Israel | Local

JFSA funds empower Israeli partnerships

(L-R) Oshrat Barel, Jewish Federation of Southern Arizona vice president; Shneor Katash, Partnership2Gether representative in Kiryat Malachi; Hila Yogev Keren, P2G director; and Hila Kordana, P2G representative in Kiryat Malachi, at the Jewish Federations of North America General Assembly in Tel Aviv, Oct. 24. (Courtesy Jewish Agency for Israel)

Editor’s note: This is the second in a series of four articles on how the Jewish Federation of Southern Arizona allocates funds. The first, in the Oct. 12 issue, focused on youth and family education programs at synagogues.

Jewish Federation of Southern Arizona applies a Planning and Allocation process that distributes annual campaign income in four areas: congregations, beneficiary agencies, national and overseas programs, and the Federation’s operations, explains Stuart Mellan, JFSA president and CEO. During the last quarter of each year, a PAC steering committee works on budgets for the four funding areas.

Partnership2Gether connects 450 Jewish and Israeli communities in 46 city-to-city and region-to-region partnerships, engaging more than 350,000 participants each year in meaningful ongoing connections between Israelis and Jews around the world. Through unique programs and one-on-one encounters, the JFSA collaborates with The Jewish Agency for Israel in this P2G Peoplehood Platform, previously known as Partnership 2000.

Overseas programs connect the global Jewish family, increase Jewish identity, strengthen Israeli society and build bridges between Tucson, Israel, and the world, says Marlyne Freedman, chair of JFSA’s national and overseas PAC. “It’s about developing relationships. In developing relationships, we strengthen advocacy and partnerships,” she says.

“Living bridges should go both ways,” adds Oshrat Barel, JFSA vice president for planning and community engagement, citing examples of bringing visiting artists from Israel and sending Tucson artists in reciprocation. “Based on strong relationships, we can be impactful,” she says.

Tucson receives value through the partnership as well, says Freedman, through programs such as the shinshinim (Israeli teen emissaries) and other people-to-people exchanges. “Teaching the importance of Israel is most important. If we can continue educating, and building a community, it’s worth all the money in the world. Relationships among our brothers and sisters in Tucson with the partnership areas, is not just about the money; it’s much more. It is growing our homeland.”

JFSA’s partnership areas include the town of Kiryat Malachi and the Hof Ashkelon region. These areas were once under a Western Region Consortium of multiple Jewish federations. In 2008, that was reduced to collaboration with Seattle, Phoenix, and Tucson. In 2013, Tucson assumed the entire sponsorship, gradually boosting its annual contributions from $40,000 to $200,000, with an additional $150,000 in directly designated supplemental donations.

Additionally, JFSA/Jewish Community Foundation of Southern Arizona aligned grant funds and private donor-direct funds go through the Federation, Barel says. Partners on the ground coordinate programs and funding for efficacy and efficiency.

“Our community identifies our needs, and the partnership area identifies their needs,” Barel says. 

“Each year we call for proposals. We create one community that builds on the three communities, giving new, personal meaning to the words ‘the Jewish people,’” adds Andrea Arbel, Jewish Agency for Israel partnership unit director based in Jerusalem.

“Over time, our overseas allocation has grown, increasing impact in the community,” says Freedman. Amir Eden, Weintraub Israel Center director in Tucson, adds, “We are investing not only in the present but more importantly in the future of our partnership areas. The social justice projects ensure they are caring for their community as a whole so that children with special needs or of immigrants have the support they deserve to become better citizens and have tools to succeed.”

As a former JFSA vice president, Freedman has watched and helped guide this growth for more than a decade. She describes Kiryat Malachi then as a small, fractured, struggling community. “Now it is developing industry and housing,” Freedman says, attributing that mainly to the assistance through the partnership and its strengthened relationship with the local political infrastructure.

“Our joint steering committee already has started the conversation ‘Partnership 10 years from today.’ We dream to work together on projects in many fields — technology, science, health, and biology,” Arbel says. “We have slogans at our partnership: ‘Let’s dream together’ and ‘Just do it.’ We feel the sense of belonging to something that is greater than just yourself and your community is essential.”

Other overseas support aids emergency and specific or collaborative projects directly. This includes the Jewish culture center in Ekaterinburg, Russia. JFSA contributions help sustain and improve the center, a youth center, summer camps for children, and holiday celebrations, festivals, and seminars.

Hof Ashkelon, Kiryat Malachi gain sustainability via links

Hof Ashkelon Regional Council covers 68 square miles in Israel’s southern district. With an increasing population of 18,254, it abuts the Gaza border and includes five kibbutzim (collectives), 11 moshavim (farm cooperatives), four settlements, and a youth village.

Kiryat Malachi, the City of Angels, has a population of 23,000. It is a development town established when the government was trying to spread out immigrants, says Adi Shacham, Partnership2Gether’s People to People coordinator for the area. “The partnership connection between the three communities [Kiryat Malachi, Hof Ashkelon, and Tucson] creates a stronger advantage; it’s all about connections between people. Each community develops differently. Together they can create something bigger,” says Shacham.

Partnership Coordinator Hila Kordana describes the ma’abara, or tent city, that was Kiryat Malachi in the 1950s, composed of immigrants from Iraq, Yemen, Morocco, Romania, and Ethiopia. “The name was chosen to honor the Jewish community of Los Angeles, which contributed much of the funding for its establishment,” she notes. New immigrants from the former Soviet Union and Ethiopia in recent years have increased the population of Kiryat Malachi by 40 percent, Kordana adds.

One-third of Israelis live below the poverty level, according to a report from the Adva Center, a policy analysis institute. Half of the population of Kiryat Malachi is on welfare, says Kordana. Of the 37 percent of people employed, the average salary for men is $15,000 and $7,500 for women, according to Wikipedia. Yet, people are still happy, Kordana says. The town’s plan for industrial development in technology looks to double the population in five years.