Relationships are very much like plants. To yield healthy specimens, they need to be nurtured. They need to mature over time in order to blossom. This is especially true when one looks at relationships that build community and promote understanding between cohorts. Experience shows us that investing in the development of such relationships yields sweet, worthwhile fruit.
This is certainly the case with our Partnership 2Gether program. Since the Partnership’s launch in 2014, the relationships fostered have been invaluable. Just last month, 10 teachers from our sister city of Rehovot spent a week in Minneapolis on a P2G teacher’s exchange; acquainting knowledge and teaching skills to take back to their classrooms in Israel. Additionally, they gained first-hand experience about Jewish life in the diaspora and can better integrate that into their own curricula. Such learning is a two-way street. Last year, 10 students connected to Minnesota Hillel, accompanied by our Israel fellow, participated in an alternative Spring Break program. There they met peers, spent the week volunteering and touring, all the while seeing Israel though an undiffused lens. (Click here to read a poem written by students who just returned from at P2G exchange trip.)
The benefits of this type of partnership go beyond members of the Jewish community. During the recent JCRC mission to Israel, 34 Minnesotans of all stripes, including 6 state legislators, spent time interacting with partnership volunteers in Rehovot. This chance to “talk tachlis” with “real” Israelis and understand issues beyond what they read in the headlines, will indeed serve our community as these legislators deal with topics that bear on the state’s relationship to Israel and issues of general concern to the Twin Cities Jewish community.
It occurs to me that there are additional residual benefits to engaging in dialogue of this nature. The recent discord over the Israeli cabinet’s decision to freeze the implantation on previous agreed to provisions for plurality at the Western Wall and the debate over conversions and marriages in the Jewish State are case in point. Regardless of one’s personal views on these subjects (and I don’t mean to suggest that they are entirely monolithic within any Jewish community), the reality of politics is very simple. Diaspora Jews do not elect Members of Knesset – Israeli Jews do. If American Jews want to affect change on a matter dear to their hearts, an effective strategy (albeit one of many) is to have the Israeli voting public understand the concerns. Programs like P2G and the windows and mirrors they provide for Israeli and American society are an outstanding way to achieve a meaningful level of understanding.
While there are many programs that operate in this space, there is no doubt in my mind that P2G is a jewel which has much to offer. As we grow it further, and as we continue to build community, I encourage you to engage, as one of my heroes Theodore Roosevelt would have put it, “in the arena” and be a part of this grassroots movement that is making a difference.
Shabbat Shalom, and SKOL Vikings!
P.S. Speaking of building community, I hope to see you at our Super Funday event this Sunday, January 14 at Punch Bowl Social. We will celebrate community and the power of tzedakah together, root for the Vikings, and enjoy food and drink. Join us!!!