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Fed5: Stories of Connection and Faith

By June 21, 2024June 25th, 2024Federation News

The Salvation Army of Metro Atlanta, in conjunction with The Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta, hosted a Box Fan Giveaway on Friday, June 14. This inspiring initiative distributed one thousand free electric box fans on a first-come, first-served basis at various metro Atlanta locations.

This was all made possible thanks to a gift from an anonymous Federation donor via their Atlanta Jewish Foundation donor-advised fund.  The event was so meaningful to the community that it even made the local news!

An Atlanta Jewish Foundation donor-advised fund (DAF) is, simply put, a “charitable checking account” that makes donating to non-profits of your choice easy. The funds from this anonymous donor’s DAF were directed to support the Box Fan Giveaway event, helping many Atlanta residents stay cool and safe during the hot summer months.

The event addressed a significant need in the Atlanta area, and the collaboration between The Salvation Army and Federation, along with the media coverage, highlighted the importance of community support and working together to make a better ATL.

“For the past 30 plus years, the community has been blessed by the generosity of one particular person who has made it his mission to help others stay cool during the extremely hot Atlanta summers,” said Major Thomas McWilliams, area commander for The Salvation Army Metro Atlanta Area Command. “With his annual gift from a donor-advised fund through the Atlanta Jewish Foundation at Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta, The Salvation Army of Metro Atlanta has provided a free box fan to tens of thousands of individuals and families who might not have access to working air conditioning in their homes. We are very thankful for the donor’s generosity and partnership in providing heat relief to the community.” 

Please find more information on donor-advised funds here.

23 high school students who deferred their first year of college recently returned to the community after spending a Gap Year in Israel. All of these young adults participated in Federation’s prestigious Atlanta Israel Gap Year Fellowship, which provides funding, supplementary programming, and growth opportunities prior to, during, and after their Israel experience so that they can head to their various college campuses with a strong sense of Jewish and pro-Israel identity.

This program is made possible through the generous support of The Zalik Foundation Fund, and in partnership with Masa, our partner in Israel. Haiden Borak, a 2023 graduate of Riverwood High School, participated on Young Judaea Year Course Program and was in Israel during the October 7th attacks. He shared part of his experience with Federation:

“After the events that transpired on October 7th, there was a sense of unease throughout our campus, Kiryat Moriah, and the surrounding community. As a precautionary measure, our program made the decision to impose restrictions on leaving the campus. This abrupt change in plans meant that the trips around Israel had to be put on hold indefinitely. 

However, during the uncertainty around the situation, our community prevailed. Rather than allowing fear to prevail, me, my friends, and the staff rallied together to adapt to the new circumstances. In lieu of off-campus excursions, alternative activities were organized within the confines of the campus grounds. These activities, ranging from group games planned by our scouts to team-building exercises, brought us closer together. 

After a while, restrictions started to get more and more relaxed. We were allowed to leave campus if we filled out a form saying who we left with and where we were going. We also need to fill out the same form when we came back. Soon after that, things went slightly back to normal, we would go out without the form, trips around Israel were going again, and our daily schedule started taking shape.”

Federation is looking forward to next year’s cohort of Gap Year Fellows. We are preparing to send 34 high school graduates to a variety of Gap Year programs.

Click here for more information.

Wendy Kalman had always wanted to apply for a Federation Gather Grant, but it wasn’t until she began planning her late April trip to Israel that her vision became clear.

Inspired by her trip, she decided to use the Gather Grant money and buy supplies in Israel to bring back for her event. “This way, the money goes into Israel’s economy,” Wendy said. Wendy found two Israeli artists — one sold supplies to make unity charm bracelets, and the other provided designs to create coloring magnets.

“I also brought back three different kinds of Rugalach (cookies) from the shuk (market), and PJ Library children’s books about Israel from Federation they could take home,” Wendy added. “The idea was to host something in my house, a place where we could feel connected, safe, and comfortable supporting Israel in its time of need.”

Fourteen women attended, and it wound up being a place where they could express concern for what Jews are going through today in America and elsewhere in the world, and discuss the antisemitism that’s ramped up since October 7.

Wendy also shared her experiences on her trip to Israel and all the powerful things she witnessed. “Being able to defray the cost of ways to bring the community together is a wonderful thing,” said Wendy. “It’s finding other reasons and other ways to bring us together…it’s really a great thing that Federation does.”

Jewish summer camp fuses activities, experiences, and friendships with Jewish values, traditions, and culture. At camp, young people make connections that last a lifetime and develop skills that shape their Jewish identities.

This uniquely immersive experience provides a confidence-building opportunity that deeply and profoundly impacts them, making them more likely to engage in Jewish life as adults. When you help young people go to camp, you make it possible for them to be connected to Judaism for a lifetime. Rabbi Elana Perry, Federation’s Director of Jewish Education, sends her daughter, Lilah Perry, age 14, to Camp Coleman. She says it is a special, magical place for her.

“This is her 4th summer there, and throughout the school year, she was counting down the days until she could return “home” to camp. It’s a place that is joyfully Jewish, a place where she can express herself freely and grow as a person, and a place where she has built the kind of meaningful friendships that one can only find at camp,” said Rabbi Perry. “I love that she can be carefree (and screen-free), and that she can have so much FUN in a safe and loving environment, all while strengthening her sense of pride in being Jewish. As a parent, I’m so grateful for the gift of Jewish camp!”

Thanks to your generous support of Federation’s Jewish Camp Initiative, hundreds of kids are heading to camp this summer and will create lifelong connections to Judaism.

Here are just a few of the statistics you helped cultivate. Federation’s Camp Initiative:

  • Awarded 290 One Happy Campers (first year campers) incentive grants
  • Raised 1.5 million for campers and their families
  • Financially assisted 438 Atlanta campers through our Scholarship Program

Federation is extremely proud to have sent these kids to camp with your generous donations. For more information and ways to donate to help even more kids go to camp, please click here.

Federation’s Interfaith Connector initiative strives to support interfaith couples and families through inclusive programming, enhanced communication, and fostering genuine acceptance and connection to the Jewish community.

The Interfaith Connector held their fourth session of their Reset & Refresh program on Friday evening, June 14, at the home of facilitator Rabbi Elizabeth Breit of Congregation B’nai Torah. The cohort of multifaith couples enjoyed a Shabbat dinner together as they put into practice the spiritual and communal elements of Shabbat that were illustrated in the earlier sessions. The program will culminate on Saturday evening, June 29th, as the couples gather for Havdalah and, of course, more food!

The event helps interfaith couples and families integrate Jewish traditions into their lives in a meaningful and inclusive way, enhancing their connection to the Jewish community while respecting their diverse backgrounds.

“Relax and Refresh has been a great opportunity to meet other interfaith couples in Atlanta,” said one of the couples in attendance, Ben Schapira and Elisse Jean-Pierre. “We have enjoyed discovering different ways to incorporate Jewish traditions into our family. Thanks to Doug, Elana, and Rabbi Breit for making this a memorable experience.”

It provides a setting for them to form their own community of people exploring similar values, facing similar challenges, and striving to achieve similar goals. Reset & Refresh was developed by Rabbi Samuel Klein of the Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle and is being piloted in this spring/summer in Portland, Austin and Buffalo in addition to Atlanta.

It is being funded by both the Federation’s Interfaith Connector and JFNA (Jewish Federations of North America) and is being implemented locally in partnership with Honeymoon Israel and their Director of Community Engagement, Elana Pollack Halfaker.

“The Reset & Refresh event is vital for supporting interfaith couples, enriching their lives, and strengthening the broader community through inclusivity and shared experiences,” said Doug Konkel, Interfaith Director. “It provides interfaith couples with tools and experiences to navigate their spiritual and cultural differences, fostering deeper understanding and connection within the relationship.”

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