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Strong Women Fellowship: For the Love of Pizza and Chris Hemsworth

By JumpSpark

Meeting the refugees from the Global Village Project was an amazing experience.

Rene Walter

When I had first arrived I wasn’t sure what to expect or who I would be meeting. I stepped into the room where all the girls were and saw teenagers sitting in chairs talking to my friends acting normal and telling jokes.

As I went to sit down and join in on the conversation I greeted everyone with a warm smile and a friendly greeting. Upon getting to know the girls and hearing their stories I realized I could relate to them on many levels. Then once we did the activity where we all listed things we have in common i realized there were a lot more things I hadn’t realized, like that we all didn’t like school and all loved pizza and Chris Hemsworth.

This overall experience was eye opening for me and I realized that just because these girls are from different parts of the world, we are all connected and similar in one way or another. I left that school with so many new friendships and so many new values to take with me. •

Finding Connections As We Change The World

By JumpSpark

Every generation is controlled by the constant increasing pressure to change the world.

Millenials are constantly reminding us, Generation Z, that we are the ones that can make the biggest difference, not only for the present but also in the future. Although, changing the world seems like a pretty big task for a teenager. How are we supposed to do this? Where do we even start? Who is going to help me? So many questions and so many steps go into figuring out a way to change the world. But I have found the key, the first step to changing the world.

Make a connection. This may seem way too simple to be the key to changing the world but it is. The connection is the most important factor in the process of changing the world.

Mya Artzi

In our December Jumpspark Strong Women’s Fellowship › meeting, we met teen refugee girls from many different countries. This was absolutely amazing to me. We met them at the Global Village Project › , an organization that brings teen refugees together in order to prepare them for American high school. As I sat in the classroom, listening to 40 different girls close to my age from all over the world, I noticed that although we come from so many  different backgrounds, we are all more similar than I could have ever imagined. We are all girls who are active on social media, who love Rihanna, who love a snow day, and who are just trying to get through high school. The conversation came easy and the laughter flowed throughout the room. Our connection was strong. Together, we felt more powerful than any comment, stare, judgement, or slur a person could say about our race, gender, ethnicity, or religion.

At the beginning of the program, we played a brief game to introduce ourselves to the group. Every JumpSpark member was paired with a refugee. As we went around the room introducing our partners, I sat in awe of the number of teens I was able to meet from so many different countries; countries like Rwanda, Congo, Malaysia, Afghanistan, and Syria. Syria. Wow. I am a Jew and the girl sitting in the table next to me is Syrian. I am officially and fully engaged, excited, and overwhelmed in such a good way, and ready to change the world.

My connection with Israel is a part of who I am. I have learned about the importance of my homeland since I was a young child, and my passion drove me abroad just last year as I attended high school in Israel for two months. This brief two-month journey during my sophomore year changed my life. I learned so much about Israel from its early history to current issues. One of Israel’s main issues right now is its relationship with Syria. The ongoing controversy and battles in war and in ethics between the countries has continued to increase over the years. It is a constant battle between the territories, the people, and the resources and it never seems to end. The only way to end this is to create peace, but how will we create peace if Israelis and Syrians won’t talk to each other? Because of the lack of connection between the people of both countries, to the people of each place, it seems that there is there is nothing to lose.

So this is where we as Gen Zers can step in. We are in charge of building those connections in hopes of one day possibly ending the fight. Today, 20 Jewish girls were able to make connections with three Syrian girls. The conversations we shared had nothing to do with our ethnicity, race, or religion. The conversations were solely based on our numerous, easily discovered commonalities, and we are were elated, surprised and thankful for our newfound friendships.  Others might not have felt it as much as I did, but I believe that with this program we took a first step in changing the world. •

Spark Grants

By JumpSpark

Chanukah 2018 is officially in the books. It is time to clean the wax out of your menorah, wipe the splattered oil off your stove top and try to forget how many jelly doughnuts you have eaten this week. It’s a time of giving, light and coming together to celebrate your community, and even though Chanukah is over the giving doesn’t need to end. JumpSpark is working everyday creating the sparks to enrich the Jewish teen landscape in Atlanta, and we are just getting started. 

In October of this year, JumpSpark announced its first foray into grant giving with the Spark Collaboration Grants. Collaboration is essential for a building the culture of innovation needed to raise the level of engagement for our community teens. Therefore, we offered $1000 grants for any educator, professional or organization that met the following requirements: 

  • Innovative teen (9th-12th grade) programming that expands the current programmatic landscape. 
  • Ideas that rethink what it means to prepare Jewish teens for life. 
  • Engaging and unique collaborations with Jewish or secular partners. 
  • Spaces that are pluralistic and radically welcoming. 
  • High-level Jewish learning and community building opportunities 

Out of the proposals we received, JumpSpark is funding 6 amazing new collaborations for Atlanta’s teens in the 2018-2019 school year. These collaborations bring together 11 Jewish organizations in our city and have the potential to engage 1000+ of our community teens. 

In addition to $1,000, grant winners will receive programmatic support, educational consultation and marketing assistance from JumpSpark.

Congratulations to the recipients!

Winners: NFTY-SAR & The Temple

Program: Jewish Values at NFTY-SAR Fall Kallah
The first of these grantees to run the first week in November, this program brought 200 teens to Atlanta’s premier cultural institutions including The Center for Civil and Human Rights, the Georgia Aquarium, the World of Coke and CNN to see how Jewish values are reflected in our city.

Adam Griff, Senior Regional Director for NFTY-SAR said, “We were lucky and fortunate to partner with JumpSpark, and the Spark grant we received allowed us to do this innovative, off-site programming.”

Winners: NFTY-SAR & BBYO

Program: Teen Micro-Grant Fellowship
These two youth organizations are offering their Spark Grant to teams of NFTY & BBYO members who will work in partnership to create new programs for their less engaged peers. Teens in the program will be mentored by professional staff and receive training to learn how to develop and implement their ideas.

Winners: NFTY-SAR & 7 Atlanta Reform Congregations

Program: Spark Ambassadors
This Spark Grant is providing scholarships for teens to be Atlanta Spark Ambassadors to the 2019 NFTY Convention; after they return, each Ambassador will be responsible for hosting a pop-up event to bring an element of what they learned or or were inspired by at NFTY Convention to their peers.

Winners: NFTY-SAR & Hillels of Georgia

Program: Ma’avar at NFTY-SAR Spring Kallah
NFTY is partnering with Hillels of Georgia to fund guest speakers at NFTY-SAR Spring Kallah and elevate the opportunities for high school juniors and seniors as they transition, or  ma’avar, to  college.

Winners: American Jewish Committee (AJC) Atlanta and Southeast Jewish Camps

Program: AJC LFT at Camp
AJC and four Southeast camps (Barney Medintz, Coleman, Judaea and Ramah Darom) will create a one-time Jewish and Israel advocacy program for high school campers modeled after AJC’s Leaders for Tomorrow (LFT) year-long Israel advocacy and leadership training course.

Winners: The Weber School & 6 Points Sports Academy

Program: Women’s Sports Clinic
Weber and 6 Points Sports will partner to run a day-long sports clinic for teenage females in the Atlanta area, offering different sport options and bringing in professional coaches to help lead the girls through skills, drills and leadership training sessions.

Seeing the amazing impact micro-grants could have in our community, JumpSpark is stepping it up with our next project: large-scale strategic investments into the Jewish teen ecosystem called Spark Grants that can create new programs, fund new initiatives, support programmatic growth or rethink existing models.

Do you think you’re sitting on the next big thing for Atlanta? Are you ready to finally take that risk you’ve been dreaming of? Let’s think big and build something together! Apply at


Self-Expression and the Confidence to Make Change

By JumpSpark

Our second meeting for the Strong Women Fellowship was centered around self-expression, in which we also discussed female and youth empowerment.

As teenage girls, all of us who attended have struggled with expressing our true selves at some point, whether that be religion, sexuality, political beliefs, looks, etc.

Anna Wynne

Before we went to the book talk to hear Emma Gray › and Alison Yarrow › speak, we got to have a more intimate conversation with Emma. When we talked to Emma, we got to learn about her life and how she got to where she is today as a senior editor at The Huffington Post. It was really cool for me to get to know someone like her on a more personal level, rather than just knowing of her as someone who has this amazing job and has published an amazing book.

She was able to give us advice about how it is okay to not know what you want to be when you’re a teenager and how even being a camp counselor through college rather than participating in fancy internships is okay, because no matter what, you’ll be able to figure out who you are, what you want to do, and find your place in society. I feel like that advice spoke to me and the other Strong Women fellows very personally, as many of us attend summer camp and want to be able to work on staff at those camps, but are often told that in the later years of college, you should be focusing on your career rather than being a camp counselor; Emma is living proof that doing things you enjoy before becoming a full time adult is completely okay.

If I don’t help to make change, then who will?


After talking to Emma about her life, book, and favorite Netflix shows, we got to  have our own intimate conversation about being heard in society as young, Jewish women. During our conversation, I learned that I share a lot of common ground with the other fellows and feel even more connected to them now.

At the book talk that we attended after our other activities, I felt like I got to be at an in-person podcast. I learned so much about empowering myself and others, feminism today and where it originally started many years ago, and about what I can do to get my voice heard. The facts, opinions, and humor that Emma and Alison shared during the program led me to realize I’m not alone in what I believe in. No one is, really. It made me realize that I can help to make change right now and don’t have to wait until I’m able to vote. It made me realize that this nation is forever evolving and I need to celebrate all the little victories that I experience every day because it’s those that help to make a difference one day. If I don’t help to make change, who will?

It made me realize just how important young voices are, because my voice, the other Strong Women fellows’ voices, and youth voices every where are the voices of tomorrow. I left our meeting last night more empowered than I have felt in a long time and I feel as though I now have more confidence to express my true self and hope to instill that confidence in those around me. •


2019 Strong Women cohort with author Emma Gray

Jewish Teen Education and Engagement Funder Collaborative

By JumpSpark

First published by the Jim Joseph Foundation ›

Teens today are impacted by monumental sociological forces and challenges. With this understanding, and powered by research and data, the Jewish Teen Education and Engagement Funder Collaborative develops, nurtures, and scales innovative new approaches to teen engagement. In this unprecedented collaboration of national and local funders, ten participating communities are united by a paradigm shift in the approach to this work that demands that teen educators and leaders now ask, “how can our work help this teen thrive as a human being in today’s complex and challenging world?”

The Funder Collaborative and its communities look to answer this question every day. They come together—virtually and in person—to share lessons learned with each other and to identify the most relevant lessons to share with others. Recently, 20 implementers and professional development professionals came together in Austin, TX for three days. They wanted to learn directly from that dynamic city, a hotbed of creativity and entrepreneurship. Participants had a private workshop with the founder of Storybar to learn what makes a great story and to learn how they can integrate storytelling into their work. The Collaborative also met with Shalom Austin to hear about Jewish life in Austin and to share highlights about the experiences of the ten communities, so that their learnings go beyond the Collaborative.

What I value most about the Implementer Convenings is the opportunity to network with my fellow Implementers. The relationships, both personal and professional, we are forming because of the opportunities we are given to get together are crucial to the success of our work, in my opinion. Because of the convenings we are more than a group of implementers we are a community. No matter the location, our time together always inspires and motivates me to take our learnings and try new strategies in San Diego. Out of all the learnings I took away from Austin, I am most excited to experiment with influencers and campaigns to drive traction and awareness to the awesome work we are doing!
– Rebecka Handler, Director of the San Diego Jewish Teen Initiative

While the communities each have unique characteristics and singular elements of their engagement efforts, certain trends are prevalent across all the initiatives and highlight their important work:

Communities put teens in the driver’s seat of their own experiences because today’s teens are comfortable finding and using their voice to make change. Funder Collaborative community initiatives enable teens to architect their own journeys in a variety ways: by creating programming for their peers, in reaching out to their friends to make sure they’re aware of opportunities, and even making decisions about major grants for teen programming.

Discovery is a critical part of engagement. Teens, parents and even Jewish professionals say it’s difficult to find out about local Jewish opportunities. By developing online portals and searchable digital databases, the communities are amplifying the marketing power of all local organizations who post their events, and creating genuine value for the community.

Success means building and nurturing an ecosystem. The Funder Collaborative communities see first-hand that a dynamic ecosystem surrounds the teens themselves: community partners, supervisors, lay leaders, professionals and parents all directly and indirectly impact teen engagement. Especially in their the early teen years, parents require targeted marketing and outreach. Critically, the teen initiatives recognize that parents themselves often seek a supportive community to support their parenting, and many of the initiatives now offer workshops and community-building activities for parents.

Creating lasting change requires skilled and capable educators. After uniting around a new paradigm of teen-centric engagement, the initiatives quickly understood that developing a cadre of knowledgeable and capable educators and youth professionals would be critical to achieving their desired outcomes.

Wellness is fundamental to achieving positive outcomes for teens. Focusing on

Jewish Teens in Atlanta Alt Text

Jewish Teens in Atlanta

the whole teen, including their mental health and overall wellness, is emerging as foundational to effective Jewish teen education and engagement. Several communities offer workshops or conferences on adolescent development and family systems, deeper understanding of the social forces impacting teens today, and specialized training for educators in youth mental health first aid. By addressing and elevating teen wellness, Funder Collaborative communities are pioneering a new, holistic view of engagement work, with healthy, balanced and resilient teens at the center.

More than five years ago, the ten communities and funders came together to co-invest in teen engagement efforts that would be informed by up-to-the-minute research and data. As the initiatives evolve and continue to be informed by learnings, the landscape of teen engagement continues to grow—and the outcomes are increasingly positive.

Want to learn how your community can get involved? Contact Sara Allen, Collaborative Director, at ›.

The Jim Joseph Foundation is one of many funders invested in the Collaborative. For more information, visit ›.

Spark Notes: Telling Our Failure Stories

By JumpSpark

I recently had two amazing experiences that changed my beliefs on failure.

Kelly Cohen, JumpSpark Director

The first week of October I traveled to Austin to meet with leaders and representatives from the nine other Jewish Teen Initiatives that make up the Jewish Teen Education & Engagement Funder Collaborative. Together we participated in a Failure Lab that’s led corporate failure training for companies such as Steelcase, Dell, Goodwill, and the University of Michigan.

Monday, October 15th JumpSpark Professional hosted a Creativity & Collaboration workshop led by Dad’s Garage. Using very low-stakes improv games and not putting anyone on the spot, our facilitator Whitney led us in exercises to wake us up and shake off any case of the Mondays while also practicing creative thinking, listening, and partner/group collaboration; she expertly weaved in anecdotes and actionable steps we can take to integrate these learnings into our everyday work. As Whitney demonstrated at the workshop, in improv when you fail everyone claps, celebrates your courage, and moves on.

Three things I took from both these programs is that:

  1. Everyone fails
  2. Failure is necessary for growth and innovation.
  3. The real test is how we respond to it and how we tell our failure story.

Not only do we need to fail, we need to shorten our failure cycles, moving quickly from failure to trying again. Shortened cycles lead to more learning and ultimately more innovation. JumpSpark, as a hub of teen innovation in Jewish Atlanta, has to be telling its failure story not only so we can better serve our community but also so we can model vulnerability.

Our last JumpSpark Professional event – the Creativity & Collaboration workshop mentioned above – was dangerously close to being a “failure”. We didn’t get the turn out we’d hoped, and was nearly canceled. In order for us to better serve you, we need to know why.

I invite you to share anonymous feedback about why this workshop or any previous events didn’t pique your interest. Was the location or time inconvenient? Are team-building events not your thing, or did the mention of “improv” sound unappealing? Was cost an issue, or did you not even hear about it? Or is JumpSpark Professional simply not speaking to your needs as a resource to build up Jewish professionals in Atlanta? I value your truthful feedback and perspective about your needs and the needs of the professional community. If you don’t wish to be anonymous, I welcome you to email me directly and have a conversation.

82% of responses to the 2017-18 survey of Jewish Educators & Professionals in Atlanta said JumpSpark Professional added to their job satisfaction and built community. We want to build on that success by continuing to bring teen professionals together for meaningful networking and professional development. Please join us on Mon. Nov. 5th for a Networking Breakfast to unpack the data responses from the survey and envision how to use this data to shape the future of JumpSpark Pro and the Jewish teen landscape.

Thank you,

JumpSpark Announces Inaugural Cohort of Strong Women Fellowship

By JumpSpark

Jumpspark is proud to welcome 30 female-identifying Jewish teens in grades 9-12 representing 13 high schools and 9 synagogues in metro Atlanta to the inaugural cohort of the Strong Women Fellowship. The Strong Women: Know Them, Be Them Fellowship is a glass-ceiling shattering, educational cohort providing female-identifying Jewish teens in Atlanta with unparalleled access to strong women leaders, thinkers and voices shaping the world we live in today. Each month fellows will meet speakers, tour Atlanta organizations, and engage in relevant and empowering learning that speaks to what it means to be a woman in 2018, helps young women grapple with the obstacles they face, and prepares them to be the leaders they can be today and in the future.

Monthly guests include local female Jewish professionals and rabbis, as well as national female leaders. On October 23rd, Rachel Alterman Wallack, MSW, Founder and Mission Director of VOX ATL, will facilitate the orientation and initial meeting of the cohort. In November, in partnership with the Book Festival at the MJCCA, fellows will meet female Jewish authors Allison Yarrow and Emma Gray to learn how they authentically share their stories. In January, in partnership with SOJOURN, the cohort will explore identity, gender, and sexual diversity with Dr. Joy Ladin, professor at Stern College of Yeshiva University and nationally recognized speaker on transgender issues. For the full itinerary, visit

Applicants for the fellowship were asked to answer four essay questions: “Who is a Strong Woman you consider a role model and why?”, “What do you think is one of the main issues facing women today?”, What do you hope to gain by participating in this fellowship?”, and “What will you bring to this learning cohort requiring active participation and input from all members?”. The thoughtful answers submitted by the 30 young women that were accepted demonstrate intelligence and unique perspectives of various backgrounds, regions, and affiliations, representing the diverse Atlanta Jewish community.

The 2019 cohort members include:

  • Mya Artzi, North Springs Charter High School, Class of 2020
  • Lula Barracano, Decatur High School, Class of 2022
  • Téa Barton, Riverwood International Charter School, Class of 2021
  • Meredith Berger, Pope High School, Class of 2019
  • Emma Cohen, Woodward Academy, Class of 2022
  • Lauren Cohn, Riverwood International Charter School, Class of 2021
  • Rachel Cohn, Riverwood International Charter School, Class of 2021
  • Samantha Fitch, Woodward Academy, Class of 2020
  • Aiden Fladell, Riverwood International Charter School, Class of 2022
  • Sydney Fox, Riverwood International Charter School, Class of 2019
  • Marissa Goodman, Pace Academy, Class of 2022
  • Tamar Guggenheim, Riverwood International Charter School, Class of 2022
  • Katie Hurwitz, Johns Creek High School, Class of 2021
  • Rebecca Kann, Pace Academy, Class of 2022
  • Maya Laufer, Dunwoody High School, Class of 2022
  • Stella Mackler, Grady High School, Class of 2022
  • Macy Mannheimer, Milton High School, Class of 2021
  • Emma Nowitz, North Springs Charter High School, Class of 2022
  • Moira Poh, North Springs Charter High School, Class of 2022
  • Lilah Presser, The Weber School, Class of 2021
  • Ariel Raggs, Chamblee Charter High School, Class of 2021
  • Lulu Rosenberg, North Springs Charter High School, Class of 2022
  • Zoe Rosenberg, North Springs Charter High School, Class of 2020
  • Zoe Siegel, Riverwood International Charter School, Class of 2022
  • Lexi Silberman, Dunwoody High School, Class of 2020
  • Lili Stadler, The Weber School, Class of 2021
  • Lily Stoumen, Riverwood International Charter School, Class of 2021
  • Abigail Ventimiglia, North Gwinnett High School, Class of 2020
  • Rene Walter, Dunwoody High School, Class of 2021
  • Anna Wynne, Pope High School, Class of 2020

The Strong Women Fellowship aims to connect female-identifying Jewish teens with a local cohort community that values justice, equality, and girl power while equipping them with valuable leadership skills and resumé-building experience. The fellowship receives local support as an innovation initiative of the Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta, with additional grant funding for the fellowship from the Jewish Women’s Fund of Atlanta, and national funding from the Jim Joseph Foundation.

JumpSpark, Atlanta’s initiative for Jewish teen engagement, connects teens through immersive, interest-based experiences inspired by a Jewish lens. JumpSpark invests in teens and their ecosystem through resumé-building programs and social events, the “Navigating Parenthood” workshop series for parents of teens, JumpSpark Professional development and networking for youth educators, and community partnerships to boost collaboration and innovation. JumpSpark, one of ten communities in the Jewish Teen Education & Engagement Funder Collaborative, receives local support as an innovation initiative of the Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta and national funding from the Jim Joseph Foundation.

To learn more about JumpSpark visit

Spark Notes: A Word from our New Director

By JumpSpark

At JumpSpark our mission is “to connect Jewish teens through interest-based experiences inspired by a Jewish lens”, and we are doing this and so much more in Fall 2018.

Kelly Cohen
JumpSpark Director

As the new Director of this organization, I am proud of the wide range of new opportunities we are creating for Jewish teens, their families, and the educators in our community who serve teens. Whether you want to attend a one-time workshop, dig deeper with a series, or apply for our brand-new Strong Women Fellowship, we are striving to create experiences that meet you where you are regardless of passion, schedule, and geographic region.

I look forward to getting to know all of your in the year to come and to working together to create a rich Jewish teen landscape here in Atlanta.


Kelly Cohen
JumpSpark Director


Kelly Cohen has spent her career building meaningful, dynamic Jewish experiences for children, teens and adults. For the past six years, Kelly has served as the Lower School Judaic Studies Coordinator at The Alfred and Adele Davis Academy here in Atlanta. Prior to that Kelly lived in Jerusalem for four years, as a member of the 10th cohort of Pardes Educators Program. She holds a BA in Near Eastern and Judaic Studies from Brandeis University, and a Masters degree in Jewish Education from Hebrew College. 

Film Sheds Light On Teen Anxiety

By JumpSpark

By Bob Bahr
First published in the Atlanta Jewish Times › 

Last year Nanci Rosing’s son, Alex, was finishing up his bar mitzvah study and preparing for a celebratory trip to Alaska when his mother noticed a significant change in his personality. Although Alex was a good student and well-liked by his teachers and classmates at The Davis Academy, when he came home from school each day he was a different person.

He spent most of his time alone, in front of an iPad or computer screen, rarely speaking or interacting with his parents or an older brother, uninterested in sports or other after school activities.

For Nanci Rosing and her husband, Mark, the change in behavior was a red flag.

“His teacher and counselors were seeing a different kid than we saw at home,” she says, “but he wouldn’t admit to being anxious or upset. He would just say he was OK, but he wasn’t. We didn’t know how to help him.”

What she didn’t immediately realize was that her son was one of the millions of American children and adolescents who suffer from chronic anxiety disorders. While a certain amount of anxiety is normal in children and adults and is an important component of our survival instinct, anxiety disorders are the nation’s most common mental illness, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America. It estimates that one in eight American children suffers from serious anxiety.

It may take the form of sudden panic attacks or separation anxiety, an obsessive-compulsive and post-traumatic stress disorder, or in the case of Alex Rosing, severe anxiety associated with fear of social situations during which he was expected to interact with others in an unfamiliar situation.

An estimated 80 percent of young people with a diagnosable anxiety disorder were not getting treatment, according to a 2016 study of mental health in children by the Child Mind Institute. The reasons varied, but in many cases, parents just don’t recognize their child is in trouble.

Jenny Howe, a psychotherapist who helps teens overcome anxiety, narrates the film, Angst. She will lead a discussion at the MJCCA Aug. 19 with parents and professionals.

Jenny Howe is a psychotherapist with nearly 20 years of experience working with troubled youth. She said early treatment can sometimes head off much more serious problems later.

“Often anxiety is an indication that there are other mental health issues happening that may not have been diagnosed yet. So if treated early, it can often be preventable for a lot of other mental health issues.”

Later this month a new program at the Marcus JCC sponsored by JumpSpark, a teen initiative, and a number of community organizations, aims to raise awareness about the danger of chronic anxiety in teenagers here, and how parents can get more involved in dealing with the problem.

The schedule features a pair of film screenings and discussions of a recent documentary, “Angst,” which examines the causes and effects of anxiety in teens and young adults and how parents can work with their children to get help.

The discussion will launch a yearlong series of programs for Jewish teens and their parents presented by JumpSpark, which is beginning the second year of a five-year program in Atlanta.

It is supported by a $2.1 million grant from the Jim Joseph Foundation to develop a Jewish Teen Education and Engagement Initiative.  The grant is to enable Atlanta teens to explore, through a Jewish lens, their experiences in the community.

The executive director of JumpSpark is Kelly Cohen, who formerly worked at The Davis Academy. She believes that this year’s kickoff program is particularly important.

“We felt that dealing with teen anxiety was an important conversation to have right at the beginning of school year so that everyone has an awareness of the resources and tools to help teens navigate the anxieties of what it means to be a teen today.”

The “Angst” documentary highlights, in part, the experiences of Michael Phelps. During his legendary career as an Olympic swimmer he won a record-breaking 28 medals, more than any other single athlete in the history of the games.

What many people don’t know was how Phelps struggled several times along his Olympic career with serious issues of chronic anxiety and depression.

He was quoted recently as saying, “I remember sitting in my room for four or five days not wanting to be alive, not talking with anyone. That was the struggle for me … I reached that point where I finally realized I couldn’t do it alone.”

Athletes may be more prone to mental pressures than the general population, according to a 2012 study of German athletes by the Technical University in Munich. The same may also be true for teens in the Jewish community.

“There’s an expectation of success that goes along with the ethnicity,” said Howe, who narrates the documentary and will help lead a discussion after the screening.

“Kids — and I’ve worked with a lot of Jewish kids – believe that in order to be loved, whether this is rational or not, they need to be successful, they need to perform.”

But those considerations are in addition to other influences, such as the internet and social media, which make growing up so stressful in modern society.

“Anxiety,” she notes, “has been on the rise over the last 10 years. Because of the influence of social media, teens have the ability to compare themselves constantly to others that in previous years, they didn’t know before.  So, with all these comparisons there is the possibility that, instantly, they feel inferior.”

Nanci and Mark Rosing’s concerns about the seriousness of their son’s anxiety disorder led them last summer to an 11-week program in Utah specially designed for young people with treatable anxiety.

During the past school year, Alex has been a student at WayPoint Academy in Huntsville, Utah, a residential program that works with young people under professional supervision to tackle the challenges of anxiety.

It was a major commitment, in many ways, but Nanci feels it paid off.

“He engages, he looks in someone’s eyes and talks to them. You can see a sense of confidence. He can now do a lot of things that would even make me uncomfortable. He’s learned a skill that hopefully he can bring home.”

He’s coming home this month to resume his studies at The Weber School, to face what his parents feel will be a much brighter future and finish up work on that bar mitzvah he never had.

“Angst – Raising Awareness Around Anxiety” will be presented by JumpSpark at the Marcus JCC theater, Sunday Aug. 19 from 3:00 to 5:00 p.m. for parents and professionals and on Wednesday, Aug. 22 from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. for teens. For tickets and more information,

children in a circle - jewish atlanta

JumpSpark Values Teen Voices

By JumpSpark

By Nina Rubin
First published by the Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta › 

It’s a dynamic time for JumpSpark, Atlanta’s initiative for Jewish teen engagement. We are excited to announce that Kelly Cohen, a Jewish education rock star and the former JumpSpark Director of Education, is now Director of JumpSpark. Kelly will be working closely with Jori Mendel, Federation’s VP of Innovation, to build creatively on our strategic investment in teens. Teen input is an essential part of JumpSpark’s evolution.

For example, at JumpSpark’s week-long marketing internship with 3 Owl Media, a digital ad agency, teen interns developed prototypes and strategies for boosting teen engagement. After a week at 3 Owl, immersed in branding, prototyping and strategy, their final presentations were impressive. They shared prototypes for events they believe will attract their peers — they envisioned a Night Out for teens, a multi-stage live music event to be held at a camp, and a program of weekly and monthly events that create “safe space” for Jewish teens. “Just like these prototypes, JumpSpark is a startup,” said Kelly Cohen. “We launched with ideas about connecting with teens and we’re refining our strategy as we build our brand. It’s about valuing teen voices, telling kids that they are experts on their needs, and exposing them to experiences through a Jewish lens, to widen their world.” Join JumpSpark’s mailing list to learn about upcoming fall programs.

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