Kogon Keeps Focus on Federation Future

Kogon Keeps Focus on Federation Future

By Marcia Caller Jaffe | mjaffe@atljewishtimes.com

The Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta honored former Chairman Marty Kogon with its Lifetime of Achievement Award for his leadership and contributions to the Atlanta Jewish community before a crowd of 500 on Thursday, May 5, at the Fed Talks event at the Buckhead Theatre.

Betty Sunshine, who is chairing Federation’s community campaign, noted that the $17.1 million Federation has raised in all campaigns this fiscal year includes $500,000 in new money and 300 new donors. She declared 2016 the year of “individuals making an impact,” and Fed Talks picked up that theme with its celebration of “Movers, Shakers and Jewish Change Makers.”

Those honoring Marty Kogon on May 5 include (from left) Jerry Blumenthal, Alan Lubel, former Congressman Elliot Levitas and Kevin Levitas.
Those honoring Marty Kogon on May 5 include (from left) Jerry Blumenthal, Alan Lubel, former Congressman Elliot Levitas and Kevin Levitas.


The third annual event featured David Yarus, the founder of JSwipe; Randy Gold, the founder of JScreen; and Susan Jackson, the CEO of Focus on a Jewish Tomorrow.

Kogon jokingly said he was shocked to learn that he was receiving the award because Howard Feinsand, the current Federation chairman, asked to meet him at the Blue Ridge Grill. “Normally,” Kogon said, “the meeting place is the Waffle House on Powers Ferry. That’s usually where important issues are discussed.”

Kogon, who also said he sees the Lifetime of Achievement Award as something meant for people on the 18th fairway of life, while he thinks he’s still on the 14th green, urged the audience of Federation donors to think about the organization’s future. “There is an old Chinese expression: If you want to know your past, look at your current situation. If you want to know your future, look at your current actions,” he said. “What actions do we need to take to ensure a successful future?”

Kogon said Federation should focus on three areas: programming, physical facilities and lay leadership development.

“We have to reach out to singles, young marrieds, empty nesters, intowners as well as outside the Perimeter. … We cannot allow travel or capital constraints to be major deterrents to Jewish participation. We must be smarter than that, and when we build, build with a communal perspective,” he said.

“Our Federation needs to be the Silicon Valley of philanthropic entrepreneurship,” he added.

Kogon’s sons, Ross and Michael, have followed him in business at Pull-a-Part and in Jewish communal involvement at Federation, as well as the Epstein School and AIPAC.

“My father has been my friend, mentor, business partner and role model all my life,” Michael said. “He taught us family first, then business and then community. The interesting thing is that it is self-supporting. If you put your family first, you want to be successful in business so you can support them and have time and resources to build the community for the future.”Kogon Keeps Focus on Federation Future 1

Before Fed Talks, Marty Kogon’s friends and family offered more thoughts about him:

  • Grandson Gerald Kogon: “Zaikes makes Shabbos fun by singing Hebrew songs to the ‘Paw-Paw Patch’ tune.”
  • Wife Judy: “We inherited a tremendous legacy from our parents, who set the example. Marty embraced it.”
  • Joel Marks, the next Federation chairman: “Marty has been my mentor for a long while. He has made a personal difference in my life with his thoughtful wisdom. Among friends, he has your back.”
  • Cousin Gayle Goldstein Heyman: “When Marty adjusted to Judy’s family, it was as if he had our DNA. He has been the go-to to know what to do for the good of the family at all times. He was the older cousin we all looked up to.”
  • Jerry Katz (part of the Georgia Tech contingent from the early 1960s): “Then as now, he was the nicest guy around.”
  • Carla Silver: “Marty blew in from Meridian, Miss., where there were five Jewish families, and Judy had to teach him what the word ‘kosher’ meant.”
  • David Herkes: “We used to call him ‘Party Marty,’ and look at him now.”
  • Arthur Silver: “I’ll sum it up. Marty is a Jewish evangelical.”

Kogon couldn’t help thinking about his father-in-law, the late Gerald Cohen, a past winner of the same Federation award and an inspiration for him. “I’m sure he’d be pretty proud.”

Photos by Marcia Jaffe

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