A Bridge Between Worlds: Federation's Longtime Partnership Links Local Community with Extended Global Family
It may be difficult to imagine that a country as small as Israel has a periphery; not solely a geographic one, but an economic and social one as well.
Twenty years ago, the Jewish Federation of Palm Beach County was presented with an opportunity to partner with a region of Israel located in the Upper Galilee, far from the socially and commercially vibrant cities of Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. Three diverse communities, which heretofore had not shared each other’s strengths, opportunities and challenges, ultimately became a model for unity, collaboration and learning.
Tzfat, Hazor HaGlilit and Rosh Pina, known by their Partnership 2Gether acronym TZAHAR, comprise the Israeli side of the transglobal partnership with the greater Palm Beaches through Jewish Federation and The Jewish Agency for Israel.
“Tzfat is the home of Jewish mysticism; one of the four holy cities of Judaism. Rosh Pina is a pioneer village … one of the first Zionist settlements in the Galilee. And Hazor, which is basically what Israelis and we [Americans] would call a development town, is a community that in the 1950s absorbed a lot of Moroccan Jews,” said Hope Dunkel, a senior vice president of Jewish Federation.
“You have these three adjacent communities that have very separate identities,” she added, “and then when our Federation got involved 20 years ago, they became much more of a cohesive region. They began to realize how they could benefit from each other’s expertise and how they could make this region a tourist destination.”
In its genesis and its youth, Partnership2Gether’s programs focused on the economic development of the TZAHAR region. Now, with a successful economic linkage, the partnership serves as a “living bridge” between the region and the greater Palm Beaches. According to Dunkel, this means “it is relationships going both ways. Not just Palm Beach going to Israel, but also Israel coming to Palm Beach.”
Iris Meidan coordinates Partnership2Gether “on the other side of the ocean,” as she likes to term it. Working in the TZAHAR region in Israel prior to the partnership’s 20th anniversary, Meidan cheerfully notes that she joined Patnership2Gether in its Bar Mitzvah year (13th).
“We are the first partnership in Israel,” she said. “There are 46 partnerships altogether, partnered with 500 Jewish communities around the world. This partnership has been the pioneer of very important projects such as ‘Youth Futures,’ a program that provides mentors for at-risk children. It all started here [TZAHAR region] with the support of the Jewish Federation of Palm Beach County, and now it has spread to 34 municipalities, touching the lives of 10,000 children in Israel.”
Including the Arthur I. Meyer Jewish Academy in Palm Beach Gardens, the partnership has twinning programs between several schools in Palm Beach County, connecting local students with their Israeli peers. When Meidan was asked what she considered the most important outcome that children in the TZAHAR region derive from their relationship with Palm Beach County schoolchildren, she said, “Knowing that they are not alone. It’s so important. Israel is always under threat to its existence. And the children are exposed to these threats on a daily basis. Knowing that they have brothers and sisters in other Jewish communities around the world helps them with their [sense of] security and confidence.”
Shani and Nir Boneh met at Ben Gurion University in Be’er Sheva, Israel, and fell in love. They were engaged to be married and fell in love all over again with the opportunity to live in the United States and share their love of Israel through the Shlichim program. Shlichim are “Israeli emissaries,” unofficial ambassadors with a portfolio of service projects under their belts. Today, Shani and Nir are embedded in Palm Beach County, traveling around the community and connecting locals to Israeli culture, food, service and politics.
“When we were in Israel, we had a Skype call with the Federation, its staff and lay leaders, and it was love at first sight,” Shani said.
“We are a living bridge between Palm Beach County and TZAHAR, and we are a link in this partnership. We work with the synagogues, Hebrew schools and twinning schools that partner with the Federation. We’ve taken teens to Israel. We speak to Hadassah women, to men’s clubs … we bring a little bit of Israel everywhere we go in the community. We put a face on Israel.”
Tommy and Sheryl Davidoff of Atlantis are community leaders who have been involved with Partnership2Gether from its inception. They are particularly proud of the Federation’s efforts that have supported the work of Shlichim in Palm Beach County.
“Since 2003 we have been bringing young emissaries from Israel to live in the Palm Beach community for at least a year to bring Israel to our area,” Tommy explained. “The emissaries brought Israel to Palm Beach when Palm Beach wasn’t going to Israel.” Since the launch of Partnership2Gether, the Davidoffs have witnessed it mature exponentially, with several groups from Palm Beach County now traveling to TZAHAR each year – and vice versa.
Other close friends of the partnership are Peter and Dr. Alla Weisz of West Palm Beach, who have spent extended periods of time in the TZAHAR region with their children to volunteer. Though Peter describes with precision the variety of tasks undertaken during his most recent visit to the region he affectionately calls “his community cousin,” he will be most proud to tell you in genuinely altruistic fashion that he, his family and his newfound extended family in Israel are, quite simply, living bridges of understanding and hope for the Jewish people.
The above story originally appeared as the cover article in the March 2015 edition of PBG Lifestyle magazine.
Click here to learn more about our landmark 20-year partnership with the TZAHAR region.
Will you be in Israel June 25-27, 2015? Join us at our Partnership 2Gether 20th anniversary celebration! Contact Maxine Kaufman at 561.242.6678 or firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.