Letter From The Co-Chairs
Welcome to the latest edition of Tikkun Olam Times, or as we affectionately call it, TOT. This issue reflects our dedication to Social Justice and our desire to inform, connect and engage our readers with opportunities to repair our broken world. Even during the COVID-19 crisis, we found ways for you to engage safely in acts of chased (loving kindness) and tzedakah (giving).
This month’s publication is packed with inspiring stories, selfless deeds and touching testimonials. Our first feature shines a light on congregants working in the healthcare, educational and emergency systems. Thank you to all the doctors, nurses, home health care workers, medical technicians, public health professionals, teachers, chaplains, physical therapists, psychotherapists and those who keep our minds active, spirits lifted and community safe! We are better and stronger because of you.
In addition to frontline workers, we introduce you to a congregant who turned her love of morning coffee into an opportunity to “brew hope” for others. We feature not one but two Pen Pal opportunities and highlight some impressive statistics from our Thanksgiving Coat Drive and Green Tu BiShvat Renew & Recycle Drive.
We are thankful for the positive support and feedback we have received in the past and hope that you continue to share your ideas and opinions in the future. Together, we can make the Tikkun Olam Times a vehicle of compassion and change. So, be inspired. Get engaged. Do a Mitzvah. We promise, you won’t be disappointed!
With warm regards,
Julie Mokotoff and Wendy Frank, Social Justice Co-Chairs
Thank You to Our Congregants Working on the Frontlines During the Pandemic
We wish to thank our congregants who work in healthcare, education and emergency services for providing support and care to our community during the COVID-19 crisis. We know that many members of Temple Emanu-El are serving on the frontlines. They include nurses, doctors, home health care workers, emergency medical technicians, public health professionals, physical therapists, psychologists and therapists, chaplains, teachers and volunteers. For some, grappling with the challenges of COVID-19 has been an opportunity to learn new skills and develop new ways of providing services.
Congregant Laurie Weiss, a speech-language pathologist for Fulton County Public Schools, says, “I have learned how to adapt and be as flexible as possible due to things changing constantly during the pandemic. Working virtually and face to face with students simultaneously is no easy task,” says Laurie, “but you do your best to help students feel welcomed, valued, engaged, and accepted.”
Congregant Laura Dowling, a speech-language pathologist for Piedmont Hospital in the Rehabilitation Services Department says, “At first, there was such fear. Everything happened quickly. There was profound loss and death. The low point was losing one of our therapists to COVID-19, which forced us to face our mortality. Now, there is less death yet the numbers of patients with COVID-19 remains high. The most difficult part of the job is losing patients you developed a rapport with while treating them over the course of a few weeks or months, says Laura, “and of course, watching patients die without their loved ones is heartbreaking.”
Have You Gotten Your COVID-19 Vaccine?
Please check in with your healthcare provider to find out how to get a COVID-19 vaccination, now available for those aged 65 and over. You can find more information about how to get the vaccine through our website. We maintain an up-to-date list of vaccination locations and other resources, complete with links, phone numbers and directions to vaccine sites.
As always, Temple Emanu-El is here to support community. If you need additional help, please contact us at (770) 395-1340.
Congregant Wendy May Is Brewing More Hope
Hi! I’m Wendy Kahn May, the mother of a teenage son with chronic illness. Dealing with my son’s illness for many years, I have learned creative ways to find solutions, deal with daily life and learn how to create a little normalcy. I do that by never giving up hope.
Last fall, I launched my blog brewingmorehope.com. The blog is a safe space to let parents know that they are not alone in their struggles and to provide families with the motivation to move
forward in their daily lives. You may be wondering about the name of my blog: Brewing More Hope. As an avid coffee drinker, taking a moment out for a single cup brings me a few moments of peace and reflection.
I’ve been blessed with readers from across the globe. I have also written posts in Psychology Today, The Mighty, Source Mama and received a mention on NBC 11Alive! “Atlanta & Company.”
No matter how tough things get, we must continue to “brew hope” that we will find a cure, or at least a way to bring happiness and contentment into the lives of our children and our families!
I would love to pay it forward and be a support for other parents in the Temple Emanu-El community and beyond. So, please feel free to reach out if you have any questions.
GRAMAGRAM: The Gift of Connection in a Time of Isolation
For many aging adults, the COVID-19 pandemic has proven to be a time of loneliness and isolation. Jewish Home Life has come up with a fast , simple way to brighten the day of these members of our community: the Gramagram.
Writing a Gramagram is easy. Just follow these tips:
- Address the Letter as “Dear Friend”, “Hello Dear One,” or some form of personal greeting. For privacy reasons, Jewish Home Life cannot provide names of individual residents.
- Tell the resident about you and your hobbies.
- Use positive words, messages and well wishes.
- Include a joke, poem or drawings.
- Write the letter by hand if you have neat penmanship. If not, type it.
Consider taking 5 minutes out of your day to write a Gramagram. The results are definitely worth it!
Mail letters to:
c/o Jill Cohen, Volunteer Administrator
3150 Howell Mill Rd NW
Atlanta, GA 30327
El Refugio Pen-Pal Program: Writing Immigrants Held in a Detention Center
For undocumented immigrants held in detention centers, the COVID-19 crisis has intensified the sense of loneliness and isolation. Visits with family members and friends have been cancelled which means detainees are cut off from the outside world.
El Refugio, a non-profit organization located near Stewart Detention Center, has found a way to help. The agency has created a Pen-Pal program to lift detainees’ morale and bring a sense of hope. Participating in the Pen-Pal program means more than writing a letter. It means connecting with a
person who is vulnerable and alone. People in detention have reported that receiving a letter can be one of the most meaningful events they experienced while being detained.
No less than 36 times, the Torah commands just treatment of the stranger. “The stranger who resides with you shall be to you as one of your citizens; you shall love them as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.” (Leviticus 19:34).
Becoming a Pen-Pal is a simple and easy way to turn belief into action. If you would like to learn more about El Refugio’s Pen-Pal Program, contact Karen Baron at email@example.com for assistance.
Feeding Immigrants Impacted by Job Loss
Temple Emanu-El's Social Justice Committee continues to partner with the Atlanta Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs and Temple Sinai to feed hungry immigrant families affected by job loss due to COVID-19.
A $6,000 grant from the Union for Reform Judaism, along with the generosity of congregants who earmarked tzedakah donations for Atlanta COVID-19 relief, will allow us to provide food for 45 families at a low-income apartment complex in the Briarcliff area for the next four months.
These are families who have lost jobs due to the pandemic and do not qualify for government assistance or social services. The Mayor’s Office classifies the situation as a humanitarian crisis and we feel privileged to help.
In 2020, we adopted a community of 25 immigrant families living in the Sandy Springs/Brookhaven area. From September through December, we provided culturally appropriate food, including fresh fruit and vegetables, rice, beans, tortillas, bags of flour and herbs.
The needs of the Sandy Springs / Brookhaven families have since changed, which is why we will now support a different community of 45 families in the Briarcliff area with fresh, healthy food.
Temple Emanu-El is playing a mostly financial role in feeding these families due to COVID-19 safety protocols. Even though we can’t engage in our usual 'hands-on' approach, it is rewarding to know that hungry children and families are able to eat because of our congregants’ generosity.
Your donations are put to work on a biweekly basis when each family receives a large box of food. Donations to feed immigrant families are welcome through our Tzedakah Fund. Please indicate that you would like your money directed to 'outside projects'. The website address is:
For congregants interested in learning more about the process, opportunities exist to observe a food distribution. Contact Lauren at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information about making a donation or attending a food distribution.
BackPack Buddies: Fighting Hunger over the Weekend
Not all children look forward to the weekends. For food-insecure families, Saturday and Sunday represent a time when they are unable to eat three meals a day. Enter BackPack Buddies (BPB), a program designed to provide economically disadvantaged children with food for the weekend.
Due to health and safety concerns related to COVID-19, the DeKalb County School District has adopted a distance learning model. What does that mean for the BackPack Buddies program at Temple Emanu-El? It means the work is getting done but in a modified way. We are still packing nutritionally dense breakfast, lunch and snacks items for students at Chestnut Charter Elementary School and Austin Elementary School. What’s changed is that we are driving bags of food to children’s homes rather than dropping off backpacks at school. When DeKalb County Schools reopen for in-person learning, we will be able to serve more children.
You can help the BPB program by making a tax-deductible donation or purchasing the following items and dropping them off at the synagogue:
- Boxes of white milk
- Individual boxes of cereal
- Canned ravioli or beefaroni
- Microwavable macaroni and cheese
- Fruit cups
- Individually wrapped granola bars, Power Bars or Z bars
Questions about the BackPack Buddies? Contact Julie at email@example.com
Nourishing our Neighbors: Feeding the Women and Children of Mary Hall Freedom Village
Every Wednesday, Bea Grossman, Nancy Shapiro and their dedicated team of volunteers prepare and deliver nutritious lunches to the women and children of Mary Hall Freedom House. Since the program’s inception eight months ago:
- 4,700 lunches have been prepared and delivered.
- 75 congregants have volunteered for the program.
- 25 children receive lunches each week. Children in the day care program receive two meals - peanut butter and jelly for lunch and turkey for dinner.
- 70-75 women receive lunches each week
Interested in volunteering for this very important effort?
Contact Bea at firstname.lastname@example.org or register on SignUp Genius at:
Constructive Coverings: Making Masks for the Most Vulnerable
During the COVID-19 crisis, Temple Emanu-El has created and distributed protective face coverings to the most vulnerable in our community. A small but committed team of volunteers has produced some very impressive numbers:
- 500 masks made to date.
- 8 volunteers making and delivering masks.
- 3 recipient agencies, including:
-Hispanic Mentoring Group of Gwinnett County, a community-based mentoring agency supporting Latino / Hispanic middle school students.
-Community Assistance Center, a non-profit organization providing basic needs of food, clothing and rent assistance.
-Mary Hall Freedom Village, a non-profit organization empowering women, children, veterans, and families to end the cycle of homelessness, addiction, and poverty.
Interested in joining the mask-making team? Contact Wendy May at email@example.com.
335 Coats Collected to Help Those in Need
The first annual Thanksgiving Coats and Blessings Event was a huge success! Even in the middle of a pandemic, our members opened their hearts and closets to help those in need. Almost 100 people arrived in their cars to donate 330 gently worn coats and receive a blessing from the clergy. In addition, we received an anonymous donation from a congregant that allowed us to purchase five new winter coats.
As a result of your support, we distributed coats to:
- Dunwoody Springs Elementary School
- The Community Assistance Center (CAC)
- Zaban Paradies Couples Center, and
- Mary Hall Freedom Village (MHFV)
The Social Justice Committee wants to extend a special thank-you to Sisterhood for sponsoring the Thanksgiving-themed goodie bags, to Laura Winston for donating her delicious artisan chocolates, and to Beth and Eric Sherman (pictured) for sorting and delivering the coats.
Tu BiShvat: A Time of Ecological Stewardship
The holiday of Tu BiShvat functions as a Jewish Earth Day, a time of ecological stewardship to help sustain the earth. To commemorate this agricultural holiday, Temple Emanu-El’s Green Team sponsored a Renew & Recycle drive-by event. Congregants arrived by the carload to chat with our clergy, recycle paper and drop off food. Thanks to your donations, we collected:
- 900 pounds of paper which translates into saving eight trees.
- 14 barrels of food or 2,032 pounds to donate to the Community Assistance Center (CAC).
In addition to the Renew & Recycle event, Temple Emanu-El President, Robert Wittenstein, participated in a tree-planting ceremony sponsored by Trees Atlanta and coordinated by Repair the World. Fifty participants from congregations around the city met in Adams Park in southwest Atlanta to plant 16 trees and dozens of shrubs.
Wheat Money for Passover
Translated into English, Maot Chitim literally means “wheat money”. As Passover approaches, Jews around the world observe the tradition of giving Maot Chitim for families in need of financial assistance to pay for their Seder items.
Jewish Family and Career Services (JF&CS) is coordinating a local effort to collect financial assistance and distribute Passover food.
If you know of anyone who could benefit from receiving a Visa gift card or food from the Maot Chitim Passover Fund, contact Deena Takata. Deena can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 770-677-9448.