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Mississippi Jewish Childhood Inspires 25+ Years of Giving


Growing up Jewish in rural Cary, Mississippi, in a cotton farming family, Deborah Lamensdorf Jacobs quickly understood that she was a living exemplar of her faith. She reflects, “It was really an honor to represent Judaism in our small community. The way we treated our neighbors underscored what we believed in. We valued education and opportunity. At my father’s funeral two years ago in Vicksburg, a man came through the receiving line and told me how when he was trying to raise funds to establish the Cary Christian Health Center to help minorities, the churches turned him down. My uncle and my father were the first ones who stepped up to fund the center. That’s an early example of how I saw philanthropy as a child. It was how we lived our values.”

Years later, as a young woman, that imprint remained strong. Deborah ventured to Atlanta and quickly became involved in Jewish organizational life. While volunteering at a Federation phone-a-thon, a single guy named Lou Jacobs asked for her phone number. They married soon after and together raised a family whose life was enriched by synagogue, Jewish day school, Jewish camp, BBYO, and the MJCCA, to name just a few. No surprise then, that for more than 25 years the Jacobs have made their largest annual gift to Federation. As a Silver Circle donor Deborah says with pride, “Life showed me that Jews are community builders — people who see a need and fulfill it. That’s the spirit of Federation.”

Have you made your 2021 Community Campaign pledge yet? Donate here.

Silver Circle Donor, Kevin Cranman – Why I Give


by Kevin Cranman

It’s been my pleasure to support Federation’s Community Campaign, and to hear that I’ve been doing it for over 25 years makes me feel good, not old! After returning to Atlanta from law school in 1993, I began to participate in Federation activities, including the national convention in 1996, which is where I met my wonderful wife, Sheila Friedman Cranman. I enjoyed serving on the Young Leadership Program and being invited to serve with leaders like Joe Rubin and Lynne Halpern on the 2001-2002 Community Campaigns. I enjoyed sitting at the “big kids” table and learning about the allocations process.

Today Sheila and I have two daughters: Katherine, a senior, who has attended Atlanta Jewish Academy (AJA) since first grade, and Caroline, 15, who attended through eighth grade. I’ve also served on the AJA Board of Trustees so I understand the challenges of sustaining an organization and how important support from the community, including Federation, can be. We’re also grateful for the assistance of other Federation beneficiary agencies, like JF&CS and The One Group (part of Jewish HomeLife), which have provided opportunities for Sheila’s dad to volunteer, and later provided assistance when he became ill in 2019.

Though my active participation has ebbed and flowed over the years, the benefits I received both personally, and as part of a larger community, far exceeded the time or money I contributed. The important part is that we work collectively to support the community. I’ve continued to support Federation not only because it seems like the right thing to do, but because Federation serves as a centralized organization to collect funds for efficient allocation, as well as to provide other services and support to the community. What an honor to be a 25+ year Silver Circle donor.

What will you do this New Year?

By CARING, COMMUNITY, People in Need, PHILANTHROPY, Uncategorized

Wishing each other a sweet and healthy Jewish new year is traditional on the high holidays. But this year, it’s not enough! Jewish hopes and needs in a COVID world are poignant and powerful.

In a year unlike any other, your gift to the 2021 Community Campaign really can make hopes and dreams come true. So many are counting on us. Please give to the 2021 Community Campaign today!

Kenny Silverboard: A Community Campaign Champion


Kenny Silverboard, who leads our Business and Professionals division, is a veteran of many Federation Community Campaigns, yet he’s anything but blasé about his sixth one. Today, as the 2021 Campaign opens, Kenny cannot wait to engage with the community. “In a town full of transplants, I’m a Jewish unicorn — an Atlanta native son (Morningside Elementary School, Grady HS, Georgia State) with deep ties in the Jewish community.”

“Though the pandemic has taken away face-to-face events and large meetings, I believe there‘s a much deeper understanding of Federation’s value to the community now. Our donors saw us take the lead with the COVID-19 Emergency Fund, which allowed our partners to deliver essential services and keep their doors open. They know we support the entire community, as well as needs in Israel. I know from the bottom of my heart that the community will step up for the Community Campaign to sustain the whole ecosystem for today and the future.”

Asked how he “trains” for the Community Campaign, Kenny says, “I live by the words of Mark Twain: Find a job you enjoy doing, and you will never have to work a day in your life. “Because I love what I do, I take what we do seriously, while not taking myself too seriously.”  Kenny is ready to receive your 2021 pledge: contact him at

Federation Women in Cuba


Federation Women Support Nutrition and Education in Cuba

Cuba’s Jewish population, once 15,000 strong, is now a tiny remnant estimated at about 1,100 people. Since the government lifted the ban on religious practice, they are thriving as a community, however they remain economically fragile. Like all Cubans, Jews live with food rationing and lack many basic resources. Milk, which has so many nutritional benefits, is a commodity in short supply and is only provided to children under the age of seven. That’s why, on their recent Federation and Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) mission to Cuba, Atlanta women took on the mitzvah of supporting a milk program and a Sunday school for Cuban Jewish children and teenagers. The Sunday school is held at El Patronato, Havana’s Jewish Community Center and Conservative synagogue. Children learn about Jewish holidays, and culture, study bible and learn Hebrew. Adults have classes at the nearby Sephardic Hebrew Center. “Cuba’s Jews are so vulnerable,” said Debbie Schafer, Director of Women’s Philanthropy. “The Atlanta women chose the milk project because they are mothers! It was a simple and satisfying way enhance the educational and nutritional needs of children and teens.”

In Cuba, the government provides 1 kg. of powdered milk per month per child through its ration stores. Thanks to the generosity of our Women’s Mission, extra powdered milk is now given to all Jewish students (under age 25) who attend classes at El Patronato, are enrolled in school during the week and do not have jobs. The same 1 kg. of milk is also given to the fourteen Sunday school teachers. In addition, all students — children, teens, youth and adults — are offered a glass of milk with their snack during a break in Sunday school.

This October 10-14, Federation and JDC are offering another Atlanta community mission to Cuba to shine a light on Jewish community needs. Like all JDC-sponsored trips, participants will also have opportunities to support ongoing projects in Cuba to make the lives of Cuban Jews better. Reservations are on a first-come-first-served basis. If you would like more information about the trip, please contact Staci Eichelbaum, Director of Philanthropy.

What Brad Does


You don’t need to save the future of Jewish Atlanta by yourself, Brad Cook already has an idea for that – it’s called Career Up Now and it creates professional connections for young people through a Jewish lens.

Setting Young Jews on Amazing Career Paths

Dr. Bradley Caro Cook

As a Jewish entrepreneur and innovator (and an Atlanta native), I create simple solutions to engage Jewish young adults with low to no current Jewish connection or engagement. I believe that unless there’s a drastic shift in how we grab the attention of 18-26 year-olds, keep them engaged with Judaism, and inspire them to become the next generation of leadership, our Jewish communal infrastructure is at risk. When I learned about Federation Innovation’s Propel Grant program, I got excited.

I know that college students and recent graduates are hungry to advance their careers, grow their networks, and build community. So, in 2015, Rabbi Adam Grossman and I launched Career Up Now, combining mentorship and engagement, through a Jewish lens, to help emerging professionals form personal, professional, and soulful connections with industry leaders in the Jewish community. Since launching we have piloted in 9 U.S. cities and are scaling in four of those cities. Now, thanks to a Bloom seed grant from Federation Innovation, and support from the Joyce and Ramie Tritt Family Foundation and Mark Silberman, Career Up Now is in Atlanta.

In Atlanta, our first cohort consisted of 12 student leaders from Emory University. I soon thereafter realized there is little support or mentoring for young Jewish women entering business and STEM fields.  As time went on I found this to be true on a national level and kept hearing Rabbi Tarfon, our ancient Jewish cheerleader and rebbe say, “while you don’t have to complete the task, you are not free to desist from this critical endeavor.”

While examining our mentor demographic, I discovered that we had only one woman industry leader contact or mentor for every 20 men. To address that imbalance, we doubled down to solve the problem we’ve launched Women of Wisdom

While we achieved gender balance for our initial Atlanta Career Up Now due to the high demand for more women’s programs in Atlanta we needed to rapidly grow the number of women industry leaders in our network. To do this, we leveraged growth hacking for engagement,  a process of rapid engagement growth enabling non-profits to accomplish in three months that which would take years to do. Using these strategies, we recruited 200 women industry leaders into our network in just three months. Now these Women of Wisdom are helping expand our network by engaging their colleagues and friends with Career Up Now programming.

Atlanta has been a pivotal experience and we are excited to continue to grow Career Up Now in Atlanta.

Conversations With Local Pandemic Heroes


large audience of 189 people logged onto Zoom to hear Dr. Howard Silverboard, Pulmonologist and Critical Care Physician at Northside Hospital anTony Levitas, a COVID-19 survivor, share their experiences on the frontlines of the pandemic. Sponsored by the Maimonides Society, Federation’s network for medical professionals, this was the first in a series of upcoming programs that will look at how people in our community are responding to urgent needs now. If you missed it, watch the video here

Next in the series, Thursday, May 7, from 45 pm, Jenny Levison, owner of Souper Jenny, and Jean Millkey, Manager of the JF&CS Kosher Food Pantry, will share how they are helping meet the demand for food. Register and join this Zoom conversation to learn how Jenny and Jean are working to make a difference during this crisis and how nonprofits and businesses can partner to meet the challenge. 

If you missed Dr. Silverboard and Tony Levitas in conversation, watch the video here

On the Maimonides Society call, Dr. Silverboard described his mounting fear as COVID-19 was gaining strength in Italy and threatened to overwhelm the U.S. healthcare system. By March 15 it was clear that a surge was coming, and Atlanta began to prepare for COVID-19 patients,” he said. Disaster management is something critical care doctors are trained for but most of us had never truly experienced it. It’s been harrowing to treat patients while wearing gas masks under strict protective protocols. There’s a routine for staying safe now, and I am less concerned about bringing the disease home, but ware learning as we go. Thankfully, we are not in a situation like New York City.

Tony Levitas, a psychologist and musician, is the father of two children. He was admitted to Northside Hospital on March 17, was on a ventilator for 18 days, and was not discharged until April 13. Tony is slowly gaining strength and recuperating at home. His doctors have told him that he had received medication at “veterinary levels” while in the hospital, and it clearly saved his life.

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.

Meet the Bloom Grant Winners

By Federation Innovation, INNOVATION, PHILANTHROPY

Big Ideas Are Taking Root
Federation’s second round of Bloom Innovation seed grants have now been awarded to an exciting and diverse group of Jewish social change makers and organizations. We’re investing in innovation for our community because it brings new energy and new people to our collective enterprise of creating a thriving, relevant and dynamic Jewish Atlanta. “These Bloom grants will help seed and support nonprofits in our innovation ecosystem who are taking risks and trying new things in a collaborative manner, so they can get off the ground and move more quickly to serving the growing needs of our community,” says Jori Mendel, V.P. of Innovation. “We’re excited to provide strategic support, mentorship and community to support these great new ideas that are springing up from existing agencies and organizations, community leaders, start-ups, synagogues and nonprofits, and we’re hopeful that many will succeed and move to scale.” See who the winners are and how they’re committed to making Jewish Atlanta bloom!

  • AgeWell | Providing operational support for evaluation software that promotes early detection of risk factors in aging adults. This is a collaboration between the JF&CS, Jewish Home Life Communities & MJCCA.
  • Birthday Celebrations | Supporting in-person birthday visits and conversations for Holocaust survivors to reduce social isolation and increase connection. This is a collaboration between the Holocaust Survivor Support Fund (HSSF) and JF&CS.
  • MLK Shabbat Civic Dinners | In collaboration with Repair the World, OneTable, MLK Center & AJC Access, and many other young adult organizations in our community, 10 MLK Shabbat dinners will bring Jewish values to the table for a civil rights discussion among young adults who are passionate about civic engagement through a Jewish lens. Shabbat dinners will engage 100 young professionals in diverse geographic areas.
  • Consortium of ATL Jewish Day Schools | A joint marketing project raising awareness of day school offerings and their diversity among Greater ATL. This is a collaboration between seven Jewish day schools: Atlanta Jewish Academy, Chaya Mushka Children’s House, The Davis Academy, The Epstein School, Temima, Torah Day School of Atlanta and The Weber School.
  • Door L’ Door | Creating a network of door openers who offer a radically warm welcome to ATL newcomers, through intimate one-on-one coffee dates to learn about their interests and connect them to the Jewish community. The goal is to launch in 2 test neighborhoods.
  • Emory Hillel Innovation Fund | To support Emory students to create innovative programs & spaces on the Emory campus to grow Jewish student engagement.
  • Grandparents Learning Together (GLT) In collaboration with local rabbis and Jewish educators and learning organizations, GLT will create a4-part learning curriculum to celebrate and explore grandparents’ essential family roles through biblical, rabbinic and other Jewish resources.
  • Interfaith Family Meetups | Convenes two-hour meetups with Jewish interfaith couples in their 20s and 30’s, to provide a safe space to connect and discuss joys and challenges. Three meetups are planned, taking place in geographically diverse radically welcoming locations.