As I sit to write the blurb for the April Foundation Focus, more than 130 of our brothers and sisters have been held hostage in Gaza for 162 days.

One of the four names for the holiday of Passover is Zman Cheruteynu (The Season of Our Freedom). As we approach Passover, it’s difficult to reconcile the joy of the holiday with the sadness we feel for those who have lost their freedom and are still in captivity.

And yet, just as the Israelites clung to hope that they would reach the land of Israel, we too need to remain steadfast in our hope that these hostages will taste freedom again soon. This month’s Foundation Focus highlights ways in which Atlanta Jewish Foundation donors have used their voice and their philanthropy to fight for the freedom of others, and opportunities for you to use your voice and your philanthropy as well.

Wishing you and your family a Happy Passover,


One in three adults in Georgia has a criminal record, and there are more people under correctional control (either in jail, prison, probation, or on parole) than any other state in the US. It is also one of the top states with extraordinarily long probation periods, sometimes upward of 20 years. 

For many communities struck by poverty and addiction, it can be easy to fall into run-ins with the law, but in the state of Georgia, getting out of them proves much more challenging and can have lifelong consequences. 

Georgia Justice Project (GJP), a nonprofit established nearly 40 years ago, is on a mission to support those with criminal records to turn their lives around and get the legal and social support they wouldn’t be able to afford otherwise. 

“On top of believing that people should not be judged solely based on what they did on their worst day, we believe that the criminal justice system should not be about exclusion, but instead should be all about figuring out ways to get people back into the folds of society,” said Joel Neuman, the General Counsel at GJP. 

“When someone has a record and is trying to rebuild their life, it’s very difficult to find housing or find a job,” explained Joel. “That’s why we help them get their records restricted and sealed so that they’re not public, and only law enforcement can see them. Once that’s fixed, they can start establishing themselves in society.” This is just one example of how GJP supports their clients. 

 Georgia Justice Project is committed to changing the laws that prevent people from re-entering society. Something unique that they do is bring in a full team of experts who can help support these individuals and their families from various angles, including social workers. ”Instead of just looking at the crime, we want to understand what life circumstances got them there in the first place,” said Joel. 

For example, a college student attended a campus-sponsored movie night and saw candy bars sitting on a table near the entrance. She and her friends took a few of the bars and took their seats, not knowing that they weren’t free. She was subsequently charged for stealing and now has a criminal record. Georgia Justice Project is helping this young woman get her record restricted so that she can start her career, which has proven to be difficult. 

“This can affect everyone of all ages, genders, and life circumstances,” said Joel. “As a state, we must work to reduce the number of people who are under correctional control and find a different way to work with those involved in the criminal legal system.” 

Please consider making a gift to the Georgia Justice Project via your donor-advised fund. 

Immediately after the October 7th massacre, many Atlanta community members felt paralyzed in fear, not knowing what to do or how they could help. But Meir Matana, an Israeli native living in Atlanta for 15 years, had a quick realization: families in Israel wouldn’t be able to withstand their current environment for long.

“After the attack, families from affected areas were evacuated to hotels where they had to sleep in one room with two, three, or more children,” explained Meir. For many, this environment only added to the stress, and the need for these families to get a “breather” from Israel became especially apparent.

In response, Meir started a nonprofit called Mission: Embrace Israel and began fundraising so that he could bring Israeli families to Atlanta for a few weeks up to a few months to recuperate. He and a group of 50 volunteers arranged host families, school for the children, activities, day trips, and psychological care so that Israelis of all ages visiting would have the support they needed while in Atlanta.

Atlantans donated a lot more than dollars, explained Meir. People gave airline miles, cars, and vacation homes so that these families could easily get here and have comfortable accommodations.

So far, Meir’s organization has brought 15 families from Israel to Atlanta. And they are now entering the next wave of fundraising to hopefully bring a new group of families in need.

“This war isn’t over, and in some areas it’s becoming increasingly dangerous,” explained Meir. “Families still need this relief.”

Meir works closely Michele Hirsch, a passionate donor and volunteer with Mission: Embrace Israel who feels strongly that the American Jewish community feels more connected to Israel than ever and that together, we can make a big difference right here in Atlanta. “We [Israelis and American Jews] need compassion and love for one another and to see each other as family. We’re all Jewish and have to take care of each other, no matter where we’re from.”

We encourage you to make a gift to Mission: Support Israel via your donor-advised fund. 

ORA – The Organization for the Resolution of Agunot (ORA) seeks to eliminate abuse from the Jewish divorce process. They work within the parameters of Jewish law and civil law to advocate for the timely and unconditional issuance of a gett. ORA believes that the protracted refusal to issue or receive a gett is a form of domestic abuse which must never be tolerated. ORA seeks to foster a Jewish community in which a gett is never used as a weapon, and pursues its mission through agunah case advocacy, early intervention programs, and educational initiatives for agunah­ prevention.

Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) – As the devastating situation rages on, Ukraine’s Jews are in distress. In the face of this ongoing conflict, JDC has continued uninterrupted its life-saving care for tens of thousands of Ukraine’s most vulnerable Jews.

New American Pathways – New American Pathways provide a continuum of services that supports new Americans on their individual pathways from arrival through citizenship. We focus on key milestones along the pathway that build on one another and contribute to long-term success.

Please note that due to the Passover holiday, grants made between April 16th and April 24th will be sent out on April 25th. Please do not hesitate to reach out if we can help you.

AJC’s 2024 Atlanta Unity Seder

Monday, April 8 | 6 pm | The Temple, 1589 Peachtree St NE, Atlanta 30309

AJC is delighted to extend a warm invitation to join their annual Atlanta Unity Seder—an event that transcends religious and cultural boundaries to celebrate the universal themes of freedom, resilience, and shared humanity.


JF&CS’s ‘The Tasting Experience’

Thursday, May 2 | 7:30 pm | The Stave Room, 199 Armour Dr NE, Atlanta 30324

The Tasting Experience is an expanded event supporting the nonsectarian Intellectual & Developmental Disabilities Services (IDDS) of JF&CS. At The Tasting Experience, guests will enjoy a silent auction, delicious tastings from some of Atlanta’s best restaurants and caterers, and spirits and wine from local distributors while supporting extraordinary programs and clients.


Business And Professionals Breakfast Series – The State Of The City: Examining Atlanta’s Past, Present & Future

Monday, May 20 |  7:00 am – 9:00 am | The Selig Center, Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta

You are invited to join the Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta’s Business and Professionals networking breakfast and program about the state of the city as Rabbi Peter Berg engages Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens in conversation. Rabbi Berg and Mayor Dickens will discuss Atlanta’s past, present, and the mayor’s vision for the future of the city.


Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta Annual Meeting

Monday, June 3 | Time: TBD | Temple Sinai

Registration Open Soon