלוש שנים אחרי שמרווין גיי הוציא את השיר, דיאנה רוס הפכה אותו ללהיט ענק  באמת - חדר ניתוח - הארץ

Ethnics – A desert bird:

Included in the band’s debut album (bearing her name), released in 1990

אתניקס - ציפור מדבר - YouTube

Neil Diamond – Sweet Caroline:

Sweet Caroline “is a song written and performed by American singer Neil Diamond and released in May 1969 as a single titled” Sweet Caroline (Good Times Never Seemed So Good), popular at events, football games, and just hangin out with friends, it is another classic!

Neil Diamond – Sweet Caroline (1978, Vinyl) - Discogs

Mishina – Night train to Cairo:

The song was inspired by the song “Night Boat to Cairo” (Night Boat to Cairo) by the British ska-pop band Madness, which served as a major source of inspiration for Mishina in its infancy, from its debut album (1979). The song Night Train drew its melody and style from the song Night Boat to Cairo, but the lyrics are very different.

משינה - רכבת לילה לקהיר - YouTube

Empire State Of Mind:

The song is a song of praise for New York, the hometown of the two artists. For many, it is used as a workout song, specifically a PR song, as it has a good rhythm and overall just gives good vibes. 

Empire State of Mind - Wikipedia


midtown alliance - jewish atlanta

Lupercalia Celebration

By JumpSpark

At my school, I’m taking Latin as a language and I’m in the club for it called JCL. (Junior classical League(Otherwise known as Latin Club). Recently we had an event called Lupercalia, basically Rome’s Valentine’s day. At the event, I got to do a Gladiator battle with one of my friends and perform with another one of my friends. 

I got to put together a costume for the gladiator battle so I had to first find some inspiration. Finding inspiration was hard because there were very few female gladiators. Luckily I was able to get an idea of how I wanted the costume to look. The next step was finding the pieces. The first thing I did was go to Goodwill to see if they had anything that could work as gladiator costumes or any props. In the end, I found a shirt and a skirt. I later found out the skirt had built-in shorts and pockets. Score! The next step was to create a helmet and wrist cuffs, so I headed off to the interwebs to look for a how-to video. I found one relatively quickly and got to work. After a lot of cutting cardboard and duck taping, I had a pretty snazzy-looking helmet and wrist cuffs. After that, I used some silver spray paint that I had leftover from my Halloween costume to make the pieces look like metal. Then I used some watered-down acrylic paint to make the pieces look withered and used. Finally, I added a shawl that I used to wrap the costume together. 

Finally, the day arrived, Monday, February 14, 2022, and after putting my costume on I started on my makeup. For the makeup, I did a scar down one side of my face and another one on my lip. After a little help from one of my friends, the scar looked pretty realistic. Sadly I didn’t get very many photos of the costume or the makeup. 

The first gladiator battle was the one I was in and it started with me and my friend. He used a trident and I used two swords. (our teacher was worried that we would end up hitting each other with the sword so hard that either we would get hurt or break the sword, but in the end, everything was ok) The gladiator battle ends with me laying on the ground after my leg has been chopped off. Then my friend pretended to cut off my arm and step over me and revel in his triumph. As he was reveling in his triumph, I stood up, only using one leg and one arm, And stabbed him in the back. I then proceeded to say “consumsit stercum” which is a not-so-nice way to say eat poop in Latin. 

After the gladiator battles, there were performances where one of my other friends and I proceeded to do a musical song. After that, we later lead a sing-along with the songs everyone in Latin uses to help them memorize the endings of things like verbs and nouns. In between our acts, this band played some covers of songs and dang were they good! Later there was a fake roman wedding followed by a group dance called Zorba. It was basically like the hora, but there were no chairs and the pace kept speeding up. It got so fast that people started falling over left and right. Overall it was a pretty fun experience and I hope I get to do it again next year! 

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