By Michael Horowitz | Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta President and CEO
As we prepare to begin a new year, everyone at Federation would like to extend our best wishes for a healthy, happy and peaceful shana tova.
While most of us have used the expression, I am reminded each year that this greeting is simply an abbreviation for the Hebrew phrase l’shana tova tikatev v’taihatem, which translates to “May you be inscribed and sealed for a good year,” an aspiration extended to each of you and to our entire Jewish people.
This past year has seen many challenges. The global rise in anti-Semitism is sadly a reality. We have seen many challenges in Europe, and we recount the terrorism that targeted Jews in Paris, as well as many documented attacks on Jewish individuals throughout France and much of the continent.
Anti-Israel sentiment around the world and on our college campuses has grown increasingly more aggressive, moving beyond differences of political opinion and opposition to the policies of the Israeli government. Dialogue takes on traditional anti-Jewish stereotypes and continues to find a welcoming audience among many.
Fortunately, as a people with a strong Jewish homeland with enlightened supporters, we have the resources to push back, respond and prepare for these uncertain times.
The proposed agreement with Iran and the P5+1 has created challenges never expected. I am not referring to the deal itself or the pros or cons that are being debated. The concerns I raise relate to how the debate has so divided the Jewish community, along with unacceptable rhetoric from both sides. Healing that divide must be one of our primary agenda items as we enter this new year.
While the international arena provided many topics for our headlines, the challenges we face every day continue. Will future generations be connected to Jewish life and the Jewish future? Will we be wise enough, warm enough and welcoming enough to make sure that choosing Jewish life and being part of the Jewish community have meaning to the majority of families, which are now created with one Jewish spouse and a partner from another religious background?
At Federation, we seek to address these issues every day, while at the same time making sure we never forget our most fundamental obligations to take care of those in need, those who confront life’s many obstacles daily.
We are proud of the many accomplishments we achieved this past year. Once again, our committed donors, lay leaders, volunteers and professionals assessed needs, raised funds and determined how to allocate always-limited resources to our local and global partners and affiliates who deliver services and programs that meet the needs of our community in Atlanta and around the world.
We helped care for Jews in need by:
- Supporting financial independence with loans to almost 100 families in Atlanta and financial support to almost 300 families in distress in Israel.
- Serving more than 11,000 elderly in Atlanta with wellness programs and 168,000 impoverished elderly in Russia and Eastern Europe.
- Providing more than 300 at-risk children with after-school care in Yokneam-Megiddo.
- Offering inclusion programs for thousands of people with special needs and inclusion services in preschools and supplementary schools.
- Supporting almost 400 clients and providing another 400-plus emergency critical interventions.
We helped build a strong Jewish future by:
- Supporting education for over 2000 children in Jewish day schools and over 3,000 children in synagogue religious schools in Atlanta and in Minsk, Belarus.
- Training hundreds of future and current Jewish community leaders in Atlanta, Minsk and Israel.
- Serving 7,000-plus young adults and helping to send 1,470 kids to Jewish camp in Atlanta, Israel and Minsk.
- Providing communitywide security, evaluation and lobbying services.
- Providing over 300 Atlanta kids the opportunity to attend a Jewish overnight summer camp for the first time.
We have many goals for the new year. We are planning a new community study, our first since 2006. We are working diligently to address the needs of teens whose journey from b’nai mitzvah through college often results in departing from Jewish life, and we continue to address identified needs that are not yet funded for the aging and those requiring basic human services and financial assistance.
Rosh Hashanah coincides with the launch of our 2016 Community Campaign. While that campaign is the means by which we meet the needs I’ve mentioned and so many more, it is also an opportunity to ensure and strengthen our community today and in the future, to participate and make your impact. It is an opportunity to help thousands of people in Atlanta, in Israel and around the world who will never be able to say thank you for all of the good you’ve done. So on their behalf, let me thank you for all that you do.