Atlanta Jewish Life Festival in a Hot Minute

Atlanta Jewish Life Festival in a Hot Minute

The second annual AJLF kicks off January 26 at 10 a.m. For tickets and more information, visit

The Atlanta Jewish Life Festival Jan. 26 at the Georgia Aquarium promises to have more of what made it successful its first year in 2019. That includes an expanded lineup of entertainment, partners, sponsors, food and all that makes the Atlanta Jewish community so special.

The festival, presented by the Atlanta Jewish Times, is Atlanta’s largest single-day gathering promoting and celebrating Jewish and Israeli arts, food, music and culture while connecting the community to local synagogues, nonprofits and social action groups with the hope to further strengthen the bonds and understanding of Jewish beliefs, traditions and family.

The AJLF was the brainchild of AJT owner-publisher Michael Morris, who saw a need to unite the Jewish community and teach its members about all its communal partner organizations have to offer. It had been several years since an Atlanta Jewish festival had been held and Morris thought it was time to revive the concept.

While he believes year one was a success, he said the way to know if year two will follow suit: “If thousands of Jews show up to enjoy Jewish food, camaraderie, family fun, and visiting community partners, then it’s a success.”

To prepare for the sequel to last year’s festival and ensure your visit flows swimmingly, we bring you the AJLF from bands to bagels.

For starters, the nitty-gritty. The festival runs from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., and your ticket includes access to the entire aquarium ‘til closing time, 9 p.m. The entrance to the festival is through the Oceans Ballroom on the first level of the aquarium parking deck at 246 Ivan Allen Jr. Blvd. Note that the parking deck and main aquarium entrance are at 357 Luckie St.

This year the festival will have double the community partners as last year and four times as many sponsors, said AJT Managing Publisher and Editor Kaylene Ladinsky, festival director. To help participants set up and break down their displays, the AJT hired shlepers this year, Ladinsky added.

“We worked hard this year from a logistical standpoint to try to make the load in and load out smoother for our partners, sponsors and vendors.” She said the goal was to “make the festival as enjoyable as possible for participants as well as attendees.”

To that end, the AJT is rewarding its loyal readers and those who engage with the paper by offering a 10 percent discount promo code to those who respond by Jan. 24, LOYALTY2020. What a deal!

The team behind the festival includes Karen Isenberg Jones and Aparna Sharma of Changers and Makers, Sarah Parrish and Gayle Rubenstein of Balloons Over Atlanta, and Kaylene Ladinsky, Jen Evans, Jodi Danis and Michael Morris of the AJT.

What else is new this year? There are different artists in The Shuk, which also features Judaica gifts and children’s books, said Jen Evans, AJT community relations director who is director of festival entertainment and logistics.
Also at the festival this year is free face painting and more magicians, Evans said.
Plus, all the food is strictly kosher, overseen by the Atlanta Kosher Commission.

For Your Entertainment

“This year’s entertainment is very eclectic and quite diverse,” Evans said, with “bands ranging from fearless edgy rock to energetic hippy-folk-rock, an acoustic rabbi accompanied by a boys choir, Israeli folk music, songs and dancing. … I am very excited about the energy these live performances are bringing to the festival.”

Steve Grossman, of the former Steve’s Live Music, will emcee the festival.

Steve Grossman of Steve’s Live Music is the master of ceremonies.

Among the musical headliners are Hannah Zale, the frontwoman and songwriter for the group Zale. She has headlined well-known venues such as the Georgia Theatre and Eddie’s Attic. Zale will be wandering the festival playing her guitar and singing Jewish songs for children.

Atlanta boy band Friction, a crowd-pleaser at last year’s festival, returns for a reprise performance. Another featured group is Webster, a band performing classics from the Grateful Dead to Van Morrison. Webster opened for Chris Robinson of the Black Crowes and Drive-By Truckers.

The Atlanta Jewish Theatre Company will perform a short rendition from “Fiddler on the Roof.” Rabbi Jake, who travels around the globe entertaining children, will be accompanied by the Atlanta Jewish Boys Choir. And both the Atlanta Jewish Academy and The Epstein School will entertain.

Paul Sponaugle of Magic & Mirth will entertain audiences.

Not to mention the roving entertainers: magicians from Magic & Mirth, digital pictures by Button It Up and Ruby the Clown. There will also be free henna art, face painting and caricatures.

Main Stage Lineup

10 to 10:15 a.m. The Epstein School middle school fifth graders

10:25 to 10:40 a.m. Atlanta Jewish Academy

10:50 to 11:10 a.m. Rabbi Jake and the Atlanta Jewish Boys Choir

11:30 a.m. to 12:15 p.m. Friction

12:30 to 1:30 p.m. Zale

1:45 to 2:30 p.m. Webster

2:40 to 3 p.m. Atlanta Jewish Theatre Company.

Food Glorious Food

To satisfy your taste buds, The Nosh Pit food area features kosher foods from bagels to falafel.

It’s all kosher “so everyone is comfortable eating anything,” said Gayle Rubenstein, vice president of sponsor Balloons over Atlanta. “There is a very large variety.” She and Sarah Parrish, manager of the company, are part of the event management team overseeing logistics.

Morris said having kosher food also provides an opportunity for those vendors to present themselves to the Jewish community, which they don’t always have a chance to do.

The food will be easy to eat such as sliders, pretzel dogs and nachos, Rubenstein said. “I think it’s a very good mix,” Parrish added, “from classic Mediterranean to noshing on cold deli foods and kosher Americana,” such as barbecue.

Cotton Cravings is offering free cotton candy for the first 500 entrants.

Plus, free cotton candy for the first 500 entrants from Cotton Cravings, samples of kosher wine from The River Wine and kosher old-fashioned cocktails from Tip Top Proper Cocktails.

Unlike last year, when The Nosh Pit was at the entrance to the festival, this year it will be located beyond the ballroom so attendees can experience the whole festival and visit the aquarium instead of primarily staying in the ballroom, the logistics duo explained.

Morris said the move was also to provide an area for visitors to sit and eat after their purchases.

“Nothing is terribly expensive,” Rubenstein said. “Everything is affordable [even] for a family coming with five or six kids.”

Many of the food vendors are returning for the second year. Some are debuting new food or concepts at the festival, Parrish said. For instance, Toco Grill, formerly Pita Palace, is debuting its new name along with its new pastrami sizzlers. EB Catering Co. is also new to the Atlanta kosher scene, Parrish said.

Sample Menus

Cinnaholic will sell its signature mini buns.

Cinnaholic: Signature mini buns

EB Catering Co.: Salmon sliders, arayes Lebanese burgers (pita halved, ground meat, tahini, cilantro garnish)

For All Occasions: Pretzel dogs, nachos

Keith’s Corner Bar-B-Que: Tomahawk brisket sandwich, BBQ beef sandwich, mac-n-cheese (pareve).

Kosher Gourmet: Brunch menu including bagels, cream cheese, tuna, egg and whitefish salads.

Toco Grill: Falafel, pastrami sliders (debut at festival), curly fries, nuggets, chicken poppers, Israeli salad.

Ticket to Adventure

Oceans Ballroom entrance, 246 Ivan Allen Jr. Blvd., from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Free for children 3 and under, $8 for children 4 to 12 years old, $22 per adults and children 13 and up, $65 family pass (two adults and four children). All tickets include entry to the Georgia Aquarium for the entire day.

Tickets are normally $27 to $36 a day, depending on what time you arrive. So the festival rate is a substantial discount. But you can save even more by buying your tickets online in the next week with the special AJT promo code LOYALTY2020 for our loyal readers and supporters, at
And don’t forget to save time after the festival and enjoy the aquarium ‘til the 9 p.m. closing time.

While there, Morris suggests seeing the sea lion show. “My recommendation is not to miss it if you have time. Check the schedule” so you can work it into your visit, he said. Morris estimated he’s visited the aquarium about 300 times since his father, Bernie Marcus, started it in 2005.

The Oceans Ballroom offers a great view of whales, sharks and more in the aquarium.

If you can only get away for a few minutes, Morris said, sit in front of the window of the Ocean Voyager gallery. “It’s calming and there’s nothing like that view anywhere else in the United States.”

His favorites also include watching the belugas and searching for an octopus because it hides half the time.

Morris said the Georgia Aquarium has more water and more fish than any aquarium in the world, with the largest single tank at 6.4 million gallons. It has the second largest collection of whale sharks to one in Japan, which also has a slightly larger aquarium window, according to Morris.

Park or Ride

Parking is $10 for aquarium members and $12 for non-members and you can prepay online in advance for the day.

There are 1,600 covered and rooftop spaces in the aquarium’s parking deck.

If you choose not to take your own vehicle, it’s a 10 to 15-minute walk from the closest MARTA station, the Dome/Georgia World Congress Center/Philips Arena/CNN Center station on the blue/green line or the Civic Center/Peachtree Center station on the red/gold line.

For tickets and more information, visit

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