Jewish professionals and funders gathered in Newark May 5 and 6 for a conference on “people to people” partnerships between the Diaspora and Israel.
Representing the Jewish Agency for Israel and North American Jewish federations, more than 100 participants at the Partnership2Secure the Jewish Future Symposium agreed that the relationship between Israel and world Jewry has undergone a “paradigm shift.”
“We are moving from the real paternalistic American-Jewish support for Israel to an equal partnership where we both come to the table with ideas and have equal say in how the money is spent,” said Lisa Lisser of Short Hills, who has served on the Jewish Federation of Greater MetroWest NJ’s Partnership2Gether committee and is chair of its Legow Family Israel Program Center.
And just as Americans want to do more than simply write checks, Israelis want to do more than just cash them.
“The relationship between younger generations of American and Israeli Jews is changing because young Israelis don’t want to just get money from the United States. They don’t want to be our poor relations,” said Robin Karol-Eng of West Wilmington, Del., who chairs the New Jersey-Delaware Partnership linking the Israeli city of Arad with a coalition of Jewish federations.
The partnership is a constituent of The Jewish Agency’s Partnership2Gether “platform,” which arranges some 45 twinning programs among 550 communities around the world.
Among those is a “peoplehood” program, which pairs the Greater MetroWest federation with Israelis from the Ofakim-Merchavim region. In one of its programs, diverse groups from Israel and New Jersey participate in exchange visits. In April, they made a joint commitment to a social action project in the Jewish community of Odessa.
With the merger of the MetroWest and Central federations, the combined Greater MetroWest will also join the New Jersey-Delaware cluster partnership with Arad. The partners — which include the Jewish Federations of Monmouth County, Greater Middlesex County, and Princeton Mercer Bucks — have sponsored a youth outreach center in that southern Israeli city and work with the Ethiopian community there.
“We need to do more of the same,” said Amir Shacham, who directs the Greater MetroWest office in Jerusalem. “Young Israelis are less affiliated and less concerned about Diaspora Jewry. Young Americans are less concerned about Jewish identity and affiliation. But through this platform, when you bring them together, both sides realize they are part of something larger and both sides develop more ability to connect back to their communities.
“Our goal is to bring the youngsters on both sides of the ocean to meet with each other and develop their connections,” he said.
The conference at the Doubletree Hotel included a performance by Hebrew hip-hop artist Kobi Shimoni, known as Subliminal, and a workshop about his lyrics.