[by Tal Koren]
During the last week in January, the Jewish Agency’s Western Galilee-Central Area Consortium Partnership 2Gether Steering Committee met in the Western Galilee to review the achievements of the past year and make plans for the future. Twelve people representing seven of the 12 communities on the American side of the Partnership joined representatives of the Partnership management, the coordinators and volunteers from the Israeli side.
During their visit to the Western Galilee, the U.S. representatives saw firsthand the joint projects. They also met with key figures, and toured sites in the area, including the Ghetto Fighters House Museum, Nahariya Hospital, the Tunisian Synagogue, and the Old City of Akko.
The Jewish Agency’s Partnership 2gether is a unique initiative, which connects 550 communities throughout the world by means of 45 partnerships in Israel. As a local effort with national influence, each Partnership in the program provides the opportunity for a connection between communities in Israel and overseas. At the same time, interpersonal relationships are also formed and thrive through a joint community process.
The Western Galilee-Central Area Consortium Partnership includes Austin, Canton, Des Moines, Dayton, Indianapolis, Louisville, North and West Indiana, Omaha, San Antonio, South Bend, Toledo, Youngstown, Akko, Matte Asher and Budapest. The Partnership has been active for 16 years and encourages joint efforts, which enable the building of relationships through programs that strengthen Jewish identity and the connections between Israel and the USA. Louisville has been part of the program since its inception.
The many volunteers and the team of coordinators work together, examine important issues, bring reactions from the field for discussion, determine milestones, set targets and define budgets to achieve them. The involvement and cooperation create mutual contribution and productivity, mainly in the areas of values, community, and education, and provide fertile ground for economic development.
One of the most exciting and far-reaching aspects of the Partnership project platform is the mutual exchange of ideas. Volunteers from the world communities, who visit the Western Galilee in order to become involved in the process, reinforce their communities when they return. The Partnership platform leads ongoing change in Israeli society and in the Jewish communities overseas.
Consortium coordinator Jan Goldstein and Eran El-Bar head the Western Galilee-Central Area Consortium Partnership. The Partnership management chairs, who work voluntarily, are Zoe Reikes, the U.S. chair, and David Laron, on the Israeli side.
There are also paid coordinators and volunteer chairs and activists who serve on a number of task forces, including art and the community, medicine, resource development, education, regional development, and incoming missions.
Over the years, delegation exchanges and many joint projects have taken place. “I’m happy to see the great love for the Western Galilee and for Israel on the part of our friends in the Partnership and I’m happy to have had the great privilege of hosting delegations who visit the region. Over the years many connections have been formed and the visit to Israel has caused a number of visitors who came here to make aliya,” said incoming delegations and resource development coordinator, Heidi Beinish.
Through the twinning program, which has been operating for two years through the Education Task Force, elementary school, junior high and senior high school students on both sides of the ocean connect through a variety of original projects, which include virtual exhibitions, an international book-sharing project, a photography project on the subject of remembrance, and more. This is in addition to correspondence, and sending letters and festival greeting cards.
The program is highly successful and has grown from 11 classes, which initially took part, to 32 classes today. The Education Task Force coordinator, Eliad Eliyahu Ben Shoshan, plays an important part in maintaining the relationship between the communities and makes sure he participates in many events that take place in the Western Galilee schools – and even accompanies the delegations to the USA a number of times a year.
“The students express interest and curiosity, learn as much as possible about each other and acquire friends. There are also outgoing delegations of young leaders from among the teens, who work as counselors at the US community’s summer camps, and also teens from the US come here to work as counselors in the Western Galilee summer camps. This is an exceptional experience which reinforces the teens’ Jewish identity and love of Israel among those who about to enlist, and we see that most of them choose to fill significant roles in the army,” Ben Shoshan said.
Another important project, led by the Medical Task Force, is a doctors’ exchange program, Med2gether, which enables doctors from Nahariya Hospital and from the Partnership communities to compare their work, learn new methods, and exchange ideas.
Through the Art and Community Task Force, a delegation of 100 ballet dancers from Austin is due to visit the Western Galilee in September. The dancers will perform in the Akko Festival and will then go on a national tour.
A new program, Israel 15, which aims to make Israel one of the 15 leading countries with respect to their residents’ quality of life, is getting underway. This vision demands a huge economic and social leap, which will close the gap between Israel’s quality of life and that of the world’s leading countries. In the Western Galilee the program is led by Raya Strauss together with the Jewish Agency’s Western Galilee-Central Area Consortium Partnership.
The vision for the region deals with developing technologies, services, products, methods and health tourism, to promote a healthy lifestyle on par with other regions in the world, such as the Swiss Alps, the Austrian Tyrol and the center of Finland.
The Partnership is also recruiting people from Israel’s business community to contribute to establishing a project for at-risk teenagers. There will soon be a delegation of four entrepreneurs from the region to the U.S., where they will meet people from their fields to formulate joint projects, and the American partners will then visit Israel.
For more information about Partnership 2Gether opportunities for Louisville, contact Sara Wagner at the Jewish Community Center, 238-2779 or firstname.lastname@example.org.