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Gather Grants: Providing Authenticity and Meaning to Make Jewish Atlanta Welcoming

By December 13, 2023No Comments

Atlanta’s growing Jewish community sprawls across a huge metro area of 29 counties! Federation’s Gather Grant program, a $180 grant awarded to individuals, invites any Jewish-identifying person in the community to host a Jewish or Jew-ish event/gathering for friends, families and neighbors. Funding for Gather Grants comes from Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta and the Atlanta Jewish Foundation, through a Helen Marie Stern Fund grant. The Gather Grant program is making our community feel smaller, more accessible and providing meaningful interactions by bringing Jews together for camaraderie, fun, education and connection. Through the shared experiences and deepening relationships that Gather Grants provide, Federation is making great strides to achieve its ultimate goal — a THRIVING Jewish Atlanta.

“With Gather Grants, you tell us what you want to do,” says Federation Engagement Manager Carla Birnbaum. “You can host a Shabbat or holiday dinner to meet your Jewish neighbors. You can plan a picnic with other families who have similar-aged kids. You might buy copies of a Jewish-themed book and host a discussion group. You can organize a game night, a nature hike, a volunteer project – whatever and wherever you want.”

“We had an application from a young couple who had moved in with family in East Cobb to save for a house. They mentioned that they wanted to start a family but were having fertility issues. Through their Gather Grant they met others in their age group, and in the process learned about the Jewish Fertility Foundation (JFF). Through JFF they got a fertility buddy and found tremendous emotional support,” Birnbaum says. “I love how the grant deepened their engagement.”Debbie Shubin Levinson, trustee of the Helen Marie Stern Fund, provided the vision for the Gather Grants program — a first in North America and now a model replicated in other communities. “A person can live in a community with lots of Jews, or none, and still have a sense of isolation and alienation from the greater community. Gather Grants are about making it easy for Jews in our community to have Jewish connections no matter who you are or where you live. My dear friend Helen, of blessed memory, cherished being a part of the Atlanta Jewish community. I know that Helen would be incredibly pleased that her resources are being used to ensure that Jewish Atlanta, through the Gather Grants program, is thriving and accessible to all”.  

Josh and Jillian Friedensohn are a young couple with four kids who live in Peachtree Corners. They used their Gather Grant to host a Shabbat program to meet more Jewish neighbors. They started small but their events have snowballed. The Friedensohns now host epic Jewish events that attract 70 to 100 people. “We grill, bake, have a bounce house, and meet new people,” neighbors say. “Josh and Jillian brought our Peachtree Corners Jewish community together!” 

Jewish organizations with similar goals can also apply for a Gather Grant. Coming up for MLK Weekend is a Family Day of Service sponsored by 10 early childhood organizations including PJ Library and two Jewish day schools. They’re hosting an MLK event at The Davis Academy that brings our community’s youngest social activists together for age-appropriate social action projects. 

Also, for MLK weekend, HIllels of Georgia and Black students at nine different colleges are convening conversations around race, identity, Israel and antisemitic tensions on campus. Dr. John Eaves, a Black/Jewish faculty member at Spelman College, is steering the event. He hopes the discussions will “Resurrect the Beloved Community,” through respectful and deep conversations.

Congregation Shearith Israel, Limmud Atlanta, and Jewish Abilities Atlanta are teaming up for The Jewish Table: from Babka to Za’atar — an event celebrating Jewish foodways, Sunday, February 25, 2024. It will feature cooking demonstrations, hands-on food making, and discussions. 

Thanks to the Helen Marie Stern Fund, the Gather Grants were funded for a 5-year time period. And due to overwhelming success, Gather Grants are now in their 6th year! 

Atlanta Jewish Foundation donors are encouraged to make grants to support the Gather Grant program. Please contact Joel Ashner at Federation to learn how you can help our community grow even stronger.