On Dec. 6, the Jewish Interest-Free Loan Association of Atlanta (JIFLA), announced the winners of the She’s A Maccabee Award. This annual Chanukah award honor powerful Atlanta women who are using their talents, passions and strong commitment to the Jewish community to help others.
The awards were inspired by JIFLA’s Women’s Empowerment Loan Fund, which enables women to achieve personal and professional self-sufficiency. Award nominees are recommended by Atlanta community members, and the winners are chosen by JIFLA’s executive staff. The following are excerpts from community members’ letters in praise of the 2021 award recipients:
Cheryl is a passionate, hardworking advocate, volunteer, and online administrator (for groups with over 4.5k members). She is a community member who is responsible for building strong relationships between nonprofit organizations, promoting diversity, and is a blessing to the Atlanta community. When she saw a need for advocacy for Israel, she founded the Atlanta Israel Coalition to foster a nonpartisan, multi-faith collective effort to amplify pro-Israel voices, through free online Israel tours and partnering on more than 45 Israel-related educational programs. Cheryl left a job as a successful executive in the corporate world to pursue her dream of uniting diverse Israel supporters, while combating anti-Semitism. And she does it without receiving a salary!
Stacy’s nickname is “Sunshine.” She is a ray of sunshine, no matter what she is doing, no matter who she is communicating with, no matter what project she is working on, no matter what school she is donating her time for, no matter if she knows you or is simply walking by you at the park. She brings light to all of us and makes each person feel special, and in today’s world, this is an invaluable gift to all. As a JF&CS staff member, she makes our community and world better. She does it with grace, and she does things quietly. She doesn’t do things for recognition, rather because of the good it does. She hosts events for fundraising at her home, and she is one of the most giving, unique and strong women I know
Michele saved my family. Her acts of generosity know no bounds, and had she not come into my life, offering me nothing short of a miracle, I have no idea where my kids and I would be today. More specifically, Michele made it possible for my son to access a life-changing autism teaching program, for which my family and I will forever be grateful. I have shared the miracle story with people all over, and it has inspired many strangers to tears. Michele works behind the scenes to ensure her community members reach their potential.
Jill has a heart that knows no bounds. Her home and personal life keep her busy, but she is never too busy to share her time, energy and elder-care skills with others in need. As a volunteer, delivering home cooked meals to seniors, Jill encountered a situation of extreme need. She worked tirelessly to tap into resources to ensure that proper care and attention were provided. Jill waded into an incredibly difficult situation and pushed for results that would be in the best interests of an elderly couple she had just met. Along the way, Jill developed a kinship and strong emotional connection with this senior couple. Recently, the husband passed away and Jill arranged the funeral service and delivered an emotional and heartfelt eulogy. Her steady hand and support provided a gift to this couple that can never be repaid. Jill is a tribute to selfless acts of lovingkindness, respect of elders and community.
Each of the four recipients received a certificate and a specially created candle, representing the light each of them bestows on others. The candle was chosen as a symbol of their Maccabee-like impact on the Jewish community.
“The award is a beautiful and humbling honor,” said Stacy Fialkow. “I was completely surprised to receive it, because there are so many women ‘warriors’ out there with a spirit of giving, kindness and loyalty to the community.”
Cheryl Dorchinsky agreed. “In my mind, the phrase ‘She’s a Maccabee’ represents strength and a sign to never give up,” she said. “There are days when I feel discouraged; however, I continue because the cause is so important. The work we do impacts all of us, as well as future generations. I am one person, but together our voices are louder, our light shines brighter and we can be a greater force for good in our community and across the globe.”
Jill Wheatley clarified her goals, “Often, there is no validation of the importance of serving people in need; therefore, when an award is given to people who serve the poor and near-poor, it brings value to this work. Hopefully, this award will have a greater purpose: generating investment in money, resources and skills development to help those in extreme need, particularly the elderly.”
“Being honored is very exciting,” Michele Hirsch said. “I believe we all have the potential to be Maccabees, once we find our passions in life. I have been fortunate to find missions that motivate me to work hard and hopefully to inspire others.”
Special recognition was given to Private Ahava E. Heart. “Ahava embodies the tradition of the Jewish woman warrior! She is the direct third generation serving in the United States Armed Forces. She is enrolled in the U.S. Army Nursing ROTC program at Radford University in Virginia, with the career goal of serving as a U.S. army nurse. Continuing her family’s Maccabean Jewish woman warrior tradition, with this exception — she will be saving lives instead of taking them,” JIFLA wrote.
“We are thrilled to announce our 2021 JIFLA’s She’s a Maccabee winners, honoring the many female warriors in our community,” said Nancy Weissmann, Executive Director of JIFLA. “We are proud to continue the tradition during Chanukah and shine a spotlight on those who are actively working to spread the Jewish values of community, love and giving to those less fortunate. We received so many deserving nominations, it was a challenge to select our winners! Every single story submitted told of an exemplary woman who gives so much to those around them.”
For more information on the She’s A Maccabee Awards and to learn about JIFLA’s loan programs please visit www.jifla.org. JIFLA helps Jewish community members to overcome challenging financial periods and to maintain financial stability by providing interest-free loans. For more information, please call 470.268.5665 or email office@JIFLA.org. Visit JIFLA.org and follow JIFLA’s social channels on Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn.
- Chana Shapiro
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- Maccabee Awards
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- Cheryl Dorchinsky
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- Stacy Fialkow
- Private Ahava E. Heart
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- Nancy Weissmann
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- Michele Hirsch