12/10/2018

The Miracle of Partnership: Connection Saves Lives

Tags: Federation, Israel, Overseas

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Members of The Jewish Agency's Beit Shean/Valley of Springs - Cleveland Partnership2Gether region. Image: Partnership2Gether

Tomer Oren fought on reserve duty during during Israel’s Operation Protective Edge in the summer of 2014. While he returned home physically sound, he was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder. Months later, his daughter was sent to the ICU for a life-threatening condition. Oren participated in The Jewish Agency's Beit Shean/Valley of Springs - Cleveland Partnership within Partnership2Gether (P2G), The Jewish Agency’s strategic initiative that connects the Jewish people by creating enduring relationships between Israel and Jewish communities of the Diaspora. “When I look back at these two episodes — how P2G helped me recover from the shock of battle, and helped to save my daughter’s life — I understand very well the miracle that happened to me and my family.”

This Hanukkah, Oren is reflecting on the miracle of his own life.

While he was on reserve duty during Israel’s Operation Protective Edge in Gaza in the summer of 2014, he suffered shell shock and was eventually diagnosed with PTSD. Members of Cleveland’s Jewish community immediately sprang into action.

“From the moment of diagnosis, they knew where I was and they took care of me very much,” Oren recalls. “For the last four and a half years, they have never stopped worrying about me and supporting me.”

Cleveland Jews have assisted Oren as part of the Beit Shean/Valley of Springs - Cleveland Partnership within Partnership2Gether (P2G), The Jewish Agency’s strategic initiative that connects the Jewish people by creating enduring relationships between Israel and Jewish communities of the Diaspora. P2G connects hundreds of Jewish organizations and communities around the world in 46 partnerships. In a shared committee process, more than 10,000 volunteers work together each year to determine the ways in which partnered communities support one another. Through hands-on projects and personal interactions that engage 350,000 Israelis and Jews each year, individuals and communities across the world experience the enriching reciprocal benefits of being part of the global Jewish family.

The Beit Shean/Valley of Springs - Cleveland relationship, launched in 1995, is one of the longest-running P2G partnerships.

“I have lots of friends suffering from PTSD who were laid off from work, they are not treated, they cannot function, and nobody refers them for the services they need,” says Oren. “I am fortunate to have The Jewish Agency and the Jewish Federation of Cleveland to support me. And it’s not just the Federation’s staff and leaders. It’s a more extensive network in the Cleveland community.”

If the trauma from the battlefield wasn’t enough, in October 2014, Oren’s daughter was sent to the ICU in life-threatening condition. P2G participants from Cleveland swiftly called him and promised to do everything they could to help save his daughter’s life.

Today, Oren, who lives on Kibbutz Meirav and has five children, oversees operational cooperation in the Beit Shean/Valley of Springs - Cleveland Partnership.

“When I look back at these two episodes — how P2G helped me recover from the shock of battle, and helped to save my daughter’s life — I understand very well the miracle that happened to me and my family,” he says.

Two and a half months after Operation Protective Edge, Oren’s daughter choked on a marble. Ilanit Gerblich Kalir, the Cleveland Federation’s managing director of international operations, arrived at the hospital “to embrace and to strengthen us.”

“For five days, my daughter was between heaven and earth in the intensive care unit,” says Oren. “The actions of the Cleveland partnership members during this time showed their incredible sense of mutual responsibility. This came from the Federation as an organization, its employees, and its partners. I received countless messages of support which were extremely powerful. There are no words to explain the degree of love our family received.”

Oren’s daughter ultimately recovered.

“It is our miracle,” he says. “It really is a miracle that she is alive. When I think of her hospitalization, I remember how the people around me kept me physically and mentally sharp. There were continuous shifts of visitors from Cleveland, and the visits did not stop until we left the ICU.”

Now, in the aftermath of the recent synagogue shooting in Pittsburgh, Oren feels that the warm P2G ties between Cleveland and Beit Shean/Valley of Springs have added significance.

“This partnership is a unique and unifying Jewish connection,” he says. “There is something inexplicable about it. Those who experience this connection are always amazed. It goes beyond joint projects. It is personal connection that transcends geographical and cultural borders.”

We would like to thank the Jewish Federation of Cleveland for their generous support for The Jewish Agency for Israel, enabling us to ensure that every Jewish person is part of our Jewish story by connecting them to one another and to Israel.

For information about Israel and our overseas programs and services, contact Ilanit Gerblich Kalir at ikalir@jcfcleve.org or 216-593-2815.

This story was originally reported by Nathan Roi for The Jewish Agency for Israel


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