The Israeli community foundation Takdim, modeled after the Jewish Federations of North America, will be meeting its peers on what it hopes will be equal terms at the General Assembly in Denver next week. The Israeli group will be making presentations about their ambitious plans for the future, including raising money for a park and youth center and galvanizing others to adopt the initiative. Takdim representatives flew to the U.S. ahead of the GA to consult and exchanges ideas with local Federations and community groups in New York, Chicago and San Francisco.
Takdim was launched in Ramat Hasharon in May as a social startup with aims to raise funds from local citizens to contribute to the development of the town, and donate to select projects outside the city, even outside of Israel. While Jewish groups in Israel have historically benefited from the charity of Diaspora Jews, the Takdim group believes that they are now in a position to give as well as receive.
"Israel, after many years of being dependent on many outside sources, or institutional sources within, to care for various needs - be it social, welfare, cultural and so forth - is now in a very strong place. What we want to do as residents of Ramat Hasharon, is say, we want to take responsibility for investing in our own community," said Debra London, a member of the Takdim executive council. "We're now equal with the Jewish Diaspora. That's a very different approach than what was until now."
London added that her group was looking to the Federations for mentorship, not money. "I think that what we're doing now on this trip is learning from the Jewish Federation and communities, how they work at the Federation: what works, what does not work, what would be appropriate to take on for Ramat Hasharon - with us of course adapting and creating, according to our own needs," she said.
Two of Takdim's delegates to the conference - London and Takdim Director Arik Rosenblum - were born in Los Angeles and immigrated to Israel with their families as young children.
But London insists the group adopted the Jewish Federations as an organizational model because of its appropriateness, not for sentimental reasons.
"It's not a group of North Americans who have been in Israel for 20 or 30 years and saying, let's do what we did in America; it's total Israeli," she said.
Rosenblum says that he hopes that the Jewish Federations can help the group generate enthusiasm for the project, eventually enticing more communities in Israel to join them.
"I can say there's at least 20 different communities in Israel that could be doing what we are doing now, and so we could create a whole network of federations in Israel that are stepping up to help support the needs of Israel."
Takdim's first two local projects are an inclusive playground, for children and caregivers whose physical mobility is limited, and a youth center to provide a safe space for the area's adolescents, according to Doron Levinson, co-chair of the Takdim Community Connections Committee that liaises with sister organizations like the Jewish Federations.
Levinson says that Takdim is planning to raise $1 million for the park, youth center and two other projects in Ramat Hasharon. So far, they've raised $200,000
Currently, the group intends to funnel 70% of their fundraising efforts into community building projects and donate 30% of the funds to projects in other communities, says Levinson. But he says that the group aims to reverse that ratio in the years to come.