Israel | Local

Partnership2Gether strengthens Tucson-Israel bonds

Concluding the Partnership2Gether annual budget meeting in Israel in February, from left: Revital Lavy, Hila Keren-Yogev, Goggy Davidowitz, Adi Shacham, Edit Asor, Oshrat Barel, Dvorah Attal, Isaac Amar, Robyn Schwager, Vered Hangali-Mashiach, Ella Mosinzon, Shneor Katash and Yedidya Green. (Courtesy Weintraub Israel Center)

Tucson’s Partnership2Gether program, part of the Weintraub Israel Center, builds a bridge between Tucson and its partner communities in Israel, the city of Kiryat Malachi and the Hof Ashkelon region. “And there is no doubt, over the past few years, we have built the program to a point that both sides equally benefit,” says P2G former chairperson Rebecca Crow. The P2G program’s recent Tucson director, Oshrat Barel, calls it “building living bridges.”

The Jewish Agency for Israel’s P2G Peoplehood Platform, previously known as Partnership 2000, matches Jewish communities globally directly with Israeli communities. P2G connects 450 global Jewish and Israeli communities in 46 city-to-city and region-to-region partnerships, connecting more than 350,000 participants annually in programs and one-on-one encounters.

Locally, P2G builds and supports cross-Atlantic relationships and invites Tucson volunteers to join projects that improve Israel as a Jewish democratic state. Goggy Davidowitz is the program’s current chair. He is an assistant professor in University of Arizona’s departments of entomology, ecology and evolutionary biology.

Barel, Davidowitz and Robyn Schwager recently represented Tucson P2G at the organization’s annual budget meeting in Israel. Their late February visit included inspecting joint project sites, strategic discussions and budget recommendations, which were approved in early March.

Schwager is grant officer for the Jewish Community Foundation of Southern Arizona, which provides grants in the P2G region in alignment with the Jewish Federation of Southern Arizona. These grants fund projects ranging from social and educational development to youth leadership, direct support and immigrant assistance, she says.

At the annual meeting, the Tucson partners heard from professionals and volunteers from each of those programs.  “It was very rewarding to hear about the impact of our funding, to meet the people who make it happen and some of the beneficiaries of our grants,” says Schwager.  “We are making a difference in the Partnership region and we came away from the meeting with ideas to grow and strengthen the relationships between the three communities even further.”

A bridge-building, school twinning program is one of those programs. It began in 2014, connecting educators, classrooms and children thousands of miles apart. Linda Behr directs the twinning program here, involving 32 pre-school to eighth grade classrooms across synagogues, Tucson Hebrew Academy and the Tucson Jewish Community Center. This bonds more than 670 youth in both Israel and Tucson in relationships, opening doors to long-lasting friendships around issues such as Jewish identity and social responsibility.

Behr and Crow co-chair the Teacher Fellowship Program, which takes school twinning a step further, says the Partnership’s local program director, Adi Olshansky. Five teachers from the twinning program visited Tucson last year and five from Tucson will reciprocate at the end of May, she adds.

Shinshinim L’Tucson is part of the bilateral Partnership program. Shinshinim is an acronym for shnat sherut, meaning a year of service. It brings recent high school graduates from Israel to Tucson during their gap year before national service, to nurture closer relationships with their host community. One of Tucson’s first shinshinim, Leah Avuno, was from Kiryat Malachi and next year’s shinshinim, the third cohort in Tucson, will both be selected from Tucson’s sister communities in Israel, says Olshansky.

Other local bridge-building projects include inviting Israeli speakers, students, soldiers, artists, authors, chefs and activists to visit here. Each shares their unique perspective on Israel, connecting to local community members whether they meet at a lecture or are hosted in their homes.