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Being Radically welcoming in our online engagements

By Uncategorized

Virtual Engagement Best Practices

By Russell Gottschalk, Innovation Manager

These virtual gathering “best practices” are drawn from successful engagement forums that happen in real life but are sometimes neglected when programming virtually during our new normal:

  • Honor your audience: I believe strongly that any event opt-in is based on the axis of compelling and convenience. If something is really compelling yet inconvenient (think a trip to Bonnaroo), you may still attend. If something is convenient yet not compelling (think about some of the virtual gatherings you have passed up recently), you may not attend. The key for virtual engagement lies in building up the case for a compelling use of participants’ time and the best way to begin that conversation is showing your potential attendee that their time is valued because THEY are valued. Virtual gathering invitations should be direct, personal, and sincere. Chances are that your audience isn’t required to opt-in (like an all-pro staff meeting).
  • Design the space: Thinking of ways that your virtual areas can mimic those in an in-person event is another successful strategy for making these engagements more engaging Think about the best ways to replicate the experience of randomly interacting with a stranger, strolling a vendor market, and sitting for a featured presentation or break away for a smaller group chat. By creating a virtual space that is more like our real-life experiences, we can expand the opportunities for learning, connection, and joy. One virtual engagement tool that we have been using to achieve this is hopin. (More on hopin below)
  • Engineer serendipity: the last point acknowledges that surviving a pandemic while staying sane is hard. Let’s be real, sometimes it’s hard just to put on pants before signing into a work-from-home day. We have the opportunity as event producers and curators of experience to surprise and delight our attendees. This could be pairing people from various backgrounds that happen to serve the same community or bringing live music into the event or just maybe taking time to check in with each other about what content we’re binging these days. Virtual gatherings can feel stale because we’re spending so much time in front of our computers. But this bland default is a rainbow of opportunities when you’re willing to reach towards fun.

We won’t know what 2021 will bring for virtual engagements, in real life events, or in my opinion the likelier outcome of a hybrid model. However, we do know that we can bring successful real-life concepts to a virtual space with the right intention and tools. We have the power and together, we can inspire connection and community that is both convenient AND compelling.

Hopin: A virtual platform you should be aware of (I could see this being removed, shortened or just put onto a web link for click more)

Over the course of one week in November, Federation hosted three different virtual gatherings on hopin, a platform designed to create engaging and dynamic events. Though they happened close together in time and were hosted on the same platform, they served very different purposes with audiences of little overlap:

  • Innovation’s quarterly Wisdom Pairings engaged dozens of Jewish Atlantans in meaningful conversation to create and deepen relationships for personal growth and/or professional development
  • The Jewish Camp Initiative’s Southeast Camp Fair welcomed dozens of potential campers and their families to learn more about our partner camps throughout the Southeast and across the country
  • Federation’s monthly staff meeting hosted dozens of colleagues and special guests to discuss and discover how we’re leaning into Fearlessness, one of our organization’s guiding values

Despite these different functions and audiences, our team used familiar and compelling tactics in each gathering.




More Latke Recipes

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Savory Beet Latkes
A great way to use up root vegetables. We recommend using a food processor for shredding.

¼ cup chopped scallions
1 Tb. fresh thyme
2 cups peeled and shredded beets (2-3 medium)
1 cup peeled and shredded celery root (½ small root)
1 cup peeled and shredded carrots (2-3 medium)
1 cup peeled and shredded Idaho or russet potato (1 large)
¼ cup rye or whole wheat flour (holds the raw latkes together)
1 cup crumbled goat cheese (about 5 oz.)
1 large egg, lightly beaten
2 Tb. Neutral oil such as canola, plus more as needed for frying

1. Prepare a plate with layers of paper towels to drain the pancakes.
2. Place scallions, thyme, salt, beets, carrots, celery root and potatoes in a large bowl and mix well. Gently squeeze out excess moisture. Scatter flour on top of the vegetable mix and mix.
3. Combine the cheese and egg in a small bowl. Fold into vegetable mixture.
4. Heat oil in a heavy-bottomed skillet over medium heat until shimmering. Working in batches so as not to crowd the pancake, use a ¼ cup measure to scoop vegetable mixture into the skillet. Flatten gently, using the back of the measuring cup or a spatula, making sure the pancakes don’t touch each other. Fry for 4 to 5 minutes on one side until brown and crisp. Then flip to fry the other side until browned and crisp. Transfer latkes to lined plate to drain.

Excerpted from The Berkshires Farm Table Cookbook. Copyright 2020 by Elisa Spungen Bildner and Robert Bildner. Reproduced by permission of The Countryman Press. All rights reserved.

Zucchini & Leek Latkes
Popular in Israel for both Rosh Hashanah and Hanukkah. From The Katamon Kitchen

4 leeks, washed and sliced
1 tsp olive oil
2 zucchinis, shredded
1 clove garlic, minced
2 eggs
1/2 cup flour
1 tsp baking powder
pinch of chili flakes
salt and pepper
oil for frying
sliced scallions for garnish
sour cream (topping)

Like onions, leeks have many layers and usually a lot of sand in between those layers. Clean leeks by cutting off the root end and the darker green end then slicing the leek lengthwise and then cutting the leeks into half circles. Fill a large bowl with water, place the sliced leeks in the water and swish the leeks around to separate the layers. All of the grit will fall to the bottom and you just have to skim the clean leeks off the top. Place the leeks on a towel to drain before sautéing.

1. Heat a large pan over medium heat. Pour in 1 tsp olive oil. Add the cleaned and drained leeks to the heated oil, add a pinch of salt and sauté for 5-8 minutes until the leeks are slightly soft.
2. While the leeks are cooking, shred the zucchinis. Place the shredded zucchini in a towel and press out the excess moisture. (Don’t skip this step! If there’s too much liquid the patties won’t bind well.)
3. In a large bowl, mix together the sautéed leeks, drained zucchini, garlic, eggs, flour, baking powder, and spices.
4. Add vegetable oil to the same pan you cooked the leeks in and heat over medium heat.
5. When your oil is hot, add heaping spoonfuls of the latke batter to the hot oil and cook the patties about a minute per side.
6. Place the cooked latkes on a plate lined with paper towel and sprinkle with salt.

COVID-19 in Jewish Atlanta — The Movie!

By Uncategorized

Day-to-day living in a pandemic sometimes obscures the fact that we are living in truly historic times. Local filmmakers and storytellers, Adam Hirsch, Jacob Ross, and Gabby Spatt felt the need to document it all, and now, with funding from Federation Innovation Propel Grant, they’re creating a film that shows how the Atlanta Jewish Community responded to the multiple and complex challenges caused by the COVID-19 crisis with unprecedented generosity, creativity, and collaboration. It’tentatively titled “Jewish Atlanta COVID-19 Story,” and you might see it at the 2021 Atlanta Jewish Film Festival (AJFF). 

We’re thrilled that this documentary project is moving forward thanks to the partnership of The Breman Museum, Federation Innovation, and the Atlanta Jewish Film Festival to support its creation and distribution. 

AJC’s Dov Wilker Celebrates the Abraham Accords

By Uncategorized

As a Zionist, I have always lived by the motto from Theodore Herzl “.אם תרצו, אין זו אגד ה” “if you will it, it is no dream.”

I felt that way on September 13, 1993, when we were called into the gymnasium of my Jewish day school, to watch the signing of the Oslo Accords on the White House lawn. I felt that way the following year on October 26, 1994, when we were called into the same auditorium to watch the signing of the Israel-Jordanian Peace Treaty.

I remember the feeling of pride and euphoria on both of those days. As a middle-school student, I knew that something special had occurred. We sang, we danced, and we prayed that this was just the beginning. We assumed that it would be an annual thing!

And finally, twenty-six years later, I am able to feel that way again. The signing of the Abraham Accords, between the United Arab Emirates and Israel, and Bahrain and Israel, was nothing short of spectacular, the fulfillment of a dream. The dream of Israel living in peace with its neighbors.

And this peace, this dream did not happen overnight, nor the way we expected it to, but it happened and that is what matters.

It was because of dreamers and organizations like American Jewish Committee that traveled for decades to the Gulf, engaging with leaders, in an effort to help them see things differently.

We should be grateful for the dreamers, those who have taken on the monumental tasks of achieving something that none of us thought realistic, especially at a time of global crisis.

5780 was a hard year, but we should remember the bright spots: the Abraham Accords, passing of Hate Crimes legislation, increased activism, a focus on diversity within our community and a robust community response to Covid-19, just to name a few.

These bright spots are what will keep us focused on doing all we can to make 5781 an even better year.

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!

NextGen Virtual Events Series | OneTable Cooking Class

By Uncategorized

We totally get it: nobody wants to do another Zoom call. It’s been months and we’re all just over it, right?

Right! NextGen has decided to shake things up a little bit and launch a series of events where the last thing we’ll be doing is sitting and staring at a screen. Our kickoff event?

A hands on cooking class with Nadia Deljou of OneTable!

Register below!

Thank you for your interest! This event has reached capacity. Your information will be added to our waitlist.

Atlanta Welcomes New Leaders in Jewish Education

By COMMUNITY, Uncategorized

Atlanta’s supplemental Jewish education programs look quite different these days, and it’s not just because they are adapting to a pandemic. In several prominent programs throughout the community, there are fresh faces who assumed new leadership roles during this challenging and exciting time. We extend a warm welcome to the following dedicated and talented Jewish Educators: 

Sharon Graetz is the new Education Director at Ahavath Achim Synagogue. Sharon is a graduate of the Hebrew Union College in Los Angeles, with M.A.’s in Jewish Education and Jewish Nonprofit Management.  Sharon has a wide range of experience, from programming at the Westside Jewish Community Center in Los Angeles, to being part of the leadership team at Jewish Kids Groups in Atlanta. Most recently, she enjoyed her role as Limudim Director at IKAR in L.A., collaborating with students, staff, and families to revitalize kids’ learning. Sharon is driven by her passion to infuse deep Jewish learning with positive and fun experiences. Sharon is drawn to project-based learning, a method in which students take the lead in their education, responding to authentic and engaging questions. She is excited to offer a vibrant program at AA with opportunities for students to engage in real-world and meaningful projects with the goal of making Jewish tradition relevant and inspiring. 

Amy Cooper Robertson, Ph.D is the new Director of Lifelong Learning at Congregation Or Hadash. Amy began her career in academia, earning a PhD in Religion/Hebrew Bible from Emory and teaching Tanakh, Judaism, Biblical Hebrew, and critical thinking and writing. Amy later shifted her focus to Jewish communal work and has found that the intersection of community building, program leadership and Jewish learning is her favorite place to be. Amy served as the Education Director and later the Executive Director at Congregation Bet Haverim, taught Judaics at The Davis Academy, served as Rosh Chinuch at Camp Havaya in the Poconos, and tutored many b’nai mitzvah students.  She is passionate about projects of “practical innovation” – identifying and addressing the barriers that keep Jews from engaging more deeply with learning and community. Amy is very happy to be back in an educational leadership role and is excited to begin a new chapter at Or Hadash


Jewish Kids Groups has three new Site Directors! 

Jordana “Joey Heyman is JKG’s new Brookhaven Director. Joey has committed nearly two decades to Jewish education, working in both teacher and administrator roles in overnight and day camps, day schools, and youth groups. Joey earned a Masters in Experiential Education from American Jewish University and completed a post-graduate fellowship in Jewish Education and Advanced Jewish Studies through the Pardes Institute in Jerusalem before moving to Atlanta, where she is consistently inspired by our broad and innovative Jewish community. Joey is passionate about helping people find themselves in Judaism and brings a focus on community building and conflict resolution to JKG.



Gabe Monett is JKG’s new Decatur Director. He has spent the majority of his postcollegiate career creating Jewish community for all ages. Through his roles with Jewish organizations including Repair the World, Ramah Darom, and Moishe House, he has honed his passion for connecting and bringing people together. A local Atlantan through and through, Gabe grew up in the Emory area and attended the Paideia School for thirteen years before earning a Film Studies degree from Georgia State University. 



Sivan Abada is JKG’s new Sandy Springs Director. Sivan is involved in communication with families, planning, curriculum development, team management, administration, and program initiatives. Sivan was born and raised in Israel. Following her service in the IDF, Sivan studied Behavioral Sciences and graduated from Ariel University. She has an extensive background in human resources management. Her interest in education grew when she was an instructor in Israeli summer camps, where she planned creative activities for children. Sivan brings her passion for camp-style education, love for Israel, and her unique teaching philosophy to the JKG community.



Michelle Erste is the new Director of the Mitzner Family Religious School and Family Programming at Temple Kehillat Chaim. Michelle has been a Jewish educator for seven years, serving as a religious school and Hebrew teacher at Kehillat Chaim for children in Pre-K through 7th grade. Having already invested many hours in lesson planning, preparation, and teaching, Michelle loved the idea of being able to have a larger role in her children’s – and all of TKC’s children’s – Jewish education. She grew up in the congregation herself, and she was thrilled to step up to assume a larger role in the education program and to give back to her community. Michelle is especially excited to use her marketing background to help Kehillat Chaim grow and thrive! 



Hope Chernak, RJE, is the Interim Education Director at Temple Kol Emeth. Hope earned an M.A. degree in Religious Education at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, and the title Reform Jewish Educator (RJE). She was a 2016 recipient of the Grinspoon North American Award for Excellence in Jewish Education and received a certificate in Israel Education from the Center for Israel Education in 2016. She also has a degree in Business Administration with a concentration in Management and Marketing from Webber International University. Hope has worked in Jewish education for over twenty years. Prior to joining Temple Kol Emeth, she served as the founding Executive Director of JUMPSPARK: the Atlanta Jewish Teen Initiative (AJTI), and Chief Programming Officer at the MJCCA. In New York City, she served as the Managing Director of the North American Federation of Temple Youth (NFTY) and the Director of Youth and Informal Education & Israel Programs at Temple Shaaray Tefila. Originally from Orlando, FL, Hope spent eight summers on staff at Camp Coleman.Hope is thrilled to have joined the team at Temple Kol Emeth, to partner with the rabbi, leadership and staff to support and build upon the education program’s exceptional foundation.