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NextGen

Becoming a Changemaker

By CARING, COMMUNITY, NextGen

Earlier in 2020 Federation recruited more than 25 young adults from metro Atlanta to join the inaugural Jewish Changemakers Fellowship, a three-week online leadership development experience hosted by Jewish Federations of North America. One participant was Zoe Katz, a 2019 graduate of Agnes Scott College who interned with JFNA’s Israel Action Network to combat the delegitimization of Israel and BDS on college campuses.

I took 78 pages of notes throughout my three-week Jewish Changemakers fellowship. Looking through those pages now, there is one quote from my notes that sticks out as I reflect on my experience. I listened to a podcast about supporting the most vulnerable people in our communities. As the podcast encouraged me to use my own story and challenges to create change, the podcast guest mentioned the Jewish proverb: “I ask not for a lighter burden, but broader shoulders.”

As one of 500 fellows between the ages of 20-25 from around the world, I listened intently to rabbis, leaders of Jewish organizations, activists, community and coalition builders, and my fellow fellows. In Zoom breakout rooms, we discussed Rabbi Hillel, Theodor Herzl, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and John Lewis, who passed away during the fellowship. At times, I was in awe of the content. Who was I to participate in these conversations? I am no agent of change. Some of the Changemakers were established professionals, writers, and activists with large followings. I had less than 200 Twitter followers. Yes, I always considered myself a leader and was recognized as one in college. But was I an agent of change? What did it even mean to be a changemaker?

It meant broadening my horizons. It meant broadening my shoulders.

The fellowship was split into three sections: the Story of Self, a week of personal and professional development; the Story of Us, a week of learning about the global Jewish community; and the Story of Now, a week of service and advocacy. It was okay that I didn’t think of myself as a changemaker –  these three weeks would guarantee that I would learn.

Week one started with us writing down a “six-word story of self.” In essence, it was a tagline for ourselves and a thesis statement for who we hoped to become over the course of the fellowship. On day one, I scribbled down, “finding my story, always staying myself.” By Friday, the sentence read, “passionate storyteller and value-focused Changemaker.”

It was a vast improvement.

At the beginning of the fellowship, I was most excited for week two,–  the Story of Us. In college, I studied Jewish history. (Specifically, I wrote my senior history thesis on Jewish Pirates–  yes, really.) In my research, I got to visit the Jewish community of Jamaica, which sparked a passion for learning about global Jewish communities. And wow, did the curriculum deliver. From learning about Cochini Jews in India to discussing the question of ‘Who is a Jew?’ with my cohort, I drank in the content and conversation like it was water and I had just finished wandering the desert for 40 days and 40 nights.

My favorite elective of the fellowship was that week, too. Entitled Finding Your Narrative in the Israel Conversation, I spoke passionately in our breakout rooms about my frustrations with the Israel conversation on campuses. Facilitated by JFNA’s Israel Action Network (IAN), I also worked up the courage to ask the Director of IAN for an informational interview to discuss Jewish organizations and my career. Now, a few months later, I’m interning for IAN, and I’m specifically working on programs to combat the delegitimization of Israel and BDS on college campuses.

By week three, I found friends in hundreds of fellows. We texted each other and made memes about the content we were learning. I organized a writing group and conducted a writing workshop on Sunday. Through Facebook groups, we organized extracurricular video chats — as if we were in a conference center, and we could hang out after sessions in the lobby, just chatting about anything and everything. On the last day of the fellowship, I was selected to ask Representative Maxine Waters a question about solidarity and coalition building in front of all 500 fellows, the president of JFNA, and other Congress members. It was terrifying and exhilarating. It was change-making.

It’s been a few months since the fellowship ended, but I continue to be amazed by the relationships I formed. We champion each other on social media, we network, we work together to create and advocate. I simply would not have the tools, the vocabulary, or the inspiration to do this work before the Changemakers fellowship. Before, my shoulders were narrow. I often collapsed under the weight of uncertainty, and the sheer amount of work there was to make a more just world. Now, my shoulders can bear the weight of change. I have the muscle to get the job done. And they continue to broaden more and more—all thanks to the Jewish Changemakers fellowship.

NextGen Steps Up

By CARING, COMMUNITY, NextGen

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.

Hanukkah In A Box

By COMMUNITY, NextGen

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.

Inspired by Hillel

By COMMUNITY, JEWISH JOURNEYS, NextGen

Hillel Helped Me Find My Heritage
By Olivia K. Emmette
It all began with my great-grandfather, William Goodman. He was born into an increasingly anti-Semitic, pre-WWII Germany. His parents, both Jewish, had to make the tough decision whether to risk their child’s life by keeping the family together, or send him to America, where he could have a fresh start. They selflessly chose to send him to the States where he would be adopted by a Christian family. His parents were killed shortly after in a death camp. Without the brave sacrifice of my great-great grandparents, I likely would not be here. However, I wonder sometimes, “If the world had been a better place, would I have grown up Jewish at all?”

Recently, I joined Hillel at Georgia Tech, where I began to dive deeper into my Jewish heritage and community through social events and classes like Jewish 101 and Jewish Learning Fellowship. I am proud to say that I have found a home within the Jewish community, and I am so very grateful and excited to learn more about myself and my identity.

After I made the transition from a private, Catholic middle school, to a public school I immediately began to make friends with people from other faiths. I tried to explain my Jewish history to some of my other Jewish friends, but I never felt like I belonged. Many people said that because my mother was not Jewish and because I never went through the traditional upbringing (bat mitzvah, etc.) I was not Jewish. However, I never truly felt Catholic either because I was open about my Jewish history, queer, and my father did not practice Catholicism.

The story that resonated with me the most from the Jewish Learning Fellowship is about Rabbi Akiva. He was forty before he studied anything. He did not know the aleph-bet or any of the Torah, but he worked hard to learn. Akiva teaches us that it is never too late to find your faith and that we do not need to feel shame for what we do not know. And, ever since being a part of Hillel, I have been able to ask questions — no matter how elementary and without shame. It is truly a beautiful way to learn.

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 Focus on NextGen Philanthropy

By Atlanta Jewish Foundation, NextGen, PHILANTHROPY

Lindy and Norm Radow: Giving Thoughtfully and Strategically

For Lindy and Norman Radow, philanthropy is about gratitude, of course. But even more, it’s about making an impact and leaving a legacy that expresses their highest values. By establishing The Radow Family Foundation and a donor-advised fund at Atlanta Jewish Foundation, they sat down with their adult children and did the thoughtful work of hammering out mission and vision statements and articulating the four pillars that support their generosity. It reads:

“Inspired by Jewish tradition and values, the mission of the Radow Family Foundation is to help improve the world by investing in organizations that lift up individuals through impactful programming and needs-based initiatives. The focus of our giving is defined within these pillars: educational, communal, pro-Israel and the arts. Priority is given to those causes which help support the continuity of our Jewish people.

“We both grew up in pretty humble surroundings,” Norman says. “I lived in public housing in Brooklyn, in the same neighborhood as investment banker Lloyd Blankfein. I guess we both did okay as adults,” he laughs.

Lindy lived in Mexico City, Ohio, and Europe before coming to Atlanta. Here she built a successful career selling telecommunications products and only retired two years ago, largely to focus full time on philanthropy and Jewish community building.

A committed couple since 2007, Norman and Lindy have been married for just three years. Lindy’s decision to join the Jewish people only amplified and accelerated the Jewish dimensions of their philanthropy.

“Early in our relationship, Norman asked me to go to synagogue with him, and I did. I immediately felt comfortable at Congregation Etz Chaim and felt a natural pull to Judaism. I also came to love the peace of Shabbat and the cycle of the Jewish holidays. It was important for me to have a Jewish wedding, so I studied with Rabbi Shalom Lewis and in time I became the first person to immerse for conversion at MACoM, Atlanta’s non-denominational community mikvah which I helped found.”

As a couple, the Radows also feel deeply bound to Israel. When Norman’s son left Atlanta to join the Israel Defense Forces as a “lone soldier,” they became ardent supporters of Friends of the IDF. Norman’s son made Aliyah and is raising a family in Israel — now that they have become grandparents, they visit Israel even more often.

Passing the philanthropic torch to the next generation is a top priority. Norman and Lindy’s daughter, Lisa Rose Hurd and her husband Joe live in Sandy Springs and are officers in the Radow Family Foundation. Joe has joined the Innovation Committee at Federation and the whole family is involved in something new from Atlanta Jewish Foundation.  “They’ve launched the Jewish Foundation Forum, which gives a group of us who have family foundations, large-scale DAFs and supporting foundations, a way to gather and discuss community issues and trends in philanthropy,” Norman says. “We’ve seen that some of the ways we give that were once the holy grail of charity have all but disappeared  — think the March of Dimes. Now that polio has been eradicated, it seems less relevant. Our group is excited about new ways and new vehicles to support the Jewish people. We know that millennials give differently and are excited about organizations like OneTable, InterfaithFamily, Honeymoon Israel, and other organizations that provide fresh connections to the tradition.”

As sophisticated investors, the Radows see Atlanta Jewish Foundation as an essential tool for managing wealth and leaving a legacy. They want to see more and more people use AJF’s expertise. Norman is upbeat about the special philanthropic advantages of donor-advised funds. He funded his DAF with partnership interests in his projects, which allowed him to take tax deductions at market value. As his projects sold, the DAF was the beneficiary of the cash distributions.

“I love how our investment in AJF supports the whole Atlanta Jewish community. It amazes and humbles me that such a relatively small Jewish community has created so many institutions and such a robust infrastructure from camps, to synagogues, to day schools, the Jewish Home and more! It’s rare and wonderful to see the love and commitment of so many people combine to build our future.”

40 Under 40 Trip to Israel

By COMMUNITY, NextGen

Our 40 Under 40 Mission to Israel is Federation’s first trip of its kind. Right before Rosh Hashanah, 40 talented young adults will embark on a week-long journey throughout Israel and experience dimensions seldomly explored on a mission. These participants from our NextGen community are a diverse mix of recent college grads living Intown and those just beginning their professional careers; young parents and single professionals working in fields like law, medicine, finance, non-profit, marketing and more. Eight have never been to Israel before, eighteen are Birthright alumni — more than half of whom have not been back since. They want to deepen their connections to Israel and to the Jewish community in Atlanta when they return. They’ve met in advance and prepped for the trip, knowing they’ll be encountering Israel’s innovation leaders in tech, business, government and spirituality. In addition to experiencing the beauty of Israel, they’re also ready to encounter the tough issues around pluralism and geo-politics that make everything in Israel “complicated.” We’re invested in building their leadership capacity and their advocacy for Israel and Jewish values.

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.

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.”

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.