I’m just back from Israel and excited to share highlights from my trip that I observed and participated in firsthand. These programs are supported by our Federation. I believe sharing my experiences may help you feel more closely connected to the important work we do in Israel to transform, strengthen and enhance Jewish life. I am hopeful that through my eyes, you will see the amazing results we are achieving with what may sometimes feel like abstract programs that occur thousands of miles away. With over a decade of experience working with our overseas partnerships, I can confidently tell you that the impact that our Federation, lay leadership, staff and colleagues,are making abroad is substantial, enduring and in some ways miraculous.
Partnership2Gether in the TZAHAR Region
After an exhilarating visit in Ramla, the delegation went north to visit our partners in the TZAHAR Region. It is always like coming home for me when the bus pulls up to my favorite Zimmer (Bed and Breakfast). Entering our 18th year of partnership, one feels a sense of welcome, belonging and community when we get to Rosh Pina. TZAHAR which in real words translates to Tzfat, Hatzor and Rosh Pina are the three communities that under one banner come together in partnership with the Jewish Federation of Palm Beach County. The experience in the “region” is qualitatively different than what you will experience when you are in Ramla. The focus of our partnership is on peoplehood, and all of the programs our Federation supports in this arena strengthen the connections between people in our community and people in the TZAHAR Region.
The partnership focuses on three strategic pillars -joint decision making, a shared Jewish future, and the interconnectedness of the Jewish people. Annually, partners from both sides of the ocean come together to determine how to allocate funds that make the greatest impact on these objectives. The committee decided the allocations this year with remarkable clarity, a sense of purpose and with a clear expression of mutual support and gratitude.
Partnership 2Gether went through an intensive strategic visioning process a couple of years ago, and it has really paid off. The budget is focused, with a clear vision of the Partnership’s goals and objectives. All of the programs support a vision that calls for a shared Jewish future, promoting Jewish peoplehood and continually widening the circles of involvement. While the resources are more finite given the reduced allocations, the hearts and spirits of our partnership reinforce the infinite possibilities we share.
Through the Federation’s annual funding of Partnership 2Gether this year we will have over 18 classrooms participating in a school twinning project. The program promotes a sense of Jewish peoplehood and shared responsibility between students in the Diaspora and students in Israel. Kids have opportunities to virtually meet one another and have dynamic conversations around topics relevant to their Jewish values and their Jewish identities. School twinning also links educators together, clearly demonstrated in a recent Israel-based seminar for participating teachers. Nine synagogue based educators and a CJE staff person were in Israel in early June to review work plans, develop joint curriculum and develop deeper relationships that will create a common dialogue and shared sense of purpose. Several educators in our local community have expressed an interest in joining the school twinning project, another measure of its impact and success.
It was also wonderful to meet with our two incoming Volunteer Shlichim, Shani and NirBoneh. Wow!!! I know you will be as impressed as I am with their spirit, commitment and passion for Israel and the Jewish people. This is a program funded through the Partnership (with overseas dollars) but has a direct local impact. They will be here for two years working with every possible constituency in our community. Please allow them toshare their inspiration and passion by inviting them to your committee meetings and introducing them to your lay leaders.
Our Partnership also supports a young adult development program in the Region. TZAHAR young adults were impressed by a visit to our community and the work our Federation is doing with ELP. They decided to emulate the program to identify and develop a future generation of leaders for the region. Volunteerism is relatively a new phenomenon in Israel, and I was deeply impressed with the progress this group has made in such a short time. They have already developed social and welfare initiatives to improve their communities. They are recruiting and inspiring others to transform TZAHAR into the community that reflects their dreams and aspirations. These young people are indeed agents of change and you can already feel and see the impact they are making in the community.
Our youth leadership programs continue to thrive….. even with some of the recruitment challenges we have faced in the last couple of years. A hybrid of the Gesher Hai and BonimFellowsproved to be a terrific model for future Israel experiences. Combining service learning, touring and community volunteering – Bonim Chaim is the new direction for our summer Israel experience. Sam and Jessica have been receiving letters of thanks, with thoughtful notes from parents and participants telling how the program has transformed their Jewish identities and commitment to Israel and the Jewish people. Our community can feel proud about the steps we are taking to connect young people with Israel and their Jewish heritage.
Finally, Youth Futures, a landmark program that brings together Diaspora Jewry, Israeli philanthropists and the Jewish Agency to address the needs of some of Israel’s most vulnerable children by connecting them with caring adults who serve as Trustees. These are children who face enormous social and welfare challenges, from homes where there is often neglect, abuse, and poverty. The program aims to create a level playing field to provide opportunities for at risk children and their families to succeed in Israeli society. Each Trustee is matched with 14 students for a three year period. This creates the trust and continuity the children so desperately need. The Trustees help access municipal resources for the families, help with school work, serve as role models, and give the children an overall sense of well-being and belonging. Over 400 children in Tzfat, Hatzor and Rosh Pina are participating in Youth Futures.
In addition, Youth Futures supports Family Trustees that work with families to create a healthier home environment. We met a young woman who had only experienced failure and disappointment inthe community around her. Youth Futures helped open her eyesto new possibilities,givingher the self-confidence to recognize that her kids could achieve success. She learned tobe a better mother, and offer her children opportunities that were not available to her as a youth.
After a visit with our partners at the JDC, the ENP and JAFI, I always come home with a sense of urgency and purpose and renewed understanding and commitment to the work we do at the Jewish Federation of Palm Beach County. We are all making the impossible possible and helping make dreams become reality. In the words of Israel’s first Prime Minister, David Ben Gurion, “Anyone who doesn’t believe in miracles is not a realist.”
Thank you for all you do. You are making a tremendous difference in the lives of thousands.
Senior Vice President
Jewish Federation of Palm Beach County