Messinger Honored for Decades of Work

Messinger Honored for Decades of Work


Ruth Messinger
Ruth Messinger

The Jewish Community Relations Council of Atlanta (JCRCA) honored Ruth Messinger, President of American Jewish World Services, with a Lifetime Achievement Award as part of its annual meeting in October at Temple Sinai.

Messinger was recognized for her decades of work with marginalized people across the globe, helping to empower those in developing countries to live productive, self-sufficient lives.

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Like the JCRCA, American Jewish World Services is a dynamic organization whose mission is rooted in Jewish values and is dedicated to helping individuals realize basic human rights and overcome poverty.

The event was opened by JCRCA President, Elizabeth Appley, who welcomed the large assembly.

“It is absolutely appropriate that as we meet to elect our new officers and Board,” she said, “we combine that with a tribute to one of our great American Jewish icons of social justice.”

She thanked the co-sponsoring organizations and synagogues from across the metro area, including Temple Sinai, the National Council of Jewish Women, Hadassah, American Jewish Committee and the 14 other synagogues who joined in sponsoring the event.

“The Jewish Community Relations Council of Atlanta’s mission is to convene a common table for all of these organizations and others across Atlanta,” Appley said, “to discuss and debate the great social issues of our day, to strive for consensus, and to raise that discussion to the next level by advocating directly with our elected officials for laws and policies that support social justice and equality.”

Rabbi Elana Perry offered greetings from Temple Sinai, and offered a meaningful D’var Torah about the week’s portion, emphasizing the important symbolism of Rebecca at the well as a strong actor and doer.

Melanie Nelkin, JCRCA vice president, chair of the Georgia Coalition to Prevent Genocide  and national activist on genocide prevention and Darfur, introduced Messinger with a powerful personal message about what AJWS’s work has meant to her and to the world.

Messinger’s eloquent remarks addressed “Building a Community of Conscience: Thinking Globally, Acting Locally”.

She answered questions from the audience focusing on the role of social justice in our society and what it meant to be a Jewish agency for social change in parts of the world where there are few Jews.

Messinger concluded with a story about a young student on an AJWS program where he had spent a summer working in a small remote African village.

In his final week there, a man approached the student and said that he had decided he wanted to be Jewish although he had never met a Jewish person before. The student asked why and the man replied that it was “because being Jewish meant helping other people”.

Lois Frank, JCRCA Board member, past JCRC Chair and past JCPA Chair, presented a beautiful shofar and engraved plaque to Messinger on behalf of the JCRCA, signifying her role in calling us all to action in order to end poverty, discrimination and oppression around the world.

The evening highlighted the many activities the JCRCA is engaged in to convene a common table for Jewish organizations in the region, including bringing together the Holocaust Community Coordinating Council, chaired by Sara Ghitis, together with Hemshech and the Weinberg Center for Holocaust Education of the William Bremen Jewish Heritage Museum.

The Council met in August representing more than 40 groups involved in Holocaust commemoration events in Atlanta. The JCRCA gathered the information to create a common calendar of events throughout the year that commemorate the Holocaust (available online at the JCRCA website).

Appley announced the convening of the first community meeting of all the synagogue social justice and tikkun olam chairs on Nov. 20 at 7 p.m., bringing them together “to share what they are doing, to see how we can create a bigger impact together, and to help weave advocacy into their social action efforts.”

Plans are also underway to reconvene the Israel Professionals Council comprised of all Israel professional staff from across the region, in order to update connections, share information and work together to promote Israel’s best interests through communication, cooperation, and collaboration.

Announcements will be forthcoming as to the dates for planned advocacy programming for the upcoming session of the Georgia General Assembly that will carry out the CRC’s continuing commitment to protect vulnerable populations, fight discrimination and oppression and support equality, educate the community about how to engage in social justice efforts, and provide strong support for the security and continuity of the State of Israel.

These programs will encompass advocacy training and materials for grassroots activists, an opportunity for Jewish organizations to share their legislative policy priorities, and a panel of legislators and elected officials engaging with the community on the issues of greatest concern to the Jewish community.

Larry Gold, JCRCA Board member, twice former CRC Chair, and current Chair of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs closed the meeting by urging people to plan to attend the JCPA’s national Plenum Conference to be held in Atlanta March 8-11, 2014.

The JCPA is the national umbrella organization for 126 local Community Relations Councils across the country and 14 national Jewish organizations.

The conference will invite prominent national leaders, experts and dignitaries to speak to the Plenum on Israel and Iran, poverty, anti-Semitism, civility, the environment, genocide, discrimination, and more.

At a glance

For more information about the Jewish Community Relations Council, contact Ritchie Crownfield, JCRCA Administrator at; visit online at or call (678) 222-3740.

Board, slate of officers elected at annual meeting

Here’ a complete list of JCRCA board members and slate of officers for the coming year.

Elizabeth Appley, president; Neal Dodell, Howard Friedman, Janice Ellin and Melanie Nelkin, vice presidents; Harvey Rickles, treasurer; Leah Harrison, secretary; Harold Kirtz, immediate past president.

Board Members include Claire D’Agostino, Jon Barash, Steve Chervin, Sara Duke, Lois Frank, Larry Gold, Kim Goodfriend, Darryl Konter, Rita Loventhal, Rabbi Ellen Nemhauser, and David Raphael.

Institutional board members include Sara Ghitis, Holocaust Community Coordinating Council; Russell Gottschaulk, American Jewish Committee; Marsha Kummins, Hadassah; Amy Rosen, JF&CS; Shira Rothman, Hillels of Georgia; Dean Robert Schapiro, The Temple; Marc Schwartz, Temple Sinai; Rob Thaler, ADL; and Jeff Willard, Tzedek Georgia.

Thanks were extended to outgoing Board members who had completed their terms of office: Jeremy Berry, Martha Berlin, Isaac Rothbart, Rabbi Scott Saulson, Jane Schiff, Daniel Schorr, and Tobyanne Sidman.


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