January 17, 2020
Like many large community events, the Atlanta Jewish Life Festival, which celebrated its second anniversary nearly a year ago, is having to rethink how it proceeds in a world upended by COVID.
“I am bummed, but certainly we cannot have a festival indoors in the [Georgia] Aquarium in January,” said Michael Morris, AJT owner-publisher and organizer of the AJLF. He saw the need to bring the Jewish community together and breathed new “life” into the former Atlanta Jewish Festival that hadn’t been held for several years.
Last year’s event at the aquarium united 4,000 Jews from throughout Atlanta for a day of fun, festivity and friendship, both old and new. Over 100 community partners and sponsors tables filled the Oceans Ballroom, including synagogues, schools, camps, nonprofits and businesses sharing their missions with attendees. There was also a wide variety of food, live bands, theater and roving entertainers such as a magician and a clown.
But now the Life Festival may need to take a hiatus until it’s safe to have large gatherings again, Morris said. “I’d love to have it in the springtime, but even that is questionable when it comes to the safety of a couple thousand people coming together outside. We will look to next fall or postpone an entire year ‘til next January if it doesn’t look good,” he said.
Morris realizes the festival is just the latest victim of COVID.
“We are unfortunately like other gala dinners or afternoons in the park. We have to adjust to reality. Getting together in large groups is not possible right now. It’s not in the best interest of our community.”
Will the postponement drastically impact the festival, which just recently got back on its feet? “I don’t think it’s hurtful for the festival. Every festival and every gathering has to be suspended right now, both small gatherings with the family and large gatherings with the community. The good news is most of us are looking forward to enjoying large gatherings again.
“I am definitely looking forward to a time when we will be totally back to normal. I do not believe in a ‘new normal.’ I want to be able to spend time together and in doing so enrich our lives.”