Federation’s Women Celebrate Leadership Past and Future
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Federation’s Women Celebrate Leadership Past and Future

The spring Atlanta Jewish Federation's Women’s appreciation luncheon touted accomplishments and introduced new officers standing ready to take the helm.

After 35 years with the Atlanta newspapers, Marcia currently serves as Retail VP for the Buckhead Business Association, where she delivers news and trends (laced with a little gossip).

Women’s Division leaders: (from left) Deborah Jacobs, Tamar Stern, Robyn Sysler and Carey Guggenheim.
Women’s Division leaders: (from left) Deborah Jacobs, Tamar Stern, Robyn Sysler and Carey Guggenheim.

Tuesday, May 3 was the perfect occasion for an Israeli-themed salute to philanthropy, falling as it did between Yom Ha’atzmaut and Yom HaShoah. Jane Butler and Vicky Sloan, the Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta’s Women’s Philanthropy luncheon event chairs, welcomed the crowd of 65 to Atlanta Jewish Academy in Sandy Springs.

Noa Ben Shimol, a 19-year-old Israeli Shinshin (a young ambassador taking a gap year abroad prior to military service) spoke of her current year in Atlanta before she joins the IDF in September.

Like the other 150 Shinshinim in the U.S. — eight of whom are in Atlanta — Shimol works at Chabad, summer camp and the Jewish day schools. As an Israeli who has also lived in Singapore and London, she spoke of the emotional “conflict” of balancing Jewishness and Israeli loyalties.

Three Plasker sisters came as a tribute to their late mother, Susan Arnovitz Plasker: Dara Grant, Jessica Sacks and Shauna Grosswald.

“It depends on the day, but I’d say I’m 51 percent Israeli, it’s a feeling,” Shimol said. “I’ve shared this question with my students: what if the U.S. went to war with Israel?”

Tamar Stern, the incoming chair for 2023, introduced outgoing president Robyn Sysler, who, in Stern’s words, “lived and breathed the Federation.”

Sysler was proud to announce that only $212,000 was needed by June 30 to reach the fundraising goal of $14 million. “There are people who watch, those who make and those who ask what happened,” she said. “Our women here make things happen!”

Event Chairs Jane Butler and Vicky Sloan welcomed the group of 65 to the luncheon.

Invoking Sokal, a Ukrainian village where a Righteous Gentile woman sheltered Jews for two years during the Holocaust, Sysler said that the Jewish Federation of Atlanta had raised $1.6 million of the $50 million U.S. total that was donated for food, supplies, shelter and transportation. “You can imagine their horror at having to be uprooted again,” she said of Holocaust survivors in Ukraine, many of whom are now in their 90s.

Sysler was enthusiastic about the incoming leadership, describing Stern as a “badass.” Deborah Jacobs was announced as campaign chair and Carey Guggenheim as campaign vice chair. Lori Peljovich, Marcy Bass, Jessica Sacks and Amy Arogeti were recognized for their work with Project Dignity, having raised $100,000 for personal hygiene products for women in need. Michelle Simon was acknowledged for her longstanding work on inclusivity for those with disabilities.

Eli Brafman performed a live demonstration alongside Atlanta Jewish Academy’s Susan Gordon Moray.

Caterer Eli Brafman served an over-the-top, Israeli-themed gourmet meal during the program break, along with a cooking demonstration on how to prepare elaborate eggplant boats topped with pomegranates, za’atar and labneh. He gave special tips on how to score an eggplant “like a mango for your kids,” the benefits of using a steak knife, how to cut a tomato properly and to always opt for Persian or English cucumbers.

Michelle Simon was recognized for her work on inclusivity for those with disabilities.

Later, Brafman gave each guest some recipe cards with the “boats” done three different ways. Each table had a bounty of appetizers of fattoush salad, olives, salatim and eggplant carpaccio, followed by a colorful honey harissa seabass over carrot puree couscous and fennel slaw. Dessert was pistachio baklava over mint ice cream. According to several guests, Brafman “outdid even himself.”

Throughout the room, gold Lion of Judah pins showed the top levels of women’s donations, including Genesis, Pomegranate and Forever Lion. Federation CEO Eric Robbins delivered the closing comments.  In April 2023, the Atlanta Federation will host its 75th anniversary mission to Israel, the first since 2014.

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