Rebecca's Tent first opened its doors in 1983. It was one of the first women's shelters in the City of Atlanta and the first homeless shelter housed in a synagogue in the United States.
It started during a frigidly cold winter when Congregation Shearith Israel's Rabbi Mark Wilson saw that help was urgently needed for homeless women in Atlanta. He enlisted the help of a congregation member named Helen Spiegel, who as a girl had fled to America to escape the Nazis and knew the pain of homelessness and displacement. This enabled her to become a beacon of hope to the lucky "guests" who populated the shelter beds.
Helen and her husband Frank heard hundreds of stories of success and failure - of shelter residents who banded together to monitor the bathrooms to help a young woman who was bulimic to change her behavior, of volunteers who took sick ladies to Grady and of synagogue personnel who contacted a young resident's parents to reunite them.
Over the years the shelter's services expanded to include weekly empowerment workshops, career and financial management coaching, conflict resolution and health education. A year-round Case Management program was implemented to give former shelter residents continued support, access to services and community referrals, and resources to help them build independent lives.
Still dependent on the generosity of volunteers, donors and community partners, the shelter operates today as an independent, nonprofit organization that works to create a environment where women are empowered to become self-sufficient.
In 2015, the name of the shelter, The Shearith Israel Shelter for Homeless Women, changed to Rebecca's Tent, A Shelter for Women at Shearith Israel, to enable the larger community and surrounding neighborhoods to better connect and identify with the mission and vision of the organization. In 2018, the shelter became Rebecca's Tent, Spiegel Women's Shelter at Shearith Israel to pay tribute to founders Helen and Frank Spiegel.