Skip to main content

Fed5: Tikkun Olam, Inclusion, and Celebration Across Our Community

By June 7, 2024June 11th, 2024Federation News

Every year at the Weinstein School, graduating preschoolers do a mitzvah project. With this year’s theme being rock and roll, they were eager to find a connection between their love for music and helping other children.

The parents in the committee felt very strongly about doing a mitzvah project that showed support for Israel,” said Cobi Cohen, who is on the committee for the graduation mitzvah project. In response, Federation connected Cobi with Eliad Eliyahu Ben Shushan, Federation’s Israel Partnership Director in Yokneam Meggido.

Eliad shared that there are pre-K classes in Yokneam for special education students who receive Music Therapy workshops and that any donated music sets would significantly enhance their learning experience. In response, around 60 Weinstein students made nearly 200 music kits and added a personal touch by drawing pictures to include with them. The kits were delivered by Jennifer Handel, Federation’s Director of Israel Engagement, who happened to be traveling to Israel to staff a local Birthright trip.

Receiving this musical gift was a ray of light amidst the darkness of war, a reminder of the enduring strength of Am Israel and the powerful bond between Atlanta and Yokneam,” said Eliad. “We are profoundly thankful for your thoughtfulness, especially for the special needs children who will benefit the most from these music therapy sets. Your generosity has brought joy and hope to our community during these challenging times.”

Eliad said that the children will not only enjoy the instruments, but knowing that these were made by friends from Atlanta warms their hearts and exemplifies the true spirit of our partnership.

David Kulp, an Emory medical student, recently orchestrated a gathering that showcases the power of community and unity. Thanks to the support of a Gather Grant from Federation, he brought to life a vibrant Shabbat dinner for the Emory Medical School Jewish community.

In the wake of challenging times post-October 7, David recognized a need for fostering connections among Jewish students and faculty. Thus, the visionary concept of the Emory School of Medicine JMed Mentoring Program was born, buoyed by the generosity of Gather Grants.

The gathering unfolded at a venue perfectly situated at the heart of the community. Against a backdrop of kosher cuisine, around 30 individuals came together, bridging gaps and forging bonds that would resonate far beyond the evening.

For David, this endeavor is more than just an event—it’s a journey of self-discovery and communal enrichment. He reflects, “I am learning how to embrace and design my own Judaism, which I know will ebb and flow as I grow.” The support from Gather Grants has empowered him to chart his path and extend an open invitation for others to join him on this journey.

David underscores the transformative impact of Gather Grants, ensuring inclusivity and accessibility within the Jewish community. He speaks of the financial barriers often faced by graduate students and the pivotal role Federation plays in breaking down these barriers, enabling individuals like him to cultivate vibrant communities of support and belonging.

David emphasized, “This was a much-needed event to bring our Jewish faculty, students, and residents together in a moment when we have all been feeling isolated, marginalized, and misunderstood by those outside of our community.” In expressing his deep gratitude to the Federation, David echoes the sentiments of a community united in purpose and uplifted by the spirit of togetherness, reminding us of the strength and support we have from our larger community.

Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta held its 118th Annual Meeting on Monday, June 3, at Temple Sinai in Sandy Springs. The annual meeting included the election of new trustees, the celebration of eight years of leadership with our President and CEO, Eric M. Robbins, a presentation of community awards, a message from Board Chair Beth Arogeti, and much more. Hundreds of people attended the annual meeting to hear about Federation’s impact over the past year and honor all who are involved in our thriving community.

We’d like to take a moment to recognize the Community Award Winners. Mazel Tov to all the award recipients:

  • Abe Schwartz Young Leadership Award: Dorrie Paradies
  • Gerald H. Cohen Community Development Award: Rami Genauer
  • Sylvia Newman Memorial Teacher of the Year Award: Dodie Sachs | Congregation Beth Shalom & Jessica Brown | Congregation Bet Haverim
  • Max & Mary London People Power Award: Richard Bressler | Weinstein Hospice
  • Marilyn Shubin Professional Staff Development Award: Jeremy Lichtig | UGA Hillel & Melissa Silver | The Epstein School
  • Tikkun Olam/Community Impact Award: Aaron Goldman | Open Doors

We also had the pleasure of honoring our 2024 Lifetime of Achievement award recipient, Jack Halpern.

“The challenges facing our people change from time to time, but Jewish resilience is a story that is thousands of years old,” Jack said. “Our community thrives and continues to renew itself through the support that we provide for each other.”

Thank you to our Federation leadership and everyone who attended. We appreciate you being a part of the Federation community and are deeply grateful for your presence at our Annual Meeting this year. Your participation and engagement were crucial in making the event a success. We are looking forward to achieving even more together in the new year!

To view all the photos from the event, please CLICK HERE.

On May 30th, Jewish Abilities Atlanta consultant Jenna Swartzman Sommers along with the Jewish Abilities Atlanta Training Coordinator, Lindsey Flax collaborated with Camp Ramah Darom in Clayton, Georgia, to provide neurodiversity training for summer camp staff.

“Every child deserves the transformative experience of a Jewish summer camp. With our programs, we’re not only creating inclusive environments but also providing a space to learn for future leaders who will make these experiences unforgettable for every camper,” said Lindsey Flax, the JAA Training Coordinator. “We are grateful for the donors who generously help make JAA training possible for organizations like this in Atlanta. Together, Jewish Atlanta can be a place where we can all belong.”

Jenna, a seasoned Speech-Language Pathologist, emphasized the importance of embracing neurodiversity, celebrating the diversity in thinking and learning in a camp setting, and fostering a sense of belonging at a Jewish summer camp. The training participants included directors, unit heads, new and returning staff, Shinshinim, and Tikvah program counselors. “I’m very passionate about this project.  I started this because I saw the need for more awareness, understanding, and empathy when it comes to neurodiversity and disabilities,” said Jenna Sommer, Founder, Neurodiverse at Camp. “Often, there are young staff members are working with kids for the first time, and it can feel really overwhelming or intimidating to some.”

With newfound knowledge, the camp staff is ready and motivated to create a supportive environment where every camper feels understood and empowered to thrive at a Jewish summer camp. Jewish Abilities Atlanta will provide support and additional training throughout the summer to ensure we are fostering a more inclusive Jewish Atlanta where every individual is valued for their unique contributions.

“Thank you for the awesome professional development. Once again, I’m blown away by how you are able to turn complex concepts into manageable information. I love learning from you,” said one returning staff member.

Meet Sai Mukkamala, a Jewish community member and NextGen participant who grew up Hindu and converted to Judaism in 2023. In fact, he celebrated his Bar Mitzvah at the NextGen Israel Independence Day party just recently!

Sai’s connection and passion for Judaism runs deep. He is especially driven by its core values, the Ten Commandments, the principle of Tikkun Olam (repairing the world), and its guidance for everyday ethical living. Throughout his conversion journey, his involvement in Federation events grew, and he especially valued Federation’s prompt and meaningful response after October 7.

“Federation organized an event at a local synagogue where they flew in seven survivors from the attack, and they shared their testimony. Very powerful,” Sai recounted.

Becca Langfelder, Director of NextGen with Federation, suggested that they honor Sai’s Bar Mitzvah at the Federation’s Yom Ha’atzmaut party the day following his Bar Mitzvah, noting that it symbolized not only Israeli Independence but also something deeper for Sai.

“I felt truly honored to be able to celebrate my Bar Mitzvah that way. I’m so grateful to the Jewish Federation for being my extended family,” Sai expressed warmly. Looking forward, Sai’s next step in his Jewish Journey includes finding his soulmate and wife to build a Jewish family with, as well as learning further about Jewish spirituality from The Temple and his friend Rabbi Ari Sollish.

In honor of his Bar Mitzvah, Sai made a gift to Partners Fund at the Ben-Gurion Society Level. “I feel that it is important to help others the same way that you would want G-d to help you, and the Federation truly provides cradle-to-grave services for the Jewish community.”

Mazel tov, Sai!

Close Menu