GMW as Matchmaker

It always amazes me when Israeli communities and organizations, which share similar values and backgrounds, work in vacuumed bubbles and don’t collaborate. It is even more amazing to watch a former outsider, like our Jewish Federation of GMW, break those silos and bring these groups together.

There have been many examples over the years of our success as shadchans (matchmakers) in Israel, but I will share just three in the last week:

1.  The full integration of the Ethiopian Israeli community into mainstream society is a major challenge. There are lots of organizations and agencies working in this field, each focusing on one aspect of this major task. We could clearly see it in our partner community of Rishon Letzion – there was lots of good will, professional knowledge, and resources, but all working on separate tracks. What resulted is a lack of continuity between the school and the home, between the morning and the afternoon, between the kids and their parents, between the formal and informal education. So we at GMW, an active social player in Rishon Letzion for the last 38 years, set out to bring everyone together.

After a long and bumpy road we have created a holistic approach that includes all relevant municipal departments in cooperation with the Israel Center for Educational Innovation  (a leading school oriented NGO), the Joint Distribution Committee (one of our international partners), and our own flagship program, Atzmaut. It is amazing to watch colleagues from various institutions come together for the larger goal.

2. Israeli society has become increasingly tribal in the last few years. President Rivlin, among other political and community leaders, are talking about the need to create “social cohesiveness” and  “shared society” here. The rifts between left, right, Jews of various denominations, Israeli Arabs, Ethiopian Israelis and more, are tearing us apart and becoming a threat to our security.

Our Federation was one the first Diaspora communities to acknowledge this challenging reality and try to address it. As part of our Global Connections restructuring we have created the Kedma platform, dedicated to working toward a shared civil and cohesive society in Israel. We are also the only Jewish Federation which maintains seven geographical partnership regions in Israel. This gives us the opportunity to work closely and collaboratively with local Israeli leadership, grassroots organizations, and municipal bodies in each location. But even more importantly, it provides us with the opportunity to build connections between our partner communities, and bring together Israelis who wouldn’t otherwise meet or work together. Did I say Matchmakers?

In five of our partnership regions we are operating a unique Jewish Agency for Israel mentoring program to support at-risk children called Youth Futures (YF). The program is highly successful, but the byproduct, which for many might become the main product, is connections. Young adults from the development town of Ofakim, the Druze community of Horfesh, the eastern Negev town of Arad, and the Bedouin village of Segev Shalom are coming together for professional and personal encounters. This is huge. Last week we held the first conference call of our YF directors, a diverse group of young Israeli women and their communities who would never have connected without us.

3. Another platform of our Global Connections structure is called Negba. It brings together the GMW partnered communities of the Negev — Arad, Ofakim, Merchavim, and Erez, along with the Ness Foundation and the Negev Funding Coalition. Collaborating and leveraging on all of our Negev arms, we play a major role in helping develop the Negev, which is one of the major tasks of Israel for the coming decade.

By bringing leadership, communities, and organizations together, we are launching our Negba Reimagining Process, which will gather local leaders from all of our Negev partners, along with the NJ leadership, to brainstorm ways to use our GMW assets as a vehicle for moving the Negev from the periphery to the center.

Through a Jewish Community Foundation grant and in collaboration with the Jewish Helping Hands Foundation, we are going to distribute baby formula to needy women in Ofakim, Arad, and Segev Shalom and provide educational workshops about nutrition and health. We are working with two leading NGOs on this project — Latet, the largest food distribution network in the country, and Yachdav, a Negev-based Rashi foundation subsidiary. We brought them together for a planning meeting and were amazed to learn that these two prominent welfare organizations had never met or worked together. Again, our unique positioning as an active and involved Diaspora Jewish community gives us the ability to make matches.

You should take much pride in the important work you support for successful and fruitful Shiduchim and for the healthy continuity and prosperity of the state of Israel and world Jewry.

To read more about our Global Connections platforms, click here.

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