BY ANA FUCHS / AJT //
I’m sure I’m not the only American Jew who relishes the opportunity to have two chances to wipe the slate clean each year.
On January 1st, like most everyone else, I make resolutions and “to-do” lists: This year, I’ll get my oil changed every three months; go to the gym; eat more kale.
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Nine months later, on Rosh Hashanah, I make more meaningful commitments, a “how-to-be” list. This year, I’ll be more generous; more focused; more balanced.
At least, that’s how my life used to be.
Now I am Executive Director of Jewish Kids Groups, a break-the-mold, six-days-a-week Hebrew school in Intown Atlanta, and my Rosh Hashanah introspection often gets buried by the nuts and bolts of running a school and serving the Jewish community.
It’s like a wrestling match , my work as JKG’s director versus my personal work as a Jew.
The truth is that they are one and the same.
Making very practical (albeit secular-feeling) resolutions for JKG (like, This year, we’ll increase enrollment) is perfectly aligned with my personal efforts to be a better person. Because I believe, with every fiber in my body, that the future of the Jewish people really will be determined by whether my generation can create more and more genuine, meaningful and lasting opportunities for Jewish engagement.
So number one on my “how-to-be” list for Rosh Hashanah is, “How to be more impactful.” Here’s my list:
Developing JKG Professional Team
At Jewish Kids Groups, we have a rock-solid, creative, hip, thoughtful and connected team of teachers in their 20s and 30s, who dazzle their students each day. These guys can turn anything, even group lesson-planning on a Tuesday night, into a party.
Thankfully, my team are amazing “wing people,” so I’m no longer the only one jotting all the to-do lists. This year JKG Sunday program and Afterschool Community each have their own Directors!
We also have an amazing administrator who keeps the whole shebang humming along. This year, I am going to continue to mentor and develop this team.
Growing Organizational Capacity
Our expanded space (we’ve repurposed the top floor of Atlanta’s oldest Orthodox synagogue) has just the right combination of airy, open rooms, perfect for learning, with lots of private nooks designed for doing homework or reading.
It feels like home, complete with a garden and kitchen.
We’ve renovated three new classrooms and painted them happy shades of lavender, spring green, and turquoise. Everything is labeled in Hebrew, even the toilet paper!
Our space comfortably houses our 30 JKG Afterschool Community children, but we’re bursting at the seams on Sundays, when we serve 88 children. Fifteen more kids are on the waiting list. We need to continue to increase capacity so that we can serve more children.
I will keep building JKG’s intellectual capacity with Hebrew Wizards, our dynamic curriculum and by adding new learning opportunities for students and their families.
Building the Board of Directors
We’ve built a board of 12 seriously powerful parents and professionals. The moment they joined JKG, they began forming committees, recruiting parent volunteers, and fundraising. Board President Susan Levitas and I feel privileged to work with seasoned community members like Robert Franco and Lisa Galanti.
This year, we will strengthen our Board and committees.
Cultivating New Resoures
Part of launching any new venture is building fiscal capacity. This year JKG will call on philanthropists, parents, businesses, and community members to make a permanent home for Intown Jewish children a reality. This year, I will inspire the community to invest in JKG.
As Rosh Hashana nears, I am thinking about the sounds of our first two Sundays at JKG. It felt a lot like a pep rally. Parents ushered in their children, who were bouncing with nervous energy and chattering with old friends.
And then something great happened; the parents stuck around! They kibitzed over coffee, compared Rosh Hashanah plans, and exchanged cell phone numbers. When I introduced our Sunday school director, Emmy Cohn, they cheered and clapped.
Before my eyes, I am watched a community being built, a community of largely unaffiliated Jews who’d found each other through their kids instead of the other way around. That first day of JKG felt exactly like a fresh start, and exactly what Rosh Hashanah is all about.
About the writer
Ana Fuchs, a native of Atlanta, is a pioneer in the field of alternative Jewish supplemental experiences and has been instrumental in building Jewish Kids Groups, a brand new Hebrew school model.