I believe that strong partnerships are key to most successful endeavors in life, personally and professionally. There is so much more that we can accomplish when we work together. In math we say that the whole cannot be greater than the sum of its parts, but in Jewish communal life, when we work in partnership, I believe we can be greater than our whole. We can confront challenges together and reach greater levels of success.
Next week I am excited to join a group of community leaders on a bi-annual visit to Rochester's Partnership 2gether (P2G) community in Israel, Modi'in. Partnership 2gether, a program of the Jewish Agency for Israel, one of the overseas agencies that we fund, provides the opportunity for Israeli and American Jews to understand our unique experiences, cultures and narratives better. In a time when Israel for many is merely a place on the map, P2G connects us deeply through relationships and bridge building programs that strengthen Jewish life in totality. P2G is one great example of a success through partnership, literally.
When American Jews connect through partnership, Israel becomes a place of people we know and adore, instead of simply cities and places on a map or sites on a tour. For our Israeli counterparts, they learn that to be Jewish in the United States requires effort, engagement and commitment. By understanding each other's unique experiences, we make our Jewish world stronger.
This week we saw an example of the powerful impact of our partnership with Modi'in. The Journey for Identity, JFI, is one of our highly successful Federation P2G programs. JFI takes 36 teens, 18 American and 18 Israeli, to Israel, Poland and the United States. After a week in each country, our teens not only develop lifelong relationships, but they are also able to understand how together we share a past and have the opportunity shape our Jewish future.
At the moving Yom HoShoah program on Wednesday evening, organized by our Center for Holocaust Awareness and Information (CHAI), Gabrielle Silverstein and Samantha Singer spoke eloquently and inspirationally about the impact JFI had on them and the Israeli participants. These shared experiences ensure that our teens value the sacred partnership between Jews in the diaspora and Israel, one of the most important partnerships that we need to foster today.
In one more year, my oldest son will be going off to college, which is hard for me to fathom. Thinking about college and visiting campuses, I am keenly aware of the rise in anti-Semitism on college campuses that is created by the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement (BDS). This movement seeks to delegitimize Israel's right to exist by twisting history and making false and inaccurate claims about our Jewish state. All over the United States our young people are faced with students and professors who virulently demonize Israel. The BDS movement is dangerous and destructive. I am incredibly concerned about all of the teens going off to college who perhaps do not have the historical knowledge necessary to articulate a message that counters BDS.
Programs like JFI give our teens the tools necessary to be able to manage challenging experiences on college campuses. This is one of the reasons why our P2G relationships are so important around the United States. In order to combat BDS, we must work together to make sure that our teens are prepared to confront what can be at times a hostile and scary campus environment. This is one reason why our relationships created through P2G are more important than ever.
It will be an honor for me to meet the people with whom we have worked so closely in Modi'in to create a deep and meaningful partnership with Rochester. I look forward to sharing pictures and stories about our experiences in Israel with you. I will be posting pictures on Facebook (www.facebook.com/jewishrochester) so you too can experience our partnership.
Speaking of Israel, I hope you will join us at our community celebration of Yom Ha'Atzmaut, Israel Independence Day, on Wednesday, May 11th.
Upon returning from Israel, I will be back in Massachusetts to celebrate our middle son's bar mitzvah!
Thank you again for your support of Federation and all of the partnerships that we foster and nurture in Rochester, Israel and around the globe.
Happy Mother's Day to everyone celebrating the special women in our lives this Sunday!
Shabbat Shalom -
Meredith Dragon, CEO