By Heather Wolfson, Senior Director, Community Partnerships
Shalom from Israel! Israel Connection Director, Jane Fantel, and I are visiting Federation-funded program sites in Israel to better understand how your dollars are having an impact.
Monday August 9
This week, we spent quality time with representatives from our key partner organizations, The American Jewish Joint Distrubtion Comittee (JDC) and the Jewish Agency for Israel (JAFI). Gideon Herscher of JDC and Danyelle Neuman of JAFI took us out for a day of site visits, showing us key programs their organizations have established, and are running, in Israel, thanks to your generosity.
Our first stop was JAFI's Youth Future's program. This program provides community-based mentoring for at-risk 6th to 8th graders in Israel. Trained mentors help students improve performance at school, strengthen their social connections, while inspiring them to engage with the community. They also work with the families, connecting them to local services, as needed. This program operates in 36 locations throughout Israel and aims to help Israeli children on the periphery.
We also visited a Haredi employment center that was created by the JDC. In Israel, over 800,000 Haredi live below the poverty line. This program aims to provide Haredi men and women with the training and skills needed to place them in jobs in companies throughout Israel to enable and empower them to become providers for their families. The program also works with employers to create environments supportive of Haredi men and women.
The afternoon was spent looking at two models that are supporting the aging community in Israel. There are over 650,000 Israelis over the age of 65, many of whom live near the poverty line and cannot afford to pay rent.
Amigour, a program connected with JAFI, builds low-income housing throughout Israel, with a special focus on social housing for the elderly, and they are currently serving over 7500 disadvantaged elderly citizens. Through the management of the housing, Amigour helps the elderly, many of them Holocaust survivors, age comfortably and with dignity. The program also provides activities that include Judaic classes, choir singing, art classes and a whole lot more!
We then visited JDC's Supportive Communities program. This program, which was established 20 years ago, also enables the elderly to age in place comfortably. There are over 250 supportive communities in Israel, with over 52,000 participants (7% of Israel's elderly population). There are approximately 200 households per community and each pay a monthly membership fee. As part of their membership, they have access to a community liaison, who checks in and visits with the member regularly and supports them with their daily tasks. Furthermore, they are connected to a 24 hour emergency call system for medical services. There are also a variety of social activities to connect members with oen another in their local areas.
Your support helps us continue to provide JDC and JAFI with resources to do this very meaningful and important work. Thank you for all you do!
Tuesday August 10
Today Nicole Patolai, Jane Fantel, and I had the opportunity to learn about some of the innovative work of NewSpirit. At Federation we are always exploring how to engage Jewish young adults in the community, and NewSpirit offers a model that helps engage and keep young adults in communities throughout the city of Jerusalem. The organization works to rejuvenate the Capital by cultivating young Jewish lay-leadership through targeted projects and events. In this effort, New Spirit is fostering and mobilizing a community of young adults who are taking responsibility for the place in which they live and who are a driving force in effecting change in the cultural life of the city. Small groups of young adults, in 50 communities in Jerusalem, are changing the face of the neighborhoods. Through creative art, place-making, youth centers, and preschools these young adults are building enduring communities, not only for themselves, but for those around them.
We visited two sites in a neighborhood called Katamonim. The first will be the future home of a new community coffee shop next to a park. The young adults identified a need for a gathering spot within the neighborhood, that is multi-generational. A small park/playground, that is going through a facelift, will be the site of the coffee shop and serve as a convening space for neighbors, with programming provided for all ages.
We then visited another part of Katamonim and went to an outdoor public library that was developed for the community. This library comes to life once a week and offers people the chance to check out books, hear storytellers, and partake in arts and crafts outdoors. This brings the community together through literacy, culture, and arts. We even found PJ Library books, like Sifriyat Pijama, (in Hebrew) on the shelves.
These young adults have become change agents in these communities and are affecting the culture and face of Jerusalem forever.