Atlanta Jewish Foundation and Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta remember the life of Michael Kay, who died last month at age 83. Michael was a remarkable champion for the Atlanta Jewish community—a man who artfully marshaled philanthropy and character to repair the world.
Born in New York City, Michael spent his boyhood in Pittsburgh and earned a B.S. in Hotel Administration at Cornell University. He came to Atlanta in 1979 to run the then-fledgling Omni International Hotels, and in 1991 went on to become the turnaround CEO of LSG Sky Chefs, the largest provider of in-flight airline catering, serving 270 airlines in 48 countries.
From the moment he came to Atlanta, Michael credits two mentors, Tom Cousins, and Herbert Kohn, with inspiring him to engage with philanthropy. “Tom taught me so much about this dynamic city, its opportunities, its challenges, and its most pressing human needs. Herbert was my guide to Jewish Atlanta. The first time we met, he heard I’d been on the board of Family Services in San Francisco. The very next day, he called and invited me to get involved at Jewish Family & Career Services.” It became his Jewish center of gravity for many years.
In the wider Atlanta community, Michael served on the boards of YearUp Atlanta, United Way, The Center for Working Families, KIPP Schools, and Points of Light Institute.
Michael’s imprint can be found in so many places. He chaired the Jewish Community Legacy Project and is a past board chair for the Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta, where he created the first donor-advised fund committee and chaired the investment committee. At JF&CS, where Michael chaired the board, he and his wife Ann were honorary co-chairs of the capital campaign that resulted in an expanded campus and new space for the agency’s innovative IndependenceWorks program. He served on the boards of The Weber School and the MJCCA. Michael and Ann assisted in helping bring Repair to Atlanta. Fittingly, in 2021 Michael received Federation’s Lifetime of Achievement award, honoring the breadth and depth of his leadership.
Eric Robbins, Federation CEO, said of his fellow Pittsburghian, “Michael Kay was someone who led quietly, by example. He was fierce in his love for his adopted city, and he worked to make it more equitable and empathetic. He was equally committed to Jewish Atlanta and his good works will truly live on as a lasting legacy.”