I spent much of this past week in Israel at the Board of Governors meeting of the Jewish Agency for Israel. Topics of Aliyah (immigration) from France and Ukraine, engaging our young people in Jewish life and using Israel as a prism to do so, engaging more Arabs and ultra-Orthodox in the workforce, discussions about the unity of the Jewish people and the recent Israeli decision to create a prayer space for non-Orthodox Jews at the Kotel (the Jewish Agency has been a driving force in these discussions) and the overall security situation in Israel were all discussed. We also honored the Jewish Agency’s Chairman, Natan Sharansky, for celebrating his 30th year since his release from Russian imprisonment. Most of these discussions took place in the basement of a hotel in Tel Aviv. When the meetings were complete, our Federation Chair, Cindy Shapira, and I traveled north to our Partnership 2Gether Region of Karmiel and Misgav.
In the region we visited several projects where Federation dollars are having a gigantic impact. As their flier states, “Krembo Wings is the only youth movement in Israel for children and young adults with special needs, providing weekly social activities for young people with all types of mental and physical disabilities together with the able-bodied peers.” We met with a thirteen year old boy with autism who shared the impact the program has had on him. His father described the remarkable progress his son has made especially in terms of socialization and interpersonal relationships since joining this group. It was fantastic!
Another project of the Federation is our Loan Fund. This Fund was started over 10 years ago with proceeds from an Israel Emergency Campaign. We leveraged our money with a bank in Israel to create a pool of capital to help small businesses in our region to expand (nearly 97% of the low interest loans have been repaid). One of the businesses we visited was the Stern Winery in Misgav. Our dollars not only helped them expand the business to produce more wine, it has also produced more jobs. Stern Wines has won several awards in the United States already and as someone who was “forced” to taste them, I can attest to them being absolutely delicious.
Federation is doing so much in Israel through the agencies in which we invest our communal dollars. Each of those recipients is carefully vetted and chosen by our Overseas Funding and our Partnership2Gether volunteer leadership to give us the most bang for the buck.
I returned from Israel just yesterday so I should be jetlagged, but instead, I’m just completely inspired and motivated.