Federation, Jewish Agency for Israel Maintain Strong Partnership

Tags: Federation, Israel, Overseas

  • Share This Story

An absorption center for new immigrants as they become acclimated to their lives in Israel.


Article reprinted with permission from Cleveland Jewish News

Despite the distance and the time difference, the Cleveland and Israeli communities have been able to have lasting impact on one another through partnerships between the Jewish Federation of Cleveland and its overseas partners like The Jewish Agency for Israel.


Out of these partnerships, there have been many programs that allow Clevelanders to have an impact on individuals and communities in the Jewish homeland and around the world, or build special connections with Israelis through shlichim and missions.

“Part of the magic of the Cleveland Jewish community is our ability to create dynamic and innovative programs,” Scott Simon, chair of the Federation’s overseas connections committee, told the Cleveland Jewish News. “We are consistently working to pilot, to work in partnership with JAFI and other organizations on the ground in Israel, and the whole goal is making people’s lives better. And we do it with boldness and creativity and with a whole lot of love.”

In the past year-and-a-half, Simon has been on three missions to Israel and said there is nothing like being on the ground and meeting the Federation’s partners and the people they help. Lives are impacted through programs in the Federation’s sister city of Beit Shean and the Valley of Springs, or programs for teaching STEM, helping at-risk youth and young adults, or responding to crises and helping new olim, or immigrants, in Israel.


“These missions are windows into the impact that we’re having,” he said. “And when you meet a child in Mea Shearim or in Hura or in Beit Shean that is benefiting from our STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) initiative and is smiling proudly because they are progressing and learning and growing, there is no feeling like that in the world.”

Throughout JAFI’s 93-year history, the Jewish Federations of North America – and Cleveland’s Federation – have been longtime partners and shareholders of the organization to help Jewish community life thrive in Israel and around the world, Amira Ahronoviz, director general and CEO of JAFI, told the CJN. As part of its mission, JAFI’s work focuses around three major pillars: aliyah, the process of Jews immigrating to Israel whether by choice or as refugees; connecting Jews to Israel and one another; and strengthening the social resilience of the Israeli society, she said.

“Partnership is not just about providing resources,” Ahronoviz said. “It’s about being thought partners, it’s about helping us to think about things while drawing on your expertise and in your different experiences and best practices you have while coping with a huge successful Jewish community.”

As the Jewish Agency responds to crises or emergencies in the Jewish world, it turns to its community partners for resources, support and engagement. This has included work around St. Petersburg in Russia to strengthen Jewish identity and Jewish education, as well as current needs emerging in the region and in Ukraine from the ongoing war.

“It’s a great example of where Cleveland always wears the hats of both – where they may have some areas of interest which they’re more deeply invested and involved in, but at the same time continue to wear the collective responsibility hat and help Jews in need wherever they are,” she said.

JAFI also has 18 absorption centers that provide transitional housing, Hebrew lessons and other needs to new olim making aliyah as they become acclimated to their new home and life in Israel. Thirteen of the centers focus on serving thousands of Ethiopian Jews each year, while others cater to the general immigrant population, new olim from regions of distress or refugees through the Aliyah of Rescue program.

Under its pillar of creating connections, Ahronoviz highlighted the shin shinim program which identifies, screens, trains and brings five young Israelis to Cleveland each year to work in various institutions and engage with the youth. This program creates connections between the community and Israel in order for both to thrive and inspire Clevelanders to visit Israel while they’re young for a deeper understanding.

“When we send young shin shinim here to work in a school or synagogue or other communal settings, we are enabling the young children and the youth from the Cleveland community to have maybe the most direct and informal, tangible relationship with an Israeli and through that better understand Israel,” she said.

While the shin shinim come to bring Israel to Cleveland, she said they are also transformed by the experience of seeing a different Jewish way of life and making long-lasting relationships.

Under the third pillar, Ahronoviz said Cleveland has supported JAFI’s Youth Futures program for the last 15 years. Youth Futures is a national program in Israel that uses an evidence-based model of mentors who work with youth and families at risk.

“Cleveland has been with us since day one, not only providing resources and support for specific communities to help them, but rather in helping us to shape the nature and the model, to improve the model to make sure we have continuous learning around the model,” she said.

Learn More: Federation, Israel, Overseas