By Jon Gargis
What began as one woman’s effort to find kosher-for-Passover marinara sauce is now connecting Orthodox Jews across metro Atlanta and around the globe.
“I went to the grocery store to get spaghetti sauce, and they were all out. I thought, ‘I know that people in my neighborhood are the ones who snagged all the sauce,’ and I wished there was a way to put out an email and say, ‘Who can fork over a jar of sauce?’ That’s how it was born,” said Rivkah Eidex, the creator of the Frum_Atlanta group on Yahoo!
Frum_Atlanta, a listserv where members can send an email to one address to get a message to all members, is open to all in the Orthodox Jewish community. Eidex, a mother of five and a member of Congregation Beth Jacob, serves as the moderator of the group, whose name is an Orthodox play on “from Atlanta.”
Nearly 34,000 messages, now arriving 20 to 40 a day, have come across her computer screen in the nearly nine years she has been at the helm. Membership has grown to just over 2,000.
People use the group to find jobs, buy and sell items, find rides to the airport, and more. One recent post sought a handyman to put together a storage bench; another came from a member posting an audio clip about Israel.
“The big one is ‘I need a package taken to Israel.’ If I had a dime for every one of those, I’d be rich,” Eidex said. “A lot of people post announcements, synagogue posts — there’s going to be a speaker Tuesday night or a free budgeting workshop — or a Jewish school is having an open house. It really runs the whole gamut.”
Community members have brought up local topics that could have a wide impact, such as the various proposals to annex part or all of Toco Hills into a city, she said.
Other topics include political issues or people in need of prayers. Local businesses also promote themselves, although Eidex said she doesn’t take a dime from Frum_Atlanta.
“I always skim through it in case someone needs something I have or if someone needs a referral I can help with,” said Elaine Alexander, who has been a member of the group for about three years. “I used to give things away, and also if I am looking for a specific kind of service, I ask for suggestions.
“I think it is great, and we are lucky Rivkah takes the time to take care of it. I am sure it is time-consuming.”
Eidex sent the group’s first message in April 2006, asking whether anyone was heading out to shop at Sam’s Club.
“As I said at the time, I can hereby verify the Jewishness of this group because there were arguments within three days. Postings about Israeli politics and this and that, it was a mess. Someone said this group had to be moderated,” she said, adding that she had to have someone walk her through the process of moderating the group. She has been the moderator ever since.
As you might expect from the group’s name and its focus on the Orthodox community, group members do not receive messages during holidays or Shabbat. Eidex moderates and approves all messages before they go to the full group, an email sent Friday night would not be read or approved by her until Saturday after dark.
Most members hail from Toco Hills, Dunwoody and Sandy Springs, Eidex said, though other areas around metro Atlanta are represented. She said out-of-towners, such as people moving to the Atlanta area, also have found the group.
The membership includes a few people from Israel, who tend to post educational topics such as a Yiddish “words of the day” feature, Eidex said.
The group recently advanced from convenience and community builder to lifesaver.
Chaya Lipschutz of New York sent a message in the fall about another Orthodox New Yorker, Lauren Gitelson, 42, in need of a new kidney. Yifat Levin, 36, a nurse and an Orthodox mother of three in Atlanta, responded to the request from a stranger.
Last month Levin donated a kidney to Gitelson in New York. Both surgeries were successful.
“That’s the biggest thing it’s done,” Eidex said. “A lot of people have gotten jobs and bought and sold things, and maybe have bought and sold houses and big things, but that one was a really big moment for us.”
To join the group, visit groups.yahoo.com and search for “Frum_Atlanta.”
Those who sign up with the group can choose to receive each day’s messages in one daily digest or get each message as Eidex approves it. She said she thinks the message-by-message option is better to avoid getting time-sensitive messages too late.
But the final frontier for Frum_Atlanta is something timeless.
“The only thing that hasn’t happened that I would love to see happen is for matchmaking to happen,” Eidex said. “It would be neat if someone said, ‘I have a cousin who is single.’ And how cool would it be for somebody to say, ‘Yeah, I have a friend’?”
The whole community could play a part in the free search for someone’s beshert. “I’m waiting for that to happen,” Eidex said.
Tu B’Av is less than six months away.