The steering committee visits Beit She’an National Park.

Like Family

Jason Rubenfire Special to the Jewish News

Michigan and the Central Galilee share an unbreakable bond.

Since 1994, the Jewish Agency’s Partnership2Gether (P2G) program has united Metro Detroit, Grand Rapids and Ann Arbor with the Central Galilee region of Israel, made up of three municipalities: Migdal HaEmek, Nazareth Illit and the Jezreel Valley. The region is home to Orthodox Jews, Russian-speaking immigrants, Arab villages and, of course, many other Israeli families and individuals.

Central Galilee 11th-graders comingle on the Naim BeYahad bike trail.

Central Galilee 11th-graders comingle on the Naim BeYahad bike trail.

The Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Detroit was matched initially in 1994 with this region as part of a broader Israel-diaspora initiative called Partnership 2000. Under the leadership of then-Federation Executive Vice President Bob Aronson, this partnership has grown from one originally designed to address needs in Israel to an unbreakable bond that mutually benefits both communities.

The past several years have also seen the creation of a new hiking/biking path covering the entire region. People from local schools, Arab villages and all three municipalities have come together to clear the path, dispose of litter and otherwise develop the project. A large event on May 11 brought together individuals from across the Central Galilee to celebrate the bike path’s creation as the project nears completion.

The work done on the path has created new relationships and a renewed spirit of cooperation, both within the Central Galilee and with Michiganders, making it a testament to the hard work of community members and the Michigan Partnership 2Gether program.

English Language Instruction

The Partnership2Gether steering committee visits an Ethiopian National Project school in Migdal Haemek this April. Pictured with students are Sylvia Wolf, Karen Simmons, Rachael Gordon and Max Gordon.

The Partnership2Gether steering committee visits an Ethiopian National Project school in Migdal Haemek this April. Pictured with students are Sylvia Wolf, Karen Simmons, Rachael Gordon and Max Gordon.

Perhaps the most vital and important outcome of P2G has been the partnership’s support of English language instruction. In the Central Galilee, it is often difficult to get qualified English teachers, making the instruction provided by the partnership invaluable. Since 2006, students in the Central Galilee receive extra hours of English instruction thanks to a program in conjunction with P2G and the Jerusalem Post’s “Lite Talk” service.

“We are very proud of our English language programs,” says Jennifer Levine, Michigan Federation’s Israel and Overseas Department Director.

Many of the region’s students have passed their English oral matriculation with the highest scores possible, citing the program as the reason. This advanced English language knowledge gives them an advantage in their future educational and professional endeavors. The program has since expanded to include students from Grade 4 onwards, with 4,000 students participating last year.

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More Benefits

In the past year, Detroit delegations have made 37 visits to the region, representing more than 750 people. These visits include Federation missions, congregation trips, school trips and professional visits.

A People to People (P2P) program within the partnership has twinned Hillel Day School with the region’s Western Valley School, and more schools in the Detroit area will continue to partner with schools in the region in the future.

The steering committee visits Beit She’an National Park.

The steering committee visits Beit She’an National Park.

Other P2P programs bring young adults back and forth between both regions, and a pilot program will soon be launched for young families.

The Israeli Camper program began in 2002, when 325 Israeli kids were sent to Camp Tamarack as a respite from the Second Intifada. Each year since, nearly 100 Israelis come to camp each summer, allowing the partnership to strengthen a sense of Jewish community both here and in Israel.

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In addition to the camp program, P2G also engages young adults by partnering with Teen Mission and Taglit Birthright trips. Each year, the Detroit Community Birthright trip sends more than 80 local young adults to Israel. Detroit’s Birthright trip is unique for the emphasis it places on its partnership region; an entire day is spent touring the region and with various programs, and Detroiters are joined by Israeli young adults from the partnership region itself. Each trip also includes a dinner with an Israeli family. Later in the year, the Mifgash experience brings these Israeli participants to Detroit where they are hosted by their American friends.

Teen Mission is an educational experience allowing Jewish teens the opportunity to experience Israel and create friendships with each other. This year, Teen Mission will send about 100 Americans to Israel, and 18 young Israelis will participate as well. Detroiters and Israelis alike attend the first three weeks of the trip in Israel while spending the latter three weeks in the Detroit area attending Camp Tamarack.

A recent Detroit Community Birthright group visits Kibbutz Merhavia in the Central Galilee.

A recent Detroit Community Birthright group visits Kibbutz Merhavia in the Central Galilee.

The Central Galilee-Michigan partnership, currently led by Partnership 2Gether Program Chair Richard Broder, is one of reciprocal and mutual success.

“The partnership programs are both critical and effective,” Broder said. “Of parallel importance are the people-to-people relationships built up over time through those programs that continue to strengthen.”

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With new program advancements on the horizon and interest in participation steadily rising among individuals in both countries, the future for the Central Galilee-Michigan partnership is brighter than ever.

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