The Legacy of Jerry Horowitz and the Tasting Journey

March 31, 2023

The Legacy of Jerry Horowitz and the Tasting Journey

On May 4, JF&CS will host The Tasting. The much-anticipated annual event features bites and sips from some of Atlanta’s best restaurants along with a silent auction, all in the industrial-chic setting of The Stave Room. All proceeds from The Tasting benefit JF&CS’ nonsectarian Zimmerman-Horowitz Independent Living Program (Z-H ILP). The event is unique in that it brings donors, Z-H ILP clients and some of Atlanta’s best chefs together for food, spirits and fellowship.

This year’s event has a special touch: we will be honoring the legacy of Jerry Horowitz (of blessed memory), for whom the program is named. Jerry received legions of honors for his dedication to the Jewish community of Atlanta, which culminated in him receiving the Greater Atlanta Jewish Federation’s Lifetime Achievement Award in 2010. He was once described by his peers as a “pied piper in the philanthropic world leading all his admirers to do Tikkun Olam and making the world a better place for the next generation.”

JF&CS recently had the pleasure of speaking with Jerry’s beloved wife Pearlann about Jerry, the heart behind The Tasting, and how it evolved over the years to become the seminal event it is today.

Pearlann and Jerry married in 1964. Jerry was a dedicated man who built a successful career in wealth management, but he also knew how to have fun, enjoying a deep love of travel and becoming a wine connoisseur. The Horowitz family was completed with the arrival of their children Scott and Michelle.

When Pearlann and Jerry learned that their daughter Michelle had developmental disabilities, they quickly saw the lack of societal support for people with disabilities. Pearlann recalls a meeting of the Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta, of which Jerry was board president. “I had become frustrated,” she recalls, “and finally I said ‘we give money to all parts of this community, but there’s nothing for those who have developmental disabilities.’”

The Jewish Federation Board agreed, and over the course of several years the community took steps to address the need for support. In 1999 JF&CS created what is now known as the Zimmerman-Horowitz Independent Living Program. As tireless advocates of its mission, the Horowitzes endowed the program to ensure its longevity.

While the couple were deeply involved in the Jewish community of Atlanta, one of their biggest priorities for the program was that it be nonsectarian, and therefore open to all regardless of race, religion, or any other factor. Inclusion was very important to Pearlann and Jerry, not only in types of people the program would serve but also in the opportunities provided to them.

Pearlann recalls a conversation with a friend who also had a daughter with disabilities. “I can provide for (her,)” he said. “I don’t have to get involved in all this (community building).” To which Pearlann responded, “yes, but do you want her to be alone?”

Pearlann and Jerry’s vision was for the residents to not only be cared for, but to lead full and happy lives in residential homes with their peers. “There’s often focus on what (people with disabilities) can’t do, but we wanted to focus on what they can do," said Pearlann. "We wanted them to be able to come together for events, to go to baseball games, the theater, entertain their families, etc. Many of them are voters and learn which candidates are supporting important services and issues that would positively impact their lives for the better.”

Philanthropic efforts for the Z-H ILP started in the form of intimate parties in private homes. Guests mingled with program residents and caregivers while they ate hors d’oeuvres, sipped wine and learned about the needs of the disabled community and how to help. These parties set the table for the event we know today as The Tasting.

As the event got larger, they needed a space to match. The party moved to the Grand Hyatt for several years, then expanded. “It was terrific,” says Pearlann. It grew, and then reached a point where we were better suited to other places, like The Stave Room.”

The Tasting has indeed grown; today, the event is a critical source of support for the Z-H ILP. The nonsectarian Z-H ILP serves individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities ages 18 and older. The program provides clients with residential housing and offers different levels of individualized support, from case management to 24/7 direct support professional care. Up to 4 clients live in each home, and often become like family to one another. Clients live in their communities as independently as possible, with many enjoying meaningful employment.

The Horowitzes have worked closely with JF&CS over the years to make it a success, with their son Scott securing fabulous restaurants and Pearlann consulting and adding her personal touch. This year the Tasting returns to the Stave Room, where chefs will present tantalizing small plates and guests will sip wines that would make Jerry proud. Wines will be curated by Mark Brown, son of early supporters Joan and Donald. It truly is a family affair.

Though The Tasting has evolved, at its core it is but a larger version of what the Pearlann and Jerry helped set into motion years ago. There is still an education component, which gives attendees a glimpse into this incredible program. Of great importance to Pearlann, Z-H ILP residents and direct support professionals attend and enjoy the event alongside donors, mingling throughout the night. The silent auction includes exclusive restaurant tastings, signed memorabilia, a plethora of gift cards to Atlanta’s best shopping, and art made by the Z-H ILP residents.

“This year,” says Pearlann, “we want to not only raise money for (the current year) but also for the budget in the coming year. Third and equally important is to be able to put money into an endowment that will continue to grow and perpetuate itself for all the future needs. This population is aging, and they’re going to have a lot of the same needs that people would have in an assisted living home. It doesn’t matter if you have intellectual disabilities or not, once you start having memory loss or physical disabilities or no one to take care of you, the needs are the same.”

We are deeply grateful to the Horowitz family and the work they’ve done to ensure complete care for clients with intellectual and developmental disabilities. After many years of dedication, the Horowitz family has decided that this will be their final year at the helm of the Tasting. It is only appropriate that this year’s event honors the legacy of the inimitable Jerry Horowitz. Along with Event Chairs Vanessa and Isaac Frank and Honorary Chairs Caren and Michael Merlin, we invite you to join us May 4 from 7-10pm at The Stave Room.

Click here to purchase tickets.