Debbie Kuniansky recently spoke to the Federation’s Women’s Philanthropy Board on why she chose to endow her annual gift to Federation and how others can accomplish the same. Debbie has been a valued Atlanta Jewish community leader for many years and is currently a Member of Federation’s Board of Trustees. Unsurprisingly, she is passionate about taking care of the Atlanta Jewish community. Debbie grew up in Lakeland, Florida, where there wasn’t a significant Jewish presence. “We didn’t have BBYO or a JCC; there was no Jewish elder-care home…we had one small synagogue with a part-time Rabbi,” she says.   

She moved to Atlanta right out of college and immediately joined a synagogue. It was the one way she knew of to connect with other Jews. Over the years, she got married and had kids. She and her first husband decided to enroll their children in the Marcus Jewish Community Center of Atlanta’s preschool; it was her first experience with a JCC. Debbie was immediately drawn to it. She soon became very involved as a volunteer, where she made many life-long friends, as did her children. This was the beginning of her love of Jewish Atlanta and her family’s dedication to building a more robust Jewish community.   

Debbie remained active in the community as her children grew. She became the VP of Education at Temple Sinai and served on the Board of The Weber School. Debbie was then invited to participate in the first cohort of the Tritt Family Leadership Institute at Federation. She eventually joined the JFGA Board of Trustees, served as Federation’s 2021 Community Campaign Vice Chair, and just completed her term as Chair of the 2022 Community Campaign. Still, she is continually looking for more ways to help Jewish organizations. “I appreciate what I have here in Atlanta because I didn’t always have it.”  

Endowing her Lion was very important to her as a way to ensure the future of her community, but she wasn’t sure how to make it happen. “I want to be able to help take care of my community even after I’m not here,” she says. “I want to make sure my kids and their kids have this vibrant Jewish community.”  

Debbie’s husband, Doug, suggested she make the endowment through a life insurance policy. Each year, they made regular payments towards the policy (which are tax deductible). Someday, the payout on that policy will be donated directly to charities that mean the most to Debbie and Doug.  

“I love that our community plans for the future,” she says. “People who came before me made plans and commitments, and my family and I benefitted from them.” When she thinks of the people who came before her, she thinks of a great Jewish legacy of leaders and community builders who inspired her. Now, Debbie feels like she’s part of that group constantly striving to make things better—not maintaining the status quo.   

To learn more about making endowments, the Lion of Judah Conference, and more, contact Rachel Rosner