Jane Fantel, Director of Israel Connections, with Tami HaLevi, Chair of the Yachdav Center, Haya Bradman-Levy, General Manager of Yachdav Center, and Roni Seri, Coordinator of the Loneliness Program, one of Federation’s newest grantees.
Each time I return to Israel, my colleagues introduce me to some of the most inspiring social entrepreneurs I have had the pleasure of meeting. Their enthusiasm, drive, and dedication to innovative problem solving provides me with the fuel I need to continue my work for the Jewish Community.
My trip began in Sha’ar HaNegev. For almost 20 years, our relationship with Sha'ar HaNegev has fostered a mutually beneficial partnership committed to supporting our strategic priorities while deepening Jewish peoplehood in both communities. The people I met and the programs I experienced are beneficiaries of the support your gift to the Federation provides.
Meet Netta and her friends, Gefen and Sinai, three artists bonded by their dream of creating an art center in an abandoned studio in Sha’ar HaNegev. The vision is to create a shared space where artists can work and sell their art — a center that brings people together from all over the region through educational programs, events and collaboration.
Meet Shir, another inspiring young adult who wants to bring people together to socialize, meet their neighbors, and connect through the enjoyment of a mobile coffee truck. The truck will visit multiple locations and bring different people together in a casual cafe setting.
Meet Haya and Roni, two amazing professionals who work with seniors experiencing isolation and loneliness. Group gatherings help the seniors form new friendships, and through these connections, they feel less alone. I was invited to one of the group’s meetings in a kibbutz founded by Argentinians in 1949. They were so happy to be together, and I had the opportunity to practice my Spanish to converse with them. They expressed gratitude and appreciation for Federation’s support of this program.
My visit then took me up to Jerusalem where I met more inspiring social entrepreneurs. People like Yizhar, Shmuel, and Uri. All three head up Israeli NGOs who are working hard to allow Jewish Israelis the freedom to marry outside of the Rabbinute, the body that governs marriage, divorce, conversion, kashrut and so on.
Last, meet Amit and Michal, our brand new ShinShinim who will be joining our community in August. The ShinShinim program was created and is run out of The Jewish Agency for Israel, one of our global partners on the ground. I interviewed these two 18-year old high school seniors who are full of excitement to do a year of service abroad. They’re bright young leaders who will bring passion, dedication, and a deep commitment to representing their country in the most positive light to our San Diego community. We cannot wait to introduce Amit and Michal to everyone.
There were many takeaways from this visit, but one that stuck with me the most is this: Israel is a relatively young country, 70 years young to be exact. The people have been faced with many challenges in those 70 years. And, in spite of these challenges, the people are resilient…in spirit, in innovation, in medical research breakthroughs, in being a global leader in numerous ways, and in finding solutions to society’s greatest challenges. Every person I met, young and old, nonprofit professional, teacher, politician, community organizer, shares an attitude of hope, perseverance and dreaming big. The relationship between the United States and Israel, the relationship between North American Jews and Israel, and the relationship between San Diego and Sha’ar HaNegev, are significant and important relationships that are not taken for granted. They took time to build and they take time to nourish. The gratitude to Federation in their hearts was expressed time and time again. To me, this is what a partnership feels like.
What’s next for our Israel Initiative? Stay tuned as we roll out some new programs, connections, and engagement opportunities in the coming weeks and months.
By Jane Fantel, Director of Israel Connections