Federation in Action
The Jewish Federation of Palm Beach County has been a partner to the Israeli communities of Tzfat, Hatzor Haglilit and Rosh Pina (also known as the TZAHAR Region) in the northern Galilee since 1994. The Partnership2Gether (P2G) platform is designed to build bridges between our communities, share ideas, promote the idea of Jewish peoplehood and establish life-long connections between members of the greater Palm Beach Jewish community and the TZAHAR communities.
Phone calls, classroom exchanges, youth leadership programs, videoconferencing, emails and annual delegation visits to and from the Region keep our communities in contact throughout the year. In addition, two Shlichim in our local community keep the spirit and heart of the partnership beating throughout the year.
Recently, a delegation from the greater Palm Beaches – comprised of Federation leadership and members of the P2G Steering Committee – visited TZAHAR to see firsthand just how effective our efforts have been in improving the lives of Israel’s vulnerable populations and the positive results achieved in building global peoplehood, along with the mandatory task of approving the annual budget.
“This year there were new people on our Steering Committee making their first trip to the Region,” said P2G Chair Tommy Davidoff. “There was such excitement and engagement among them, and they understood in a new way how our dollars are being spent overseas.”
Following is a three-part series, originally sent to the staff in an attempt to bring the experiences to life for colleagues, from one of Federation's Senior Vice Presidents Hope Dunkel:
Greetings! I am delighted to share highlights of my recent trip to Israel. I was able to observe and participate in programs supported by our Federation, and hope the following recap will help you feel more closely connected to the important work that we do in Israel to transform, strengthen and enhance Jewish life. Our partnership is achieving astounding results, and the impact that our Federation, lay leadership, staff and colleagues are making abroad is substantial, enduring and, in some ways, miraculous.
From the beginning: Ethiopian-Israeli Intervention in the City of Ramla
A short distance from Ben Gurion Airport is the city of Ramla where, in the early 1990s after a major wave of immigration, hundreds of newly arrived Ethiopian families settled. This community advanced from an agrarian society to modern life virtually overnight, and faced significant challenges acclimating to Israeli society.
In 2000, the Jewish Federation of Palm Beach County, like many other Federations, partnered with the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) to address the literacy and early childhood issues that surfaced in Ramla. Our Federation has been a principal funder of Parents and Children Together (PACT), a comprehensive, citywide intervention, based on the Head Start model, that focuses on early childhood development issues. From inception, the program tackled literacy development, enrichment activities, parent engagement, home intervention and community empowerment. As our Federation grew in its understanding of the needs of the Ethiopian-Israeli community, we expanded services to include PACT Plus, offering services to 1st to 6th graders.
In 2005, we started to work with the Ethiopian National Project (ENP) to address the needs of Ethiopian-Israelis from birth through middle school. The ENP programs our Federation funds provide middle school kids with academic support during the school day and after-school programs. Youth Outreach Centers are vital to the Ramla community, and help kids who are frustrated in the classroom, feeling hopeless and beginning to make detrimental lifestyle choices. Often, participants meet the enthusiastic and warm workers at the Centers and begin to believe in themselves and start making more productive choices for their future.
We also support the OFEK Bagrut program, which helps Ethiopian-Israeli teens pass vital comprehensive exams that are required. Oftentimes they help determine where a young person is going to serve in the army and the possibilities for higher education. High school kids participate in intensive classes that provide academic and social support, and ensure that the achievements reached through their years in the PACT and ENP programs are reinforced and strengthened.
During my most recent visit, I had an “aha moment,” and understood the transformation of this unique and special community was made possible, in part, thanks to the Jewish Federation of Palm Beach County’s support, and individual philanthropists from the greater Palm Beach area. The children looked at individuals from our delegation with pride and self-confidence; one could no longer discern which child came from a veteran Israeli family or a recent immigration.
It was genuinely remarkable to see the change in the city’s Ethiopian-Israeli community. Education and social advancement can be seen across the board: hundreds of children are thriving; mothers are at work, helping to support their families; and local municipal leadership takes responsibility to help the community. It might interest you to know that the new director of PACT in Ramla and a city council person are both Ethiopian-Israelis.
All of our donors are making this happen! You should feel an enormous sense of pride and purpose knowing that you are truly making a difference in the lives of so many.
Part Two continues below…
In this second of three installments, Dunkel shares an update about our Partnership 2Gether (P2G initiative). Now in its 18th – chai! – year, this program of the Jewish Agency for Israel (JAFI) is built on the ideas of a shared Jewish future and a vision for Jewish peoplehood. Through P2G, Federation has helped launch many programs, including the School Twinning project, which connects classrooms in the TZAHAR Region and the greater Palm Beaches; Volunteer Shlichim (emissaries), who provide a living bridge to Israel and offer an unparalleled resource for Israel education, engagement and advocacy; Israel teen experiences, and young adult leadership development.
Heading North: Partnership 2Gether in the TZAHAR Region
After an exhilarating visit in Ramla, the delegation went north to visit our partners in the TZAHAR Region (Tzfat, Hatzor Haglilit and Rosh Pina) – the three communities that come together under one banner in partnership with the Jewish Federation of Palm Beach County.
It’s always like coming home for me when the bus pulls up to my favorite Zimmer (Bed & Breakfast); I feel a sense of welcome, belonging and community in Rosh Pina.
Our Federation supports programs that strengthen the connections between people in the greater Palm Beaches and in the TZAHAR Region, and focus on three strategic pillars: joint decision-making; a shared Jewish future; and the interconnectedness of the Jewish people. Each year, we come together to determine how to maximize our impact. This year, the committee made allocation decisions with remarkable clarity, a sense of purpose and a clear expression of mutual support and gratitude.
The intensive strategic visioning process P2G went through a couple of years ago has really paid off. The budget is focused, with a clear vision of the Partnership’s goals. While the resources are more finite, the hearts and spirits of our partnership reinforce the infinite possibilities for our shared future. The Partnership continues to animate its goals by doing programs that promote Jewish peoplehood, create a sense of connection and widen the circles of involvement.
Through Federation’s annual funding of P2G, this year we will have more than 25 classrooms participating in the School Twinning Project, promoting a shared responsibility between students in the Diaspora and students in Israel. Kids have virtual interactions around topics relevant to their Jewish values and Jewish identities, and educators are linked together, clearly demonstrated in a recent Israel-based seminar for participating teachers. Nine synagogue-based educators and a Friedman Commission for Jewish Education (Friedman CJE) staff person traveled to Israel in early June to review work plans, develop joint curriculum, and 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 Ofek (Horizon) Shlichim, Shani and Nir Boneh, who display their spirit, commitment and passion for Israel and the Jewish people. This program, funded through P2G (with overseas dollars), has a direct local impact. They will be here for two years, working with every possible constituency in our community.
P2G also supports a young adult leadership development program in the Region. Young adults in TZAHAR were impressed by a visit to our community and the work our Federation is doing with the Emerging Leadership Project (ELP). They decided to emulate the program, identifying and developing a future generation of leaders for the Region. Volunteerism is a relatively new phenomenon in Israel, and the group has already made strides in developing and implementing social and welfare initiatives to improve their communities. They are recruiting and inspiring others to transform TZAHAR into a community that reflects their dreams.
Our local youth leadership programs took shape in the form of a hybrid of the Gesher Hai (Hebrew for living bridge) and Bonim Fellows – called Bonim Chaim (Hebrew for building lives). This terrific model will likely be the baseline for the Federation’s future Israel experiences. The program combines service learning, touring and community volunteering. Our terrific staffers Sam Friedman and Jessica Stein have received numerous accolades from parents and participants, relating how the program has transformed Jewish identities and commitments to Israel and the Jewish people. Our community can feel proud about the steps that we are taking to connect young people with Israel and their Jewish heritage.
Part Three continues below…
In the third and final installment, below, Dunkel shares an update on the Jewish Agency for Israel’s (JAFI) Youth Futures program. Through this initiative, disadvantaged children living in Israel’s TZAHAR Region (Tzfat, Hatzor Haglilit and Rosh Pina) gain self-confidence and academic achievement, and have opportunities for a more meaning life as adults.
Youth Futures, a landmark program, brings together Diaspora Jewry, Israeli philanthropists, local Palm Beach philanthropists and the Jewish Agency for Israel to address the needs of some of Israel’s most vulnerable children, by connecting them with caring adults who serve as Trustees. The children, who face enormous social and welfare challenges, come from homes where there is often neglect, abuse and poverty. The program aims to “level the playing field,” and 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, creating the trust and continuity the children so desperately need. Trustees connect families with municipal resources, help students with school work and give the children an overall sense of well-being and belonging.
Additionally, Youth Futures supports Family Trustees who work with families to create a healthier home environment. We met a young woman who had only experienced failure and disappointment in her community. The program helped open her eyes to new possibilities, giving her the self-confidence to recognize that her children could achieve success. She learned to be a better mother, and offer her children opportunities that were not available to her as a youth.
The following testimonials from Partnership 2gether Steering Committee members Susan Sankel and Amy Alpert, who were joined on the journey by other Steering Committee members Phil Avruch, Sheryl Davidoff, Karl Drehobl and Joel Passick and Federation’s CEO David Phillips; Karen Phillips and IGI Associate Sam Friedman, echo Dunkel’s sentiments about the amazing and meaningful journey.
“It was inspiring to see up-close how the money donated to the Jewish Federation of Palm Beach County is used to benefit so many diverse Israeli citizens, including young children, parents, schoolchildren and new immigrants,” said Sankel.
“As a new member of the committee, I found this trip to be eye-opening in terms of my expectations and knowledge,” said Alpert. "I was in Israel 29 years ago and saw things. This time I saw people! I was unaware of the issues that exist in Israeli society; such as melding Ethiopian-Israelis into society or guiding young adults coming out of the army into their future careers. I am pleased to see that there are many groups, such as ours, outside of Israel helping to correct these issues and others.”
After a visit with our partners at the JDC, ENP and JAFI, I returned home with a renewed sense of urgency and purpose, as well as a deeper understanding and commitment to the work that our community makes possible through the Jewish Federation of Palm Beach County. Jewish Palm Beach has made possible the impossible, and helped turn dreams into reality. In the words of David Ben-Gurion, Israel’s first prime minister: “Anyone who doesn’t believe in miracles is not a realist.”
Thank you for all that you do. You are making a tremendous difference in the lives of thousands.