By Russell Gottschalk

I had the pleasure of spending time with Ami Yares and Sagol 59 (the Promised Land) last month between their two sets in Atlanta with the Weber School and Congregation Or Hadash. I listened to their new album before their arrival but knew very little about the origination of the project that covers Grateful Dead and Jerry Garcia classics in Hebrew.

I was particularly curious about the origination story and development process because my dad was a huge Deadhead. When he passed, my mom chose these lyrics for the inside cover of his memorial booklet:

Innovators: Russell Gottschalk 1

Russell Gottschalk is the executive director of the AJMF.

“Sometimes the light’s all shinin’ on me; other times I can barely see. Lately it occurs to me what a long, strange trip it’s been.”

This spoke deeply to their decades-long marriage and I’m sure rings true for many of us, including myself. There are also some parallels for the Atlanta Jewish Music Festival, which started as a passion project developed by a small group of volunteers in 2009 and has since grown to a year-round Jewish music presenter engaging over 10,000 fans annually.

With this growth and like any Jewish nonprofit, we have experienced some unique challenges and opportunities.

There’s also some truth when comparing these lyrics with the story of Atlanta. We’re a city that was burned down and freaks out over snow. We may be a city too busy to hate, but I would also argue that at times we’re too segregated to love.

Despite our difficulties, I think the culture and creativity embodied by our community make this city one of the best places to live. However, I’m a rare native in Jewish Atlanta, which is attracting more and more immigrant job seekers from around the South each year.

So in the spirit of adventurous travel, AJMF’s growth and elevating Jewish Atlanta, I am thrilled to announce the establishment of AJMF’s first-ever regional busing program supporting AJMF7 (March 10 to 27; see the full schedule on this page).

We have dedicated funding to subsidize 20- to 50-person buses from congregations, community centers and other gathering spots outside Atlanta and Georgia to and from any of our AJMF7 programs.

This addition will benefit AJMF and deepen the connections between Atlanta and other Jewish communities, as well as the connections within the groups traveling to AJMF7. It’s a potential win-win-win, but this funding is limited, so reach out soon if you want in on the fun.

Here’s our game plan:

We cover transportation costs to/from the venue (if you’re coming for the day) or to/from Atlanta (if you’re coming for the weekend). We also become your personal AJMF7 concierge, connecting you to homes where you can stay, the AJMF hotel at a discounted rate, kosher vendors and more.

You get the crew together. Check out our lineup and pick the event(s) you want to attend. Buy tickets if necessary and reach out to info@atlantajmf.org to start lining up the details.

This is an experiment for us, and we thank you in advance for considering participation in this community building effort. We’re the only Jewish music festival in the South, and with our sibling Atlanta Jewish Film Festival, the biggest Jewish film festival on the planet, we’re proud to contribute to Jewish Atlanta’s stake as the cultural hub of the South.

AJMF’s light is shinin’, and we’re grateful for the journey. So whether you pack your bags or travel light, we hope to see you in Atlanta in March.