Holiday Survival Guide

The holidays can bring a lot of joy - and a lot of stress.

JF&CS provides the tools to get you through this time when so many things are going on and it's hard to keep up.


Chanukah: The Season of Courage

Chanukah:  The Season of Courage
Chanukah is, for American Jews, our season of Jewish pride.  We celebrate our survival throughout the centuries, and the religious and spiritual resilience, which have enabled us to thrive as a community of faith and action wherever we have lived. 

In the face of rising anti-semitism, increased numbers of acts of hatred and bigotry both in the US and around the world, the messages of Chanukah ring particularly true.  We Jews are here, proud, and committed to bringing light to the world.

Other themes about Chanukah are:

The Celebration of Light, as Chanukah is a winter solstice festival (common in many  cultures).Celebration of the victory of the small (but mighty) Maccabees over the much larger Greek armies.

Commemoration of the restoration of the Temple in Jerusalem and the miracle of the oil, which according to legend burned for eight days when there was only enough for one.The celebration of religious freedom, for which the Maccabees fought, and is in our day,  a cherished tenet of American life.

I came across this teaching, which illuminates another important theme of Chanukah.Rabbi Laura Geller, one of the most influential Reform rabbis of our time writes: 

 “The miracle wasn't that the oil lasted an additional seven days, but rather that those ancestors lit the first wick at all, without being certain that the light would last long enough to complete the rededication of the Temple. The miracle was that they took the chance, a risk, a leap of faith. They took the first step even though they were not sure they had enough resources to succeed.

What is the real miracle of Chanukah? It is the miracle of human courage that empowers us to take risks for the future even in our imperfect, uncertain world. It is the courage, even in the darkest of times, to create our own light.”

May we, at this season and throughout the year, be blessed with courage.
Hag Urim Sameach – Happy Chanukah!

Written by Rabbi Judith Beiner, Posted in Holiday Survival Guide


Study Leads to Action

Study Leads to Action

In my role as Community Chaplain, I frequently receive calls from staff members at area care facilities (hospitals, assistant living, rehab etc) asking how they can better serve the spiritual needs of the Jewish patients and residents in their care.

Predictably, I’ll get a surge of calls just prior to the major Jewish holidays. In some instances, a brief phone call is all that’s needed, while at other times a formal Jewish Sensitivity Training session is appropriate.

Conducting these training sessions has become one of my favorite tasks. The goal is always the same: to empower folks with enough information about Jewish holidays beliefs and practices, in order that they can better provide for the Jewish people under their care. The attendees are often people who are knowledgeable about and devoted to their own faith, so we immediately have a common language. 

Topics have included Jewish Denominations (aka All Jews Are Not The Same), Hanukkah is not the Jewish Christmas, and Yes, Women can be rabbis. The conversations are always lively, and folks ask lots of questions. 

While transmission of information is the overt reason for the session, so much more takes place. Boundaries and walls come down as we learn that what we share is greater than that which divides us. Myths and stereotypes are disavowed. Increased knowledge and understanding inclines us towards greater respect of difference. Good will prevails.

One of the greatest rabbis of the Talmud, Rabbi Akiva once said: "Study is great, for it leads to practice."  As people of the book, we Jews live by this adage. Learning the sacred texts of our tradition enables us to live as Jews and transmit this heritage to our children. Teaching others about Judaism and learning about other faiths enables all of us to live fully in our wider world.

 Learning empowers us to do. Knowledge enables action. It is an honor to teach others, so that they too may share in those deeds which highlight the shared task of caring for one another.  

Written by Rabbi Judith Beiner, Posted in Holiday Survival Guide


A Pause in the Journey

 A Pause in the Journey

Birth is a beginning and death a destination;
But life is a journey.
A going, a growing from stage to stage:
From childhood to maturity and youth to old age.

From innocence to awareness and ignorance to knowing;
From foolishness to discretion and then perhaps, to wisdom.
From weakness to strength or strength to weakness and often back again.
From health to sickness and back we pray, to health again.

From offense to forgiveness, from loneliness to love,
From joy to gratitude, from pain to compassion.
From grief to understanding, from fear to faith;
From defeat to defeat to defeat, until, looking backward or ahead:

We see that victory lies not at some high place along the way,
But in having made the journey, stage by stage, a sacred pilgrimage.
Birth is a beginning and death a destination;
But life is a journey, a sacred pilgrimage,
Made stage by stage...To life everlasting.
(Birth is a Beginning, by Alvin Fine)

This is one of my favorite poems. The author lays out the experiences of any human life, the good, the bad, the joy and the tragedy, all part of our journey.

Perfect words for this season of the High Holidays, in which we are given an opportunity to pause and take a step back from our journey, to reflect on where we’ve been, and where we’d like to go.  

This reflection has a name: Teshuva, or repentance. Literally, Teshuva means returning, understood as the process by which we return to a path of righteousness after having gone astray.  

We recount our deeds of the past year, considering whom we might have hurt or slighted, where and when we made mistakes. Making amends, righting any wrongs, clearing up any misunderstandings is part of the path of teshuvah.  

And then, we resolve to do better in the coming year, breaking with old habits, making necessary changes in our behavior and attitudes. The process of teshuvah, leads to an adjustment of our spiritual compass.

Our Teshuvah begins  in the month of Elul, just prior to Tishrei in which we celebrate Rosh Hashannah, Yom Kippur, Sukkot and Simchat Torah.
The concentration of the festivals in a short span of time allows us to put some time into the spiritual attunement of the season, while at the same time giving us the opportunities to gather with friends and family, in joy and celebration.

There are those who consider this month long holiday season a challenging interruption established schedules. This is, in fact the point.  
Adjusting our lives to follow the Jewish calendar serves to wrestle us away from set routines, reminding us to build holiness into our lives.

          When the holidays are over and we resume our life’s  journey, we’re ready for that ‘going and growing’.

May you be blessed on your journey.

L’shanna Tova.

Written by Rabbi Judith Beiner, Posted in Holiday Survival Guide


How to help fix a toothache when you’re not a dentist

How to help fix a toothache when you’re not a dentist

Encourage your dentist to volunteer at JF&CS’ Ben Massell Dental Clinic — the only resource for comprehensive, quality dental care available at no cost to Atlanta’s neediest population. Our patients depend on the 140 dentists who volunteer their time at the midtown-Atlanta clinic, one of the most advanced dental facilities around. But we need more volunteer dentists. So the next time you see your dentist, ask him or her to sign on in the New Year! Visit for more information.

Posted in Holiday Survival Guide, Ben Massell Dental Clinic


How to get through the holidays when you’re recovering from addiction

How to get through the holidays when you’re recovering from addiction

Dealing with the holidays and being sober did not come easily to me. I really enjoyed going to holiday parties and New Year’s Eve events when I was drinking, because it helped me come out of my shell. Knowing I no longer could do that with alcohol by my side was a little frightening. I reached out to sober friends and family during these times because I knew if I didn’t, I probably wouldn’t leave the party sober.

Written by Rachel Rabinowitz, Posted in Holiday Survival Guide, Counseling Services


How to get through the holidays when you’re job hunting

How to get through the holidays when you’re job hunting

Think the holidays are a bad time to job hunt? Think again. Most companies slow down between Thanksgiving and New Year’s, so hiring managers actually have more time to spend with job seekers. Come January, companies usually start hiring. The quicker you get in front of employers prior to then, the better your chances for landing a job.

Posted in Holiday Survival Guide, Career Services


How to enjoy the holidays when there’s a divorce

How to enjoy the holidays when there’s a divorce

The holidays are just around the corner. For children whose parents are in the process of divorce, this time of year can be difficult. Family traditions they grew up with no longer are the same, which can be very painful. But there are some things parents can do to make this transition easier.

Posted in Holiday Survival Guide, Child & Adolescent Services