Atlanta is all abuzz with a sought-after avalanche of Gen Yers and millennials, but recent stats show yet another trend. The Atlanta Regional Commission predicts the biggest future change is a city that is growing older and more diverse. Thus, the slice of seniors will triple by 2050. The Jewish baby boomers are well on the way too.
That’s why Ahavath Achim Synagogue’s Gail Solomon identified the need and went about addressing it with the start and execution of Mature Active Adult programming. She recently received the 2019 Goldstein Volunteer of the Year award for starting the group.
Solomon is busy in her own right heading up the synagogue blood drive and working at the Mercedes-Benz Stadium and The Buckhead Coalition.
From 1988 to 2004 she owned a tour and event company, Guidelines-Atlanta, which made her skills a natural for this new opportunity.
“I wanted to show appreciation to Rabbis Rosenthal and Sandler for their support during a difficult time in my life,” she said. “Thinking about the synagogue’s needs, we agreed that it was programming for mature active adults. ‘Active’ being the important word. We sent out 645 introductory letters to Ahavath Achim members, age 65-plus. The response was beyond our expectations. It caused the board to rethink the needs of the synagogue.”
Programs are geared to all “active adult” couples and singles alike to encourage learning, socialization, entertainment and fun. “It is NOT a singles’ dating group!” Solomon said. “We have about 50/50 participation from couples and singles.
Membership is $18 per person. This money is used to defray administrative expenses. Mature Active Adult Community (known as mAAc, AA branding) members pay a discounted rate for events.”
Member Shirley Rich added, “I have very much enjoyed the mAAc programs. It really fills a much-needed gap for socialization and participation in planned group activities that seniors seek and that we wouldn’t otherwise have the opportunity to participate in.”
Many seniors don’t like to drive far anymore and are looking for ways to interact with others and go to events that they wouldn’t attend alone. Every event we have planned has been filled to capacity with a waiting list. The BeltLine bus holds only 25 people so we could accept only 25 reservations.
The October kick-off brunch program – Jewish Broadway songwriters – set a goal for 50 and 112 showed up.
In January, Billy Planer served as guide for a tour of the National Center for Civil and Human Rights. Planer, who grew up as a youth in AA Synagogue, is founder of Etgar 36, which conducts Jewish youth tour experiences. It was recently featured in The New York Times.
In March, more than 90 went to Cyclorama in its new Atlanta History Center home. In May there was a guided bus tour of the BeltLine; in July, former Atlanta mayor Sam Massell spoke about his biography, “Play it Again, Sam;” and in August, the group saw the Houdini exhibit at The Breman Museum.
Remarking on what were the most successful, Solomon said, “The Center for Civil and Human Rights museum tour was amazing because Billy Planer provided so much information and history.
The BeltLine tour was eye-opening, demonstrating the growth of Midtown, East Atlanta and points south. The book review featuring Sam Massell found his life growing up in Atlanta and becoming the first and only Jewish mayor intruiging.”
Rabbi Laurence Rosenthal said, “mAAc is at the core of our congregation’s mission: to join individual spiritual journeys together to strengthen and embolden our collective Jewish lives. Through Gail’s initiative, Ahavath Achim has embarked on an amazing effort to support and serve one of our core demographics – active mature adults.
Many Jewish institutions are obsessed with chasing young people and in this desire for the attention and affection of millennials, young families, there has been some objectification and stereotyping, which isn’t healthy. All people want to be inspired and live lives of meaning and purpose. Through Gail and mAAc’s efforts, we are leading by example.”
Some events have transportation from AA on Peachtree Battle Avenue. Non-synagogue members can join for $36 each and be on the mailing list. Non-AA, non-mAAc mature active adults 65-plus can participate on a space-available basis for an additional fee.
Upcoming events include:
Nov. 21: Tour of the Andy Warhol exhibit at The Booth Museum in Cartersville, 10:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.
January 2020: mAAc Shabbat with judging of the Great Kugel Kook-off, and “The Band’s Visit” at the Fox Theatre.
February: Brunch kick-off 2020 with the Gray Matters Band.