Igniting Judaism Through Small Gatherings

Igniting Judaism Through Small Gatherings

A way to awaken Jews to be together to celebrate.

The gathering at the Galinsky home as Shabbos was about to begin.
The gathering at the Galinsky home as Shabbos was about to begin.

The Galinsky family was delighted to host a Shabbat dinner in early February. This beautiful multi-generational gathering was funded by the Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta and their community partners, Moishe House Virginia Highland, and Jewish Women’s Connection of Atlanta. In attendance were three generations of Jews, and there was a lively discussion based on the Parsha of the week.

The Federation initiated the concept of a Gather Grant to bring new possibilities to life and awaken the potential in Atlanta’s Jewish community to celebrate Jewish ATL. A Gather Grant is a joint initiative between Making Jewish Places, Next Gen, and PJ Library Atlanta. The program provides $180 microgrants to individuals in the Atlanta metro area to host a gathering in their community around a designated holiday or program and to celebrate the event in a way that is meaningful to them. Federation is able offer this opportunity to the community through the generosity of the Helen Marie Stern Fund. More than 300 Gather Grants have been infused into the community.

When Pamela Galinsky heard about the Gather Grant in January, she decided to submit an application. The grant was approved with simple requirements: hold a Shabbat gathering for a minimum of 10 people. No ritual or ceremonial requirements, no programmatic rules (although to the writer, it would be difficult not to offer a meal or at least a nosh for a Shabbos program?)

Once Pamela was approved, she got in touch with her niece, Bari Beilinson, a member of Moishe House in Virginia-Highland. She asked her to invite some of her friends to the gathering and to make this an official Moishe House event. This allowed for additional funding (from Moishe House), and Bari invited friends to the gathering.

The Gathering at Pamela Galinsky’s home. Note the table’s cutting board in the shape of the State of Georgia.

At the event, which was a beautiful Shabbat dinner for 11, Galinsky prepared Mexican food in buffet-style, so everyone could eat as much as they wanted. There was, of course, plenty of food left over, and it was offered to the guests to take home if they were interested.

As part of the Gathering, the Federation offered a wooden board in the shape of the State of Georgia. They suggested the cutting board could be used as a challah board, and guests could sign the back as a keepsake of the gathering; it could be hung on the wall or used as a prop for picnics for family and friends. Galinsky decided to raffle the board to her guests. Everyone signed the back of the board, and one of the young professionals won the coveted keepsake.

Also, as part of the evening event, a D’var Torah was given on the Parsha of the week, which covered the giving of the 10 Commandments. With such a great topic, this made for a lively discussion on each of the commandments.

Galinsky loved hosting and, at the end of the evening, said, “It was a wonderful initiative started by Federation, and a great way to bring family and friends together. I hope to continue these grants so I can apply and host more gatherings.”

In discussing the concept of the Gathering with Carla Birnbaum from the Federation, she said, “We are thrilled that the Gather Grants are continuing to resonate with our community, and that we are reaching more individuals where they are.” Birnbaum continued, “Our most recent Gather Grant cycle was open to individuals across the Atlanta area to celebrate Shabbat in a way that is both comfortable and meaningful. The warmth and friendliness of these events engaged people of all ages, and 96 percent of participants reported they felt a stronger connection to the Jewish community after attending them. We awarded over 160 Gather Grants this cycle. The next round of Gather Grants will be around Yom Ha’atzmaut, celebrating Israel’s 75th birthday. We can’t wait to see how the community celebrates Israel!”

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