The Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta announced June 1 that Rich Walter, an Israel educator, would become vice president of Program and grant making at the end of the month.
“Rich is a nationally recognized communal leader, program developer, speaker, facilitator and educator,” said Eric Robbins, Federation president and CEO. “His expertise will help Federation increase and enhance strategic partnerships and programs in order to identify and address community needs.”
Walter comes to the Federation from the Center for Israel Education/Emory University Institute for the Study of Modern Israel, where he served as vice president of curriculum and outreach and as the associate director for Israel education since 2012.
In his new role, which he assumes June 30, Walter will support Federation’s mission to care for, connect and strengthen the Jewish community throughout greater Atlanta, Israel and the world. He will oversee Federation’s community initiatives and the grantmaking for five major community impact areas: inspiring more Jewish journeys, making more Jewish places, rising up higher for those in need, moving to global Jewish peoplehood, and creating radically welcoming spaces.
Or as Walter puts it, “my role at Federation will be to oversee the community initiatives of both the Federation’s global and domestic portfolio. Together with the Federation staff, volunteers, and our community partners, I will help strengthen existing programs and support new endeavors as community needs continue to evolve.”
Walter’s background includes partnering with and influencing a wide variety of local and regional community leaders and organizations, including clergy, educators, youth, college students and adult learners in areas of program design, innovation and change, education, history, Israel and Judaism, and professional development, the Federation reported. He also has prior experience in Jewish education and program development.
Walter said that in his work with ISMI and CIE, “I have been fortunate to have worked with a wide variety of stakeholders from numerous types of institutions in helping to plan and deliver Israel learning programs and initiatives. This has required me to listen to the needs of our constituents in planning programs, mentor educators in creating meaningful engagements, and most importantly, deliver experiences for diverse audiences. Evaluating programmatic impact and measuring learning outcomes are also skills that will serve me well in my new role.”
He added, “Perhaps most importantly, a key component of my work was engaging with groups, be it teens, educators, or adult learners, who all had a wide variety of personal opinions on Israel. As such, I have had to learn to engage and embrace groups with multiple perspectives by challenging previously held assumptions, raising new questions, and promoting dialogue.”
When asked if he’ll use his background in promoting Israel and Israel education in his Federation role, Walter said, “Absolutely! While I am energized that this new role allows me to broaden my impact beyond Israel learning and engagement, I also have learned firsthand the importance of Israel to the Jewish community.
“I was privileged to learn many lessons working with Ken Stein at Emory and CIE, but among the most important is the concept of ‘Owning Israel’s Story.’ For me, this concept represents the notion that no matter how one connects to his or her Judaism, that Israel can and should play a major role in that connection. Beyond Israel’s religious significance to us as a people, the nation’s history, cultural contributions, scientific achievements, innovation, and social justice accomplishments are all templates for fusing Judaism into our everyday life. So beyond the global peoplehood portfolio, which works directly on programs and services that Federation supports in Israel, and of course the shinshinim [Israel student emissaries] program, which engages broad segments of our community with Israel, the more we can help the community embrace these concepts, the stronger our relationship will be with Israel, and the stronger our community will be regardless of one’s personal political beliefs.”
After eight years at Emory and CIE, Walter said he was ready for a new challenge. “At the top of my wish list was a desire to stay in Atlanta, our adopted hometown. …The opportunity to enhance existing skills, and learn new ones, combined with the chance to contribute more directly to a community I care about were also prime motivators. Before I came to Emory, I worked for the Federation in New Haven, Conn., and prior to that at the Bureau of Jewish Education in Rhode Island, so, in some ways, I am returning to my roots as a communal professional.”
Still, Walter said he would maintain his connection with his previous work in Israel education. “One of my personal passions is education and teaching. So, I hope to continue to be of assistance with Emory and CIE as a guest presenter at their programs for teens and educators.”