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When the whole world fell apart last March and COVID-19 overtook our lives, Jewish Atlanta reeled, but it never collapsed. Jewish life carried on because we had a superpower that others lacked.

Deep human connections.

We didn’t realize it then, but it’s clear to me now that the relationships and partnerships we’ve nurtured across our Jewish ecosystem are what allowed us to respond quickly and effectively, to rise up and meet human needs.

Human connections helped us raise $4.3 million for COVID-19 relief in just six weeks. Our IT professionals moved most of our organizations to virtual operations in days, not weeks.

When our Jewish day schools switched to virtual learning, we leveraged relationships to make incredible things happen. Through our partnership with Jewish HomeLife we got our day school teachers COVID tested so they could continue to teach. When we saw that the kitchen at The Epstein School wasn’t in use, we turned it into a staging area to make meals for homebound older adults.

We invested in human connection by assigning Federation professionals to convene meetings across all our community sectors — schools, synagogues, human service organizations, older adult services, and more. Those sector conversations helped us understand community needs and prioritize our response. And they established the protocols that helped our schools, organizations, camps, and the MJCCA reopen safely.

With most of our professionals still working from home, and services being delivered virtually, people ask me all the time how we’re faring. Actually, we’re doing surprisingly well. Jewish Atlanta is recovering. That’s because our virtual connections are built on face-to-face connections that came before the pandemic.

I pray that at this moment when vaccines are finally becoming available, we may soon resume the face-to-face connections that laid the foundation that has kept us strong and resilient during this unprecedented time.

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