Partnership2Gether

A WORK IN PROGRESS

For the past 20 years, Partnership2Gether – in its various incarnations – has been impacting Israel and strengthening the Jewish People in a unique and meaningful way

Partnership2Gether is a good example of a venture that simply refuses to rest on its laurels. Its leaders are constantly planning the next step, proactively searching for innovative ways to engage new participants and to make the partnership platform even more meaningful and relevant. Today, The Jewish Agencys Partnership2Gether Peoplehood Platform (P2G) connects 450 global Jewish communities and Israeli communities in 46 Partnerships, engaging more than 350,000 participants each year through unique programs and one-on-one encounters.

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A yoga workshop in Ofakim, part of the P2G@20 festivities

Originally called Partnership 2000, P2G was founded as a contemporary version of Project Renewal, the program initiated by Prime Minister Menachem Begin in the 1970s to encourage Diaspora Jews to support the rehabilitation of distressed Israeli neighborhoods. At first, the Partnerships were one-way relationships: Jewish communities around the world provided financial support to their partner communities in Israel, funding a range of projects aimed at improving the quality of life for Israelis in development towns.

Over the years, however, the partnership concept evolved into a very different type of bond. Today, the communities on both sides of the partnerships invest in each other and support each other, explains Andrea Arbel, Director of the Partnership Unit at The Jewish Agency for Israel. Israelis and Diaspora Jews involved in P2G programs all report that they gain a great deal from their participation – a sense of personal satisfaction as well as a unique opportunity to meet Jews from a different country and to make new friends for life.

Lori Klinghoffer, Co-Chair of the Jewish Agencys Board of Governors Partnerships Committee, has been involved with P2G since its inception. In the past 20 years, Partnership has come centuries, not decades, she confirms. At first it was more of a Big Brother relationship, but that has all changed. Today we see that the Israelis and global Jews have become true partners, and the non-Israelis gain as much as the Israelis. Its not about dollars, its about relationships.

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A P2G Innovation Journey workshop in New York. (Front right: Andrea Arbel, back right: Lori Klinghoffer)

Klinghoffer is unequivocal about the key to P2Gs enduring success. Its all about the people-to-people connections. When we visit our partner communities in Israel, we are welcomed home, and when Israelis visit us, its family, she explains.

Constantly evolving

A significant stage in P2Gs ongoing evolution process took place five years ago, as a result of an intensive and thorough vision process. The goal was to evaluate the partnership platforms strengths and weaknesses and to pinpoint potential opportunities. The lengthy process resulted in the realization that the partnerships should focus on the mutual commitment of both Israelis and Diaspora Jews to strengthening the Jewish People as a whole (the concept of Jewish Peoplehood).

An important practical application was the launch of the Global School Twinning Network, whereby Israeli schools are twinned with a Jewish school or Hebrew school overseas. Although many schools had already been twinned, the establishment of the Global School Twinning Network in 2011 was a turning point for the initiative. The Jewish Agency team developed the discipline for school twinning, including educational standards, teacher training in several languages and specially developed curricula.

Since then, the number of participating schools (in Israel and around the world) has jumped from 183 to 650! – in part due to a strategic relationship with Israels Ministry of Education, which provides professional support and resources. The program has been unbelievably successful in building bridges between Israeli and Jewish communities, allowing Israeli children to meet Jewish peers in other countries and vice versa.

School Twinning also became a vehicle for expanding P2G to other regions of the world. We saw that there were many places where P2G wasnt active, such as Latin America, Europe and the FSU because there was no central communal body similar to the Federations in North America to collaborate with. Instead, we decided to start from the bottom up, with schools, in the hope that we could grow from there, recalls Arbel.

Think inside the box

Following the achievements of the vision process in 2010/11, last year P2G once again felt it was time to enter into a development process designed to create more opportunity for Jewish people engagement on the Partnership Platform. To this end, the P2G Innovation Journey was launched, which went right to the market. A year-long process was set into place, which ultimately engaged 16 P2G Federations. An Israeli consulting firm, SIT–Systematic Inventive Thinking, was hired to facilitate the international innovation process. It was very structured and we were encouraged to think inside the box, notes Arbel.

The P2G Innovation Journey began in June 2015 in New York City with an ideation workshop that resulted in an overwhelming 72 ideas. In an inclusive process that included P2G lay and professionals in Israel as well, the 72 ideas were whittled down to 27 and then, in a second SIT workshop, were honed into four central concepts, which were then tested in the market. I met with some 20 Federation CEOs, using them as a sounding board, says Arbel. I asked them to select the two ideas which resonate the most and are the most relevant to them.

The two ideas which were met with the most enthusiasm were a Pre-Bar/Bat Mitzvah Intergenerational Initiative and a Young Professional Platform for Jewish Action. In April 2016, the Partnership Unit conducted validation workshops in Greater MetroWest and Columbus, where these two new initiatives were presented to both lay people and professionals. After receiving important input from the participants, several key changes were made in both initiatives, and the next step was to recruit pioneer Federations for the pilot programs. For the Pre-Bar/Bar Mitzvah initiative, four Partnerships are taking the lead: Palm Beach/Tzahar, MetroWest/Ofakim/Merhavim, Cincinnati/Netanya and Pittsburgh/Carmiel-Misgav. The four Partnerships leading the Young Professional pilot are: Palm Beach/Tzahar, Pittsburgh/Carmiel-Misgav, Minneapolis/Rehovot and Northern New Jersey/Nahariya. The beta phase is scheduled for the first six months of 2017, with a full roll out of both initiatives planned for 2018.

If the last 20 years is any indication, these new P2G global initiatives will surely generate a great deal of satisfaction for participants on both sides of the ocean. 

Exciting new initiatives

Both of the new initiatives that were born from the recent P2G Innovation Journey seek to further develop the relationship between partner communities by meeting identified needs in the communities and the Jewish world, reaching out to new sectors of the population and enabling new types of direct people-to-people encounters. Both initiatives are local as well as global by design.

The Global Pre-Bar/Bat Mitzvah Intergenerational Initiative taps into the fact that many grandparents are eager to play an active role in their grandchildrens lives and are pivotal in passing onto the younger generation the value of a commitment to Jewish life. This project will provide an opportunity for grandparents and grandchildren to engage together in a group setting and as pairs, in order to strengthen the pre-teens relationship to their families, local communities, Israel and the Jewish people. The year will culminate in a meaningful inter-generational Israel experience involving direct encounters with members of the Israeli peer group and groups from other Diaspora communities. The new Global Young Professional Platform for Jewish Action will target the 30-45 year old age group in overseas communities and Israel, mainly graduates of leadership programs whose communities are often challenged, actively engaging them in the community in a meaningful way. The aim of this initiative is to translate their knowledge and experience into social entrepreneurship in the context of the Jewish collective and global challenges.

The groups will follow a specially-developed enrichment program focused on the importance of the collective and the challenges of both the local Jewish community and global Jewish peoplehood. They will also gain skills for creative thinking, problem solving and social entrepreneurship. Participants from all over the world will meet in Israel for a hack-a-thon and an accelerator dedicated to germinating and maturing social entrepreneurial projects addressing local and collective challenges to take back and implement in their home communities. Towards the end of the program, all participants will meet for a summit dedicated to sharing their doing and creating a global network.

For more information about Partnership2gether: www.jewishagency.org