Some of you may ask, “What is Partnership 2gether (P2G) again?” Simply put, it is the single most visible connection that our community has with Israel. As implied in the title, it is a partnership between a consortium of smaller Jewish communities in Canada and the Galilee Panhandle (Etzbah HaGalil). The Canadian communities involved are Vancouver, Edmonton, Calgary, Winnipeg, Ottawa, and the Atlantic region. In Israel, the towns within our area include Yesud Hama’ala, Qiryat Shemona, Metula, and Mevo’ot HaHermon, and Upper Galilee Regional Council.
I write to you as the new chair for the Partnership 2gether (P2G) committee in Edmonton. Before continuing with my message, I want to acknowledge and thank our long-time committee chair, Dr. Ivan Steiner. Ivan’s leadership, service, and dedication to the P2G cause are legendary. My goal is to live up to his legacy, but I have rather large shoes to fill. I also look forward to working with the national co-chairs, one of whom is our own Rebecca Asbell.
On a visit to Israel in March 2022, Stacey and I travelled to the Galil. Our trip coincided with the first post-pandemic staging of the Terry Fox Run in Emek HaHula. Seeing the region (which I love) as well as meeting the people who adopted a Canadian hero as their own was truly incredible. Observing this partnership in action, this ‘Living Bridge’, inspired me to get involved and to do what I can to promote this vision.
The partnership’s mission has three major components. The first is to create a ‘Living Bridge’ (Gesher Chai) between the people of the Israeli and Canadian communities. Perhaps the best-known example of this living bridge includes the fondly recalled exchanges that have occurred between Grade 9 students from junior high schools in both regions. The second component is youth and education (chaired nationally by Rebecca) and the third is capacity building. Each of these components has a sub-committee that meets at least twice a year to review funding requests and opportunities. Volunteer members decide on how to allocate our available funds within the partnership region.
The P2G chairs from across Canada meet with representatives of the partnership region two times a year, once in Canada and once in the partnership region itself. The local P2G chair represents Edmonton at these meetings. In November 2022, I took part for the first time in what was also the inaugural in-person meeting of the group since prior to the pandemic.
This provided a chance to see projects we had funded, received updates from the local mayors, as well as security reports. We witnessed the emerging food-tech industry and the local start-up city in Qiryat Shemona and Tel Hai College where they carry out research to enable these start-ups. We also visited a mental health clinic for youth requiring help and encountered the founders of a remarkable outreach program between Jewish and Arab youth from the area. The highlight of the trip was the courage and kindness of these incredible women.
In the next few weeks, we will gather our local P2G committee for this first time since I became involved. We will reach out to past committee members and seek new members as well. This committee will provide input and pre-review grant applications from the partnership region prior to my attendance on our behalf at the Ottawa meeting in June. We will also plan to discuss ways in which we can support strengthening connections between Talmud Torah School and the partnership region, as well as the Gesher Chai for youth. We would also like to consider other partnership opportunities, such as trade missions and cultural missions (cycling or food).
Before concluding, I would like to acknowledge, with great appreciation, how donors to the Jewish Federation of Edmonton’s United Jewish Appeal campaign support this program. We couldn't finance the P2G work without these contributions. In particular, I would like to recognize the aid of the Edmonton Jewish Film Festival, the proceeds of which continue to assist projects within our partnership region. The current beneficiary will be the renewal of support for the Jewish/Arab youth exchange program.
Whatever our feelings regarding political events in Israel, it remains our homeland, and the people within it our brothers and sisters. Now, more than ever, is the time to strengthen our ties to the people and the land of Israel and to assist those in need. The P2G Committee is an ideal way to do this, and I would welcome input from anyone interested. Please consider joining the P2G Committee when you see the call for interest. Am Yisrael Chai!