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May 24 Federation Five

Jenn Handel, Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta’s Director of Israel Engagement, was featured among Hadassah’s “18 American Zionist Women You Should Know.”

Jenn is from North Babylon, NY, holds a BA in history education from SUNY Cortland, an MA from Stony Brook University, and spent nearly a decade working at Jewish Life at Duke and Stony Brook Hillel. She was recently recognized as one of Atlanta’s “Jewish 40 Under 40” and has spoken on a variety of panels related to antisemitism and Zionism. 

A 2010 Birthright Israel trip deepened her spiritual connection to her Jewish faith and Israel. She later participated in the first Masa Israel Teaching Fellows cohort in Rishon LeZion. “I don’t come from a Zionist home, or a very Jewish home. I didn’t go to Hebrew school. I came into the Jewish community in my 20s. I didn’t have it growing up; it wasn’t part of my upbringing,” said Jenn. “So, to be able to rise from really no connection with Judaism or Israel at all, to being included on a list of these female giants, is proof that you can opt in at any age. You can find what Judaism, and what Zionism is for you at any point that you’re ready to do so. It’s never too late.”

Hadassah’s “18 American Zionist Women You Should Know” list highlights a diverse group of women who are making an impact and shaping the future of Zionism. The Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta is proud to call Jenn one of our own. This is a well-earned recognition, and we are so proud of her. Mazel tov, Jenn!

HERE is the complete list of winners.

Federation held its annual staff retreat at Camp Ramah Darom from May 6-7. The Federation professional team used this time for team building, setting new goals, yearly planning, and bonding with co-workers in nature.

Two staff members took the initiative to make paper plate awards, which highlighted something unique about each team member. We set time aside to talk about pressing issues and how we can actively work together to find solutions.

“You leave with such a great feeling, knowing the work that we’re doing is so important,” said Tova Baruch, Senior Director of Operations and Donor Services. “You’re making connections with your people, connecting with your colleagues in a way that you don’t often get to when you’re in the office and doing your day-to-day work, and learning something new about different parts of the organization and our various initiatives.”

There were also plenty of fun activities and lively entertainment including a fun improv group that came to perform, live DJ’ing by Federation’s IT Systems Administrator, Voyech Szyrejko (also known as DJ Voytech), hiking, dancing, and much more.

This was our last team retreat with Federation’s CEO & President, Eric M. Robbins. Federation staff used this as an opportunity to spend quality time with him and share their immense gratitude for his nearly 8-year contribution to Federation. 

Federation is committed to ensuring that our Jewish community has the mental health resources and support it needs. One of the ways we’ve done that recently is by partnering with JF&CS and the MJCCA in a “play therapy” initiative which is a type of therapy primarily designed for children and young adolescents.

Children often struggle to understand and express their emotions or communicate their issues to adults, which is why this form of therapy has been so innovative and life-changing for many.

JF&CS and MJCCA collaborated to pilot this program and it was funded by a grant from Federation’s Core Partner Allocations Committee. The mental health program provides play therapy for MJCCA preschool kids, coaching for their parents, and professional development for their teachers. In an ever-changing world with rampant antisemitism, mental health is more important than ever, which is why Federation funded and supported the development of this program.

“This program has really brought such wonderful strategies for our children. Our teachers are able to use some of the strategies that have been presented in trainings through JF&CS, which is so graciously provided by Federation. Our parents are able to use these strategies as well,” said Kim Sucan, Director, MJCCA Preschools.

Learn more about the program and its impact by watching this video HERE.

On Sunday, May 19th, NextGen, Federation’s young adult division (for 20s and 30s), hosted an afternoon of festivities in honor of Yom Ha’atzmaut, Israel’s Independence Day. 

Nearly 200 young professionals from all over Metro Atlanta came together to network, connect, raise a toast, dance to lively beats, and show their Israel pride.

There were Israeli flags hanging, everyone was decked out in blue and white, and there was Israeli street food like shawarma and falafel from a kosher caterer. There were games, Federation educational components, and the weather was perfect!

“Attendees were happy and outwardly proud to be pro-Israel. One couple brought Israeli flags and wore them tied around their necks. Where else can you hang out at a brewery in Atlanta and do that?” said Becca Langfelder, Director of NextGen. “We received a lot of positive feedback like, “I didn’t know Federation put on events like this!” Or “I haven’t seen my camp counselor since I was 10 years old,” or “I ran into my BBYO advisor!” These are 30-year-olds, connecting with people 15-plus years later.”

The afternoon party was an unforgettable celebration that included an Israeli DJ, drinks, food, and, most importantly, fun! “We’re trying to reinvent NextGen and what it means to be a Jewish young adult in Atlanta. There are clearly people who want to be involved, and we’re trying to give them the vessel to do so,” added Langfelder. “I feel that if this type of event, and others that we’ve done, like Shabbat dinners, meaningful Israel educational programs, and networking events didn’t exist, then these young adults wouldn’t have that connection to their Judaism and especially what Jewish Atlanta has to offer.”

Now, more than ever, it’s crucial to strengthen our Jewish community and show our Israel pride. Am Yisrael Chai! Together, we will dance again.

You can always register for fun Federation events like this through our website calendar.

On Tuesday, May 21, Federation held a Business and Professional networking breakfast and program about the state of the city with Rabbi Peter Berg and Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens.

“The Business and Professional Breakfast Series is an opportunity for our donors to network, get updates on the goings on at the Federation, and hear from newsmakers both locally and nationally. Having Mayor Dickens participate in our most recent program, along with Rabbi Peter Berg, just reinforces the Federations’ place in the Greater Atlanta community,” said Kenny Silverboard, Senior Director, Business and Professionals.

Rabbi Berg, The Lynne and Howard Halpern Senior Rabbinic Chair at The Temple, and Mayor Dickens, the 61st Mayor of the City of Atlanta, discussed Atlanta’s past, present, and the mayor’s vision for the future of the city.

The networking and breakfast preceded the program, and more than 100 hundred people were in attendance.

“I want to say thank you to you for our extraordinary men and women who wear the police uniform, who are protecting the Jewish community during a time in which we have never had to have a stronger security presence,” said Rabbi Berg.

Rabbi Berg brought up other public safety issues in addition to security, and Mayor Dickens discussed the need for more police training, de-escalation training, and anti-bias training.

Since October 7, Federation has invested more than $1.5 million in community security focusing on infrastructure improvements, grants to support increased personnel needs, and trainings and consultations for community partners.

Rabbi Berg expressed his gratitude to the mayor for his support, as having elected officials stand by us in times of need helps with our commitment to ensuring the safety and security of our community.

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