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Ethiopia: Where Jews Cling to Hope and Promise

By GLOBAL JEWRY, People in Need

In a trip that inspired a wide range of emotions, Federation board member Michael Kogon visited Ethiopia’s community of devoted Jews in Gondar. He, along with other Jewish leaders from Europe and Canada, were ushered into this remote region nestled beneath the Simeon Mountains, a range Kogon describes as both beautiful and foreboding. Michael Kogon’s account of his journey to Gondor brings you closer than ever to the great need of the Ethiopian Jewish community. Read the moving account of his visit, a true eye-opener.

That thousands of Jews have escaped the area’s abject poverty and famine to make Aliyah to Israel is a wonderful thing. Yet many more Ethiopians yearn to rejoin their family members already in Israel who they have not seen for years as they wait for permission to emigrate. Following his trip, Michael Kogon is spearheading an effort to raise money to support the Ethiopian Jewish community and to help fund flights to their land of promise. Your donations to the Struggle to Save Ethiopian Jewry (SSEJ) Fund will help.

Ben Massell Clinic Offers Lessons for Dentists

By CARING, COMMUNITY, People in Need

The Ben Massell Dental Clinic of JF&CS is the most advanced free dental treatment facility in Georgia. Yes, that’s right – treatment is free. The Clinic changes the lives and smiles of underserved patients in the Atlanta area who otherwise could not afford dental services. They receive top notch care from a caring staff of dental residents and interns, seasoned volunteer dentists and hygienists who are dedicated to serving people in need.

Two of those caring professionals are dental residents, Dr. Poonam Kalaria and Dr. Jean Chien who recently served as volunteers at the clinic. Both women learned that for patients at the Ben Massell Dental Clinic, there are many barriers to receiving quality dental treatment.

“Patients at Ben Massell often reveal that they have been in pain for months or even years, because financial, transportation, language, education barriers have prevented them from getting care,” said Dr. Chien. “From the brief time I have been with Ben Massell, however, I have witnessed the dedication of the staff and volunteers to eliminate these barriers.”

“The clients are unbelievably appreciative of the care we provide,” added Dr. Kalaria. “We treat our patients for more than just the bare minimum. We want to go above and beyond, make dentures, and make sure you like the smile we make you, the color of the teeth, all of that. We understand that teeth are important for self-confidence. We don’t treat teeth like a luxury, but as a basic right.”

Dr. Chien agreed. “The dental volunteers are always extremely supportive in making sure all patients are provided timely and excellent care. The patients may not always see the same volunteer dentist, but they always see the same staff at the front desk and the same dental assistants in the operatories. It is evident that these familiar faces put patients at ease and make the environment at Ben Massell a very pleasant one for clients.”

“On numerous occasions patients confide in us about their struggles to find a job, medical care, or affordable housing,” Dr. Chien said. “As a dental resident at the clinic, I can immediately refer these patients to our team of on-site social workers and help patients find solutions to non-dental problems. It has been amazing to be able to learn from the volunteers as well as Ben Massell’s team of staff about providing compassionate and holistic care to underserved clients.”

“Dr. Kalaria recalled a patient in his 40s, whose life was positively impacted by the Ben Massell Dental Clinic. “He was in a car accident with an 18-wheeler, and he was left for dead on the side of the road,” she said. “His teeth were ruined, he lost his job and his house, and his relationship with his family was strained. It seemed like he had lost everything, including his teeth.

Dr. Kalaria was the resident who took out this patient’s remaining teeth, as none of them were salvageable. “He was fitted and set up with dentures and is set to get his permanent implants soon. Today, Dr. Kalaria said he is an entirely different person. Every time we see him, he is happy, hugging all of us and shedding tears of joy. He calls me his guardian angel, and we all want the best for him.”

Dr. Kalaria graduated from UNC Chapel Hill with a major in economics and served as a risk analyst for seven years before deciding she wanted to switch careers to have more work life balance, and a career that was more meaningful. She eventually settled on going to dental school.”

Dr. Chien comes from a family of those in the healthcare field. Like the rest of her family, she is passionate about healthcare, but she is also an artist. “My search for a career in which I can combine my passion in health care and art landed me in dentistry,” Dr. Chien explained. “To be able to make art that is functional, aesthetic, and comfortable in people’s mouths has been very rewarding!”

The Ben Massell Dental Clinic is always looking for volunteer dentists and hygienists. To learn more about how you can make a difference, like Dr. Chien and Dr. Kalaria, visit


Hadassah’s doctors dispense medicine and expertise


After Russian shelling intensified last month and a rocket exploded close to the Zhytomyr home of Nina, 76, she fled for Ukraine’s Polish border. When she arrived several days later after a long trip by car with other Zhytomyr residents, Nina was experiencing severe back pain.

She was directed to the Przemyśl Humanitarian Aid Center, a repurposed shopping mall near the Medyka border crossing in southeastern Poland, where doctors from Jerusalem’s Hadassah Medical Organization, one of Israel’s leading hospitals, have been running the medical clinic since March. There, she received treatment by doctors and Russian- and Ukrainian-speaking nurses who had volunteered to go to Poland as part of Hadassah’s ongoing Ukraine relief effort.

Nina was far from alone.

At what felt like the last possible minute, Elena escaped Kharkiv, Ukraine, with her 13-year-old twins and her autistic 15-year-old son, Daniel, who cannot speak. Janna, 77, who ran from the devastated Ukrainian port city of Mariupol, contracted a severe case of pneumonia during her three-day road trip to Lviv. When Lviv itself came under air attack, the main hospital there discharged Janna and evacuated her to Poland.

All these refugees ended up at Hadassah’s clinic.

“My grandfather’s cousin perished in Bialystok, not far away from where we were,” Rivka Brooks, director of pediatrics at Hadassah’s Mount Scopus campus in Jerusalem, said in an interview from Poland. “Imagine seeing the same Polish scenery and women standing with one suitcase 80 years after the Holocaust, when no one was there for us. You can’t not feel emotional about it.”

Brooks, 52, is among dozens of Hadassah doctors and nurses — both Jews and Arabs — who have volunteered over the last two and a half months for the humanitarian mission, a collaboration among the Hadassah Medical Organization, which operates two hospitals in Jerusalem; the New York-based Hadassah, The Women’s Zionist Organization of America, which is funding the effort; and Hadassah International, the organization’s global fundraising arm.

Dr. Yoram Weiss, acting director-general of the Jerusalem medical center and the person who designed and oversees the Ukraine program, said Hadassah began sending medical teams to the Polish border in early March. Now on its 10th mission, Hadassah already has treated more than 10,000 refugees and plans to maintain its presence in Poland at least through early June.

In addition to running the medical clinic at the Przemyśl refugee center, Hadassah doctors and nurses are treating children at a second refugee center in nearby Korczowa, Poland, and, in partnership with Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders), triaging trauma patients at the border. In addition, Hadassah sent trauma experts to train their Polish counterparts at the Medical University of Lublin, a regional trauma center about 125 miles to the north, in how to handle major traumatic injuries and mass casualty situations.

“Unlike other organizations, our physicians do not come independently, but as a group — four physicians, including two pediatricians, four nurses and an administrator,” Weiss said. “All are volunteers, and sometimes we have more people who want to go than we can accommodate.”

David “Dush” Barashi, Hadassah’s head medical clown, has been one of the medical center’s volunteers, putting sick and often anxious children at ease with his pranks and silliness. It was Dush who noticed a fragile 8-year-old boy and gently convinced him and his mother to come to the clinic, where the boy received a thorough check-up.

“The amount of respect we have gained with the WHO [World Health Organization], Médecins Sans Frontières and the Polish Red Cross is really amazing,” Weiss said. “They look at Hadassah and our impact on treating refugees, and they see us as an example of how things should have been done.”

The Jewish Federations of North America (JFNA) has been supportive. JFNA president Eric Fingerhut visited the Hadassah border clinic and JFNA has given Hadassah two grants to support the humanitarian mission.

A New Phase in Ukrainian Relief


Federation’s Ukraine Emergency Relief Fund has been essential in helping vulnerable Ukrainian Jews find safety and shelter in Europe and make aliyah to Israel. In record time, you helped us raised more than $1.6M to provide food, shelter, clothing, cash, and counseling to thousands of Ukrainians fleeing the war. And we were thrilled late last week to receive a $1M gift to the fund from the Zalik Foundation, bringing our collective impact to more than $2.6M.

Ukraine relief is now entering a new phase as an anticipated wave of Ukrainian refugees makes its way to the United States. Fifty-one individuals are currently in the metro Atlanta area. Their needs are enormous and now there’s a fund called AURA (Atlanta Ukrainian Relief Assistance) to help support them. Read on to learn how you can help these new arrivals.

Atlanta Ukrainian Relief Assistance (AURA)
Along with our partner, Jewish Family & Career Services, we are launching AURA — Atlanta Ukrainian Relief Assistance, to help displaced Ukrainians in the Atlanta metro area. We have set aside an initial $200K from the Emergency Relief Fund to support this vital humanitarian work, but fundraising will continue to meet anticipated needs.

Two Ways to Help Displaced Ukrainians

  • Ukraine Emergency Relief Fund
  • Atlanta Ukrainian Relief Assistance (AURA)

Just as America became a place of refuge for our people after the Holocaust, so too can Atlanta be a welcoming haven for our Ukrainian brothers and sisters. The costs are enormous. Please open your hearts again and donate today to the Atlanta Ukrainian Relief Assistance Fund. Learn more about their local needs and how to help: contact Zane Blechner.

JF&CS Supports Ukrainian Holocaust Survivors in the Southeast

By GLOBAL JEWRY, People in Need

By Cherie Aviv, Founder Holocaust Survivor Support Fund (HSSF)

The news out of Ukraine is heartbreaking for all, but there is one group that has been deeply impacted: Holocaust survivors. Many of them once called Ukraine and Russia their homes. And though they left for a better life, it is still incredibly difficult to watch their former homeland be attacked. Many still have loved ones in Ukraine.

JF&CS provides supportive services, with Claims Conference funds from Germany for Holocaust survivors in Georgia, and 10 states in the Southeast region. The Holocaust Survivor Support Fund (HSSF), convened by Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta, provides funds that meet the shortfall from Claims Conference funding, so survivors receive needed homecare, grocery food gift cards, home-delivered meals, prescription assistance, and more. Of the 229 Holocaust survivors who get support services, 93 are from Ukraine (62 live in Georgia and 31 live in other areas of the Southeast region). In addition, there are 40+ survivors from Russia.

The Russian invasion of Ukraine has added to the already snowballing anxiety experienced by survivors over the last few years—increased significantly during the pandemic. They witnessed empty shelves at grocery stores, became socially isolated, saw people get sick, and knew people who died. Many experienced flashbacks to World War II.

Hence, stress level is high, and those who have family there are scared. Thankfully, JF&CS case managers are in regular contact with survivors and stepped up their outreach with survivors from Ukraine, Russia, and other parts of the Former Soviet Union to provide crucial support during this challenging time. They call survivors, listen to them, and attend to their emotional needs. And continue to provide them with much needed services to help with food insecurity, homecare, and more.

Matching Fund to Feed Hungry Jews at Passover

By CARING, COMMUNITY, People in Need

With Passover ten days away, many community members will need extra funds to purchase Passover food items. Jan and Marsha Spector, longtime supporters of the Jewish community, have created a Feed the Hungry Challenge Match to feed hungry Jews at Passover. The Spectors will match dollar-for-dollar up to $25,000, for new and or increased contributions made to the Maos Chitim Fund by the end of Passover. Make your donation here.

“Food security is a basic human right,” said Jan Spector. “It saddens us to think there are Jews in Atlanta who are going hungry or who must choose between food or medicine or gas for their cars. At Purim, we learned of the halachic imperative of matanot l’evyonim — giving gifts to the poor to make sure no one is hungry. Let’s make the words of the haggadah come true, so that all who are hungry can come and eat.” To donate and learn more, please contact Arielle Orlansky.

Impact Israel & Yemin Orde: Transforming the Lives of At-Risk Youth

By CARING, COMMUNITY, People in Need

For 450 at-risk youth from around the world, Yemin Orde Youth Village in Israel is a transformational place. Located on 77 acres atop Mount Carmel, the village serves as a home, school, and safe haven for young immigrants who have suffered trauma and have no other place in Israel to call home.

The village’s youth are from Ethiopia, the former Soviet Union, France, Brazil, and Israel itself. Through individualized therapeutic care, tutoring, and mentoring, empowers these marginalized teenagers to become accomplished students and successful professionals. The program strengthens crucial life skills and connects participants to their Jewish history.

“The Atlanta Federation has a long history of friendship and collaboration with Yemin Orde, says Deputy Director Susan Weijel. “You have supported our work, visited us, hosted our kids in Atlanta, and made us feel like extended mishpocha (family).” We are especially proud of that Atlanta’s Robert Arogeti now champions philanthropic support for Yemin Orde as the National Chair of ImpactIsrael.”

Robert Arogeti has a long history and personal connection with Yemin Orde that spans more than 30 years. He is also a past chair and lifetime trustee of the Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta. Now, through ImpactIsrael, he directs his philanthropic expertise to amplify Yemin Orde’s impact on more than 20,000 current students and alumni each year.

Promoting is just one initiative Atlanta has invested in. It provides students with a framework to overcome academic obstacles and truly believe in their ability to succeed. The Yemin Orde team provides academic support, extensive tutoring, an educational summer camp, and marathon study sessions to prepare students for matriculation exams. There is also a specialized computer science program for students who excel academically. As a result, many students have exceeded their initial academic goals.

Robert Arogeti takes personal pride in this work. Being at Yemin Orde with my wife and daughters reminded me of a mantra I try to live by: Living life by being Jewish every day.’ That has been the essence of Yemin Orde since I first visited in the mid-1980s with Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta. After being an advocate, a funder, a believer, and a champion of Yemin Orde, it’s an honor to serve on the ImpactIsrael board of directors”

Expanded Emergency Services for Georgia and Regional Holocaust Survivors

By Aging, CARING, COMMUNITY, People in Need

We are excited to share that Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta and JF&CS have become KAVOD SHEF initiative partners. The additional KAVOD SHEF funding will help meet the needs of survivors in Georgia and the Southeast region primarily for home care needs. It will be administered by JF&CS and will supplement Claims Conference funding and the impactful work of the Holocaust Survivor Support Fund (HSSF) improving the lives of survivors who need assistance.

Since 2016, Federation’s Holocaust Survivor Support Fund (HSSF), under the leadership of Cherie Aviv, has provided funding to address shortfalls from the Claims Conference to meet the needs of survivors in their final years. These funds provide survivors with grocery food gift cards, home-delivered meals, medical/dental-related needs, homecare, emergency assistance, and more in Georgia and remote locations in the Southeast.

There are 160 survivors in Georgia, and 58 in the regional program, who receive some type of financial assistance from the Claims Conference and/or HSSF funding. More than 25 percent of survivors receiving support have annual incomes that fall below the Federal Poverty Level.

Home care continues to be the most needed service and the costliest and additional help is now coming for survivors in Georgia and the Southeast region. The Seed the Dream Foundation has partnered with KAVOD, a long-time advocate for survivors, to establish the KAVOD Survivors of the Holocaust Emergency Fund (SHEF). KAVOD SHEF exponentially multiplies the dollars and vital services directly reaching survivors and ensuring their dignity and quality of living.

Ten Meaningful Weeks

By CARING, COMMUNITY, People in Need

With the understanding that the pandemic has disproportionately impacted our cities, Repair the World Atlanta launched a local cohort of Serve the Moment last fall. It offers a ten-week opportunity with a stipend for young adults to engage in critical racial justice work, tackle food insecurity, strengthen our education system, and combat social isolation, alongside contextual and Jewish learning. We’re honored to share reflections from two members of the Serve the Moment Corps, Justine Stiftel and Grace Parker, who were clearly changed and challenged during their service in Atlanta this spring.  

A fall cohort of Serve the Moment will soon be recruiting new members. To be put on the email list for the Fall 2021 application, please email   

Justine Stiftel (They/Them):
“You are not obligated to complete the work, but neither are you free to desist from it,” the famed quote from Pirkei Avot (The Ethics of the Fathers), came up frequently during my time as a Serve the Moment Corps Member through Repair the World. Indeed, the twenty young adults in our spring cohort could never have finished our work responding to the lasting economic and social effects of the pandemic. Nonetheless, we made plenty of headway repairing our communities and strengthening our connections to Judaism. 

I had the pleasure of being partnered with Second Helpings Atlanta, a non-profit redistributing surplus food to those in need. I revised and evaluated their contact system, improving communications with their food donors, partner agencies, and volunteers. I learned the serious impact that the pandemic had on food access in our city. Thirty to forty percent of the food produced in America ends up in landfills, while one in five children in Atlanta is food insecure. It was an honor to contribute to fixing this disconnect. 

At our cohort’s weekly calls, we reflected on our experiences with our different non-profits. We heard from Jewish leaders and non-profits across the metro, expanding our knowledge of the needs of the most vulnerable populations. As the program lined up with the seven weeks of the Omer, we often connected with the seven lower sefirot. 

In 10 meaningful weeks, Serve the Moment has enabled me to learn about my city, my career goals, and my Judaism.  

Grace Parker (She/Her):
If there’s one thing that I learned from this past year it is that even in the toughest of times, there is always a silver lining. For me, that silver lining has been my experience with Repair the World’s Serve the Moment program and my partner organization, Concrete Jungle, a local nonprofit working to address food insecurity. Through Serve the Moment, I was able to dedicate the extra time on my hands toward meaningful and impactful work during a period that felt overwhelmingly helpless and hopeless for so many, myself included.

Having just moved to Atlanta during the pandemic, I was also able to connect to my newfound community in a truly special way — meeting new people, seeing new places, and taking part in conversations I would not have been exposed to otherwise. I feel incredibly grateful for this program and the countless lessons it has granted me, from lessons in empathy to a deeper connection with Jewish community service to fresh perspectives on rectifying the injustices our world faces now more than ever. I did this program to serve others, but ultimately, with each smiling face receiving their weekly nutritious groceries, I was given the greatest gift of all.