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Israel

Visit to Afula-Gilboa Gives Deeper Understanding of Partnership Community
By Michael Russell

As I hope all of you know, the Jewish Federation of Greater New Bedford (along with 11 other federations in Connecticut and Massachusetts) is partnered with the City of Afula and the Region of Gilboa in Israel. The consortium on the US side is called the Southern New England Consortium (SNEC) of Partnership2Gether (formerly Partnership 2000), a project of the Jewish Agency for Israel. The goal of P2G is to foster relationships between Americans and Israelis through meaningful interactions. This has been accomplished by working with a steering committee of volunteers from Afula and Gilboa and choosing important social welfare programs and “living bridge” programs which can be funded through dollars raised on the US side.

As some of you know, I was elected President of SNEC this past January. As a responsibility (and a benefit) of this volunteer position, I visited the region in May to evaluate the currently funded programs and investigate some of the proposed programs for the coming year. We had a fabulous four-day trip packed from dawn to dusk with site visits and meetings. One of the programs which has been funded by SNEC is the “Youth Futures” program. One hundred sixty atrisk students in the 3rd to 6th grade are partnered with mentors to help break them out of the cycle of under-achievement. The mentors – who work fulltime in this capacity – meet with the parents, the teachers, and the students on a continual basis throughout the year – they help them to define and reach individual goals to achieve academic success. They help the students to build self-esteem through attention, caring and love – something they don’t always get at home. Many of the students come from such poverty that they rarely have nutritious food available – meals are also provided by Youth Futures.

We met with a group of about 20 of these children and were moved by the utter joy they expressed at seeing us. To walk into a room filled with smiles because you helped to make these kids’ lives better – what more could you ask for?

Another one of the SNEC-funded projects is the Tarbut (Culture) Community. Twenty two Israelis finished their Army service and decided to do something for the good of the Afula community (a community which is generally very low in socioeconomic status.) These energetic young people are committed to effecting social change by bringing education, art, and culture to the community. Members of the Tarbut Community engage in a variety of social, educational, cultural, and artistic activities in Afula, focusing on educating and empowering disadvantaged youth, youth-at-risk, and the community as a whole. They have founded a recording studio and music center in the city’s downtown youth center. They transformed a previously under-utilized community center library into a welcoming place for afternoon activities, such as arts and music classes. The Tarbut Community considers itself a “kibbutz without walls” – working toward the common goal of the betterment of Israeli society. In the next edition of the Messenger, I will write about some of the other great programs that your annual campaign dollars support. If you want any more information on any of the programs or how you can visit the region and see your dollars at work directly, please let me know.

For more information about Partnership2Gether with Afula-Gilboa, visit
p2g.jewishagency.org

www.jewishagency.org/JewishAgency/English/Israel/Partnerships/Regions/Afula

www.snecp2k.org

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Beit Singer is a Safe Haven for Children at Risk


Judy Pollack with students at Youth Futures program.
Beit Singer, a home for children at risk situated in K’far Yehezkel in the Jezreel Valley, provides a home to children and youth who have suffered abandonment, neglect, and abuse from an early age. The children are organized into small, intimate groups where they receive intensive attention from a range of professionals including educational staff; social workers; psychologists; and movement, art and animal therapists. Here are some of these children’s stories. A 9 year-old third grader especially loves the “Animal Corner.” “I love to visit the animal corner because I love to feed the animals. Every week there is a "going to bed" activity at the animal corner. In our activities we learn about animals and play games about animals. We also see movies. I love the lemurs most of all because I love feeding them. Come see the animal corner, because it is a lot of fun! You can pet the animals, see movies, enter the cages and play with them too!” A 10 year-old fifth grader loves the Krav Maga (hand-to-hand combat) Club. “I joined the Krav Maga club mid-year. It is held every Tuesday. There are younger and older children's groups, but I'm in the middle. My coach is Daniel Yiflach, and I think he is really good. He trains us gradually and not too fast, is very patient and really nice. We start each session by closing our eyes and doing an exercise where we breathe in through our noses and breathe out from the mouth. We also listen very carefully to what the coach says and then open our eyes, and Danny tells us about what we will be doing that session. [….] At the end of the session we once again close our eyes and that's how we finish. During the session, the coach corrects and comments on our progress so that we can advance further. For me, this is a really good club that can advance me. Also, I really enjoy the friends I have there, Eddie and Dima. Finally, I think that if I have the opportunity next year, I will join the club again.”

Yvonne Benn

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Meet Yvonne Benn, the new Chair of the Partnership 2Gether Steering Committee in Afula-Gilboa


Yvonne Benn
I was born in Switzerland. My mother was Jewish and was saved from the Holocaust thanks to her family migrating from their native Germany to Switzerland. My father, who came from a well-established Swiss family of religious Catholics, wanted to free himself from his patriarchal, demanding family. My parents agreed that their children would be raised without any religious affiliation or tradition but as modern, emancipated, universal human beings. However, these ideals were not strong enough to keep my parents together, and they divorced when I was eight years old. My brother, ten years older than I, rebelled against our parents' ideals and began to search for his roots, for a sense of tradition and belonging. He found them in our mother's religion – Judaism. This opened the door for me to a meaningful, exciting world and both my brother and I found a warm home in Bern's Reform Jewish community. My brother became more attached to Judaism as a religion, while I became a Zionist. At the age of 16 I realized my dream of moving to Israel – a country full of challenges and adventures. After my army service, I married and had a family and became involved in horses and therapeutic horseback riding. When my children had grown up, I felt that although they were Jews and Israelis, they were unfamiliar with the sense of community offered by Jewish communities in the Diaspora. It was therefore very important for me that they should serve for a year as young emissaries in the SNEC communities. I joined Partnership 2Gether and am extremely proud and honored to have been chosen as Steering Committee Chair. I am a great believer in team work and in my opinion we are an excellent team and all members of the Steering Committee (in Israel and in the US) bring strong will, ability and quality to the committee. I am therefore optimistic that together we will be able to generate change. Partnership 2Gether is a true partnership between the residents of Afula, Gilboa and the SNEC communities and together we will be able to create true friendships and common, enterprising projects. Wishing us all good luck.

Yvonne Benn

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Amir Cohen
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