Though we are empty nesters, Bruce and I still include our four children in decisions about our family’s philanthropy. We continue to talk about how we can make a difference in our Atlanta community and farther afield in ways that are relevant to all of us. Our kids know they were born “on third base,” with many advantages, yet they refuse to close their eyes to injustice and social inequities.
Even before the Black Lives Matter movement intensified this spring, we have been focused on empowering high poverty communities in Atlanta. The murder of George Floyd and the anger and frustration felt by so many of us accelerated our interest in supporting an organization called Westside Future Fund that’s doing community development in the neighborhoods of Vine City, English Avenue, University Center, and Ashview Heights. It resonated with us for many reasons including the inclusion of local residents to create their own safe, economically strong neighborhoods.
We all tend to live in silos, and it’s not unusual that local organizations who are doing wonderful work fall off the radar. If social justice is your priority, your vision can be limited to who you know and where you live. Atlanta Jewish Foundation opens a wide window on giving opportunities that align with your interests. Say you’re interested in organizations that focus on reading and early childhood development — AJF can point you to so many meaningful opportunities. Atlanta, with its civil rights heritage, is a hub for changemakers and innovators who are using policy and practice effectively to revitalize their communities. No matter what your philanthropic passion, lean into it! Atlanta Jewish Foundation is an awesome resource that can lead you, as it has led us, to social justice and Jewish opportunities you didn’t even know existed.
With our focus on empowerment, we’ve made other philanthropic investments that are exciting, innovative, and effective. One was JOIN for Justice, a Jewish organizing initiative in Boston. Our son Jonathon went through the program and we liked how it develops social organizational leadership capacity for young people. Another is Amplify Decatur, inspired by our son Michael, a musician. It uses music as a catalyst to raise funds for community organizations fighting poverty and homelessness. We looked at it as an investment and told the founder that he had to match at least 50% of what we gave in outside grants. It’s now one of the most successful poverty relief organizations in the Southeast.
We were recently introduced to the CEO of the Russell Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, (RCIE) located in Atlanta’s HBCU center. It was started by the widow and children of the late African American businessman Herman J. Russell to develop opportunities for aspiring African Americans who don’t have the network of family, business, or fraternity connections. RCIE helps them network, and provides ways to support, teach, and lift people up so they can develop their own businesses. Each of these organizations approaches inequity differently; our hope is that our investment in them will continue to bring social justice change to our community.
Bruce and I are grateful that Atlanta Jewish Foundation has made our philanthropic giving even more meaningful, impactful, and personal.