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Navigating Parenthood Workshop—Helping with the Transition to High School

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During the pandemic, JumpSpark, Atlanta’s Jewish teen initiative, started a program to help parents of teens prepare for the transition from high school to college. On February 1st at 7 pm at Temple Sinai, they’re hosting an event for the parents of 7th-9th graders called Navigating Parenthood: Transitioning to High School.

The leap from middle to high school is a major one. Parents often wonder, “What will my child’s journey in high school be like? How will their Jewish identity fit into the puzzle? How can I support them?” This event is a chance for parents to learn from experts and connect with other families who are in the same stage of life.

Jenn Caplovitz is on the host committee for this event. She has two sets of twins: one pair is in 8th grade, and the younger duo is in 6th. As the first of her kids prepare for high school, she is eager to learn more about this major life transition.

“High school is scary these days—it’s competitive, it’s much more intense than it was when I was a kid.” She says that through her network and through social media, she notices these differences. “Teenagers are drinking earlier, partying earlier; their workload and expectations are very different, there’s more pressure on kids to do well.”

Social media is a major life complication for teens, and it’s one most parents did not grow-up with. Jenn says, “It affects them both positively and negatively. Girls and boys experience pressure from what they see online—it’s not just magazine covers anymore. It comes from Tik Tok and Instagram. It’s a different experience than we had.”

Navigating Parenthood: Transitioning to High School will feature experts who will give parents tools to support their teens on the topics of emotional well-being, academic success, learning differences, and Jewish engagement. Parents will have the option to attend breakout sessions led by Judy Wolman, Ph.D., of Sandy Springs Psychological Center, P.C; Carrie Poline, D.O., FAPA, CEDS, double-board certified child, adolescent, and adult psychiatrist and Certified Eating Disorder Specialist; and Jed Applerouth, Ph.D., certified counselor and Founder & President of Applerouth Tutoring, and Marisa Kaiser, Charles S. Ackerman Senior Director of Learning & Engagement at Temple Sinai Atlanta.

Jenn was already looking forward to the event, and then she found out who the speakers were. She is excited to learn from these experts and draw on their experience. “You can go into high school blind, or you can go in with knowledge. The more resources you have for your kid, the better.”

Click here to register for this engaging and informative night!

JumpSpark Events for Parents of Teenagers

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Debra Siegel is a mother of two: her son, Zack, is a sophomore in high school, and her daughter, Zoe, is a freshman at the University of Wisconsin in Madison. Both of her children attended elementary and middle school at The Epstein School, and then Riverwood International Charter School. Zoe became involved with JumpSpark’s Strong Women Fellowship  while she was in high school, and Zack  also participates in JumpSpark programs. Before long, Debra learned that JumpSpark isn’t just for teens—it’s for parents, too.

JumpSpark is the Atlanta Jewish teen initiative at Federation and serves as a hub for teen engagement. But JumpSpark also offers programming for parents, families, and guardians of teenagers. Next week, JumpSpark is hosting two events for parents in Atlanta’s Jewish community: an in-person event called “Let’s Talk About Being a Parent of a Jewish College/Gap Year Student,” and an online workshop for parents of pre-teen and teen boys called “Helping Boys Thrive.”

Last spring, Debra participated in a JumpSpark program called “Project Launch” which helped parents of high school seniors with the transition from high school to college or a gap year.

Debra found it hugely helpful to connect with other parents who were approaching the same milestone. Participants were given support and helpful tips as they navigated this emotional time. “There are so many pieces that go into it—budgeting, parent/student communication, social and emotional wellness, learning about antisemitism, and how our children can be involved in Jewish campus life, even if not necessarily in a religious way.”

Now, Debra is on the Host Committee for an in-person event for parents called “Let’s Talk About Being a Parent of a Jewish College/Gap Year Student” on December 1, 2022, at 6:30 pm at Temple Sinai. This event is for parents and guardians of current college and gap year students. Debra says she’s excited to come together with her peers to “share what we’ve learned through this experience of sending our kids to college—the ups and downs, and how we can best support our children.”

In a year or so, Debra will be starting the post-high school planning process with Zack. JumpSpark’s goal is to help families through the transitions they go through during their teen years, and Debra is excited to access those programs for her son.

For many families with boys, the teenage years can be difficult. Boys often have a hard time communicating their feelings or opening up to parents about their struggles. JumpSpark is offering the program “Helping Boys Thrive” on Wednesday, November 30, at 12 pm.

This free, online workshop will be presented in collaboration with the Jewish Education Collaborative and will feature speakers from Moving Traditions. Parents and guardians of middle and early high school boys will have the opportunity to build community with other parents and get access to valuable resources from experts. Participants will leave the program with practical tools they can use with their families.

Parenting a teenager can sometimes feel isolating, and JumpSpark wants parents to know they are not alone as they navigate challenging waters. These two events are opportunities for families to build community and access valuable resources. As Debra says, such programs are important because, “We are reminded that we are all going through this together.”

On a Mom’s Trip to Israel, Carla Takes the Mic | Israel Trip Experience

By jewishatlanta, Uncategorized

By Carla Birnbaum, Federation Relational Engagement Manager

I recently traveled as the Federation representative on the Jewish Women’s Connection of Atlanta (JWCA) Momentum Trip, along with 40 other women. Our group was one of several representing 300 Jewish moms from the US and Israel. Thanks in part to generous funding from Federation, the Atlanta contingent was the largest and we even had our own bus.

While you are on the bus, there is one strict rule — you must sit with someone new each time you board. Preferably someone you don’t know, or don’t know well, and it can’t be someone you’ve sat with previously.

As the bus became our home base, each woman had the opportunity to “take the mic” and share with the group. Sometimes it was something lighthearted about what’s going on at home (“You’ll never guess what my kids are eating for dinner tonight”). But more often we shared deep stories about our family history, growing up with Holocaust survivors, or meaningful lifecycle moments and memories.

Because of my role on the trip, our leaders, Julie Silverman and Batsheva Gelbtuch, encouraged me to take the mic early and often. These two women are beautiful souls. Their faith, dignity, and nurturing spirits give women space to grow. It is difficult for me to speak in front of large groups but on the afternoon of the second day, it was my turn.

I spoke about Yokneam and Megiddo, our Partnership cities in Israel and the programs we help support there. I spoke about Federation’s work within Atlanta and around the world, and our newest initiatives, including the one I lead, called Making Jewish Places. I spoke about my family and how I left corporate America to work in Jewish communal service, and my passion for working directly in the northern suburbs where I live.



One day I sat next to Hillary, who has a dry sense of humor like mine, and we laughed so hard we cried. We talked about our families and the adventures in parenting teenage girls (mine) and adult children (hers). We live five minutes from each other in Atlanta, but it took going to Israel for us to connect.


Marci & Michelle

I sat next to Marci and Michelle on a hard day. My youngest daughter had called at 3:00 AM Atlanta time, upset because she wasn’t feeling well. Hannah had gotten her COVID vaccine the day before. At 11, Hannah is not a baby, but she is, of course, my baby. My very capable husband had things well under control, but it was hard to be away while she was sick. Marci and Michelle both checked in with me all day. We all knew Hannah would be fine, and she was, but they still found time in between climbing Masada, swimming in the Dead Sea, and riding a camel to check on me (and Hannah) that day.



Stacey and I only sat next to each other for about ten minutes. Long enough for me to find out she’s always wanted to come on this trip, but she has a lot of professional commitments that would make it difficult. She said to me, “COVID made me realize that if I didn’t take the time for myself to do this now, I was going to miss out. So, I’m here.” It wasn’t until later that I found out that Stacey was a Judge and had to find not one but three people to fill in for her while she was away. Stacey and I also fell in love with the same Israeli Jewelry designer. And it’s a mitzvah to support the Israeli economy.


The Two Lisas

I sat with two Lisas. One celebrated her birthday on the trip. Lisa and I spent several days discussing the birds of Israel among other things – like her history in Atlanta (I think she knows everyone) and our families. The other Lisa sacrificed sleep to watch the Braves win the world series one of the first days we were there. At breakfast the next morning, she proudly wore her Braves shirt and hat and told us all the exciting news. She also patiently explained a thousand times why the Braves won the World Series, even though the teams are from the US and Canada only.


Israel Missed Us

I discovered that as much as Americans missed visiting Israel, Israel missed us! There were signs of welcome wherever we went, and people would stop us on the street to talk to us and talk about their families and friends in the States. And the places they visited when they traveled. And in the shuks and shops, and, of course, we did our best to support the Israeli economy. We also celebrated Rosh Chodesh and Sigd (an Ethiopian Jewish holiday), along with Shabbat in Jerusalem, and each of these holidays merits its own article.


“Family” in Israel

Shabbat in Jerusalem ends early, around 4:30. After a majestic havdalah (a ritual marking the end of Shabbat) at the Kotel, a group of us decided to walk over to Ben Yehuda Street. As we were walking, I heard a young man yelling my name. Now, remember I’m on a trip with a bunch of women. I turn around and it’s the 13-year-old son of a friend from Camp Ramah, who is studying to become a rabbi.

Again, I hear my name and this time it is a friend who made aliyah two years ago. She is happy to play tour guide and takes us through the shuk to the best stalls to get knafeh (a sweet pastry). As we are walking back toward the hotel, I’m explaining to the group that it’s common in Israel to run into people, and that I don’t actually know everyone in IsraeI.

I hear my name again. This time it’s a couple of our Atlanta gap year teens who were returning to Jerusalem from their home hospitality Shabbat experience. They joined the group and came with us to our hotel, and we all sat together talking in the lobby about their adventures and experiences (I also may have brought them Halloween candy and treats from home). We gave them all big mom hugs and well wishes from Atlanta, and a few of them came back the next night to visit again!


What It All Meant

In the end, here’s my big takeaway. We were all part of a shared community of women, all moms who are raising Jewish children. None of us are experts, and we learned and grew together. We opened a door when we started our journey, and have now returned more connected, more empowered, and ready to inspire others to jump on the bus and take a Jewish journey.

Learn more about Jewish Women’s Connection to Israel.

$10K Scholarships Available for Gap Year in Israel. Apply now!

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Did you know your high school student doesn’t have to start college right after completing high school? In fact, taking a year-long break between high school and college — known as a gap year — often contributes to a boost in performance when students enter college. Students who participate in gap year programs, whether academic, travel-focused, or service-focused, frequently become more mature, self-reliant, independent, and college-ready than students who go directly to college. (Read more about the benefits of a gap year here.)

Supported by scholarships of $10,000-$15,000 from the Zalik Foundation, 25 Atlanta area high school graduates are currently on gap year programs in Israel, connecting with Israeli culture and with Israeli peers. JumpSpark, which manages the Atlanta gap year initiative, is excited to announce the scholarship program will continue for a second year. Now is the time to learn more about gap year options and apply.

Jennifer Pollock Crim reports that her son Jordan has been thoroughly enjoying his gap year in Israel. “Jordan went there not knowing one person and now has many friends he can identify with and share new experiences together. He has never tried new food and says he loves trying new food and traveling to see and learn about new places in Israel. He also is enjoying his internship and learning independence and time management – two things that were reasons for him to go in the first place. I highly recommend it!”

Richard and Sheryl Arno said about their son Adam, “This experience on a gap year program has far exceeded our expectations. Adam has grown in so many ways and he has taken advantage of and experienced so many wonderful things that Israel has to offer.  He has made some lifelong friends, not only from the participants but also from the wonderful staff of Year Course.”

Bev Lewyn reports: “Rebecca is having the best time. She has made great friends from around the world, enjoys the Jerusalem academic classes, and had a profound trip to Poland.”

Read a current gap year student’s story about life in Israel here.


Zalik Foundation Renews its Commitment to Gap Year Experiences in Israel

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If you have a high school senior thinking about a gap year in Israel, JumpSpark has wonderful news! The Zalik Foundation has renewed support for a second year of the Atlanta Israel Gap Year Scholarship pilot. For a second year in a row, select high school students will be generously awarded $10,000 towards a gap year program in Israel for fall 2022. JumpSpark will continue to manage this program which provides generous scholarships for a limited number of pre-approved, eligible Gap Year programs. (Learn more about eligible Gap Year options here).

Right now, 25 lucky students from Atlanta are having Gap Year experiences in Israel. They are exploring the desert, volunteering on kibbutzim, visiting high-tech startups, engaging in meaningful social action, and connecting with Israeli history. One of them is Ariel Goldt, a graduate of Walton HS, who chose the Nativ program for her gap year in Israel. She posts weekly on her adventures. Read some of her excerpts below.

Week 10: Last Shabbat on the Moshav (cooperative community) was such an amazing experience. I played Settlers of Catan entirely in Hebrew with 10-year-olds who didn’t know English while I didn’t know any Hebrew. Somehow, they won but I think something must have gotten lost in translation … or maybe the 10-year-old actually did beat me, but I guess we’ll never know! The family we stayed with did not speak English except for the grandma. The grandma’s daughter, her husband, and seven kids were also staying at her house this weekend. Oh, and a few other of her daughters were there so it was a busy house, but I loved it. Something exciting is always happening and I got to play with the baby all weekend! On Saturday we walked around and got a tour of the Moshav. It was beautiful.

Week 8: On Wednesday we went to a MASA event in Tel Aviv. It was SO much fun! The venue was so cute and Hativah 6 performed for us! We have been listening to their music a lot here, so it was so much fun to see them live! All of the gap year programs that are funded through MASA were there and it was nice to see all of our friends that are in Israel. That night we had a girls’ night in! We set up the laptop and watched Pitch Perfect, the first one obviously, because it’s the best. On Thursday we did some exploring around Jerusalem and found this pretty park! We walked around the park then grabbed lunch at the cutest cafe! That night our camp friend Jonathan was getting sworn into the IDF (Israel Defense Forces), so we went to his ceremony at the Kotel! I loved getting to see him and it was so special we got to be there for him!

Week: 7: This week we started our first official classes at Hebrew University! Now we have classes with other people in the international school. I have never been in one classroom with so many different denominations. Everyone I talked to was from a different country and it’s amazing hearing everyone’s unique perspective on the things we are learning in class! I am excited for the rest of the semester! The other night we last minute decided to go to a Hapoel basketball game! We lost at the buzzer, but it was still a really fun game!


Your Support Saved Lives in Haiti

By jewishatlanta, Uncategorized

On August 14th, 2021, a 7.2 magnitude earthquake crippled southern Haiti, killing at least 2,200 people. Over 12,000 people were injured, and 130,000 homes were damaged or destroyed. Haiti was already reeling from the COVID-19 pandemic, unparalleled economic hardship, as well as social and political unrest in the wake of the assassination of its president weeks before. Haiti’s hospitals were quickly overwhelmed, and people were unable to get the medical care they desperately needed.

With support from Federations like ours, aid from the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) came almost immediately. JDC provided life-saving care to people like Esther (an alias) in the small community of Rita. Esther’s house collapsed on her during the earthquake, breaking her pelvis. Eight days after the earthquake she had yet to be seen by a medical team; she was essentially stranded, unable to seek medical care. Thanks to your support for JDC, the medical team was able to provide assistance and arrange medical evacuation to get Esther the treatment she needed.

JDC and Haiti share a rich history, dating back to the late 1930’s and early 40’s when JDC helped Jewish refugees find haven from the Nazis in Haiti and neighboring countries. In 2010, a 7.0 magnitude earthquake struck Haiti’s capital of Port-au-Prince, claiming over 200,000 lives. JDC quickly responded, partnering with local organizations to provide short-term food, water, and medical care, as well as long-term educational and livelihood resources.

After the 2021 earthquake, your contributions provided:

  • Lifesaving care and supplies quickly to the most affected people in the most remote locations; 2,500 pounds of essential supplies, such as bandages; gauze; and surgical gowns, masks, and gloves
  • Mobile clinics and medical supplies for the injured
  • Food to the hungry
  • Medical equipment to overwhelmed hospitals

The Federation system is skilled and experienced in disaster response. In the words of Djerhy Jn Baptiste, JDC’s consultant on the ground in Haiti: “From 2010 until now, I’ve seen firsthand that JDC is unlike any other humanitarian organization, mobilizing its local partners and listening to what they need. These local partnerships are crucial for a successful disaster response; these organizations are deeply rooted in the communities they support, with decades of outstanding impact.”

See JDC in action in this video.

JumpSpark Havayah Israel Experience Grants RFP

By Uncategorized

About JumpSpark 

JumpSpark, as part of the Jewish Teen Education and Engagement Funder Collaborative and Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta, offers unprecedented collaboration to develop, nurture and scale new approaches to teen engagement. Informed by up-to-the-minute research and data, and drawing on the collective strength of local organizations, JumpSpark works in Atlanta to reverse the trend of teens opting out of Jewish life in their middle and high school years. Through dynamic partnerships and strategic investment, JumpSpark reimagines existing programs, supports new and innovative ideas, and thinks creatively to meet the needs of teens, their parents, and Jewish educators and professionals that work with them. 

As part of the Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta, JumpSpark serves as a hub for Jewish teen education and engagement. This role allows JumpSpark to serve as both a funder and convener to help drive and shape the teen ecosystem. As a convener, JumpSpark runs a Community Partner Network of over 30 local youth serving organizations committed to raising the bar for Jewish teen education and engagement. As a funder, JumpSpark has invested over $600,000 dollars in the teen ecosystem since 2019 reaching 1000s of teens and connecting them to meaningful Jewish experiences. 

Strengthening Teens Connections to Israel  

JumpSpark, in partnership with Root One aims to support and grow high-level, multi-part engagement experiences for teens both before and after they travel to Israel. We will increase participation of Atlanta teens in Israel travel experiences, create meaningful connections between teens in Atlanta to the people, land, and state of Israel, and lengthen the arc of engagement for teen participants with Israel and the Jewish community. Havayah, translated from Hebrew as ‘experience’, expresses the desired outcome to lengthen the teen Israel experience in America. As part of this initiative, we aim to work in partnership with YSOs locally and nationally to encourage participating in Root One summer experiences. 

JumpSpark is now accepting applications for youth-serving organizations that support Root One approved teen Israel summer travel experiences to develop impactful pre and/or post trip engagements. We are accepting applications through November 30 for projects that will occur through June 2022.

Project Guidelines 

  • Develop engagement opportunities for participants of summer 2021 (post-trip engagement) or 2022 (pre-trip engagement)) Israel summer experiences 
  • Create opportunities to connect more deeply with Israel either before or after the summer trip  
  • Utilize data tracking strategies to analyze impact  
  • The grant is not to be used to further subsidize trip costs. Our goal is that 75% of teens participating in Israel teen travel experiences will engage in these additional experiences. 
  • Available budget for Havayah Grants is up to $10,000. 

We may request an interview prior to making final determinations regarding grant allocations. 

If you have any questions, please contact Nathan Brodsky, Director of JumpSpark, at 

Abe Besser: A Life Rooted in Philanthropy

By jewishatlanta, Uncategorized

The Atlanta Jewish community lost a very special person and an outstanding philanthropist when Abe Besser died on April 26, 2021. Abe was fervent in his love for Jewish Atlanta and contributed to almost every Jewish organization in town. Abe was extremely proud that he was a consistent donor to Federation’s annual Community Campaign for more than five decades. Known for his support for Holocaust remembrance, Abe was also a benefactor of the Besser Gymnastics Building at the Marcus Jewish Community Center of Atlanta (MJCCA), numerous programs at Jewish Family & Career Services, and established philanthropic funds at Atlanta Jewish Foundation.

We share Abe’s story because it sits at the intersection of philanthropy, memory, and entrepreneurship. It is a testament to how one individual chose to pay his blessings forward for the benefit of our Atlanta Jewish community. And it illustrates precisely how Atlanta Jewish Foundation can help anyone create a lasting philanthropic legacy.

Born in Krzepice, Poland, Abe was the youngest of seven children. To protect his sisters from being taken by the Nazis, his father sent him to a labor camp. His years of hard labor included walking in the snow with no shoes, and so he rejoiced on the day American planes dropped flyers announcing that the Americans had landed. “When I was in the concentration camp, I promised myself that if I survived, I would build a memorial so that the world would not forget.” Along with his beloved wife Marlene Gelernter Besser, he also planned and executed the outdoor memorial at the Marcus Jewish Community Center of Atlanta to the six million Jews who perished in the Shoah. He envisioned this as a memorial to his family and to the community as a living tribute for future generations.

What drove this immigrant entrepreneur to give so generously? Abe Besser’s obituary provides clues to his ingenuity and tenacity. Before even arriving in America, Abe founded a cab company in Berlin to serve the American soldiers. At age 24, when he immigrated to the United States, it is said that upon arrival in New Orleans, he literally kissed the ground in thanks. As a new immigrant, Abe was sponsored by the Rosenthal Sheet Metal Company. He paid his debt back to the company over three years and went to night school to learn English. Abe began his career by building houses and apartment complexes throughout greater Atlanta.

Abe Besser’s philanthropic focus on Holocaust remembrance was deeply embedded in his life experiences. In an interview archived at The Breman Jewish Museum, he was asked, “What would you want people to learn about the Holocaust?”

He replied, “What I want them to learn, to see [is] what had happened in a civilized country, what a civilized country did to human beings. Therefore, I want them to see that this education is being brought forward, and taught, and taught, and taught [so] that an atrocity like that would never happen again to human beings. This is the only thing I’d like to see. That it will not occur again, regardless of what religion a person believes. What right does any country have to eradicate a nation because of their religion? The United States is a free country, and everybody believes whatever they want to believe, and that’s the way it ought to be. I’d like to see more and more education, more and more people to understand the Holocaust and the atrocities that happened [so] that it will not occur again. This is my only wish.”