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People in Need

Doing the Work to Close the Inclusion Gap or A Framework for an Inclusive Jewish Atlanta

By CARING, COMMUNITY, Jewish Abilities Alliance, People in Need, PHILANTHROPY

Community Study on Disability Inclusion 

Annie Garrett, Jewish Abilities Alliance Manager 

In early 2020, the Jewish Abilities Alliance (JAA) engaged in a community study of disability inclusion in Jewish Atlanta. The study was an opportunity to reflect on our community’s past efforts with disability inclusion and to reevaluate needs and areas for deeper focus and support. Shortly after we embarked on this work, the COVID-19 pandemic began to unfold. As we started to understand the impact of the pandemic, this study took on even more importance. Individuals with disabilities are disproportionately affected by the pandemic, facing increased social isolation, cuts in crucial services, and increased vulnerability to their health and wellbeing. This study has shed light on our community’s most current and pressing needs and will provide crucial data and direction to continue lifting disability inclusion as a priority across all aspects of Jewish life.  

JAA worked closely with a consulting team from Matan, spending many months interviewing Jewish communal professionals, lay-leaders, self-advocates, caregivers, and family members. As a result, we have identified a framework that promotes and enhances a vision of a Jewish Atlanta that is fully inclusive of individuals with disabilities and their families across the lifespan. This framework identifies several areas of inclusion work over the next several years to close the gap between what currently exists and what the community aims to accomplish:  

  • Establishing and supporting coordinated communal inclusion efforts and unified community goals 
  • Prioritizing funding for inclusion across the lifespan and ensuring sustainability 
  • Creating a shared communal vision of acceptance and support for individuals of all abilities 
  • Training for all community professionals and lay leaders to create an even landscape of inclusion knowledge and capability 

We look forward to sharing the outcomes of this study and our road map for the next several years as we deepen our work alongside our community partners, in making Jewish Atlanta a place where people of all abilities are welcomed, included, and embraced in all aspects of Jewish life. 

Supporting Holocaust Survivors: “Barry’s” Story

By AgeWell Atlanta, Aging, CARING, COMMUNITY, GLOBAL JEWRY, People in Need, PHILANTHROPY

by Cherie Aviv, Chair, Holocaust Survivor Support Fund

“Barry,” (his name has been changed for privacy) grew up in a loving Jewish home attending synagogue, observing Shabbat, playing dreidel, and eating Jewish foods. But when the National Socialists came to power and enforced Nazi rule, Barry was forced to wear a yellow star, quit school, leave home, and was transported by train to Auschwitz. By jumping off the train, and not getting caught or killed, he hid in the forest and used his skills, determination, and drive to survive. His family was not as fortunate and the horrors of that period left a mark on him, as it did on all Holocaust survivors.

Survivors of the Holocaust like Barry deserve to live out their lives comfortably, with dignity and support. Barry made a life for himself in Atlanta. As his health deteriorated, without family to care for him, financial resources to meet Barry’s needs became paramount. Jewish Family & Career Services (JF&CS) provided case management and The Holocaust Survivor Support Fund (HSSF) provided funds so he could live his remaining days respectably and not alone, with a caregiver at his side. HSSF also provided Barry with grocery food gift cards, medical assistance, prescription assistance, and transportation help.

HSSF, convened by Federation, provides funds to meet the needs of Holocaust survivors, like Barry, as they get older and to supplement Claims Conference funds from Germany that are sent to social service agencies, in this case JF&CS. Claims Conference funds are insufficient to meet the needs of Barry and others like him, making HSSF support vital.

To support this important outreach: https://jewishatlanta.org/give/donate/

Our Responsibility
Holocaust survivors have a short window to receive this precious care. It is an act of community responsibility and an expression of the Jewish value of chesed (loving kindness) to care for the final generation of survivors who are still with us. As dollars deminish, our support for HSSF provides this very special population the opportunity to live their remaining years as fully as possible and with dignity.

Who does HSSF Support?
In Georgia, at least 218 of the 277 Holocaust survivors receive financial, social, reparations assistance, or support services. Of these 218, two thirds receive some type of financial assistance. Beginning in Fall 2020, HSSF funds also supported survivors in remote locations in the southeast that are served through JF&CS-Atlanta.

Needs are growing
The needs of survivors are growing as they age. The average survivor age is 86. More than 25 percent of survivors receiving financial support have annual incomes that fall below the Federal Poverty Level.
HSSF has allocated over $1.5 million for survivors through March 2021. This year alone, we project the financial need provided by HSSF to grow by 33 percent.
Supporting HSSF helps provide:

  •  Home-delivered meals — this has a significant impact by providing peace of mind and the comfort of a reliable food source.
  •  Grocery gift cards to improve survivors’ physical health by giving them access to more nutritious food options, and easing concerns about having enough food, which can be a source of anxiety.
  •  Prescription assistance, which takes a huge toll on survivors who may face large co-pays and often are on multiple expensive medications.
  •  Homecare, which provides the greatest need to help survivors with activities of daily living, from bathing, assistance with food intake and basic human needs.
  •  And much more…

HSSF, convened by Federation, is a partnership of Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta, Jewish Family & Career Services, Jewish HomeLife Communities, The Breman Museum, the Marcus Jewish Community Center of Atlanta, and Eternal Life-Hemshech to meet the increased needs of homecare, health care, social services, assisted living support, and financial assistance for Holocaust survivors in our community.

To support this important outreach https://jewishatlanta.org/give/donate/
To learn more about HSSF visit, https://jewishatlanta.org/give/philanthropic-opportunities/hssf/

Passover: A Time to Ask Tough Questions

By CARING, COMMUNITY, People in Need

Passover is a challenging time. It is challenging to meet all the requirements, to prepare for family rituals, to prepare for Passover via Zoom instead of in person, and to balance the material world with the spiritual practice in a society that is not Passover friendly. The Passover Seder is all about asking questions, and it challenges us to ask the tough questions that we might, could, or should ask of ourselves, especially as they relate to tikkun olamrepairing the world. 

Our Passover rituals poignantly remind us that knowledge is not the same as practice. That no matter how much we know, we are still obligated to engage in the practice of the mitzvot whether it is at the Seder table or in our daily lives. And we can expand that practice by asking those tough questions: Are you asking the right questions of yourself and your community, your leaders to combat the injustices around us? What does this time of need due to the pandemic demand of me?

This year the theme of the Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC) Interfaith Hunger Seder on March 31 is Our Sacred Obligation: Fighting Food Insecurity. While education and awareness are still key, we will be exploring ways our community fights food insecurity, not just through chesed and giving, but by asking the tough questions justice demands of us, “Why is there food insecurity and what can we do about it?” We hope the Jewish community will join us in looking for these answers on many different levels, not just now, but throughout the year.  

The Passover Haggadah states, “… Let all who are hungry enter and eat and let all who are in need enter to share our Passover.” We have the opportunity, especially in a challenging year such as this, to be grateful for what we have and to challenge ourselves to go further in our Jewish work of tikkun olam (repairing the world) and making the world better and more just. 

Learn more about the March 31 Hunger Seder here.

Rebecca Birch: An emerging leader for inclusion

By CARING, COMMUNITY, Jewish Abilities Alliance, People in Need

Rebecca Birch, Assistant Tikvah Support Director at Camp Ramah Darom, has been selected as this year’s Robyn Berger Emerging Leader. The presentation of this award brings to a close Jewish Abilities Alliance’s month-long celebration of the Power of Inclusion, honoring 21 individuals who made an impact on inclusion in 2020. Ramah Darom’s Tikvah program supports campers with neurodevelopmental disorders such as autism spectrum disorder, Down syndrome, intellectual disabilities, communication disorders, ADHD, anxiety disorders, and other disabilities. Audra Kaplan, who directs the program says, “Our approach is that every counselor is an inclusion counselor, and Becky has made sure that each counselor felt equipped to support each of their campers. At camp, she designed and ran age-appropriate activities for each age group around topics of inclusion and acceptance.”

Becky’s decision to work professionally in this field is the direct result of her years at camp. At Ramah Darom she guided the expansion of support for campers in typical bunks and those who require a higher level of support. In summer 2019, Becky led the staff inclusion training and then in summer 2020, led the full staff training in preparation for Kayits Babayit (Summer at Home), a virtual program. “Becky has been an integral part of not only developing our model of inclusion support, but also in helping to transform our community,” Audra Kaplan adds. “Camp Ramah Darom is proud to recognize her as a true example of the power of inclusion!”

Jared Jay has something to say

By CARING, COMMUNITY, Jewish Abilities Alliance, People in Need

Jared Jay is a nonverbal young man with autism, but his message is loud and clear when he uses his letter board. We asked Jared to share his thoughts for our Atlanta community during Jewish Disability, Awareness, Acceptance & Inclusion month (JDAIM).

I am autistic. I am non-speaking but not non-thinking. I communicate by spelling on a letterboard. I am silent, but I am also not.

Belief is my family cornerstone. We are Jewish and I like Judaism because it gives me hope I can survive my challenges. A Jew is a survivor and we fight in the face of fear. Facing fear is what we do. Can I tell you why? In our past others have tried to silence us but they never prevail. History has tried to erase us but we are chosen to show the world how truth in the face of darkness always shines as a light. For me, my darkness is my silence and the way society acts about my disability. But my truth, my light, are my words. Sit in my silence and hear me speak.

In today’s world, people are afraid to silence their minds and because of that, fear overpowers them when they have an encounter with a silent person. As a silent Jew, I am here to illuminate a new way of being, seeing and living.

Respect. That’s my innermost wish for the world. I am feeling that with respect the world would care more about minorities. I hope that life will become more inclusive for others like me and not like me. I grieve for those who will stay silent without ever having the opportunity to express themselves. I am hopeful for the families who saw for the first time that the doctors who said we are not connected were dangerously wrong.

I am proud that I am one of the revolutionaries.

Frances Bunzl Family Trust Gifts $5.6MM to Atlanta Jewish Community 

By Atlanta Jewish Foundation, CARING, COMMUNITY, JEWISH JOURNEYS, LIFE & LEGACY, People in Need, PHILANTHROPY

In 1939, shortly after Kristallnacht, 19-year-old Frances Bertha Hamburger escaped Germany and eventually made it to Atlanta. The Jewish community here helped her connect with other European Jewish immigrants. A few years later, she met Walter Bunzl and three months later they were married. The family never forgot the support of the Atlanta Jewish community and now, the Frances Bunzl Family Trust will disburse an approximately $5.6MM gift in equal shares to Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta and Jewish Family & Career Services of Atlanta (JF&CS). It is the largest endowed gift in both Federation and JF&CS’s history. 

“Frances was a visionary and a pioneer in communal service. Her personal experience as a lay leader inspired her desire to make a lasting imprint on our community,” noted Beth A. Warner, Federation’s Chief Philanthropy Officer. “This gift was many years in the making. Federation professionals and communal leaders met with Frances to discuss community priorities and goals to help her create a legacy that reflected her life-long philanthropic passions,” she explained.   

At Federation, the endowed funds will be directed for three initiatives. This includes funding the lead fundraising professional for the organization – the Frances Bunzl Chief Philanthropy Officer – the first time a Federation position has been endowed; the creation of the Frances and Walter Bunzl Perpetual Annual Campaign Endowment (PACE), which will ensure a major gift to Federation’s annual community campaign in perpetuity; and funding the Frances Bunzl NextGen initiative to support Jewish journeys for the next generation of Jewish community leaders. “It is also our hope that this endowment will inspire others to consider gifts of this magnitude and impact,” said Warner.

Generosity has always been a core value for the Bunzl family.   

“Throughout her life, my mother spoke of growing up in a family (both in Germany and here in Atlanta) that was focused on helping others,” said Suzy Wilner. “We believe her gifts to Federation and JF&CS will continue that legacy.” 

Jeff Alperin, Chair of the JF&CS Board commented, “This gift increases the JF&CS Foundation by 50%. This will have a direct impact on the agency’s ability to serve the needs of the Atlanta community. We are honored to receive this gift and will make sure these dollars are used to deliver the greatest impact.” 

At JF&CS, the generosity of Frances Bunzl will live on in perpetuity through its continued support of the nonsectarian agency’s operations. In honor of this generous gift, JF&CS will name its Clinical Service practice, ‘The Frances Bunzl Clinical Services.’ This service area provides mental health support for people of all ages and from all walks of life, offering both individual and group therapies across a broad spectrum of issues. “Naming this practice for the late Frances Bunzl honors the tremendous impact her gift will have on the health and well-being of our community,” said Chief Development Officer, Amanda La Kier.  

JF&CS CEO, Terri Bonoff said, “The challenges of the past year underscore the importance of planning for the unknown and ensuring vibrant Jewish life for generations to come. Choosing to spotlight the importance of mental health support by naming this service area in Frances Bunzl’s honor reflects the deep commitment JF&CS has to providing best-in-class support for the health and well-being of this community. Legacy gifts such as this one support Jewish Atlanta long into the future.” 

“This gift is indicative of the generosity we hope to inspire as part of our LIFE & LEGACY initiative, in which participating organizations embark on a legacy building program benefiting the entire Jewish community,” said Federation President and CEO, Eric Robbins. 

In the first two years of this four-year program, more than 270 local donors have made legacy commitments which will support Atlanta’s Jewish community with more than $23.3 million in future gifts. Worldwide, the LIFE & LEGACY program has motivated more than 17,000 donors in 63 communities across North America to commit more than a billion dollars in current as well as after-lifetime assets to the Jewish organizations which shaped their lives. For those interested in creating a legacy for the Jewish community, contact the Atlanta Jewish Foundation at foundation@jewishatlanta.org or www.atlantajewishfoundation.org. 

Photo courtesy of the William Breman Jewish Heritage Museum.

Pivoting from Fashion to Service

By CARING, COMMUNITY, INNOVATION, People in Need

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 https://servethemoment.org/join-the-corps

JFF EXPANDS ITS REACH

By CARING, INNOVATION, JEWISH JOURNEYS, People in Need

It is a great heartache to want a child and not being able to conceive. Whether you are a couple or an individual wanting children, it is utterly demoralizing to see others sail through pregnancy when you cannot, and it is agonizing to discover that many reproductive technologies are financially out of reach.

It took a local Atlanta innovator, Elana Frank, to bring insights from Israel, where IVF treatments are affordable, back home to Atlanta where she launched the Jewish Fertility Foundation (JFF). Over the course of five years, this Federation Innovation grantee has had outsized impact on our Jewish community. JFF provides financial assistance, emotional support, and education for those in the Jewish community facing medical infertility. JFF’s mission and ambition is exactly what we look for in an Innovation grant recipient — a remarkable idea with potential for great impact in the Jewish world, and a team with genuine dedication to its success.

“With our initial grant from Federation Innovation, we were able to create a program which is literally now being implemented across the country” says Elana Frank. “We believe in partnerships, and that community investment is so important to our process. Innovation in Atlanta has gotten us where we are today.”

Elana and her team have more than delivered, and we won’t apologize for the pun! We’ve watched the Jewish Fertility Foundation enable the birth of 49 babies (so far!) and blossom into a network of support that is scaling beyond Atlanta. We continue to be inspired by their tenacity. With our support JFF was initially able to create a community support program specifically for the Atlanta orthodox community, as well as establish Fertility Buddies, an emotional support program which has been replicated nationally and continues to grow.

Since their first round of funding, JFF has been able to substantially expand their reach throughout the Jewish community, offering emotional support and resources for single mothers, multi-faith couples, and all those facing fertility challenges. “The Jewish Fertility Foundation embodies what we hope for in a grantee relationship at Innovation” says Jori Mendel, VP of Innovation. “We share the same belief in the power of community as JFF. Their contributions and participation in offerings like Path by Plywood and Propel grantee mentor cohorts show that working together makes us all stronger in our endeavors. JFF’s continual growth and success is a testament to that.”

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.

 

Be a Champion for Older Adults!

By AgeWell Atlanta, Aging, CARING, COMMUNITY, People in Need

Be a Champion for Older Adults!  
By Etta Raye Hirsch 

One of the best things that has happened in Jewish Atlanta is the consolidation of resources that make life better for older adults. Finally, with AgeWell Atlanta, we’ve pulled together all the supportive programs of Jewish Family & Career Services, the care of Jewish HomeLife, and the social opportunities of the MJCCA, into one entity. It took guidance from Federation to spearhead the effort, but the result is a much-needed coordination of services that makes me really proud! 

With the pandemic, our older population is struggling as never before. If you don’t make it easy for people to find the help they need, they give up. Now through AgeWell Atlanta, if you’re a caregiver or an older adult needing help, you just dial one number 1-866-AGEWELL and you can speak to a real live person who can guide you to the right resources. It’s just what our community needs now.  

For me, philanthropy is both a habit and a family imperative. Our family foundation is something my grown children are involved with as decision-makers, and something my grandkids are becoming well aware of. If you want to know how to leave your necklace to a family member, your attorney or financial advisor can set that up. But if you want to truly be a change agent, become an investor in the things you really care about. You can be a philanthropist at any level! 

 I give to a wide range of nonprofits in our region, yet I rely on experts to advise me on my gifts. In truth, Atlanta Jewish Foundation (AJF) has educated me about opportunities I didn’t even know existed. I’m almost embarrassed to mention this, but I was “old” before I even knew what a donor-advised fund (DAF) was! Now I use my DAF as a tool for making grants and I want everyone to know about them. We have to say to folks,“Let’s make philanthropy easy for you.”  

Atlanta Jewish Foundation makes it simple to support AgeWell Atlanta, and other older adult supportive programs, through your donor-advised fund. The Foundation can also guide you on how you can make long-term “legacy” commitments through the Jewish Future Pledge and the LIFE & LEGACY program. Both are vehicles to build up endowment reserves in our synagogues, schools, and organizations, to sustain their future. I’m on board!  

There are many ways you can donate, but why not do it through AJF? I can make grants online, or just call the Foundation and say, “Here’s where I want my gift to go,and they take care of it.”They have the right people with the right skills and relationships to connect the dots and really amp up your impact.  

 Etta Raye Hirsch was Atlanta Association of Fundraising Professionals’ 2019 Philanthropist of the Year. She currently serves as Honorary Chair of Federation’s AgeWell Atlanta Targeted Philanthropy giving opportunity.