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Insights on Building Honest Communication Between Funders and Grantees

By JumpSpark
By Aaron Saxe, first published by the Jim Joseph Foundation ›

If you’ve seen one foundation…you’ve seen one foundation.

This common refrain in the nonprofit world is a reminder of the singularity of every funder. In turn, with this premise, grantees, potential grantees, consultants, and others spend significant time and resources getting to know each funders’ preferences, habits, and other traits. Doing this for one funder is challenging; for multiple funders even more so. And, of course, doing it while also continuing to carry out the everyday work of the organization is most challenging.

Those on the funder side gain a new perspective when we step back and try to put ourselves in the shoes of grantees. We gain compassion for the professionals at these organizations and the challenges and windy paths they navigate. And we exhibit humility when we say, clearly, that the outcomes of our actions toward them don’t always align with our intentions.

Two recent interactions of mine with grantee-partners demonstrate this—and represent a moment of learning for the Jim Joseph Foundation. Our starting point for a funder-grantee relationship is a desire for frequent, relatively informal correspondence to build a relationship premised on partnership. Our mentality is that we—the funder and grantee-partner—are in this work together. These types of interactions, we believe, will create a level of comfort for the grantee-partner that makes sharing challenges and shortcomings easier. When those occur, as they almost always do to some degree, we can problem-solve together.

Yet, these two grantee-partner interactions opened my eyes to the very real challenges with this approach. One grantee-partner said they were not in touch with me for a much longer period of time than I would have expected because they were not comfortable sharing a half-baked idea regarding the Foundation-supported initiative. The other grantee-partner said they lacked the confidence—they even felt like imposters in their work despite strong momentum and learning outcomes—to proactively maintain ongoing communication with the Foundation. As the funder representative, I’m a bit embarrassed to admit that my first inclination was to question why both grantee-partners felt this way. However, after a short time, I began to reflect on the reasons these grantee-partners hesitated to interact with the Foundation in the way we hope all grantee-partners do. I quickly recognized that this was as much of a learning opportunity for the Foundation as it was for the non-profit executives.

Here are some takeaways that we think are beneficial to share and digest with the field:

The funder-grantee relationship will not look and feel the exact same across the board.

Certainly we still strongly believe that relational grantmaking is the ideal for which to strive. Yet that ideal is easier to achieve with some partners than others. True relational grantmaking means taking cues from the grantee-partner on the structure, tone, and frequency of the engagement they want to have. While we set some of these parameters, we also can listen more and have the listening inform the tenor of the relationship.

We need to be more cognizant about the backgrounds and perspectives of the various organizations with whom we work.

For example, a decades-long leader of a major legacy organization that already received multiple Foundation grants approaches a conversation with us differently than a new leader of a young organization that just received its first Foundation grant. And some leaders may be new to institutional giving altogether. Acting like those differences do not exist—and understanding how those differences influence one’s inclination to share challenges—is a mistake on our part and simply an unfair expectation to set across the breadth of our portfolio.

We need to recognize that grantee-partners are corresponding in different ways with different funders.

Other funders with whom our grantee-partners work do not necessarily want the same approach as we do to communication and relationship-building with grantee-partners. It’s no easy task for grantee-partners to be sure, and they can find themselves in particularly tricky spots if they are speaking with multiple funders at the same time.

Communication is key.

Lastly, these recent conversations don’t mean we need to abandon the style of grantmaking that has led to many fruitful Foundation-grantee relationships. Our style is aligned with our priorities and principles and it has evolved this way over more than ten years for good reason. Perhaps, though, we need to better explain early on in relationships with grantee-partners why we take this approach, what it is intended to cultivate, and more directly what we hope they gain from our more frequent and informal correspondence than other funders may take. Importantly, it requires patience early on as relationships deepen and comfort builds.

We share this now with an understanding that the Jewish philanthropic sector is in the midst of a particular moment of change. Over recent years, major funders have or will sunset and other, newer funders will look to fill voids. Our field is also in the midst of numerous leadership changes among nonprofit organizations; those new leaders are younger and come from more diverse backgrounds. Their lived experiences mean they may inherently have different approaches and ideas about effective grantee-funder communications. Simply, increasingly new people will continue to occupy the funder-grantee roles in the coming years. As we move forward, we take this fact and our recent experiences and related learnings into account. The funder-grantee relationship is unique in every situation—so too are the communications that best suit each interaction.

Aaron Saxe is a Senior Program Officer at the Jim Joseph Foundation.

Lost Tribe Esports: Putting the ‘Jewish’ in Gaming

By JumpSpark

What if your teenager or pre-teen could engage in the video gaming they love – while connecting with other Jewish kids in a safe, mensch-y environment in which to make friends? Now they can.

If you have a teenager or pre-teen in the house, you know how popular video games are with Generation Z. Gaming is part of the landscape for today’s teens — and has become, for many of them, a central part of their social life. And it’s here to stay:

Over 130 colleges have varsity esports programs, according to the National Association of Collegiate Sports, with most offering scholarships to attract the best talent. With brands like Disney, Amazon, Coke, and Nike investing billions in the space, it’s clear that esports will be part of the Generation Z experience for decades to come.

We created Lost Tribe Esports to give teens a chance to play the games they love in a Jewish environment. This builds on a long tradition of sports, camps and more in the Jewish community – meeting kids where they are to engage them in the community. Our founder, leaders and supporters are steeped in this experience and tradition.

Lost Tribe Esports is a safe platform for Jewish teens to connect with each other through video game competition—in a fun environment informed by Jewish values. We are a nonprofit organization, leveraging the popularity of gaming to bring teens together and foster positive Jewish identity and friendships. 

With generous support from JumpSpark, and in conjunction with the Marcus JCC and The Weber School, Lost Tribe Esports is launching in Atlanta this fall, with a series of online tournaments and in-person events.

How we keep things fun and safe:

  • We combine virtual, play-from-home tournaments with in-person social/gaming events, leading teens toward real, in-person friendships with Jewish peers.
  • We do not play “shooter” games. We play sports-based, strategy, and fantasy games like NBA2K, Minecraft, Super Smash Bros., Rocket League, etc. 
  • All communications in our online events are monitored by an adult
    staff person.
  • Our code of conduct is informed by Jewish values; participants are expected to act like a mensch.

To learn more about Lost Tribe Esports and to see our latest schedule of Atlanta-area events, please visit our website, or contact

We look forward to working with families throughout Atlanta and welcome your questions and input. Together, we will offer teens a great new gaming experience, as they build Jewish friendships to last a lifetime. •

Upcoming Lost Tribe Esports events:

JumpSpark Brings Moving Traditions to Atlanta

By JumpSpark

While a majority of Jewish teens will become b’nai mitzvah, many drop out of Jewish life soon after, leaving the Jewish community just when they’re figuring out who they are. To bridge that gap and not lose teens on their Jewish journey, JumpSpark is partnering with area synagogues and Jewish organizations to launch Moving Traditions teen groups and incorporate educational curriculum into existing programs throughout the city this school year. 

Moving Traditions connects the issues teens care about most – from body image, friendship, social and academic pressure, romance, and sexuality, to enduring Jewish values. The content fosters positive peer-to-peer relationships with trained educators and mentors, and inspires an ongoing connection to Jewish community.

Shevet, for teen boys in grades 8-12, reimagines the transition from boy to young man and gives teen boys a safe space to explore masculinity, friendship, and sense of purpose that Judaism has to offer. A B’nai Mitzvah program helps 6th and 7th graders and their parents develop strong communication and empathy as they prepare to become and parent a teen. Learn more about the programs and how to enroll your teen at an info session with Moving Traditions leadership and JumpSpark on Wednesday, October 30th.

Learn more about the Moving Traditions info session ››

JumpSpark Breaks New Ground in Second Year of Strong Women Fellowship

By JumpSpark

Jumpspark’s Strong Women Fellowship, an empowering educational cohort for Jewish teens in grades 9-12, has more than doubled in size and expanded programming to feature a leadership track, 9 neighborhood community groups, and more connection to Israel through a partnership with the Jewish Federation of Atlanta’s Shinshinim program. The 59 fellows participating in 2019-20 represent 18 high schools and 17 synagogues from the Atlanta metro.

The 2019-20 Strong Women fellows. Note: some participants not pictured.

The Strong Women Fellowship, launched in fall 2018 with an initial cohort of 28 teens, provides unparalleled access to strong women leaders, thinkers and voices shaping their world. Each month fellows meet guest speakers, build relationships in neighborhood community groups, and grapple with the issues facing young women. The program is funded by the Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta, Jewish Women’s Fund of Atlanta, and the Jim Joseph Foundation.

After her experience in the fellowship last year, Tamar Guggenheim said, “I grew as a woman and became a stronger and prouder Jewish woman, too. Women across the globe have been using their voices to advocate for what they believe in, and through this fellowship, I too, have been given tools to do the same in my Jewish community and hopefully across the world.”

Dr. Tarece Johnson

Monthly guests include local female Jewish professionals and leaders, as well as national leaders and influencers, that speak on relevant topics such as women in politics, diet culture, mental health, representation of Jewish women of color, and more. Guests this year include Lindy Miller (business woman and former GA Public Service Commission candidate), Whitney Fisch, MSW (Jewhungry blogger and teen advocate), Dr. Tarece Johnson (author, activist, and multicultural expert), and more. For the full itinerary, visit

With the help of Rachel Alterman Wallack of VOX ATL, Atlanta’s home for uncensored teen publishing and self-expression, JumpSpark has developed a robust Peer Leader program offering returning fellows leadership roles, tailored training and group facilitation resources, event planning experience, and resume-building skills and opportunities.

The 2019-20 Peer Leaders include:

Peer Leaders at training in 2019 with Rachel Alterman Wallack.
  • Mya Artzi
  • Téa Barton
  • Emma Cohen
  • Lauren Cohn
  • Rachel Cohn
  • Sydney Fox
  • Maya Laufer
  • Stella Mackler
  • Macy Mannheimer
  • Emma Nowitz
  • Moira Poh
  • Lilah Presser
  • Lulu Rosenberg
  • Zoe Rosenberg
  • Lexi Silberman
  • Lili Stadler
  • Abigail Ventimiglia
  • Rene Walter

The 2019-20 Strong Women fellows are (*denotes returning participant):

  • Lila Arnold, Lakeside HS c/o 2022
  • Mya Artzi*, North Springs Charter HS c/o 2020
  • Aura Avrunin, Capstone Academy c/o 2022
  • Téa Barton*, Riverwood Int’l School c/o 2021
  • Hailey Bayer, Dunwoody HS c/o 2022
  • Eva Beresin, Riverwood Int’l School c/o 2023
  • Mollie Binderman, North Springs HS c/o 2023
  • Rachel Binderman, The Weber School c/o 2022
  • Emma Cohen*, Woodward Academy c/o 2022
  • Morgan Cohen, Riverwood Int’l School c/o 2021
  • Lauren Cohn*, Riverwood Int’l School c/o 2021
  • Rachel Cohn*, Riverwood Int’l School c/o 2021
  • Gabby Cope, Lakeside HS c/o 2023
  • Sarah Dowling, The Lovett School c/o 2022
  • Sydney Fox, Riverwood Int’l School c/o 2020
  • Alexa Freedman, The Galloway School c/o 2022
  • Ruby Frohman, Dunwoody HS c/o 2023
  • Marissa Goodman*, Pace Academy c/o 2022
  • Tamar Guggenheim*, Riverwood Int’l School c/o 2022
  • Julia Harris, Dunwoody HS c/o 2023
  • Amelia Heller, The Weber School c/o 2023
  • Emma Hurwitz, Johns Creek HS c/o 2023
  • Katie Hurwitz*, Johns Creek HS c/o 2021
  • Kayla Jacobs, Pope HS c/o 2021
  • Sara Jacobs, Johns Creek HS c/o 2023
  • Rebecca Kann*, Pace Academy c/o 2022
  • Phoebe Kaplan, Riverwood Int’l School c/o 2023
  • Sophie Kieffer, The Galloway School c/o 2020
  • Nicole Khalifa, Atlanta Shinshinim
  • Maya Laufer*, Dunwoody HS c/o 2022
  • Annie Levy, The Galloway School c/o 2022
  • Stella Mackler*, Grady HS c/o 2022
  • Macy Mannheimer*, Milton HS c/o 2021
  • Kira Mermelstein, Atlanta Jewish Academy c/o 2021
  • Emma Nowitz*, North Springs HS c/o 2022
  • Moira Poh*, North Springs HS c/o 2022
  • Lilah Presser*, The Weber School c/o 2021
  • Ariel Raggs*, Chamblee Charter HS c/o 2021
  • Miriam Raggs, The Weber School c/o 2023
  • Lulu Rosenberg*, North Springs HS c/o 2022
  • Skylar Rosenberg, Lakeside HS c/o 2023
  • Zoe Rosenberg*, North Springs HS c/o 2020
  • Jenna Sailor, Dunwoody HS c/o 2023
  • Peyton Schwartz, Pope HS c/o 2023
  • Blair Seigle, Dunwoody HS c/o 2023
  • Lily Shulimson, North Oconee HS c/o 2023
  • Zoe Siegel*, Riverwood Int’l School c/o 2022
  • Lexi Silberman*, Dunwoody HS c/o 2020
  • Hannah Sokolik, Dunwoody HS c/o 2021
  • Lili Stadler*, The Weber School c/o 2021
  • Lily Stoumen*, Riverwood Int’l School c/o 2021
  • Abigail Ventimiglia*, N. Gwinnett HS c/o 2020
  • Rene Walter*, Dunwoody HS c/o 2021
  • Yael Weber, Atlanta Shinshinim
  • Rachel Winner, North Springs HS c/o 2023
  • Anna Wynne*, Pope HS c/o 2020
  • Noa Young, North Springs HS c/o 2023
  • Audrey Zeff, Grady HS c/o 2023
  • Alex Zelcer, Woodward Academy c/o 2021

JumpSpark, Atlanta’s hub for Jewish teen innovation and engagement, connects and invests in the community to create more meaningful and defining moments for Jewish teens in Atlanta. Serving teens, their parents, and educators that work with teens, JumpSpark offers empowering teen programs, Navigating Parenthood workshops, professional development, and grants. JumpSpark is supported as an innovation initiative of the Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta, by the Jim Joseph Foundation, and by generous donors in the community.

joe effron - jewish atlanta

Spark Note: The Power of Professional Development

By JumpSpark
Annie Fortnow, Engagement Manager

As I entered the first gathering of JPRO19: What Connects Us, the JPRO Network’s conference for Jewish professionals across North America, the room felt abuzz with excitement for the next three days of professional growth and learning. Over five hundred professionals gathered in Detroit to explore pressing topics in the Jewish world today and create connections that would improve our work and trajectory in the Jewish professional sphere. I had the privilege of getting to attend the conference with twenty other Jewish professionals from across Atlanta and to truly apply our learning throughout the experience to our work back home.

To kick off the conference, we embarked on an immersive experience, using Detroit as our classroom to explore innovative ways to approach building Jewish community. I hopped on a bus to the Bethel Community Transformation Center, where I learned from Pastor Aramis Hinds and Rabbi Ariana Silverman about the importance of relationship building in engaging in critical conversations across difference. Thinking back to my work in Atlanta at JumpSpark, I can see the ways we utilize relationship building in our work engaging teens, parents, and professionals. Before working with any of our constituents, we ensure we have built a relationship of trust and compassion so that we may best serve the community and its needs. After visiting the Bethel Community Transformation Center, I can see the value of utilizing our relationship building methodology to expand our work in Atlanta to reach a wider audience and build community and dialogue with a diverse cross-section of our city.

On the second day of the conference, we had the opportunity to attend workshops with educators of our choosing. I found myself at the “Designing Organizational Culture” workshop with UpStart. The facilitators encouraged us to think carefully about our organizational values and apply these to intentionally thinking about culture. As a professional at JumpSpark, I feel lucky to work on the Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta innovation team and work for an organization with such clear values that we live every day through our work. One of the Federation’s values, fearlessness, truly drives JumpSpark’s day-to-day work in trying out bold, innovative ideas in our community without being afraid to fail. Through the UpStart workshop, I began to think about how to apply this value intentionally to all aspects of my work, from planning a program to building a relationship over coffee.

This past week, I learned the power of professional development. I left the JPRO conference feeling refreshed and energized to start the year with confidence and new ideas to bring back to my team. Seeing what my own professional learning can do for my work energizes me for the strides JumpSpark is taking in building up professional development for youth professionals in Atlanta.

While I grew as a professional at the JPRO conference, JumpSpark hosted over 25 Jewish professionals at its first JumpSpark professional event of the year, Relational Engagement with Rabbi Lydia Medwin at The Temple.

Next month, JumpSpark is hosting a session on Outcome Based Program Design, where professionals will get to learn from UpStart, as I did at JPRO, on designing programs with their goals in mind. After the session, professionals will have the opportunity to participate in a professional coworking day to network and build community.

In the coming year, JumpSpark will be hosting one professional development day per month, with topics ranging from social media and bullying to training in teen mental health first aid. We cannot be more excited to both provide quality training and empower our Jewish youth professionals and to build community and connection in the Jewish professional sphere. I hope to see you at one of our JumpSpark Professional events soon!

Robbins Steering Federation Into Future

By JumpSpark

First published by the Atlanta Jewish Times ›

Writing about the Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta inspires metaphors.

Certainly, the Federation is the hub of a philanthropic wheel, its spokes representing the money it raises and distributes, the programs that connect elements of a far-flung Jewish community, and the links it fosters with Jewish and non-Jewish groups.

Think of JFGA, founded in 1905 as the Atlanta Federation of Jewish Charities, as an analog device retooled for the digital world.

Three years ago, shortly before Eric Robbins was hired as its president and CEO, the Federation was described in this space as “an aircraft carrier, an enormous craft that requires time to pivot in the water.”

Eric Robbins, JFGA CEO

After three years at the helm, Robbins feels that the pivot is underway. “I think we have a very clear direction. I think we have the right talent, both volunteer and professional, on board to get us there. And we have some momentum,” he said during an interview at Federation headquarters in midtown Atlanta.

Philanthropy involves channeling money into good works, so any discussion of the Federation, which is a 501(c)(3) non-profit under the federal tax code, starts with money raised to meet three priorities labeled as: Ensuring a Jewish future, Caring for Jews in need, and Strengthening Jewish community.

For fiscal year 2019, which ended June 30, donations to the Federation totaled more than $19 million, an increase from $17.5 million in fiscal 2018. There were 300 first-timers among 3,559 donors, and 8 percent of donors gave more than $10,000.

In late July, the Federation will announce how about two-thirds of the money raised in fiscal 2019 will be allocated in fiscal 2020, which began July 1. About 65 percent will go to organizations in Atlanta and the United States with the other 35 percent designated to connect with Jews globally, including in Israel and in the former Soviet Union.

A portion of the money allocated for Israel remains in Atlanta to fund the shinshinim, young Israelis who have graduated high school but not yet begun military service. They come to Atlanta to share their knowledge and love of their homeland at synagogues, day schools, and other programs in the Jewish community.

If the general allocations are “old school,” analog Federation, the Innovation Fund is the new, digital world. Several times a year that fund, increased this year to $440,000, awards grants to support new and emerging efforts to enhance Jewish life in Atlanta.

A third funding vehicle selects a set of recipients for what it calls targeted philanthropy. This past year funding was earmarked for PJ Library, a program providing books for Jewish families; overnight camping scholarships; JumpSpark, a teen programming initiative; and Repair the World, which provides service opportunities.

“We don’t just exist to fundraise for the community. If that’s all there is you could argue there is no relevance for us,” Robbins said. “But who is planning for the future of the Jewish community? Who is bringing the community together? Who is handling security on a community-wide perspective? Who is helping to build relationships with the non-Jewish community?”

After several more questions, Robbins ended with, “Who is beginning to think about what this community has to look like, not only tomorrow, but what it should look like in 25 or 30 or 50 years?”

According to the Federation’s fiscal 2018 tax filing, the most recent available, Robbins was paid $394,641. The staff he oversees has 58 full-time and 12 part-time employees.

“I think Eric has done a good job of creating priorities and bringing people together around a shared and common vision,” said Dov Wilker, Atlanta regional director of the American Jewish Committee. “He has done the best job of any Federation CEO in recent memory of being the convener in the community,” Wilker said, mentioning as an example the trip to Israel several months ago by 70 religious and lay leaders.

“It’s a sacred moment to be in this role at this time,” Robbins said at the start of his remarks to the Federation’s recent annual meeting in June, held in the gymnasium of the MJCCA.

Asked a couple of weeks later, Robbins said that by “sacred” he meant the opportunity to build and sustain the Jewish future. “I’m not sure that there’s ever not been a sacred time, but I certainly think now is a sacred time,” he said.

A year earlier, Robbins told the 2018 annual meeting audience that two things kept him awake at night: apathy and relevance – issues that remain in 2019.

“I still worry about apathy, because I think that’s the biggest threat to Jewish life. People don’t want to buy in. I will tell you that we had a little bit of a wake-up call in Pittsburgh and in Poway, and I don’t want that to be the wake-up call, and that has me not sleeping for other reasons,” Robbins said. He grew up in the Squirrel Hill neighborhood of Pittsburgh, home to the Tree of Life synagogue, where 11 worshippers were massacred on Oct. 27, 2018, by a gunman spewing anti-Jewish venom. “For a moment there, people said, oh, maybe Judaism is important and we need to protect it, but it’s a shame that that’s what it takes. That is the significant difference between ’18 and ’19.”

How the community is secured will change this summer.

Cathal Lucy

Cathal Lucy, the Secret Service veteran who has been director of community-wide security for the Atlanta Federation since Oct. 2015, is stepping down in July. He will be succeeded by his deputy, Zach Williams, who joined JFGA several months ago from the Georgia Emergency Management Agency. [The decision was Lucy’s, Robbins said. Lucy did not respond to queries from the AJT.]

Robbins said that the Federation will increase its engagement with the Secure Community Network, maintained by the Jewish Federations of North America, which provides Jewish institutions with security updates and can provide personnel to assist local federations.

If securing Jewish institutions has become a priority for Federations nationwide, that to-do list also includes connecting millennials (born 1981-1996) to the Jewish community at-large, never mind seeking a donation. Studies conducted in recent years have found that a significant percentage in this age group have little or no attachment to their Judaism.

In the 2013 Pew Research Center study of American Jews, 68 percent of millennial Jews identified as “Jews by religion” while 32 percent were classified as “Jews of no religion.” A 2017 report by the Public Religion Research Institute found that about one-third of Americans who identify as Jewish were “cultural Jews,” with no religious attachment. PRRI also reported that 53 percent of those under age 30 qualified as “cultural Jews.”

Among the Federation’s efforts to connect this younger cohort with the wider Jewish community have been its support of “Next Gen” involvement with Birthright Israel, convening “The Interchange” forum to explore how the Jewish community can be more welcoming toward interfaith families, and through a program pairing younger social and business entrepreneurs with community elders for mentoring and intergenerational learning.

Renee Kutner, the Federation’s vice president of marketing, said that success will not be measured by whether young adults come to the Federation annual meeting, but whether it is “coming to them at the places where they want to be.”

Renee Kutner

Where they want to be are sections of Atlanta where the Jewish community is growing. The northern reaches of the metro area, a broad swath that includes Alpharetta and Johns Creek, will be the first focus of a five-year grant the Federation has received to target neighborhoods. That effort will supplement the “PJ connectors,” people working part-time for the Federation creating Jewish programming in Smyrna, Brookhaven, Dunwoody, Decatur and the North Metro area.

“None of this is about connecting to Federation. Federation exists to build the community … We want to connect people to the community in hopes that they’ll support the community through Federation,” Robbins said.

Among other plans on the drawing board for 2020 and beyond, Robbins said, “We’re moving forward on ideas to help support part-time and day school education in the community, and on the concept of a family camp. We have a vision of a camp that operates year-round for families. We would prototype it, lease a site somewhere and try it.”

A goal Robbins had when he arrived 2016, of gathering numerous Jewish organizations under one roof, may be realized in a proposed renovation of the Federation’s three-acre headquarters at 18th and Spring streets.

When Robbins addressed the 2019 annual meeting, a sketch – now dubbed “the Jetsons building,” a nod to the early 1960s television cartoon – briefly appeared on a screen behind him.

In an AJT interview, Robbins and Kutner stressed that the drawing was not “the” building, but rather one architect’s idea. “That is the current rendering of what we are exploring having in this space, which is a multi-use building for Atlanta’s Jewish community,” Robbins said. A feasibility study may begin in the months ahead, followed by preparations for a fundraising campaign, though no cost figure has been attached yet to the project.

In addition to Federation’s headquarters, a new building could house workspace for smaller and emerging Jewish organizations, offices or satellite space for more established agencies, expanded space for the William Breman Jewish Heritage Museum, a small theater (for possible use by the Atlanta Jewish Film Festival), an Israel experience center and, atop all of these, residential properties.

“We believe that the greatest way to create energy in the Jewish community is that collision of organizations, and we’re going to create that capsule,” Robbins said. “The concept embodies exactly what we want to be in the community. This is not Federation’s building, don’t call it Federation’s building. This is a building that would be the home to many Jewish organizations and programs.”

The Federation is also part of Atlanta’s broader philanthropic landscape. Alicia Philipp, executive director of the Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta, said, “We have partnered with the Federation for years on various programs and events, and Eric has continued that commitment during his tenure. The Federation has deep roots in the Atlanta community and a strong history of being collaborative and thoughtful in their work with us at the Community Foundation and with other organizations working to addressing the needs of our communities.”

Toward the end of the hour-long interview, Robbins said, “I’m more convinced than ever in the importance of Federation, in building and sustaining this community.”


Central Bureau of Jewish Education for Atlanta?

By JumpSpark

First published by the Atlanta Jewish Times ›

Since Tribe 360 closed its doors over a decade ago, there’s been no central bureau or agency for Jewish education in Atlanta, but that’s about to change.

Kelly Cohen advising an In The City Camp Mogul event, funded in part by a 2019 Spark Grant.

At one time, the Atlanta Jewish educational world was served by an organization known as Jewish Educational Services, or JES. The Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta later spun off that agency to become the Center for Jewish Education and Experiences or CJEE. That, in turn, became Tribe 360 before it closed its doors more than a decade ago.

Since then, there’s been no central bureau or agency for Jewish education in Atlanta. Stan Beiner is former head of The Epstein School and was chair of the day school council. As he put it: “I think when they created a vacuum, it wasn’t filled.” Beiner, now principal of the Fulton County Academy of Science and Technology in Roswell, observed, “Without a central bureau, everyone goes into his own silo, and you sacrifice community.”

But that’s all about to change.

Jodi Mansbach, chief impact officer at the Jewish Federation, told the AJT that her organization has acknowledged the lack of a central community educational resource that could provide professional development for Jewish educators.

Jodi Mansbach, Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta

Thanks to a two-year grant, the Jewish Federation will fund a part-time position for someone to convene educators of supplemental Jewish education.

“We’re in the process of hiring and hope to have someone by late summer,” Mansbach said. The goals over the next two to three years will be to focus on educator training with an emphasis on experiential education and to bring together a cohort of Jewish educational organizations already existing in Atlanta that prioritize innovation.

“We’re not trying to recreate a CJEE,” she said. “We’re not trying to create a huge infrastructure. And we’re not trying to say it has to be at the Federation, but we can start by incubating it.”

Last fall the Jewish Federation started bringing a small group of educators together to figure out exactly what is needed in the Jewish community. “Our first step is to build a community of practitioners. We will be working with synagogues to determine the needs. We know there’s a need for high-quality educator training.”

Mansbach noted that the Federation may work with a national organization such as The Jewish Education Project in New York City that has begun reaching out nationally to provide educational support to local communities.

Mansbach pointed to the model used by JumpSpark, an innovative teen programming group that serves as a connector, partner and funder for program development for teens, their parents and Jewish professionals. JumpSpark is part of a national Jewish Teen Education & Engagement Funder Collaborative that is also funded by the Jim Joseph Foundation and the Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta.

“We saw what Kelly Cohen has done with teens, with the support of a national network and then they created a community network,” said Mansbach, referring to JumpSpark’s director. Atlanta is one of 10 cities that received funding from the national network, Cohen said. “Our funds are matched by the Federation and every city differs. But we work out of common goals and outcomes.”

Kelly Cohen, JumpSpark

JumpSpark was launched in 2017. Cohen started in August 2017, becoming the director a year later. “Our goal is to raise the bars for Jewish teens,” she said. “This is not a youth group; you can’t join it. It’s not a classroom program. It’s an impact hub. We’re funding ways to reconceptualize Jewish learning.”

Cohen, who taught at The Davis Academy for six years and has a master’s degree in Jewish education, explained that the centralized program of Tichon that provided after-school Jewish education for teens years ago, “doesn’t fit the world anymore. We must rethink what we mean by education to meet the needs of teens today.”

Indeed, the world of Jewish education has dramatically changed over the last century. According to The Breman Museum archives, the Atlanta Bureau of Jewish Education was first founded in 1945. The purposes of the bureau were: “a) to bring about the coordination of all Jewish schools and other educational agencies in Atlanta, to the extent that their work may be promoted through common and cooperative efforts; b) to render pedagogic and educational services to all Jewish schools and other groups and agencies seeking such assistance; c) to encourage intelligent planning and creative effort in the field of Jewish education calculated to promote the religious, cultural and spiritual growth of the individual and the community, and to make the community more conscious of the program and needs of Jewish education.” The bureau included all accredited rabbis, chairmen of committees of education of affiliated schools, and all professional heads of affiliated schools.

One of the services offered was a centralized Jewish library, a resource that Atlanta Jewish leaders have noted was lost when CJEE closed.

Paul Flexner, who was brought to Atlanta in 2004 to head CJEE, notes that central bureaus of Jewish education in many U.S. communities started closing their doors in the early years of this century. According to Rabbi Scott T. Aaron, education director of the Jewish United Fund/Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago, some of this was due to the recession that struck the country in 2006.

Paul Flexner

“Communities were slow to respond to the cultural and economic changes, and when we had the recession, central agencies became the target of those who were upset with Jewish education. Many thought the central agencies were outmoded and in need of changes.”

Even the national agency funded by the Federation system to provide a centralized bureau of Jewish education, the Jewish Education Services of North America, folded during the recession.

Aaron, who is also the chair of the Association of Directors of Central Agencies, explained that the models for Jewish education have changed over the years.

“Central agencies were initially set up to be equivalent to boards of education,” he said. “They provided opportunities to streamline resources and sometimes to run centralized schools, originally known as Talmud Torahs. Synagogues didn’t have the wherewithal to have their own schools.”

In the 20th century, as the Jewish community became more suburban, synagogues set up their own schools. National denominations such as Reform and Conservative provided curricular help and teacher training, but Aaron said they don’t any longer. And, he pointed out, “libraries are now obsolete.”

Many communities, like Atlanta, closed their central bureaus. Some brought them into their Federation systems. Not surprisingly, Aaron told the AJT, “I believe in central resources. Many of our communities are adrift. We let this stuff go on autopilot for too long. Now we need to talk to our communities. There’s no template out there anymore. Each city must figure it out for itself.”
That seems to be what is finally happening in Atlanta.

Change Maker of the Year: Steven Resnick

By JumpSpark

On the first Sunday this May at the Hadassah Greater Atlanta Chesed Awards, we were honored to name Steven Resnick, Youth Director at Congregation Etz Chaim, as the inaugural JumpSpark Change Maker Award recipient given to a Jewish professional who has made an impact in the lives of Atlanta’s Jewish teens and community.

Steven was inspired by his own experiences in USY, BBYO, and Hebrew High School to pursue youth education as his career and has built an impressive resume with years of growing the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism youth programs in Florida, Massachusetts, and now Atlanta. Working with the other Atlanta Youth Directors, the Jewish Youth Directors Association, and JumpSpark Professional has helped him grow as an educator and engagement professional, become more confident in his own abilities, and learn new ways to approach educational opportunities.

In his 2 years at the Etz Chaim Youth Department, he’s created a safe space for grades K-12 to call home, ask questions, and explore their spirituality and growth.

“I hope the youth I work with learn from me that there isn’t one way to be Jewish… we all have different backgrounds and different knowledge bases, but that doesn’t mean that we’re any more or less Jewish than anyone else. I hope they leave our Youth Department feeling confident in their Jewish identity and remembering, in my opinion, one of the most important tenants in Judaism: hachnasat orchim, or ‘hospitality’.”

Mazel Tov and Thank You for your dedication to our community’s teens, Steven!

Community Teens Honored at Hadassah’s 2019 Chesed Awards Ceremony

By JumpSpark

by Hadassah Greater Atlanta ›

On May 5 the 28th annual Hadassah Greater Atlanta (HGA) Chesed Student Awards honoring excellence and menschlichkeit in Atlanta’s Jewish teens took place at Temple Emanu-El. HGA partnered with JumpSpark to honor 22 of the best and brightest young leaders and mensches representing synagogues, day schools, and Jewish organizations in our community.

L-R: Grant Chernau, Linda Weinroth, Phyllis Cohen, Jereme Weiner

Hadassah’s Chesed Student Awards program was excited to debut three individual awards with monetary gifts. The Phyllis M. Cohen Chesed Leadership Award was presented to Jereme Weiner, nominated by Creating Connected Communities. She was one of two Chesed essay contest winners. The Linda and Michael Weinroth Chesed Community Service Award essay contest winner was Grant Chernau, nominated by Congregation Etz Chaim. Each recipient received $500.

The Change Maker Award was presented by JumpSpark, Atlanta’s initiative for Jewish teen engagement connecting and investing in the community to create more meaningful and defining moments for Jewish teens in Atlanta. JumpSpark is supported as an innovation initiative of the Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta, by the Jim Joseph Foundation and by generous donors in the community.

The Change Maker Award recognizes a Jewish professional who has made an impact in the lives of Jewish teens and has shown great dedication to the Atlanta Jewish community. The Change Maker Award winner was Steven Resnick, Youth Director at Etz Chaim, who received $1,000 to fund programming and supplies for his youth group. He was chosen from nominations by Chesed Award teen recipients.

To learn more about Hadassah and the Chesed awards, please visit

2019 Hadassah Chesed Student Award Recipients:

  • Miriam Sirota, Atlanta Jewish Academy
  • Elaine Berger, Congregation Beth Shalom
  • Robbie Garber, Congregation B’nai Torah
  • Alex Rothenberg, Congregation Dor Tamid
  • Grant Chernau, Congregation Etz Chaim
  • Morgan Cushing, Congregation Gesher L’Torah
  • Sarah Jeffres, Congregation Or Hadash
  • Paulo Ariel Fulgenzi, Congregation Or VeShalom
  • Sam Trotz, Congregation Shearith Israel
  • Jereme Weiner, Creating Connected Communities
  • Jacob Rubin, The Davis Academy
  • Zoe Sokol, Jewish Kids Groups
  • Nolan Siegel, NFTY-SAR
  • Melina Stein, Temple Beth David
  • Leah Faupel, Temple Beth Tikvah
  • Jacob Sloman, Temple Emanu-El
  • Alexa Phillips, Temple Kehillat Chaim
  • Zoe Alexander, Temple Sinai
  • Julia Harris, The Epstein School
  • Molly Edlein, The Temple
  • Adam Cohen, The Weber School
  • Tzipora Estreicher, Torah Day School of Atlanta

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