Shaping Our World
by Robert J. Nebel
This weekday afternoon is similar to almost every day, as S. Stephen "Steve" Selig has a packed calendar. "Iım not sure if I have a lot of time for an interview, but weıll get in what we can," Selig tells a reporter meeting with him at his office at Selig Enterprises in Midtown, the family-owned real estate business of which Selig is president and chairman.
Selig explains that he is meeting with Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres in a few hours, who is in town as a guest of the Consulate General of Israel to meet with local government, media and Jewish leaders.
In his role as national chairperson of the United Jewish Communities (UJC) -- the umbrella organization of 156 Jewish Federations and 400 independent Jewish communities nationwide -- it is not uncommon for Selig to be rubbing elbows with top officials. In June 2002, he became the first person from Atlanta to take on this role, which comes with serious responsibility: leading the national fundraising campaign which annually raises more than $850 million nationally for all of the Federations, communities and programs that the UJC supports.
Today, more Jewish Atlantans than ever are helping their fellow Jews on a national scale. Where traditionally, national leaders in Jewish organizations have hailed from big cities such as New York, Washington, D.C., Chicago or Los Angeles, in recent years, passionate local leaders have begun to shine in the national spotlight. Jewish Atlantans hold national leadership positions in prominent Jewish organizations such as United Jewish Communities (UJC); the Anti-Defamation League (ADL); American-Israeli Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), the fourth largest lobbying group in the United States; American Jewish Committee (AJC); and Hadassah, an international womenıs organization which funds vital initiatives in Israel. Atlantans such as Selig are intimately involved in the inner workings of these organizations, and in turn have a hand in shaping Jewish life throughout the country and the world.
For Atlanta to be home to so many national Jewish leaders is a testament to the strength and vitality of its Jewish community, says Abraham Foxman, national director of the ADL, whose incoming national chairperson is Jewish Atlantan Barbara B. Balser, the first Southern woman to hold the post. "Atlanta has been an inspiration to us," says Foxman. "With the amount of significant, dynamic and concerned leadership, it is no surprise that Atlanta is at the top."
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