Michael Jacobs, editor of the Atlanta Jewish Times, paid our community a great compliment when he wrote that Israel@70 heralded the beginning of “The Front Porch Era.” I believe that Michael was acknowledging a spirit of fresh thinking, innovation and collaboration that really seems to be taking hold in Jewish Atlanta.
Federation is still focused on its core mission to develop financial resources, build the Jewish community and address critical human needs, but we are changing. I believe we’re “showing up differently” around town. You can see it in an unprecedented number of partnerships where agencies, schools and synagogues are sharing resources, physical space and professional talents. You can feel it in the way we are investing in innovation. We’re also working very hard to become a warmer, more welcoming and inclusive Jewish community. Judaism is our treasure and we want to open new doors that inspire Jewish learning, connect people and engage them in meaningful experiences across the entire community.
Our Director of Community Planning and Impact, Amy Glass, recently attended a meeting at Temple Sinai which has been doing pioneering work on inclusion for people with disabilities. She was thrilled that Sinai and the Jewish Abilities Alliance had convened the meeting for all our synagogues, schools and organizations to share best practices.
Atlanta’s PJ Library Program, which sends 2,500 free Jewish books each month to Atlanta families, understands that PJ is about more than books, it’s about family impact. They’ve now engaged three “PJ Baby Connectors” who reach out to young families with children ages 0-3 in Smyrna-Vinings and North Metro. Connectors set up gatherings and playdates, introducing Jewish and interfaith moms and dads to other moms and dads, building Jewish community, neighborhood by neighborhood.
New Jewish ideas are bubbling up all over town through the Jewish Innovation Fund and The Front Porch Prototype Boot Camp process. We now have five “coaches” who are helping about 20 prototype groups move their ideas forward on a small scale and potentially scale them up. It’s a fresh new mindset that makes space for innovation, and honors the idea that even if prototypes are unsuccessful we learn from them.
Did you know that there are now two Jewish co-working spaces and collaboration spaces on the BeltLine? ElementATL, located at 691 John Wesley Dobbs Avenue, offers day passes and monthly desk space, as well as space for meetings and events. Reserve a spot at firstname.lastname@example.org. Chabad Intown’s Rabbi Eliyahu Schusterman is also developing a co-working and event space at 730 Ponce de Leon Place, targeting young Jewish professionals. We’re having great conversations with Chabad about joining forces to maximize our Jewish impact Intown.
Other communities are noticing what Atlanta is doing. If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, it was very cool to learn that Pittsburgh’s Federation joked about launching an initiative called The Front Stoop, and a Federation in Florida is playing around with “The Lanai” as a community transformation platform.
I hope you’ll join us on June 13 at Federation’s 112th Annual meeting, at Atlanta Jewish Academy. You’ll hear more about change and possibility, and we’ll formally share The Front Porch vision for a more connected 21st century Jewish Atlanta. Everyone’s invited! The Front Porch era is just beginning and it’s exciting. Come and be part of it!