The Boston-Haifa Connection turns 30 this year, with a soiree on Oct. 30.
The Connection is a collaboration between Combined Jewish Philanthropies and the people of Haifa, Israel, a unique approach that values people-to-people relationships as a way to partner and develop creative solutions to pressing challenges in the Jewish community and beyond. It aims to strengthen the next generation by supporting Jewish peoplehood, fostering meaningful Israel connections and promoting shared society in Israel.
“The Boston-Haifa Connection represents a true partnership between Israelis and Americans, taking on challenges that affect our communities and the world around us together,” says Ariel Libhaber, CJP’s director of the Boston-Haifa Connection. “The level of depth of the relationship is unique, wrestling with issues, overcoming our differences, building on our strengths and achieving trust that allows us to dream and attain greater things than if we were apart. The fact that thousands of people commit to the effort over such a long time creates endless positive ripple effects at all levels. The party is an opportunity to get together face-to-face, celebrate and honor the many people who have made this effort a success.”
There will be cocktails, video tributes, speeches from Connection leaders and appearances by previous participants from Israel and Boston alike.
“To me, one of the main purposes of life is to be beneficial to society, contribute and create impact that will make our society and environment better,” says Gadi Ziv, Haifa chair of the Boston-Haifa Connection. “In the 30 years of the Boston-Haifa Connection, each of the volunteers and staff took part in creating this magic in Haifa and Israel. The strong connection between the people in Boston and in Haifa, this virtual community, produced out of different views and ideas creative and path-paving programs that improved the lives of many people in Haifa and in Boston. The job will never be done, and we are now in an inflection point, updating our vision and plans to meet the challenges of the coming years.”
The organization runs a variety of programs, ranging from strengthening Jewish identity and peoplehood for children, youth and adults (school-to-school programs) to promoting deep engagement with Israel and large social-change agendas for vulnerable populations. Many of these are joint efforts built on partnerships with the Haifa municipality and NGOs and expanded nationally through partners like JDC, IDF and various national ministries.
For example, Netivim (“pathways”) offers preparation and support for success in the army for young Ethiopian Israelis, now with the support of the National Ministry of Welfare, while Kurat (“pride” in Amharic) builds partnerships with local companies and provides people with skills needed for career-track employment. Entrepreneurs are mentored as they build businesses in their communities.
Parents at the Center represents another initiative that became a national model for risk prevention and early parental engagement by providing parents of young children with the knowledge, guidance, tools and support to improve their parenting skills.
Other agendas work on Jewish identity and peoplehood through a network of nearly 30 school-to-school partnerships, where thousands of students, educators and families have a chance to explore questions of identity together, often spending time in one another’s community. The Shinshinim Young Ambassadors Program, for instance, brings high school graduates from Israel to perform a year of service before joining the army, offering Israel engagement and education in suburban Boston through day schools, JCCs, synagogues and more.
Meanwhile, 65 Bostonians travel to Haifa each year to volunteer, and roughly 130 families host Israeli teens; 240 teens in total traveled between Boston and Haifa.
“We’re incredibly proud of the Boston-Haifa Connection and excited to celebrate this milestone,” says Aviva Klompas, CJP’s associate vice president for Israel and global Jewish citizenship. “It will give us a chance to look back at three decades of partnerships and friendships that created meaningful impact and give us the chance to dream about the future we want to build together.”
Adds CJP president and CEO Rabbi Marc Baker: “In today’s world, where there are so many ways to connect with one another regardless of where we are in the world, it doesn’t matter whether we’re 7,000 miles apart and separated by ocean. For us here in the Boston area, the Haifa community is part of our family.”