Seven hundred gathered at Legendary Event’s Flourish Atlanta in Buckhead on Aug. 28 to salute the good works of the Jewish Educational Loan Fund.
Atlanta native and pianist Joe Alterman charmed the pre-dinner crowd with several upbeat pieces.
A compelling video featured three Jewish families (from Virginia, Florida and Georgia) who experienced various hardships ranging from poor health to financial calamity where JELF loans made the difference for appreciative students.
“JELF is a positive force with people behind you wanting you to succeed,” said Rabbi Lou Feldstein, parent of recipients.
Keynote speaker Helen Zalik, who just turned 40 the day before, was a JELF recipient upon entering the University of Pennsylvania in 1989. With a JELF loan and help from her immigrant parents from the Soviet Union, she went on to graduate Duke University Law School, pursue a legal career, and eventually secure a job as general counsel. Quoting Pirkei Avot (Ethics of the Fathers), Zalik said turning 40 was transformative in elevating not just her family – three daughters – and career, but also her dreams. She questioned, “Do I have time for yet another ‘to do’ list?”
Along with husband David, they formed a foundation to further education for the next generation.
At age 4, David moved to the U.S. from Israel, with family roots in Australia, Argentina and China. He is now CEO of GreenSky, which Forbes magazine referred to as a “fintech unicorn.” It streamlines the process of attaining consumer loans through a mobile app that partners with banks. Helen referred to her husband as “having a brain going a hundred-thousand miles an hour” and persevering through business failures and ultimate success.
Above all, she shared her inspiration from Holocaust survivor Dr. Viktor Frankl (author of “Man’s Search for Meaning”), who spoke of happiness as an unintended consequence and byproduct of success. She concluded, “Living well is not the end result.”
Helen co-founded Jewish Women’s Connection of Atlanta and has served on numerous executive boards including Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta and Emory University Center for Ethics.
Board President Stan Lowenstein explained the loan process that determines what dollar amounts students receive. “We have a detailed application and 22 interviewers over the five-state area. JELF will serve about 270 students this year.”
From his table, JELF Committee Member Warren Binderman told the AJT: “Students have to go through a lot of steps to get this last bridge of funding. We hear tragic stories about broken homes and how a graduate student might just need $3,000 to finish. JELF’s mission is so critical.”
Jenna Shulman said the night was a success. “It was a truly incredible evening for JELF that exceeded all expectations (netting just shy of $500,000); and that makes me feel so proud to serve as CEO of this very special organization.”