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Debbie Kuniansky on Why She Endowed Her Annual Lion of Judah Commitment

By Atlanta Jewish Foundation, PHILANTHROPY

Debbie Kuniansky recently spoke to the Federation’s Women’s Philanthropy Board on why she chose to endow her annual gift to Federation and how others can accomplish the same. Debbie has been a valued Atlanta Jewish community leader for many years and is currently a Member of Federation’s Board of Trustees. Unsurprisingly, she is passionate about taking care of the Atlanta Jewish community. “I appreciate what I have here in Atlanta because I didn’t always have it,” she says.

Debbie grew up in Lakeland, Florida, where there wasn’t a significant Jewish presence. “We didn’t have BBYO or a JCC; there was no Jewish elder-care home…we had one small synagogue with a part-time Rabbi,” she says. Debbie moved to Atlanta right out of college, and immediately joined a synagogue. When her children were young, she started volunteering for their preschool at the Marcus Jewish Community Center of Atlanta. The more time she spent in the Atlanta Jewish community, the more she wanted to help sustain it.

One way that women can give to Federation is through The Lion of Judah Endowment (LOJE). This is a charitable gift of at least established under the woman’s name. This endowment provides ongoing support to Federation and the many organizations we support.

Endowing her Lion was very important to Debbie, but she wasn’t sure how to make it happen. “I want to be able to help take care of my community even after I’m not here,” she says. “I want to make sure my kids and their kids have this vibrant Jewish community.”

Debbie’s husband, Doug, suggested she make the endowment through a life insurance policy. Each year, they make regular payments toward the policy (which are tax deductible). Someday, the payout on that policy will be donated directly to charities that mean the most to Debbie and Doug.

“I love that our community plans for the future,” she says. “People who came before me made plans and commitments, and my family and I benefitted from them.”

When she thinks of the people who came before her, she thinks of a great Jewish legacy of leaders and community builders who inspired her. Now, Debbie feels like she’s part of that group constantly striving to make things better—not maintaining the status quo.

To learn more about making endowments, the Lion of Judah Endowment, and more, Rachel Rosner.

How Federation Partners with Jewish Day Schools


Atlanta’s Jewish Day Schools are a cornerstone of our community. The lessons that children learn and the friends they make while attending school will stay with them their whole lives, and their experiences there can make or break their connections to Jewish life. Federation supports our local schools in many ways and aims to give kids the best possible experience while they learn.  

Day schools receive an annual allocation from Federation based on enrollment. For the current fiscal year, the total allocation for our community day schools is $1,124,736, which represents 13% of our annual allocations. Additionally, just under $500,000 has been distributed to schools since 2020 from Federation’s Covid Relief Fund to help cover the costs of Covid response and reopening.  

Our various initiatives support day schools in other ways, including:  

  • ALEF Fund provides scholarships to day school students 
  • The Shinshinim cohort works in 5 of our partner schools and runs activities about Israel, holidays, Jewish culture, culture, and more 
  • Jewish Abilities Atlanta provides disability inclusion training to day school students and professionals and provides microgrants for inclusion projects (like sensory spaces and flexible seating options) 
  • Federation’s Community Security Director, Neil Rabinovitz, works with day schools on security assessments to keep our schools safe 
  • PJ Library partners with some schools on concerts and other programming 
  • The Atlanta Jewish Foundation manages many schools’ endowments and helps donors direct gifts from their Donor Advised Funds to the schools

Federation and the Jewish Agency For Israel (JAFI) are also planning The Partnership 2Gether Educators Seminar in 2023. This trip will take teachers from our local day schools to our partner region in Israel, Yokneam. There will be several learning sessions before their departure in January 2023 coordinated by the Federation. This is a unique educational experience to learn more about the Israeli educational system and explore additional opportunities for connection between Atlanta and Israel. The school twinning programs promote the sense of Jewish Peoplehood and shared responsibility for students in schools in Atlanta, Yokneam and Megido. Students have the chance to meet each other for dynamic conversations around issues such as Jewish Identity and Social Responsibility. Twinning programs, likewise, link educators for professional and personal enrichment. 

If you want to support the Jewish Day Schools of Atlanta, you can donate to Federation’s Partner’s Fund. Money from this fun is granted annually to each of our schools and makes a significant impact on the way young Jewish kids experience school.  

Josh Comiter Moved to Atlanta and Made His Mark


Josh Comiter moved to Atlanta from South Florida in 2021. He’d been an active member of the Jewish community there. When he relocated, he wanted to continue his involvement in Jewish causes. Family friends directed him to Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta, and he made his first donation this year.

Josh is in his late 20s and feels that a strong Jewish community in his hometown had a major impact on his life. He wanted to give the youth of Atlanta that same opportunity. “All of my closest friends I grew up with are people I met through the Jewish community—friends I made in Jewish day school, lifelong friends. If I can give back and that will help someone have a similar experience, I think that’s very important.”

Statistics show that younger generations aren’t donating to causes like their parents and grandparents did. Many factors impact this—many millennials and Gen Z don’t have the same disposable income levels as previous generations—but you don’t have to make a big gift to have a big impact.

When asked if he had a message for other young people about the importance of charitable giving, he says, “Whether you realize it or not, if you’re a Jew living in Atlanta, the Federation has benefitted you in some way. And I feel it’s essential for [the younger generation] to give, even in small amounts, because there are still people out there that need help.”

To make your donation to Federation, click here.


Three Generations of Giving


Albert, Gary, and Jeffrey Marx are part of a proud lineage. Grandson Jeffrey is in the fourth generation of Marxes to call Atlanta home, and this Jewish family has made their mark on their city. The family business, Piedmont National, has been working with other companies in the state since 1950. But their broader commitment to Atlanta’s Jewish community is truly where they have made a difference. In this video, son, father, and grandfather explain how philanthropy is a guiding principle for their family and why they choose to give to Federation.     

Federation’s 2023 Community Campaign has begun, and you can make your own donation by following this link. Federation’s Partners Fund supports more than 70 organizations that make a difference in the lives of Jewish and non-Jewish people in Atlanta and all over the world. Establish your family’s own legacy of giving and help Federation connect and support Jews across the globe.   

Engaging Teenagers in Jewish Life

By Atlanta Jewish Foundation, JumpSpark, PHILANTHROPY

Being a teenager is hard. Hormones, increasing responsibilities, and long school days can make teens feel overwhelmed and cause them to disengage with their community. Federation supports many programs for young people in Atlanta (and abroad!) to get involved in Jewish life, and hopefully help them find community and a sense of purpose.  

The Jewish Foundation of Atlanta is launching the Young Philanthropy Fellows, which aims to teach teenagers about philanthropy through firsthand experience. The inaugural cohort will open their own Young Philanthropist Funds and learn about grantmaking. This group will inform each other about organizations and issues they care about, make size visits to local nonprofits, and engage in round-table discussions with professionals. They will engage in discussions about power and privilege and learn how to mitigate the occasional unintended consequences of charitable giving. Most importantly, they’ll learn how even young people can make a big difference. Applications for the Young Philanthropy Fellows are due September 19. 

Jumpspark offer resources for connection and growth to teenagers across Atlanta. They aim to empower and educate Jews from every part of our city, and to bring them together to learn and collaborate. Their initiatives include the Strong Women Fellowship, Gap Year Israel Scholarship, the Root One Experience (a summer travel program to Israel) and Navigating Parenthood (a series of workshops for the parents of teenagers to help them better understand the struggles their kids face).  

Internationally, Federation supports the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee’s Active Jewish Teens (AJT) initiative. This is a Jewish-identity building platform for 12-17-year-olds who live in the former Soviet Union. This program brings young Jewish people together and aims to give them a sense of community. They host a range of social, cultural, and leadership building activities, as well as holiday and Shabbat celebrations. With 63 active locations, including four in Belarus, AJT is helping young people in the Former Soviet Union connect with their Jewish identity and other young Jews across the world. 

Young people are the future, and their participation in, and enthusiasm for, Jewish life is essential to the future of Jews everywhere. Federation is proud to serve them! 

My Father’s Legacy


By Matt M. Bronfman
As some of you know, I lost my dad at the end of August. He was my best friend and role model. Throughout his life, my dad was known for giving back to his community, and that is something that I have always tried to emulate. I am fortunate to have had many opportunities to be a “giver,” but over the past few weeks, I have had the opportunity to be a “receiver.” 

Maimonides taught that Nihum Avelim (comforting mourners) is one of the most important mitzvot. From thoughtful emails, to cards, to shiva calls, this community has comforted me. Your support has reminded me that all mitzvot, even ones that may seem simple, like sending a card or an email, can have an enormous impact.   

This loss has reinforced, to me, the value of community. One purpose of a community is to lift people up in their time of need, and I am touched by the embrace of my community during this painful time. I have been thinking of the many people that Federation impacts with our work, and my hope is that they feel supported by our community, as I have in the last few weeks.   

Our 2023 Community Campaign began last week, and if you have the means, I hope you consider donating. We strive to support struggling people all over Atlanta and the world, and your donations are the best way to make that happen. Together, we can create a network that supports every member of our community.   

Reflecting on a Year of Great Work


By Matt M. Bronfman
We are full speed ahead on our Community Campaign goals for 2023! While we are forward-focused, we must remind ourselves of our great work this past year.

Through Federation’s Community Campaign, the Atlanta Jewish Foundation and the ALEF Fund, we drove more than $43 million into the Jewish Atlanta community and more than $72 million to our global society. View our brochure.

In an unpredictable world, we are philanthropic first responders. We step in to tackle emergencies from Ukraine to Covid, to meet recurring needs for our partners from scrappy start-ups to legacy institutions, and to provide care to people in need, from patients suffering from Alzheimer’s to children with special needs.

I am so proud of our work and fortunate to have the opportunity to work with such incredible professionals and dedicated lay leaders. It is my honor to be part of this community.

Atlanta Day Schools Maintain Enrollment Uptick


A unique silver lining of the pandemic has been a significant spike in enrollment at Atlanta’s Jewish day schools. Last year and this year, many Atlanta parents who were frustrated by school closings and virtual learning opted for the high-quality, in-person education found at our Jewish day schools.

Tallying re-enrollment and new enrollments, nearly all our day schools are seeing their highest numbers in recent history. The Davis Academy added an additional section of first grade last year. They now have 54 students in second grade. Enrollment at The Weber School is at an all-time high.

The Zalik Foundation’s Jewish Community Professional High School Tuition Grant has also been a driver. It offers full-time Jewish professionals, clergy, and educators up to a 50 percent tuition reduction if their children are currently enrolled or have been accepted to an accredited Jewish high school in Atlanta.

Prizmah, national Jewish day school network, confirms the trend. Their 2021 report said, “After two decades of slow erosion in the numbers of students enrolled in non-Orthodox Jewish day schools in North America, the 18 months since the onset of COVID-19 have seen an unanticipated change. Many schools have reported a spate of inquiries and enrollments among children transferring from public schools, sometimes in the middle of the year. Families noticed how well day schools were responding to the challenge of offering a solid and stable education during the pandemic. They preferred what they saw to what their children were experiencing in their previous schools.”

In-migration and remote working are also part of the story. Because of COVID, parents were able to work remotely and choose a community with great day school options. In the Atlanta Jewish Times, Erica Gal, a former admissions director at Atlanta Jewish Academy (AJA), said, “Though AJA did have families coming from local public school, we also had a lot of families move here from out of town.”

Here in Atlanta, preparing our schools to receive these new students and to operate in the COVID environment came at a cost. Jewish day schools received grants from the CARES Act and from Federation’s COVID-19 Emergency Relief Fund to offset the increased cost of additional staffing, building adaptations, increased cleaning, PPE, and many other costs associated with safe operations. That investment really paid off.

It’s great to hear comments like this one from a new day school parent: “Ok, I can’t help it! I just have to tell you how insanely happy our daughter is this year already. She literally cannot wait to come to school every day, and when I pick her up, she is just going a mile a minute, telling me all about her day and how much fun she had. She absolutely adores her teachers, and so do we. They have just been so above and beyond in every way already.”

Another way to support our Jewish day schools is to make a pledge to the ALEF Fund to redirect a portion of your Georgia state taxes to become tuition scholarships. Hurry, the deadline is December 31, 2021.

How a Donor-advised Fund Can Honor Your Family’s Legacy

By Atlanta Jewish Foundation, PHILANTHROPY

Nancy Jacobson Freedman enjoyed an iconic and idyllic southern Jewish girlhood in the Atlanta of the 1950s and ’60s. As the daughter of Jewish community pillars, Harvey and Betty Ann Jacobson, Nancy participated in all organizations and social institutions that defined Jewish Atlanta — BBYO, the JCC on Peachtree Road, the early years of Camp Barney, The Temple, The Standard Club, Hadassah, National Council of Jewish Women, the Brandeis University Women’s Committee, and so much more.

Being Jewish was at the center of her life. Yet in an era when assimilation was giving way to deeper levels of Jewish observance the harsh lessons of history remained fresh for Atlanta Jews. “The Leo Frank lynching was embedded in our collective memory. We knew there were restricted clubs that did not accept Jews. I was in kindergarten when The Temple bombing happened. I will never forget how it galvanized our community. At the same time, I’ll never forget how the non-Jewish community supported us. After the bombing, churches, and schools opened their doors to us for services and Sunday school classes. These were wonderful lessons in community generosity.”

Today, these lessons learned and the commitments made by her family live on. Nancy Freedman has blazed her own philanthropic path, serving on numerous agency boards around Atlanta, truly “walking the walk” of her family’s values. She is winding down an education fund launched years ago by her uncle, Joe Jacobs. And she and her husband Wayne steward the family’s donor-advised fund (DAF) at Atlanta Jewish Foundation. “It means everything to us that this fund continues to support the things Mom and Dad believed in. Cindy Weik has handled our DAF for years and she makes the grant process so easy. The professional staff does a fantastic job and gives good guidance.”

“My mother was the first woman president of Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta. She was tough, a driving force. You couldn’t say ‘no’ to Betty Ann Jacobson! My father was quieter, but also a tremendous role model who was active in Federation, chaired many committees and was devoted to the Technion, Israel’s Institute of Technology. He and my mother were partners in all of these community activities. It’s no wonder that after college I became a Federation campaign volunteer.” Nancy also served on the UJA Young Leadership Cabinet, won the Abe Schwartz Young Leadership award, and worked as a campaign professional at Federation under David Sarnat up until her children were born.

All three of Freedman’s children went to The Epstein School which became another arena for the family’s engagement and learning.” I wanted my kids to be more knowledgeable than I was. I’m proud that they know how to run a service and speak Hebrew. When they were young, we were active at the Zaban Night Shelter and the Shearith Israel Shelter. Wayne and I have tried to impart to our kids that we are blessed, and that it is our obligation to make sure that others who don’t have what we have are helped. I try hard to be proactive with my kids about getting involved in community service and giving back not just your time, but your money as well.”

“Atlanta Jewish Foundation is a perfect way to accomplish these goals. We love that our financial advisor can manage our donor-advised fund.I trust them! When you invest at the Foundation, you are supporting the whole community. That’s what Mom and Dad were all about!”

Be More Philanthropic in 2022. Open a DAF in 2021!


You’ve probably heard the term donor-advised fund (DAF) in this newsletter, but do you really know what a DAF is, and how it can be a personal financial planning tool? A DAF is a charitable savings account that allows you to donate to charity. But it can also be a tax saving vehicle, especially if you open one with Atlanta Jewish Foundation before December 31, 2021.

Evi Reznick opened a DAF with Atlanta Jewish Foundation in 2013 and is a huge fan. “I love, love, love Atlanta Jewish Foundation and my donor-advised fund. It puts me in charge of all my charitable giving and makes record-keeping simple. A lot of my giving is local and Jewish. For small nonprofit agencies, it costs money to process an $18 check. With my DAF, the funds go directly to the organization, and I do not have to mail anything. Cindy Weik at the Foundation takes care of it. And the tax benefits can be substantial.”

Another great reason to open a DAF is because you can invest in your fund without needing to immediately designate charitable recipients. This allows you to receive a tax benefit the same year you fund your DAF. The money deposited in your DAF is invested and can grow tax-free until you provide instructions for where you want to make gifts to qualifying organizations.

No wonder donor-advised funds are one of the most popular investments offered by Atlanta Jewish Foundation! If you don’t already have a DAF, the extension of the CARES Act makes the end of 2021 an optimal time to establish one with Atlanta Jewish Foundation. Talk it over with your financial advisor or contact Cindy Weik, Philanthropic Services Senior Associate, to start a discussion.