By Aaron Gordon, AJC Atlanta Goldman Fellow

I interviewed members of the AJC Atlanta staff to learn more about their professional responsibilities and what they enjoy doing outside of work.

Dov Wilker, Director, AJC Atlanta Dov Wilker, Regional Director                                       

Aaron Gordon (AG): What is your favorite part of working for AJC Atlanta?

DW: I love the diversity of our work and the impact we make in the community. It is rewarding working and learning together with religious leaders, ethnic leaders, and diplomats.

AG: What are some of your responsibilities in your position?

DW: I oversee AJC’s diplomacy and advocacy efforts in the southeast. I interact with diplomats and candidates for elected officials, ensuring leadership development is moving forward. I also ensure we meet the goals we set at the beginning of the year. Lastly, I work with lay leaders and professionals. 

AG: What is something about Black-Jewish relations you wish more people knew? 

DW: I wish people knew that Black-Jewish relations did not stop after the civil rights movement and has continued to evolve. Just as the Jewish community is not homogeneous, the Black community is also not monolithic in their viewpoints. There is still a lot of work to be done on Black-Jewish relations; we see it not only in defining what it should be but how we can make more people aware of this critical relationship.

AG: How long have you been involved with Black-Jewish relations?

DW: Since 2007, I have been directly involved in Black-Jewish relations. Since 2018, I have worked with AJC nationally on this relationship.

AG: Where did you go to school, and what did you study?

DW: I earned a Bachelor of Business Administration at the University of Miami. I graduated with an International MBA from Tel Aviv University in 2010.

AG: What are your favorite activities outside of work?

DW: I enjoy hiking, running, and biking. I love spending time with my family, especially as my daughters continue to grow and mature.

AG: If you could live in any decade, which would you choose and why? 

DW: That’s a hard question! I like the current decade; I’m excited about the possibilities in the years ahead.

AG: What is your favorite place in Georgia?

DW: I love hiking at Blood Mountain!

AG: What is your favorite quote?

DW: “If you will it, it is no dream.” -Theodor Herzl

AG: What issues relating to AJC keep you up at night?

DW: The rise of antisemitism and finding different ways for volunteers and lay leaders to stay involved with AJC.

AG: How has the pandemic affected your work with AJC? 

DW: It has fundamentally changed the nature of relationships. In some ways, it has strengthened existing relationships but has made it harder to develop new ones. On a more positive note, technology has helped make AJC’s programming more accessible globally during this challenging time.

AG: What else would you like to share?

DW: I feel very fortunate for the professional team I get to work with, whom I fully trust and support.

Jen Pardee, Director of Development Jennifer Pardee, Director of Development     

AG: What is your favorite part of working for AJC Atlanta?

JP: The people, without a doubt. I have so much respect for my colleagues who are so smart and committed to our work, as well as our engaged lay leaders, many of whom have become good friends.

AG: What are your responsibilities at AJC?

JP: I work with our donors to engage them with our work and to connect them with opportunities for involvement, which hopefully inspires them to make a gift. I oversee our annual campaign and work closely with our Executive Committee and Strategic Advancement committee to plan strategies to achieve donor engagement and fundraising success. Lastly, in a typical year, I plan 2 major fundraising events-- a Community Advocacy dinner in the spring and the National Human Relations Award dinner in the fall.

AG: What are your favorite activities outside of work?

JP: I love hiking, practicing yoga, spending time with friends and family, cooking, and reading.

AG: What’s your favorite place in Atlanta?

JP: My backyard in Virginia Highland! I love looking out of the window at the birds, trees, and nature all around.

AG: What decade would you choose to live in and why?

JP: I would live in a future decade when we’ve hopefully solved some of the systemic problems in our society today.

AG: What issues relating to AJC keep you up at night?

JP: The prospect of Israeli-Palestinian peace. It’s very discouraging right now.

AG: What is your favorite quote/saying? 

JP: From Ralph Waldo Emerson: “Live in the sunshine, swim the sea, drink the wild air!” 

Julie Katz, Assistant Director Julie Katz, Assistant Director          

AG: What is your favorite part of working for AJC Atlanta?

JK: Our community is unparalleled. Not only do we have passionate and devoted AJC lay leaders, but we also have incredibly supportive faith and ethnic partners. This makes our advocacy work an overwhelmingly positive experience. 

AG: What are some of your responsibilities in your position?

JK: I’m in charge of our intergroup work, where I help to create relationships with leaders in Atlanta’s faith and ethnic communities. A large portion of this work is empowering lay leaders to build meaningful relationships and helping to cultivate friendships on behalf of the Jewish community. I also co-direct AJC’s Jewish advocacy program for high school students, Leaders for Tomorrow (LFT).

AG: Where did you go to school, and what did you study?

JK: I attended the University of Georgia (Go Dawgs!). I studied political science and criminal justice.

AG: What are your favorite activities outside of work?

JK: I love reading psychology and sociology books and backpacking in foreign countries.

AG: If you could live in any decade, which would you choose and why? 

JK: The 70's, because there was a lot of interesting social change going on. I would have loved to be a part of the continuation of the civil rights movement and feminist movements.

AG: What is your favorite place in Atlanta?

JK: The trail of breweries in East Atlanta.

AG: What are your favorite quotes?

JK: “The more I learn, the less I realize I know” -Socrates and “cynics are merely idealists with impossibly high standards.”

AG: What issues relating to AJC keep you up at night?

JK: It worries me that fewer American Jews feel a connection to Israel and that in future years, Israel may not have the support it needs from the U.S.

AG: What else would you like to share?

JK: LFT [Leaders for Tomorrow] is one of my favorite parts of my work with AJC. Every time I interact with our students, I am blown away by their intelligence, curiosity, and passion for Israel and the Jewish people. When I get discouraged about the state of the world, working with these young people gives me hope for our future.

Leah Gross, Assistant Director, Leadership Development Leah Gross, Assistant Director, Leadership Development

AG: What is your favorite part of working for AJC Atlanta?

LG: The community, leadership, and people I get to work with--they are all so kind and passionate about the Jewish community. My colleagues and lay leaders are phenomenal.

AG: What are your responsibilities at AJC?

LG: I take care of the lay leaders’ needs and ensure that the office has the financial support to implement our mission. I also engage future leaders to be advocates for the Jewish people and Israel through programs such as LFT and the Berman Leadership Institute.

AG: Where did you go to college?

LG: I attended Brandeis University (outside of Boston), majoring in International and Global Studies and Anthropology, and minoring in Legal Studies.

AG: What are your favorite activities outside of work? 

LG: I enjoy spending time with my family--my husband Geoff and my 1-year-old son Dylan and my best friend Julie--and my fur babies (puppies).

AG: What was your favorite decade?

LG: The 90's, this was my childhood, and everything seemed better back then. Yes, before cell phones!

AG: What is your favorite place in Georgia?

LG: Camp Ramah Darom!

AG: What is your favorite saying? 

LG: From the siddur (prayer book): "Poteach Et Yadecha U’Masbia Le’Chol Chai Ratzon.” Translation: "You open Your hand and satisfy the desire of every living thing."

AG: Where did you grow up?

LG: I grew up in Memphis, TN until age 11. My family then moved to Boca Raton, and I attended West Boca High School.

AG: When did you start working for AJC?

LG: June 2015

AG: What issues relating to AJC keep you up at night?

LG: The rising threat of antisemitism in the US and around the world. 

Amanda Budd, Events and Marketing CoordinatorAmanda Budd, Events and Marketing Coordinator

AG: What is your favorite part of working for AJC Atlanta?

AB: I enjoy meeting with many high profile leaders and working full-time as an advocate for the Jewish people.

AG: Where did you go to college?

AB: I studied Public Relations at the University of South Carolina, in Columbia, SC.

AG: What are your responsibilities at AJC?

AB: My primary responsibilities are our office’s mass communication efforts, including email and social media for all AJC Atlanta events. I also manage gift processing. Lastly, I create social media videos for our national programming.

AG: What are your favorite activities outside of work?

AB: I enjoy hiking, professional dog-spotting, watching Netflix shows, exploring recent podcasting projects, and spending time with my family.

AG: What’s your favorite place in Atlanta? 

AB: Red Top Mountain!

AG: Which decade would you want to live in?

AB: The 1990's

AG: What issues relating to AJC keep you up at night?

AB: There is so much ignorance about antisemitism, and it's alive and well. I often think about the best ways to educate people about this problem in the 21st century.

AG: What is your favorite saying?

AB: “Upward and onward” 

Zach Bernath, ACCESS AssociateZachary Bernath, ACCESS Alexander Associate

AG: What is your favorite part of working for AJC Atlanta?

ZB: I love AJC’s access to high caliber speakers with a global focus. I also enjoy working with opinion makers from many different communities. Lastly, it is an honor to work with amazing colleagues.

AG: What are some of your responsibilities in your position?

ZB: I manage ACCESS, AJC’s young professional division, for adults ages 25-40. I help develop their advocacy and leadership trajectory within Jewish Atlanta. I am also the primary contact person for southeastern campus affairs. Lastly, I work with Julie and Leah on LFT.

AG: Where did you go to school, and what did you study?

ZB: I attended the University of Arizona, and studied Middle Eastern and international relations. I was involved with Hillel, AIPAC, and AEPi on campus.

AG: What are your favorite activities outside of work? 

ZB: Hiking, hanging out with friends, watching live concerts, movies and film.

AG: If you could live in any decade, which would you choose and why?

ZB: The 90's to see what was going on when I was young and don’t remember much.  

AG: What is your favorite place in Atlanta?

ZB: The BeltLine

AG: What is your favorite quote?

ZB: “You never receive what you don't have the courage to ask for.”

AG: Where are you from, and what high school did you attend?

ZB: I attended the McCallie School in Chattanooga. I’m from Marietta.

AG: What issues relating to AJC keep you up at night?

ZB: The prospects of Israeli-Palestinian peace and the global rise of antisemitism.

AG: What else would you like to share?

ZB: I've been working for AJC for 1.5 years. Before I began at AJC, I worked in politics in Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Georgia.

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