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Montreal Quebec • Beersheva~Bnei Shimon: Living Bridges in the Jewish Future

How do we make peoplehood tangible in our 21st century world? We’re doing it. The impressive achievements of the first ten years of our partnership demonstrate our collective force when we partner in common purpose.

Since 1995, when leaders from our community stepped forward to become part of the Jewish Agency’s Partnership 2000 (P2K), our commitment and involvement have become a powerful catalyst for change in Montreal, BeerSheva and Bnei Shimon.

Today, we are one of 550 global communities in 44 partnerships with Israel. Sharing ideas, strengths, challenges and models of success, our P2K partnerships have become the paradigm for successfully partnering the Jewish world.

What Will You Make of It?

1995  The first group of Israeli youngsters arrives from the region to serve as summer camp counselors at Camp B’nai-Brith near Montreal.

1996  First delegation of educators from BeerSheva-Bnei Shimon meets with their counterparts here in Montreal. This marks the beginning of a long-term relationship between Jewish schools in Montreal and schools in the region.

1997  The Center for Advancement of Women is established in the region to promote women’s issues at the personal, social and family levels.

1999  Launch of “Start Up,” a comprehensive approach to activities for young people in BeerSheva and neighboring areas. Start Up provides key services to young people at crucial decision-making crossroads in their lives.

2000  Gesher Chai professionals exchange: A group of social workers from Israel travels to Montreal and meets with their peers in our Jewish community.

2002  As Israel struggles during the Intifada, our Montreal Jewish community responds vigorously with a special Israel Emergency Campaign to supplement the needs of Soroka Hospital, ZAKA (the volunteer emergency response team) and children’s summer activities in the region.

2003  Magshimim: First group of young professional olim from Montreal makes aliyah to BeerSheva. Our partnership provides special assistance with needs such as apartment rentals, and educational and cultural activities.

2004  The Bnei Shimon Regional Council and the Jewish Agency for Israel invite the Montreal community to join in establishing a brand-new village in the Negev: Givot Bar.

2005  A landmark BeerSheva Summit takes place. Its purpose: Create a coalition of strategic investors and arrive at a common vision for maximizing their efforts to build a vibrant, thriving BeerSheva.

A Decade of Connection

Our remarkable partnership with BeerSheva and Bnei Shimon began in early 1995.

BeerSheva—the largest city in the Negev and the sixth-largest in Israel—dates back to the time of Abraham. The city has been destroyed and rebuilt many times. In 1996, the population was 165,000. Since then, 45,000 new residents—primarily immigrants—have boosted its population to 200,000. But simultaneously, hundreds of the more financially stable families left. While attendance at Ben-Gurion University has rapidly grown, graduates leave for better opportunities in Israel’s center. The Bnei Shimon region extends around BeerSheva in the northern Negev, bordering the “green line” on the east. It is home to nearly 11,000 residents living in kibbutzim, moshavim and one rural community.

A Decade of Mutual Impact

Our partnership’s initial task was developing a five-year plan, setting goals and recommending projects.

The outcome of that process led to a focus on five overarching spheres of involvement: people-topeople; social and community; regional development; Jewish identity; and Jewish education. We have made a measurable impact in each area. Our investment in community-building projects has infused the region with new opportunities. BeerSheva and Bnei Shimon are clearly benefiting from a strengthened and newly cooperative relationship through P2K. Our involvement through the partnership has created new avenues for increased collaboration.

Our visionary partnership has contributed greatly to the educational, economic and social development of the area.

Our Center for Advancement of Women has increased the focus on women’s issues. Our commitment to equal education has increased the passing rates on matriculation exams from 38 to 55 percent. The Gesher Chai Schools project is connecting hundreds of classes— collaborating on topics such as the Jewish holidays, the Holocaust, the importance of Israel and Jewish continuity. Teens are exchanging e-mails, participating in joint videoconferences and visiting each other. Hundreds of Israelis have been exposed to Jewish life in Montreal, including the 15 youngsters we welcome each summer as camp counselors.

As thousands of us have visited the region, we have built living bridges between our community and BeerSheva-Bnei Shimon, strengthening our ties to Israel and increasing our involvement in organized Jewish life here in Montreal.

“Partnership 2000 for me is a way of life. Since my first working visit to a Montreal summer camp a few years ago, I have become deeply committed to strengthening the ties between both of our communities. It is extremely important that the young generation in Montreal will connect to Israel and that the young Israelis in the region will explore the many faces of the Jewish community abroad.”  Ram Magril, Bnei Shimon, volunteer on the P2K subcommittee

“Partnership 2000 has revolutionized the way Diaspora Jewry connects to Israel. Together, working hand in hand with the community and municipal leadership of BeerSheva and Bnei Shimon, we have built programs and capital projects protecting youth at risk, promoting excellence in education and expanding economic development. Friendship and opportunities for personal involvement have been fostered through Gesher Chai—Living Bridge—which supports dynamic exchanges between schoolchildren and professionals from our communities. Zionsim in the Diaspora has never been so alive and exciting!”  David Cape, Montreal, Chair, Federation’s Israel & Overseas Department

Together, taking our partnership to the next level

What an extraordinary impact we’ve had so far. And it’s really just the beginning. Our efforts in BeerSheva and Bnei Shimon are uniting our youth, developing community leaders and fostering professional exchanges. Promoting excellence in education and technology; attracting development; creating places where families want to live and work.

At the same time, we are innovating to connect our next generation to Israel in new ways; creating enduring connections that will shape Montreal’s future. A decade ago, our communities boldly grasped this opportunity to make a dramatic difference as one people. Now we’re ready to take this partnership to the next level.

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Friday 25 April, 2014 (c) All rights reserved to the Jewish Agency יום שישי כ"ה ניסן תשע"ד