The frolicking belugas were dazzling as the vapors of smoked kosher BBQ wafted in the air at the fourth annual Atlanta Jewish Life Festival on March 5 at the Georgia Aquarium.
Hosted by the Atlanta Jewish Times, the AJLF connects the extended Atlanta Jewish community with local Jewish organizations, assisted living facilities, schools and camps while offering a selection of kosher delicacies and an assortment of local Jewish entertainers.
“I was very happy with this year’s festival,” said Atlanta Jewish Times publisher Michael Morris. “While I know there were a few hundred people less than last year, there was a great vibe in the Oceans Ballroom. Everyone I spoke to had a great time, execution was perfect, and there were a lot of smiling, young faces.”
Morris alluded to the fact that festival attendance this year was down slightly, which event organizers suspected could have been due to several factors, including the event taking place on the same weekend as Purim and many community members could have had prior engagements with their congregations; and it was the start of a vacation week for some local Jewish day schools, so many families, who would have otherwise attended, may have been out of town.
Kaylene Ladinsky, editor and managing publisher for the AJT, said, “The festival was a great success this year. Many (guests) are coming in with lots of swag. They are excited to talk with all the different people that attend to share opportunities available for the community to participate in. I spoke to several who said they spoke to more people interested in getting involved and supporting their work at the AJLF than any other event they had attended before.”
The highlight of the afternoon was Purim Costume Contest, as the event coincided with festive Jewish holiday. More than forty of the youngest attendees assembled on stage, sporting fabulous Marvel superhero, Disney princess and video game costumes.
The Kids Zone, always one of the biggest draws for local Jewish families, featured a face painting station, caricature and henna tattoo artists as well as representatives from several Jewish summer and day camps.
Sunday’s entertainers included: Amp’d Entertainment, SunMoonPie, Rabbi Jake, Marcus Jewish Community Center of Atlanta’s J Dance, Scott Glazer and Friends, and Baal Shem Tones; and Cub Scout Pack 1818 presented the colors.
“The Cub Scout pack and troop were very excited to be asked not only to be a community partner, but to have our scouts perform at the (Atlanta Jewish) Life Festival,” said Cub pack master (grades K-5) Adam Throne. “It allowed us to share with others the values of scouting, such as the points of the Scout Law, and how they tie in with Jewish values.”
While Throne oversees the younger half of the pack, Dyann Diamond serves as Scout troop master for grades 6-12.
Throne continued about the impact of having his pack participate in the festivities.
“Singing ‘Hatikvah,’ along with the regular scout ceremony of posting color guard and reciting the Pledge of Allegiance, meant sharing the uniqueness of our group’s philosophy – Scouting with a Jewish Twist – with a broader audience,” he said.
Cub Scout Pack 1818 is comprised of scouts of all ages, ranging from second graders to teenagers currently working on their Eagle projects. Throne said the scouts’ involvement at the Aquarium gave them the opportunity to “work together and show their presence to the community.”
And like the rest of the festival attendees, the fourth annual AJLF gave the scouts a chance to experience the multitude of Jewish organizations serving various roles in the extended Atlanta Jewish community.
“It gave them the opportunity to meet other people, and try new things,” Throne said. “In the case of one scout, it motivated him to practice his violin and play publicly for the first time as the scouts sang.”
Mazel Tov to that brave scout.
Event vendors included: Balloons Over Atlanta, Toco Grill, Keith’s Corner BBQ, Formaggio Mio, Nothing Bundt Cakes ATL, Mitzvah House, and Nur Kosher Kitchen.
As far as future festival plans go, Morris said he and the AJT are committed to continuing to host the event and bringing the community together to celebrate their Jewish identities. And while he wouldn’t divulge any hints at future plans, he was eager to share his excitement.
“We will always do things a little different to make each festival that much more fun, interesting, and engaging for the community. We will also work to continue to bring more community partners into the fold,” Morris said. Ladinsky also commented on potential festival plans looking forward.
“I never want the festival to be the same every year,” she said. “Instead, I like to figure out ways to change it up. This year was easy with incorporating Purim. There were close to 50 people who entered the costume contest. I am not sure about next year’s festival yet, but would love to hear some suggestions.”
Throne said, personally speaking, that he was grateful for the AJLF for providing so many community members to speak with about their own scouting experiences, their Eagle Scout projects, and how they were so appreciative of the idea of a Jewish-oriented Cub Scout pack, where children from different schools, areas, and backgrounds can meet to practice scouting.
“Even though our group has a Jewish bent, and is chartered out of the MJCCA, several of our members are of different faiths, but they attended the festival with the group because they enjoy our programs and the values of scouting,” he said. “Our members come from everywhere from Toco Hills to Dunwoody to Alpharetta, and even Lawrenceville. What better way to enjoy the differences among us and celebrate our strengths then by attending an event held in a very public downtown place, founded by a Jewish community leader, and opening the doors to the community?”
Throne added that being a part of the festival, “Also allowed me to make new connections that will benefit our organizations and see people I haven’t seen in a long time.”
Temple Beth Tikvah; Atlanta International School; FOX’s; Rhett’s Estate Sales; 42West Entertainment Group; The Temple; Sababa Beach Camps; Button It Up; Amp’d Entertainment; Holbrook Senior Living; Organic Solutions; Kibbitz & Konnect; Bloom Lines Alexander; In the City Camps; Chabad of Georgia; Sunrise Senior Living; The Epstein School; WABE FM 90.1; The William Breman Jewish Heritage Museum; Discover DeKalb CVB; Dressler’s Jewish Funeral Care; Woodward Academy; Lipsey Water; Temple Sinai; Northside Hospital; The Kroger Company; McKendrick’s Steak House
Click the link below to watch the Purim Costume Contest on the AJT’s YouTube page:
- Sasha Heller
- Atlanta Jewish Life Festival
- Michael Morris
- Oceans Ballroom
- Kaylene Ladinsky
- Purim Costume Contest
- Kids Zone
- face painting station
- henna tattoo artists
- Amp’d Entertainment
- Rabbi Jake
- Marcus Jewish Community Center of Atlanta’s J Dance
- Scott Glazer and Friends
- Baal Shem Tones
- Cub Scout Pack 1818
- Adam Throne
- Dyann Diamond
- Georgia Aquarium
- Balloons Over Atlanta
- Toco Grill
- Keith’s Corner BBQ
- Formaggio Mio
- Nothing Bundt Cakes ATL
- Mitzvah House
- Nur Kosher Kitchen
- temple beth tikvah
- Atlanta International School
- 42West Entertainment Group
- The Temple
- Sababa Beach Camps
- Button It Up
- Holbrook Senior Living
- Organic Solutions
- Kibbitz & Konnect
- Bloom Lines Alexander
- In the City Camps
- Chabad of Georgia
- Sunrise Senior Living
- The Epstein School
- WABE FM 90.1
- The William Breman Jewish Heritage Museum
- Discover DeKalb CVB
- Dressler’s Jewish Funeral Care
- Woodward Academy
- Lipsey Water
- Temple Sinai
- northside hospital
- The Kroger Company
- McKendrick’s Steak House