Gail Ripans’ late mother, Helen Weintraub (née Guttentag), immigrated to the United States from Poland as a pre-teen, in the 1920s. Though Helen managed to escape the Holocaust, many of her relatives did not. That memory of extended family members who died during the Shoah has made Gail keenly focused on ensuring that future generations can access Jewish education.
“My love of Jewish education came from her,” Gail said of her mother. “We just felt like Jewish education is important for Jewish continuity and survival.”
Ripans and her husband, Allan, have been donors through Atlanta Jewish Foundation (AJF) for almost 20 years. In that time, they have used their Donor-Advised Fund in a variety of ways, with schools at the heart of their philanthropy.
At Torah Day School, they endowed scholarship funds in memory of Gail’s mother and in honor of their grandchildren. They have contributed to capital campaigns for Davis Academy and Temima. They give to ALEF Fund.
The flexibility of picking and choosing the causes they care about is one of AJF’s best benefits for Gail.
“Giving through AJF is advantageous from a donation point of view but also to make sure the funds go where we want them to go,” she said. “The AJF team makes it easy to pick up the phone and donate, which encourages our donating because it’s so simple. To me, it’s win-win-win-win.”
How Gail and Allan formed their incredible partnership sounds almost like something out of When Harry Met Sally. As New Yorkers whose families were friends, they lived on parallel tracks growing up — they even went to the same college (Cornell), but somehow didn’t meet until after they had both graduated.
Their relocation to Atlanta in 1967 happened by happy accident, too. Allan was transferred to Atlanta, and though it was meant to be a temporary, they fell love with the city. At first, life in the south was an adjustment. Gail, holds a master’s degree in political science with an international focus. In New York she had been secretary to the United Nations Ambassador from Nepal. She worried that she might not find the same career satisfaction here.
But over the decades, the Ripans watched Atlanta transform into an international hub in its own right. Gail sought out volunteer opportunities that put Atlanta on the map, from helping with Jimmy Carter’s 1976 presidential run to working on the 1996 Atlanta Olympics. “I felt it’s the most beautiful city,” Gail said. “I had a vision that it would become one of the great cities of the world and we could make that happen.”
In 1968, the couple bought the Crossroads restaurant, an iconic seafood eatery in midtown that’s still fondly remembered, 30 years since its doors shuttered. Managing Crossroads put Gail and Allan at the center of everything. They rubbed elbows with former mayors Andrew Young, Sam Massell and Maynard Jackson, along with other Atlanta power players as they stopped in for a hot meal.
Today, with three adult children and six grandchildren, two of whom went to Davis and Weber, the Ripans are true stakeholders in Jewish Atlanta. Their impact on their adopted city has been a beautiful expression of love and commitment.