From San Diego to Sha'ar HaNegev, it's about the people

From the Desk of Heidi Gantwerk - President & CEO

CommUNITY Israel Trip

Dear Friends, 

Building strong, personal connections to Israel has been part of Federation’s DNA since our founding 85 years ago. Sometimes, we focus on bringing San Diego to Israel, such as with our teen travel subsidies or our CommUNITY Trip next May 4-11.  And sometimes, it is about bringing Israel to San Diego–which we did this past week.

All week, we had the joy of hosting seven visitors representing six of Sha’ar HaNegev’s Kibbutzim and one Moshav, or village. These “Community Ambassadors” stayed with local partners, who have quickly become close friends-friends for life. We are learning all the ways life in Sha’ar HaNegev and life in San Diego are the same and different (Palm trees and start-ups? Check!  Schools and businesses closed on all Jewish holidays and nothing scheduled on Friday nights? Not so much!) And we are gaining a much deeper understanding of what modern kibbutz life is like, and why all of these Kibbutzim and Moshavim have lengthy waiting lists and cannot build housing fast enough. 

We are incredibly fortunate to have such a special relationship with our sister region and the people who live there. For many of us, these have become long-time friends, just as committed to the idea of a strong, global Jewish People as we are. And just as we love seeing how our investments enrich their lives and their community, they loved seeing how San Diego Jews experience Jewish life, learning, and community. Beyond visiting Federation, they experienced the JCC, SDJA, JFS, Seacrest, KAVOD, synagogues and home hospitality. They met with people who have different interests, are at different life stages, and who have different needs for which they depend on the community. Seeing our community through their eyes reminded me just how much our community does, every day.

Next year, we’ll celebrate 25 years of the sister city relationship (and you can be a part of this celebration on our CommUNITY trip to Israel). But as much as this is a celebration of our two cities, and the special relationship we have, it really is a celebration of people. We’ll celebrate the people who make up both communities, who have been there for each other in great times and in tough times, and who are resilient and creative. The personal relationships we have with each other are deep and embody what it means to be part of a global Jewish community. 

Next week, I will be traveling to Sha’ar HaNegev with five of my San Diego Jewish agency executive colleagues for a week of relationship building and brainstorming about ways we can bring our communities even closer together. I always look forward to going to Israel and am especially looking forward to building on the friendships we cultivated through this visit. 

I’ll update you from Israel. Have a wonderful weekend. 

Heidi Gantwerk
President & Chief Executive Officer

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