Foundation Focus

Foundation Focus: Purim & the Mitzvah of Giving to the Poor

By March 21, 2024No Comments

Hamantaschen, and groggers, and masks, oh my!

When we think of the holiday of Purim, these are often the traditions we think of, but did you know there is a Purim tradition associated with philanthropy?  

Matanot L’evyonim is a special mitzvah or commandment in which all men, women, and children should give gifts to the poor. These gifts can come in the form of direct aid to an individual or through a community representative or organization and can support the purchase of food, clothing, education, you name it!  

Through the Atlanta Jewish Foundation, donors support a variety of issues and causes that fulfill the obligation to give to the poor. In this month’s Foundation Focus, we will highlight just a few stories in which our donors have helped those in need in our local community and a community across the world.  

Chag Purim Sameach (Happy Purim!), 

Lindsay Kopecky

Daniel Lewis is a college senior who has a lot to look forward to when he graduates from University of Florida, Gainesville in April. Yes, he’ll do some traveling with friends after finishing his degree in Sports Management and a minor in Business Administration. Yes, he’s got a job lined up in Florida. And yes, grad school might eventually be on the horizon. 

But what really lights Daniel Lewis up is philanthropy. While in college, he participated in Semester at Sea, a study abroad program on a ship, emphasizing global comparative studies. It took him to exciting and exotic places, notably Kenya, where Dan briefly taught at The Gift School. “The school is an amazing place, founded by a Swiss Christian nonprofit, that serves 500 students orphaned by losing parents to HIV. Most of the students come from a notorious Nairobi area known as the ‘Bangladesh Slum’. Being accepted to The Gift School is a privilege and they know they are lucky to be here. It’s literally their ticket out of poverty,” he explained. 

Inspired by his time in Kenya, Daniel and some friends launched a GoFundMe campaign to benefit The Gift School, along with a Kenyan girls’ home also serving HIV orphans. They successfully raised $3,000, which inspired Dan to pursue even more philanthropic and nonprofit dreams.  

In 2020 while working at a summer camp, Daniel became very close to his co-counselor in training, a young man with mental health issues who couldn’t afford treatment and ultimately took his own life. It was devastating to me. He was such a great kid, always volunteering at food banks and dropping off pizzas to homeless families on holidays. I know other kids who have suffered from mental illness and couldn’t afford counseling. I’m actually thinking of getting graduate degree in psychology and creating a nonprofit in Atlanta for young people that can help subsidize psychotherapy.” 

 
These are remarkable goals for a young man just starting out, but as he says, “The impulse to give back is strong in me, and it’s very Jewish. It comes from going to The Epstein School, it comes from the example set by my parents and grandparents. It comes from the injustice and inequality that I see.” 

 
“I have had a very fortunate life so far,” Daniel says. “Now it’s my generation’s turn. I’m hopeful, but it’s a scary time to be alive. The trip to Kenya grounded me and reminded me that people with so little can do so much with the things we take for granted. It’s easy to forget that, but that’s what I want to live by.”  

Along with his cousins, Daniel is the beneficiary of his own donor-advised fund at Atlanta Jewish Foundation. It was a gift from his grandmother, Cathy Selig Kuranoff, who wanted to empower all of her grandchildren to make their own philanthropic decisions and support the causes they care about. By all accounts, that’s exactly what her grandson Daniel is doing.   
 

Contact Madelaine Tesori at Atlanta Jewish Foundation about opening a donor-advised fund for yourself, or for a child or grandchild. It’s a brilliant tool for becoming a philanthropic change maker. 

Gillian Gansler, Board Chair at Rebecca’s Tent, spoke with the Atlanta Jewish Foundation team to share how this small but mighty nonprofit has changed nearly 2,000 lives, all from the basement of Congregation Shearith Israel.  

Rebecca’s Tent isn’t your average homeless shelter. With only 13 beds, dozens of volunteers, and a small professional staff, it has been a lifeline for women experiencing homelessness during the cold Atlanta winter months since the 1980s.  

“At our shelter, all of the women have jobs and none of them have substance abuse issues. That’s our policy. They want to help themselves, but they simply don’t make enough to be able to afford housing, which is a problem in Atlanta. Many of them landed in this situation due to health issues or escaping abusive relationships,” Gensler explains. 

One resident was working at AT&T in a call center when she suddenly began to experience vision and walking issues. After having to miss work to attend doctor appointments, she was fired. Unable to pay her rent, she had no choice but to sleep in her car. Homeless for more than a month, she was parked in a gas station parking lot when she met another homeless woman who handed her a phone number and said, “You can thank me later.” It was the phone number for Rebecca’s Tent, and she found shelter there. 

“There are so many misconceptions about women who experience homelessness, some of which are that these women are lazy, crazy, and addicted,” said Gillian. “But that’s not the case for these women who are eager to get back on their feet, reunited with their families, and into stable housing.” 

While the shelter is only open during the fall and winter months, it offers year-round supportive programs for unhoused women. A day program provides counseling. A rapid housing program targets families and provides rental assistance. And “empowerment sessions” taught by volunteers, coaching women in essential skills like resume-writing, interview role-playing, and personal financial management.  

“These women need someone to believe in them. Being unhoused is the darkest part of their lives and they deal with immense shame and embarrassment. But we see them come out stronger on the other side — living again with their children and having stable housing.”  

Donations to Rebecca’s Tent help extend the number of days the shelter is open each year, and cover basic overhead expenses like utilities, staff support. We encourage you to make a gift to Rebecca’s Tent via your donor-advised fund.

Ben Massell Dental Clinic (BMDC) is the most advanced free dental treatment facility in Georgia. Founded a century ago by Jewish philanthropists, the clinic has changed the lives of thousands of people a year by offering free dental care to clients within 125% of the poverty line, who have no access to insurance. The clinic is staffed by 100 volunteer dentists who devote half a day a month. In a typical year, these amazing men and women perform more than 9,000 dental procedures. 

Holocaust Survivor Support Fund of Jewish Federation (HSSF) provides financial support for the critical needs of Holocaust survivors; home care, medical care, medical equipment, prescription drugs, dental care, home-delivered meals, emergency financial assistance, adult day care, assisted living housing support hospice, and food assistance. Through your support of this targeted Federation priority, you help ensure that Holocaust survivors in our community live their final days in comfort and with dignity. 

JELF – Jewish Education Loan Fund helps Jewish students earn degrees by providing interest-free loans for higher education. Since 1961 JELF has provided more than $21.5M in interest-free loans across a 5-state region FL, GA, NC, SC, VA (except metro DC). JELF understands that the Jewish community is not immune to debt or hardship, especially with the soaring cost of higher education. JELF recipients come from single parent families, immigrant families, families afflicted with illness, job-related issues and special needs.  

National Council of Jewish Women/The Sandwich Project – National Council of Jewish Women (NCJW) proudly partners with Sandwich Project (TSP) an Atlanta-based non-profit whose volunteers assemble and donate fresh, homemade sandwiches each week to meet food scarcity needs in Metro Atlanta. Through TSP, NCJW volunteers assist more than 30 local organizations combat homelessness and food insecurity. Your support helps NCJW Atlanta Section members, prepare, package, and deliver fresh sandwiches to thousands of people. 

How to Avoid Swindlers, Scams, and Schemes 

Tuesday, March 19th | 1:00-3:00 PM | Jewish Homelife (JHL) 

Atlanta Jewish Foundation , in partnership with AgeWell Atlanta and Jewish HomeLife, invites you to hear from the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta’s Jessica Washington. Learn how to protect yourself from vulnerability to scams and swindlers. 

REGISTER HERE

18th Annual Balser Celebration
Thursday, April 18, 2024 | 4:30pm-7:30 PM | Location TBD 


Join Atlanta Jewish Foundation, Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta, and United Way of Greater Atlanta for the 18th Annual Balser Celebration — one of Atlanta’s premier educational and networking events for Professional Advisors. This year we are proud to honor Jack Balser, who, for 13 years, served as Endowment Director of Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta. Through Jack’s efforts, the number of planned gifts in the community grew dramatically and his strategic approach to giving continues to bear fruit today. 

REGISTER HERE

Memorial to the Six Million at Greenwood Cemetery

March 22, 2024 | 11 AM 

Get on the bus with us as we visit this extraordinary site, learn about its history and current ongoing restoration project, and why we think it’s crucial to support its maintenance efforts. RSVP to Ghila Sanders [email protected].

LEARN MORE HERE

Community Conversations – Inclusive Jewish Engagement

March 20 | 8:30-10 AM | Location will be disclosed upon registration

Community Conversations are curated, small group experiences designed to provide a forum for authentic conversations that incorporate issue awareness and spark meaningful dialogue with local nonprofits and the philanthropic community. This community conversation will revolve around the topic of Inclusive Jewish Engagement. We are delighted to welcome an exceptional panel to bring together information and understanding from panelists representing various initiatives within our organization. 

REGISTER HERE.