In 1995, The Jewish Agency for Israel (JAFI), together with The United Jewish Appeal and Keren HaYesod launched Partnership 2000. Partnership 2000 (P2K) has linked 41 regions in Israel with 550 Diaspora communities to promote regional development in Israel and connections between the Diaspora and Israel. This innovative program sought to address two goals: a) developing Israel's periphery, i.e. the Negev and the Galilee; and b) linking Jews in Israel and in the Diaspora to promote Jewish connectivity. Partnership 2000 marks a major transition from the traditional model of American overseas philanthropy, in which the U.S. gave and Israel received. The new model for Israel-Diaspora relations emphasizes partnership, a collective decision-making process and the development of mutually beneficial and collaborative programs.
In June 1997, Philadelphia formed a partnership with the Netivot-Azata region located in the Negev. On June 19, 2002, Azata, which means "towards Gaza" in Hebrew, was renamed "Sedot Negev" (Fields of the Negev). The city of Netivot is situated northwest of Beersheba and is the closest Israeli city to the Gaza Strip. The Sedot Negev Regional Council, which encircles Netivot, covers an expanse of 200 square kilometers. Sedot Negev incorporates 12 religious moshavim, two kibbutzim, and two regional centers, several of which adjoin Gaza. All of these communities have been part of Israel proper since 1948. The total Region is home to more than 32,000 residents, including a large number of immigrants from North Africa, the Former Soviet Union and Ethiopia.
Co-Chairs Bernie Dishler and Yechiel Zohar, the Mayor of Netivot lead the Joint Partnership 2000 Committee, which includes representatives from both the Philadelphia area, and Netivot-Sedot Negev. Previous Committee Chairs have included Ken Kaiserman, Adam Herzig, Paul Secunda and Cindy Smukler Dorani.
The Committee members come from a variety of professional backgrounds and represent a broad cross section of all three communities. Since 1997, Federation has worked with Netivot and Sedot Negev in designing and implementing innovative programs in the areas of education and community, regional development, religious pluralism, Ethiopian issues and Jewish identity programs. While much of P2K focuses on addressing needs in Israel, major attention is also placed on "Gesher L' Kesher" programs (People to People) which address Philadelphia area needs with respect to strengthening Jewish identity and connections to Israel. The Israel and Overseas Center allocated $ 541,000 to Partnership 2000 out of its discretionary pool. (Please see budget figures below.)
It is important to emphasize that P2K funded programs are evaluated by 'Mitveh,'' an independent assessment organization. Each year, P2K selects different projects to be evaluated. Mitveh then conducts highly professional studies of programs and presents their findings to the Committee. Decisions about future funding of projects are, therefore, impacted by professional assessments.
In the fiscal year 2003, the Committee reexamined its mission, goals and operations through a visioning process. As a result, the Committee committed to:
- Develop a Partnership that is more mutual and reciprocal
- Reconstitute the committee structure in order to enable volunteers from Philadelphia and the Region to be simultaneously involved and engaged in the decision making process
- Focus on fewer yet more transformative projects
- Develop one project that will have a transformative impact on the Region.
The Committee dramatically altered its operations by creating two subcommittees, which convened both Israeli and American members numerous times through teleconferencing to review and develop all projects. In previous years, projects were developed separately in Israel and in the U.S. Another development was the addition of Israeli volunteers to augment an active professional Israeli leadership.
The new model highlighted the complexities of communicating cross culturally, with different languages and accommodating meetings across a seven-hour time difference. The result was a much more engaging, dynamic and mutually satisfying decision-making process.
Another important development that was discussed at the Joint Partnership 2000 Committee that took place in November 2003, was the decision to hold in abeyance all initiatives to develop new Gesher L'Kesher projects. This change in policy, which resulted in decreased funding of Gesher L'Kesher projects and an increase in funding for Education and Community projects, came at the request of Yechiel Zohar, the Mayor of Netivot and Meir Yifrach, the Head of the Sedot Negev Regional Council. Both mayors emphasized that despite their disappointment about the Partnership's inability to develop new Gesher L'Kesher programs, the second consecutive year of severe government cuts in education and social welfare has created a new economic reality that needs to be addressed. Federation lay leadership, albeit concerned about the impact of this decision on the nature of the Partnership in the long term, respected and accepted the mayors' request, at least for the fiscal year 2004.
Consequently, the approved budget for the fiscal year 2004 is delineated below.
||Name of Project
||Approved 2004 |
||PLANNING and ADMINISTRATION
||Steering Committee Operations
||EDUCATION AND COMMUNITY
||Learning Center (Ethiopians)
||Saligman Early Childhood Development Center
||English Project - Distant Learning
||Gesher L'Kesher Programs and Coordinator
A critically important component to the success of the Partnership is the warm, genuine and gracious way the residents from the Netivot-Sedot Negev Region have welcomed the Jewish Community of Greater Philadelphia. The residents of the Region continue to express an openness to learn about the vibrancy and pluralistic nature of the Jewish Community in Philadelphia. Concomitantly, the Federation has learned to appreciate that the Region has much to offer to the Jewish Community in Greater Philadelphia in terms of helping to promote Jewish identity and strengthening connections to Israel.
Just to mention a few achievements this year:
- The three dedication ceremonies that were organized as part of the G.A. Mission were a moving tribute to our donors and the Israeli governmental ministries whose generosity led to the establishment of top-notch facilities that will enrich the quality of life for the entire Netivot - Sedot Negev Region. The three facilities that were dedicated are as follows:
1. The construction of the Jeanne and Bennet Tanenbaum Music Conservatory in Netivot (which was funded in part by Myles Tanenbaum) has been completed. The facility includes a 242-seat auditorium, a library, classrooms and practice rooms for music instruction for area adults and children.
2. The Kaiserman Family Ethiopian Cultural Center, which was funded in part by a generous contribution of the Kaiserman family and other Philadelphia area donors including the Lindy Family, the Gitlin Family and members of the Renaissance Group (formerly Young Leadership Council) offers homework assistance and tutoring, day camps and workshops for Ethiopian children and lectures and programs for adults on social rights, health issues, and current events. There are also work areas for women who produce traditional Ethiopian handicrafts. In addition, the women pass on Ethiopian traditions to the younger generation by giving courses in traditional Ethiopian ceramics. The Berkowitz Synagogue, adjacent to the Kaiserman Family Ethiopian Cultural Center, has also been completed.
3. The Robert Saligman Early Childhood Development Center funded, in part, by a grant from Philadelphia's Saligman Family Foundation and matched by a gift from an anonymous donor from Keren HaYesod, opened this fall. This new facility will provide critically needed services to over 200 children with developmental problems and learning disabilities in Sedot Negev.
- Partnership 2000 Committee focused on fewer but more transformative projects. One major new initiative is a Regional English project whose aim is to increase the level of English proficiency of the Region's students via the educational medium of distance learning. It is anticipated that there will be a marked improvement to the students' overall ability to learn and concomitantly, the teachers' comprehensive skill set to teach effectively. An additional goal is to strengthen the students' Jewish identity and connections in Israel and Greater Philadelphia via the Internet. Despite a myriad of obstacles, the technological infrastructure has been installed; teachers have undergone intensive training workshops and have already begun to use the e-learning methodology in the classrooms. Teachers, parents, and yes, even students are genuinely thrilled about this exciting new development.
- In previous years, the Learning Center, a program that provides tutorial support and enrichment activities, was geared primarily to Ethiopian elementary school children. This year, due to drastic budget cutbacks from the Ministry of Education that led to closing of other educational enrichment programs in Netivot, the Learning Center has expanded its target population to include veteran Israelis who attend junior high and high schools. Presently about 80 children and 50 teens participate in the program that will help them to improve their scholastic scores and their sense of self-esteem.
- Reciprocal Short Term Visits - Since March of 2000, the Region has hosted approximately 1,500 visitors from our community, 1200 since the Matzav began in September, 2000. Our community, in turn, has hosted many visitors from the Region including the Region's Partnership 2000 Committee, the Mifgashim program, Forum HaTze'irim and a professional exchange program comprised of seven social workers. This year, major visits from Philadelphia to the Region included the G.A. 100 member delegation, the 90 plus contingent from the Bux-Mont Community, a most successful Renaissance summer visit with its Israeli counterpart the 'Forum HaTze'irim, and finally, the traditional Yom HaZikaron/Yom Ha'Atzmaut visit by the community at large and the Abrams Hebrew Academy.
- This is the fourth year that the Summer Ulpan program for Philadelphia area synagogue schoolteachers has been conducted in the Region. Last summer, nine teachers enjoyed spending three weeks in Israel, studying Hebrew at Hemdat HaDarom College in Netivot and living with host families. To date 34 teachers have participated in this initiative.
- The Mifgashim program was successfully implemented for a fifth consecutive summer. With the assistance of Gratz College's Jewish Community High School, the Jewish Community Centers of Greater Philadelphia and the Federation, 12 teens from the Region visited Philadelphia in order to meet with local Jewish youth. The teens learned about the different streams in Judaism, enjoyed the history and culture of Greater Philadelphia, volunteered in the Jewish community's institutions, and enjoyed social get-togethers. As a result of this most successful experience and the determination of Jewish youth from Philadelphia to reinstitute the reciprocal nature of the Partnership, 12 participants will be visiting their Israeli peers in December 2003 for a 10 day visit in Israel, of which, five days will be spent with their Israeli counterparts from the Region.
- In 2003 seven social workers from the Region visited Philadelphia. They observed the work of the Jewish Family and Children Services and met local social workers with whom they created warm personal contacts, and discussed the implementation of a joint project. A reciprocal visit to the Region will take place at the end of January, 2004. Drew Staffenberg, Executive Director of Jewish Family and Children's Services, also visited the Region, met with the social work staff of Netivot and Sedot Negev, visited key social welfare agencies and paved the way for the development of a positive and reciprocal relationship between the Region's social work staff and Jewish Family and Children's' Services.
- Our two Regional Forums: 1) The Women's Forum and, 2) Forum HaTze'irim (young leadership group that works closely with the Renaissance Group) participated in a leadership-training course providing them with tools for community involvement. In the coming year, each group will receive additional supervision and guidance as they begin to initiate community based projects. This is a most important development in the process of developing a culture of community involvement on the grass roots level. Further, as a result of the training course, both groups developed a strong sense of group identity and an increased level of group cohesiveness.
The outstanding success of Partnership 2000 has widened the scope of involvement and support of Jewish community In Philadelphia. As leaders of the Jewish Community, we are proud to continue to support the Partnership with the Netivot - Sedot Negev Region and enable it to flourish.
Shvat 5764 - February 2004