Michal Negrin, an internationally known Israeli designer, helps a Youth Futures participant at her Bat Yam factory. A delegation from the UJA Federation of Greater Toronto that supports Youth Futures visited the factory and participated in the interactive workshop.
They came from Toronto - not just as visitors, but as emissaries.
"We have to ensure that the monies we raise from Toronto are being used and that they're being used well," said Honey Sherman, who toured Israel recently as part of a delegation of the Israel and Overseas Committee of the UJA Federation of Greater Toronto.
On November 24, 2009, the group visited the Michal Negrin factory in Bat Yam that included an interactive workshop with local Youth Futures participants, a Jewish Agency supported youth empowerment program.
Now in 32 communities throughout Israel, Youth Futures offers a holistic and integrative support system for at-risk children living on the periphery of the country. Through pairing the children with "trustees"- mentors and advocates who personally support and guide the children to live up to their potential – the program enables those who would otherwise fall through the cracks to succeed. The Toronto Federation has supported and helped shape Youth Futures since its conception. Bat Yam, a low-income city with a high percentage of Ethiopian immigrants, is one of Toronto's twin cities.
"So many kids come from homes where their parents aren't able to really support them socially and educationally so that is why this program is so crucial to their development," said Barbara Bank, the co-chair of the Israel and Oversees Committee.
Youth Futures continues to offer the children help in the form of job and vocational training.
The delegation participated in a hands-on jewelry making workshop in the Michal Negrin headquarters with the Bat Yam youth. They also were given a behind-the-scenes tour of the factory where 200 employees, mostly new immigrants, painstakingly handcraft over one thousand pieces of jewelry, clothing, household novelties, and Judaica.
Negrin, one of Israel's most successful artists and jewelry designers, built up her company from one modest booth at an arts & crafts fair to an internationally known name and flagship stores in 15 countries, including Japan, where her work is very popular. The factory reflects the vibrancy and whimsy of her work with its kaleidoscope of color, crystals and ornate angels and cherubs.
"We bring children here from all different backgrounds and it's wonderful see how moved they are by the magic," said Negrin, who urges them to follow their dreams.
The meeting with Michal Negrin reflects a larger trend in which communities abroad as well as Israeli philanthropists join forces to bolster life in Israel. The Jewish Agency has has been working closely with Israel-based philanthropic initiatives and has received hundreds of millions of dollars in donations, including contributions from the IDB Group, business moguls Eitan Wertheimer and Raya Strauss, and other leading Israeli business people.
"It's wonderful think that we will be working with successful Israelis who want to give back in a meaningful way," said Bank of Toronto's Israel and Oversees Committee.