That unknown donor has given money in multiples of 18, representing chai (life), to synagogues and related organizations for several years. Young Israel is one of 192 recipients and the fifth in Georgia.
“We’re very honored and humbled that we were one of the select few that have been chosen over the years,” Young Israel Rabbi Adam Starr said.
As explained at chaiminded.org, Chai Minded’s donations are one-time gifts and cannot be applied for. They just arrive without warning.
Sure enough, Young Israel Executive Director Eliana Leader was opening the mail recently, and there was the check for $10,368, representing 576 chai.
In an email, Chai Minded said that he or she has not attended services at Young Israel but learned about the synagogue while doing research on Atlanta’s Orthodox congregations because “I want, as much as possible, to take a more interdenominational approach to these gifts.”
Chai Minded wrote that Young Israel stood out for its innovation in the use of technology and its award-winning green construction and for its engagement with members through social media and with the Toco Hills community.
“This is such a beautiful and thoughtful way to give,” Rabbi Starr wrote in a thank-you note submitted to the Chai Minded website, adding, “We hope to pay this forward by continuing to build community by inspiring Jews committed to our people and tradition coupled with a profound engagement and openness to the world around us.”
The rabbi said the exact use of the money is under discussion, but the gift will go toward programming, especially adult education.
The other Georgia congregations that have received Chai Minded gifts are Temple Israel in Columbus, which received $10,062 sometime around June 2013; Congregation B’nai Israel in Fayetteville, $10,188 in April 2014; Temple Israel in Valdosta, $10,188 in December 2014; and Congregation Rodeph Sholom in Rome, $10,188 in December 2014.
We don’t know where Chai Minded lives, but he/she doesn’t appear to be a local. The donor’s email said he/she has seen only one Atlanta rabbi, “most impressive speaker” Peter Berg of The Temple, in person.