More than 600 people packed into Buckhead’s Flourish Atlanta on Wednesday, May 24, to help American Jewish Committee honor Beth and Gregg Paradies.

AJC Atlanta’s goal for spring fundraising was $650,000, but the Selig Distinguished Service Award dinner raised over $1 million, thanks to a wider outreach to new donors.

Because the Paradies companies include retail stores at airport terminals, the theme of the evening was aviation, with tables assignments printed as terminal gates.

AJC is the leading global Jewish advocacy organization, with access to diplomats, government officials and religious leaders. It works to have an impact on opinion and policy at the highest levels.

Beth and Gregg Paradies welcome people the sell-out crowd to AJC Atlanta’s Selig Award dinner.

Beth spoke earlier about the couple’s involvement in the founding of AJC’s ACCESS young professionals group when they were newlyweds.

“AJC made Atlanta seem like home to me, especially being a young lawyer and from Ohio,” Beth said. “We were nurtured initially, and our entrée in the community and volunteerism led to my involvement on the national AJC board and as chapter president.”

Beth and Gregg, who have been affiliated for 28 years, said AJC is all about building relationships. “The dialogue we have with African-Americans, Muslims, Latinos, Catholics, the consular corps, etc., is very impactful,” Beth said. “When things happen, we have a vast network of bridges on which to communicate.”

The Selig dinner, sold out for the first time, featured AJC CEO David Harris, whom Steve Selig referred to as “one of the best Jewish organization professionals worldwide.”

Selig’s family founded the Distinguished Service Award given to the Paradieses.

Selig and daughter Mindy Shoulberg performed a rousing tongue-in-cheek banter about how Beth and Gregg are so effective and well rounded. Steve tickled the crowd by listing the various matches with eligible Jewish Atlanta bachelors that failed before Beth and Gregg found each other.

The stage was enlivened by synchronized dance and voice performances from students at the acclaimed Ron Clark Academy.

Three other AJC awards were given out before the main Selig presentation:

  • Atlanta Initiative Against Anti-Semitism co-founders Lauren Menis, Danielle Cohen, Lisa Freedman and Hildee Isaacs received the Advocacy Award.
  • Murray Goldman and Ronnie Van Gelder received the President’s Award for their outreach to the Muslim community.
  • Lindsey Fenton received the ACCESS Award.

Paula Gwynn Grant, the director of communication for the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta, praised the 50 years of cooperation and improved relations between the Jewish and Catholic communities. “The more we learn and understand, we will build a more peaceful world,” she said. “It’s this network of relationships that makes the AJC so powerful.”

If ever parents deserved to kvell, the three poised Paradies daughters, Dorrie, Katie and Molly, provided just such a case. They spoke adoringly of the example their parents set for them. “Mom is the glue that holds the family together.” “Dad had us secret-shop his competitors’ stores.” “They taught us by three generations of caring backed by action.”

Beth and Gregg were emotional upon accepting their awards. Gregg referred to his late mother, Judy, whose presence was felt that night. He closed, “Our work is bigger than ourselves, and our daughters’ involvement will be our lasting legacy.”

Beth, an original member of ACCESS, supermom and lawyer, was tearfully touched in expressing her gratitude.

Photos by Marcia Caller Jaffe