Central Galilee 11th-graders comingle on the Naim BeYahad bike trail.
Central Galilee 11th-graders comingle on the Naim BeYahad bike trail. (JN File photo)

Partnership2Gether focuses on four primary areas: Jewish identity, leadership development, volunteer engagement and education.

Why is the program Partnership2Gether (P2G) so very important to our community? Relationships. It’s all about relationships.

When I took over as the director of Federation’s Israel and Overseas Department in 2015, that’s what I heard over and over when acclimating myself to P2G — one of the Detroit Jewish Federation’s flagship programs. 

But what do “relationships” actually mean? Let’s back up and start with what P2G is. 

P2G is a program of the Jewish Agency for Israel (JAFI). There are more than 550 communities around the world involved in 45 different partnerships. 

Jennifer Levine
Jennifer Levine

Michigan was one of the first to join back in 1994. Metro Detroit, Ann Arbor and Grand Rapids are paired all together with three municipalities in what we call the “Central Galilee Region of Israel,” including Nof HaGalil (formerly Nazareth Illit), Migdal HaEmek and the Jezreel Valley. 

In the beginning, P2G was created as a way for us (the Michiganders) to take care of the people in Israel. We raised funds and assisted with basic needs. As Israel evolved over the years, so did Partnership. Today, Partnership focuses on four primary areas: Jewish identity, leadership development, volunteer engagement and education.

Where once 100% of the dollars went to Israel to support basic needs, now much of the money is used to bring Israelis and Israel experiences to our community from the Partnership region through programs like Shinshinim, School Twinning and the Lester Young Adult Ambassador program.

Links with Israel

The mission of Partnership is “to create and support programs and initiatives that foster deep, interpersonal relationships between the communities in Michigan and our Partnership Region in Israel. We utilize these experiences to engage and strengthen our communities while embracing Israel as a core value.”

Relationships are defined as a connection between people or groups. Great. What is it, then, that connects us?

Is it that we are all Jewish? Well, not so fast. That is evolving with the times … If you happened to see the March issue of the Israel and Overseas Department’s Newsletter, you would have read about Hisham Bisharat, an avid biker, Christian Arab Israeli and dedicated volunteer in the Partnership region. (By the way, if you are not currently receiving the Israel & Overseas Department Newsletter you can sign up at JewishDetroit.org.)

Is it that we all care about Israel as the land for the Jewish people? Yes, though, we don’t live there. We also care strongly about our local Detroit community. In fact, 70% of the funds raised by the Jewish Federation stay local to take care of needs here.

Or is it the idea of Partnership being our “home in Israel”? I think this comes closest to explaining what is special about Partnership. 

The vision of Partnership that was developed by the committee, chaired by Randi Sakwa and Ron Sollish and staffed by Dona Stillman, is that our Partnership builds relationships of mutuality, understanding and support in which members of our communities are one family. 

• Mutuality — both parties benefit from these relationships and connections.

• Understanding — we know about one another, our communities and our lives.

• Support — we are there for each other emotionally, financially and otherwise.

Taking Action

I see examples of all three of these qualities every day on our P2G What’s App group. When fires tore through Nof HaGalil last fall, Detroiters immediately responded with: “What can we do? We are here for you.” 

Similarly, when the gravestones at the Ahavas Israel cemetery in Grand Rapids were desecrated last November, the message from the P2G Israelis was clear: “We think of you and our hearts are with you always and especially in these difficult hours. We are supporting you all the way from your home away from home in Israel.”

Ruthi Zamir, the immediate past Israeli chair of P2G, summed it up nicely on What’s App during Tu b’Shevat: “Our Partnership is like a tree. We have old and strong roots that keep us safe together in stormy weather. Each year, we grow and flourish, we have new branches and very good fruits.”

I hope that each of you will be able to experience this home away from home for yourself. Please don’t hesitate to contact us if you are planning a trip to Israel. We will help you plan a visit to the region. We promise that it will leave a lasting impression and that you will come away with new relationships and connections to the Land of Israel. 

Jennifer Levine is director of the Israel and Overseas Department for the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Detroit.

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