Federation News

March 21, 2017

There is always a lot going on at Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta. If you would like to stay updated on the latest happenings, you can subscribe to our mailing lists. To learn more about what has been happening lately, explore our recent newsletters below, our newsletter archives, or our press releases.

FederationFive – our weekly newsletter of the top five things going on in Jewish Atlanta

March 21, 2017

JKG is our Family’s Kibbutz in Atlanta 
By: Tali Golan-Williams

A family like mine, that’s Israeli and African-American, may not stand out much in New York City, but when my husband Byron and I, and our daughter Naomi, left our families behind, we wanted to find a place where diversity was celebrated. While looking for an after-school program for Naomi, we found our special place at Jewish Kids Groups (JKG).

JKG offered something unique — a Jewish community and a Hebrew school in a different environment that really works for us. I was born in Israel and Naomi is being raised bilingually in English and Hebrew. Byron comes from a Christian background, and his worldview is extremely multicultural. JKG honors our family’s mixed heritage while also giving Naomi a creative and substantial Jewish learning experience. Through songs, games, cooking and holidays, she is embracing Judaism in the most creative way possible.

Byron says that, for him, JKG dispels the myth that Jewish culture is closed and narrow. Through this program we have created a loving Jewish family here in Atlanta. We celebrate holidays with other JKG families. We share potluck Shabbat dinners with them. When our new baby Tamir was born, they delivered meals to us.

When Naomi says the Shabbat prayers, bakes challah, or helps the other kids with Hebrew, it’s an extension of the global values we love. JKG is helping her become a girl with Jewish pride and wonderful confidence. JKG is our family’s kibbutz in Atlanta.

Federation supports Jewish Kids Groups, to strengthen Jewish education and identity.


AVIV Rehabilitation Center, a program of Jewish Home Life Communities, is a supportive residential and outpatient program helping people recover from orthopedic surgery, post-surgical complications, or a disabling illness such as stroke or heart attack. The staff creates individualized programs helping every patient relearn the skills necessary to return to independence.

• Five-star-rated Medicare facility
• 24 rooms at the William Breman Jewish Home
• 230 clients served annually


Nominations Open for Federation Board

It’s nomination season! We congratulate these volunteers who have joined Federation’s 2017 Nominating Committee, chaired by past president Howard Feinsand: Betty Sunshine, immediate past Campaign chair; Carolyn Oppenheimer, immediate past Women’s Philanthropy president; Avery Kastin, immediate past chair of the Under 40 Division; Aaron “Ronnie” Agami, Liann Baron, Vicki Benjamin, Carol Cooper, Renee Evans, Howard Katz, and Doug Kuniansky. The Nominating Committee meets at the end of this month. Nominations are encouraged! If you wish to submit names for the FY18 Board of Trustees, please email them to Stephanie Wyatt.


Meet Atlanta’s JOFEE Fellow 

Meet Emily Blustein, Federation’s first JOFEE (Jewish Outdoor, Food, Farming & Environmental Education) Fellow. She has just joined us as the Jewish community’s experiential environmental educator. Emily was trained at Hazon’s Isabella Freedman Jewish Retreat Center in Connecticut to develop programming and Jewish experiences through the lens of food, outdoors and environmental stewardship. She is elated to be our JOFEE Fellow and hopes to create local projects and partnerships that get people outdoors and excited about “getting our hands in the dirt.”


Staff Spotlight 

Philanthropy is a great way to express your personal values. Watch Itai Tsur, our Senior Director of Atlanta Jewish Foundation, explain how you can.

Read the Legislative Update.

Read March 21 newsletter.


March 14, 2017

Israel and American Youth
By Yaron Yavelberg, Israeli Representative for Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta

The word has spread within Israeli society, especially among those connected with Jewish organizations in the U.S., that the younger generation in America is drifting away from their Jewish identity and from their connection to Israel. While this is well supported by research and demographic studies, I have a different point of view.

For more than five years I have been evaluating Israel programs from the Atlanta and St. Louis Federations, and for the past two years have served as their representative in Yokneam and Meggido. After recently visiting both of these American communities, I believe that the establishment of the Jewish state is still a work in progress, and that young American Jews must have a stake in its development.

For older generations, supporting Israel meant taking part in the miracle of the establishment of a free Jewish state in the land of Israel. For younger generations, Israel is a given — a strong and confident nation like any other. I believe both perspectives are inaccurate. Not quite 70 years old, Israel is an infant among national states. It is still struggling for its values, its security, its character. It still requires the involvement of American Jews, not just through philanthropic vehicles, but with knowledge, experience, perspective and nuance.

Israel is more than a place of terror attacks. Arabs and Jews are working together on dozens of social and business projects. When was the last time you heard about this? Ethiopian Jewish women, who were born in an isolated village in Ethiopia, were appointed as judges in Israeli court. Did you know this? Israeli technology and science are breaking the limits of imagination, for all humankind. It is our responsibility, in Federations and other Jewish organizations, to be a bridge to the younger generation. We must connect them with Israel with messages like these.

Last, but not least, we are family. Going back just four generations, we all were from the same places. Diaspora Jews supported Israel from day one, and the people of Israel will never forget that bond. Most Israelis are curious about American Jews, sometimes ignorant, but always willing to deepen the relationship.  G-d willing, Israel will always be here for you and your families. Come visit us, engage with us, and write your personal chapter of Israel’s amazing story.


Did You Know?

Meyer Balser NORC is one of three naturally occurring retirement communities in Metro Atlanta receiving support from Federation. Located on the campus of the William Breman Jewish Home, it offers programs and services, along with social and learning opportunities, to help seniors “age in place,” or live independently in their own homes for as long as possible.
• 90 members
• 7 monthly activities
• Residents range in age from 60-91


Hunger Walk Recap

We did it again! Hunger Walk/Run 2017 brought the Jewish community together in a big way to raise funds for the Atlanta Community Food Bank and raise awareness for hunger relief. Federation helped mobilize 34 teams representing our synagogues, schools, and Jewish organizations. In total, 207 individuals walked or ran the 5K route through downtown Atlanta! Since 1984, as one of five faith-based organizations participating, the Atlanta Jewish community has consistently claimed first or second place in Hunger Walk fundraising. Final totals are not yet in, but we hope to secure our number one spot once again!


Call for Federation Awards 

Each year Federation honors exceptional community professionals and volunteers for the work they do to strengthen Jewish Atlanta. Awards are given in four categories and nominations are due by April 5. We’re counting on you to help us showcase the talented and dynamic individuals who are taking us to new heights. Questions? Contact Jessica Segal.


Affiliate Spotlight

The Felicia Penzell Weber Jewish Community High School, known as The Weber School, is a coed, pluralistic Jewish high school enrolling 241 students. Weber offers a challenging, highly interdisciplinary college preparatory program of general and Jewish studies. The school has pioneered “fellowships” that give students hands-on exposure to various professions. Seniors undertake a year-long Capstone Project with sustained independent work. The school also offers a five-week Israel experience in partnership with Alexander Muss High School in Israel and a Spanish immersion program in Cuba. Fine and performing arts thrive at Weber, along with intramurals in baseball, golf, soccer, swimming, tennis, volleyball and cross country. In 2016, Weber graduates received 255 acceptances to more than 80 colleges and universities.

Read the Legislative Update.

Read March 14 newsletter.


March 7, 2017

“The Atlanta Jewish community provides an extraordinary network of care at the end of life, not only for the patient, but for every member of the family.”
By: Jenifer Firestone

After 30 years in Boston, I made a life-changing decision to move to Atlanta to help my sister care for our aging parents. I was incredibly lucky to continue in the decade-long profession I love as a hospice social worker and volunteer coordinator at Weinstein Hospice. As the prodigal out-of-town daughter, I had to jump into the incredibly emotional and complicated role of caregiver for two people in their 90s.

In hospice work, you’re trained to view the whole family as the “patient,” understanding that each member has their own experience of loss and grief, and different tolerances for stress. I quickly discovered that every fall, every change in medication, every degeneration of mobility, had consequences. Every setback established a “new normal”, and we all had to adjust.

For five years I managed to keep my parents out of the hospital and in their own apartment. Finally, my father was eligible for in-home care through Weinstein Hospice. What a relief! As a small non-profit program, Weinstein provided 24/7 on-call care for my dad, plus twice-weekly visits from a nurse, social worker, and chaplain, as well as respite visits from a highly-trained hospice volunteer. I felt so blessed by the intuitive instincts of the nurse. She knew better than I did when the end was near and helped us handle it with tenderness and calm.

Just last week I moved my mom, who has dementia, into the Jewish Home. It’s been emotional for me, but I see her every day and know she’s doing beautifully. The Atlanta Jewish community provides an extraordinary network of care at the end of life, not only for the patient, but also for every member of the family. I am grateful as a staff member, and as a client, to be part of it.


Did You Know?

On January 3, 2017, the ALEF Fund uploaded 1,900 applications to the Georgia Department of Revenue for over $6.5 million in Qualified Education Expense tax credits. Once again, the state’s $58 million cap was overenrolled on the first filing day and pledges were prorated to 49.5% (down from last year’s 53.4%). If you were approved for an ALEF tax credit, payment is due by March 11, 2017.

• 1,900 tax credit applications filed – 400 more than last year
• $1.25 million increase in pledges over last year
• $3 million in scholarship dollars expected to go to our Jewish schools


All About Hamantaschen

When we celebrate Purim later this week (March 12-13), many of us will be baking, eating and sharing those triangular filled pastries known as hamantaschen in holiday gift baskets called mishloach manot. Hamantaschen get their name from Haman, the villain of the Purim story. To some, the treat evokes Haman’s three-cornered hat, buttasch also means “pocket” in Yiddish, suggesting the bribe Haman offered Ahasuerus to destroy the Jews. In Israel, Purim pastries of choice are oznei Haman, literally Haman’s ears — fried, twisted and sprinkled with sugar. Hamantaschen fillings run the gamut from traditional poppy seed, apricot and dates, to chocolate chip, peanut butter, halvah and cheese. Here’s a link to 10 sweet and savory hamantaschen fillings. Be creative and enjoy!


Why Be Jewish? 

It’s a difficult question, but one Jews often ask themselves — “Why be Jewish?” For compelling answers, don’t miss the March 9 program, Why Be Jewish?, a partnership between MJCCA and Federation. Hear author Ruth Andrew Ellenson (The Modern Jewish Girl’s Guide to Guilt) and Federation President & CEO Eric Robbins discuss Edgar M. Bronfman’s book, Why Be Jewish?. Published just weeks before Bronfman’s death in 2013, the book unpacks tenets Bronfman says shaped his quarter century of Jewish philanthropy. Among them are a reverence for Jewish tradition, a dedication to social action, a pledge to engage in both Jewish and secular studies, a commitment to ethical business conduct, and the importance of effective leadership. The discussion is free and open to the community, but registration is encouraged.


Volunteer Spotlight

Mazel tov to Megan Williamson and Zachary Kroll, chair and vice-chair of Birthright Israel Alumni Atlanta Network’s leadership committee, for being this month’s volunteers of the month. Megan began her volunteer work with Federation after her 2012 Birthright Israel trip. Since then, she has served on the Leadership Committee in various capacities and will be leading her third trip this coming May. Zack began volunteering after his 2015 trip. Both Megan and Zack have chaired multiple Birthright Alumni and Federation Under 40 events. Under their tenure, the Birthright Leadership Committee has grown to 25 members. The committee meets biannually to plan events for local Birthright Israel alumni and young adults. Megan’s and Zack’s sharp insights into modern Jewish Atlanta help grow Federation’s impact, and we wish them luck in their future leadership roles.

Read the Legislative Update.

Read March 7 newsletter.


February 28, 2017

Building on a Promise

These last weeks of winter have been incredibly fruitful, building on the promise of becoming a more relevant, collaborative, and inclusive Federation. Our recent MLK Mitzvah Day was oversubscribed. Nearly 200 Federation volunteers honored Dr. King’s birthday by doing good at three sites: Atlanta Community Food Bank, Berman Commons, and Hillels of Georgia. The event filled up so quickly and demand was so strong that we will definitely be planning more Mitzvah Days. We’ve tapped into a real hunger for meaningful community service experiences, which I believe can be a powerful doorway to Jewish engagement. Read about some exciting new ventures underway.

Community Service
In January we invited people interested in community service to meet the director of Literacy Action — the Southeast’s oldest and largest basic education nonprofit serving undereducated adults. Literary Action offers profound experiences that are life changing for client and volunteer alike. The evening became a springboard for a larger discussion about creating a Jewish Center for Service & Dialogue that would consolidate volunteer opportunities for people of all ages and help them find the right fit. We are in discussion with JF&CS and other agencies about how to do this collaboratively so that we engage people across Metro Atlanta for greater impact.

Collaboration on Outreach
Earlier this month I met with the leaders of three innovative national Jewish organizations that have now established Atlanta offices. OneTable, led by Shira Rothman Hahn; Interfaith Family, led by Rabbi Malka Packer; and Honeymoon Israel, led by Hannah Spinrad. All of them have ambitious and creative agendas to welcome and engage moreJewish Atlantans. The four of us had an honest, open, and productive discussion about how we can collaborate on the many things we have in common, rather than working in silos. I know that our impact is stronger when we collaborate, and that’s what we intend to do.

Community Forums
Federation is hosting a series of community discussions on timely topics, all aligned with our mission to build community, stand for Israel, and advocate for justice. On Friday, February 17, we offered The Current Status of the Refugee Resettlement Program featuring J.D. McCrary, Executive Director of the International Rescue Committee in Atlanta. The remaining discussions are free and open to the public. Register here.

  • Monday, March 6Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Update (in partnership with American Jewish Committee)
  • Thursday, March 9 – Come see the new play about Jewish Atlanta history that everybody is buzzing about, The Temple Bombing. Then stay on for a discussion on Security in Today’s Jewish Community led by Cathal Lucy, Federation’s Director of Community Wide Security.

Creative Placemaking
Finally, I’m excited that Jodi Mansbach, our new Chief Impact Officer, will be a presenter at the Jewish Funders Network and The Collaboratory conferences coming to Atlanta in March. Jodi is leading sessions on Creative Placemaking in the Jewish Community, challenging national leaders to think intentionally about ways to leverage the power of the arts, culture and creativity to engage more people while driving a bigger agenda for growth and transformation. The Jewish Sustainable Farming project and our emerging Jewish Center for Service & Dialogue are great examples of how Federation is already putting these ideas into practice.
I’m always interested to hear your ideas and get feedback. Drop me a line at erobbins@jewishatlanta.org.


Did You Know?

At MJCCA Day Camps, children with special needs experience the magic of camp without limits through the Inclusion Program. Dedicated specialists and facilitators offer varying levels of support to ensure an enriching experience for each child. The program extends to all MJCCA Day Camps including performing arts, specialty, sports, teen, and traditional camp.

• 135 campers participated last year
• 25 facilitators work with campers to help them gain independence and social skills
• Seven years in operation at MJCCA


Hope Chernak to lead Teen Initiative 

The Atlanta Jewish Teen Initiative (AJTI), a partnership between Federation, the Marcus Jewish Community Center of Atlanta (MJCCA) and the Atlanta Rabbinical Association (ARA), is excited to announce that Hope Chernak has been named its new director, beginning April 19.

Hope grew up in Orlando, FL, spent eight summers at Union for Reform Judaism’s (URJ) Camp Coleman, and credits Bobby Harris for inspiring her to become a Jewish educator. Her first full-time job was at The Temple under Rabbi Alvin Sugarman, so she calls her return to Atlanta “a homecoming.” For the past 10 years, Hope was director of both youth and informal education and Israel programs at Temple Shaaray Tefila, in New York City. Previously she directed the North American Federation of Temple Youth (NFTY), and before that she was the URJ’s director of youth regions and NFTY’s assistant director.

Hope is a powerhouse in formal and informal Jewish education who came up through the ranks of Jewish camping, youth groups, Israel travel and leadership development. She earned a B.S. in business administration and marketing and formalized her academic training earning an M.A. in religious education at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, and the designation of Reform Jewish Educator (RJE). Hope was a 2016 recipient of the Grinspoon North American Award for Excellence in Jewish Education.

“I am honored to serve as the founding director of the Atlanta Jewish Teen Initiative,” Hope says.  “The Atlanta community has put tremendous thought, planning and support into this bold and immersive teen program. AJTI will provide engaging models of meaningful and accessible experiences that are uniquely relevant to Atlanta teens. These experiences will bring a sense of belonging to Jewish teens and inspire them to seek out further opportunities for engagement as Jewish young adults. I look forward to partnering with youth professionals, educators and clergy members to advance teen engagement in a thriving Jewish community I already love.”


Champions for Inclusion

This past weekend, more than 300 people attended the 3rd Annual Power of One reception, hosted by the Jewish Abilities Alliance and Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta during National Jewish Disability Awareness & Inclusion Month (JDAIM). The event recognizes individuals from our schools, camps, congregations, and local Jewish agencies who had a significant impact on the inclusion of people with disabilities. Emily Shapiro, who has worked with campers with special needs at Camp Barney Medintz, and in the MJCCA Soar Program, was honored as the first recipient of the Robyn Berger Emerging Leader Award. Robyn Berger was an inclusion pioneer in the Atlanta Jewish community who worked tirelessly to mentor future generations. Additionally, to recognize Ina Enoch, outgoing co-chair of the Jewish Abilities Alliance, for her immeasurable contribution, the JAA Training fund to support professional development opportunities around issues of inclusion was renamed the Ina Enoch Community Disabilities Training Fund.


Why does Susan Newman give to Federation?

Watch to find out!

Read the Legislative Update.

Read February 28 newsletter.


February 21, 2017

What Does it Feel Like to Have a Disability?
Gesher L’Torah religious school

This is impossible; I can’t see anything!”
“My eyes hurt from trying see in the dark.”
“Some of the other kids looked at me strange.”
“It seemed like I was always asking for help with something.”
“I don’t know how anyone learns to read like this.”

That’s what our students at Gesher L’Torah said after experiencing “Take a Walk in My Shoes,” a Jewish Abilities Alliance (JAA) awareness exercise offered at religious schools throughout Atlanta. Our students rotated through hands-on learning stations designed to let them experience what someone with disabilities may endure, day in and day out, including sensory issues, visual impairment, physical limitations, and auditory issues. The experience heightens personal awareness about visible and invisible disabilities. It also teaches that, while a disability is a part of who someone is, it

The education staff decided that compassion needed to be taught, not assumed, and that our students should learn how to walk in another person’s shoes for a while, or perhaps how to ride another person’s wheelchair. We know that many young people tend to avoid what makes them feel uncomfortable and that not knowing how to act or respond to differences can be scary. What if someone can’t shake hands? Should I pat them on the shoulder? What if someone walks unsteadily? Will he or she fall? Will I hurt them if I try to help? What if I say the wrong thing?

Take A Walk in My Shoes understands that there is a subtle form of prejudice in our society surrounding disabilities. It’s a discomfort, a fear of what is different and unfamiliar. It often manifests as pity, avoidance or mockery of people. When we see someone with a profound disability, a fleeting thought occurs: “What if that were me?”

We focused on the following overarching ideas.

  • A disability is only one characteristic of a person.
  • People have many facets: likes and dislikes, strengths and challenges.
  • Children with disabilities are like all children in that they want friends, respect and to be included.
  • Children can be born disabled or become disabled from an accident or illness. You can’t “catch” a disability from someone else.
  • Just because someone has a physical disability (when a part or parts of the body do not work well) does not mean they necessarily have a cognitive (or thinking) disability.
  • Children with disabilities can do many of the things we do, but it might take them longer. They may need assistance or adaptive equipment to help them.

When we came together at the end of the experience, we concluded by emphasizing that people with disabilities are individuals with families, jobs, hobbies, likes and dislikes, and problems and joys. Bottom line: don’t turn them into disability heroes or victims. Treat them as individuals.

Article written by: Carla Birnbaum, GLT Assistant Religious School Director
Program run by:  Wendy Bendit, GLT Religious School Learning Resource Specialist.
Program assistance by:  Becky Borak
Congregation Gesher L’Torah Education Director:  Rebecca Gordon


Did You Know?

Friendship Circle of Atlanta is dedicated to creating a friendly and inclusive Jewish community where everyone feels a sense of belonging. Friendship Circle embraces and supports the disabilities community by deploying a vast network of volunteers who promote inclusion through social, educational and Jewish programming.

• 10,960 service hours logged by Friendship Circle volunteers
• 290 volunteers engaged in Friendship Circle outreach programs
• 80 individuals served in Atlanta


Jodi Lox Mansbach Joins Federation

Tomorrow morning, we are all excited to welcome Jodi Lox Mansbach as Federation’s Chief Impact Officer. In this newly created role, Jodi will provide executive leadership and strategic vision for Federation both internally and in collaboration with our affiliates and partners. Jodi is a bold and innovative thinker with strengths in planning, marketing, and nonprofit business. (We absolutely love her design for the rooftop at Ponce City Market!) Much of Jodi’s work here will focus on planning and innovation — developing a new allocations model based on principles of collective impact for our domestic and overseas partners. She will help us design organizational evaluation tools that measure shared outcomes, and will be very involved in the Community Study roll-out.

Jodi is an advocate of the New Urbanism, a human-scaled approach to city planning. Most recently, she worked with the City of Atlanta to launch Atlanta City Studio, Atlanta’s first pop-up urban design center that is incubating new ideas about the design of the City. As a Vice President at Jamestown LP, a real estate investment and management firm, Jodi was a key player in the development of mixed-use properties in the Southeast. She launched Jamestown’s first sustainability program and started and ran Jamestown Charitable Foundation, which supports local food movements, parks and green space, alternative transportation, and design.

Jodi brings tremendous depth of understanding of the trends and challenges facing the nonprofit world. For several years she was Vice President of WordOne LLC, a boutique marketing communications and branding agency for nonprofit and foundation clients. Along with this, she is a true servant-leader, whose time and talents have been shared on our own board many more. Not surprisingly, Jodi is past winner of two Federation awards: the Mary and Max London People Power Award (2015) and the Gerald H. Cohen Community Development Award (2003).


Synagogue Shelters Assist the Homeless in Winter

2017 may not be the coldest winter on record, but for homeless people, Atlanta’s two synagogue shelters are a lifeline. Congregation Shearith Israel was the first synagogue in the nation to open a homeless shelter. Now renamed Rebecca’s Tent, this shelter has been in operation for 32 years, providing 13 women in transition with warm beds, hot meals and MARTA transportation from November to March. To volunteer click here. The Temple’s Zaban Paradies Center (ZPC), founded in 1984, was the first and only shelter in Atlanta helping homeless couples transition to independent living. More than just a safe place to eat and sleep, ZPC helps residents obtain employment, find permanent housing and improve their life skills. To donate or volunteer click here.


Staff Spotlight

Cathal J. Lucy, Federation’s Director of Community-wide Security, joined us last fall and follows in the pioneering footsteps of Dick Raisler, the nation’s first Jewish community security director. Cathal is a retired Secret Service agent. In his 25-year career, Cathal was assigned to the Presidential Protective Division and served Presidents Clinton and Bush, who he protected on 9/11. He was an attaché of the Secret Service in the U.S. Embassy in Paris where he served 23 countries around the globe. This proud son of Boston is a graduate of Boston University and holds two masters — one in criminal justice and another in management from Johns Hopkins. Cathal works closely with federal, state and local law enforcement and was instrumental in ensuring that protocols were followed when bomb threats were called into the MJCCA and Atlanta Jewish Academy last month. Read the AJT story here. We deeply value the protection and professionalism Cathal J. Lucy brings to our community.

Read the Legislative Update.

Read February 21 newsletter.

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