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Cleveland - Beit Shean: 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 Cleveland and Beit Shean.

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  Our partnership launches.

1996  Creation of small-business assistance centers — MATI — for promoting economic development. • Establishment of a new regional teleprocessing center. • We help operate Nitzan for children with learning disabilities.

1997  The first Women’s Forum takes place, uniting many of our women from Cleveland with women of different backgrounds and communities from across the region. • An innovative Beit Shean festival helps develop local tourism. • Kefiyada English-language summer camp is attended by children from the region, with volunteers from Cleveland serving as counselors. The program helps children from the periphery acquire basic English language skills while What will you make of it ? involved in creative, enjoyable and safe activities. • First youth mission from the region leaves for Cleveland.

1998  Initiation of programs for Ethiopian integration and absorption. • The Community Builders young leadership program welcomes its first class.

1999  Noar L’noar, a Partnership 2000 youth group, begins operating. • Inauguration of Cleveland House, a physical center for P2K activities in Beit Shean.

2000  Establishment of the Community Foundation in conjunction with Zionism 2000. • Founding of Keshet BaEmek, a group that creates a dialogue with Cleveland.

2001  Initiation of School Connections, which links children in Beit Shean and Cleveland classrooms. • First aliyah missions to Argentina; development of absorption programs for new families.

2002  Programs for strengthening regional cooperation: Yahid U’beyahad, Artists House, Women’s Forum and Noar L’noar

2003  Beit Shean region welcomes and integrates 70 new families from Argentina.

2004  Ambassadors For Unity, Community Builders and Teachers Mission.

2005  Our Partnership celebrates its first decade, with a new focus on developing education, community ties and community building. • Formation of combined lay committee from the region and the city, governed by lay leadership.

A Decade of Connection

In 1995 our partnership w as formed on our existing relationships and investments in the region.

The northern city of Beit Shean—whose origins go back 6,000 years—has a population of 17,000. The surrounding valley region is inhabited by some 10,000 residents living in more than 20 kibbutzim and moshavim. The region has many assets: impressive archeological sites; nature and tourist destinations. Its location near the Jordanian border also presents opportunities for economic and business development. Yet despite so many positives, it has been very difficult to attract new residents and employment to offset the exodus of young people from the area.

A Decade of Mutual Impact

Our Cleveland community was determined to change the dynamics throughout the region.

During the first years, we focused our investments on the economic development of the region—primarily in small business development—enabling new businesses to take root and receive vital development assistance. Until P2K, there was virtually no connection between city dwellers and residents living throughout the nearby valley—just frustration and prejudice. But our Cleveland community worked to find a common denominator, and ten years later, our persistence has paid off in cooperation that extends well beyond Partnership 2000.

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

We created a joint tourism association to leverage efforts regionally; helped establish an industrial park; and explored developing commerce with Jordan. Today, 100-plus graduates of the “Community Builders” leadership development program strengthen the regional dialogue and nurture involvement. Our partnership collaborated to ease the integration of immigrants, providing an absorption package to attract Jews from Argentina, supporting programs benefiting Ethiopian-Israelis, and youngsters studying in Israel pre-aliyah on the Na’aleh program.

We have built living bridges between Cleveland and Beit Shean through scores of reciprocal visits of teachers, principals, doctors, families, students and volunteers — strengthening both of our communities.

“While an ocean and many miles separate our communities, P2K has served as a living bridge. The people of the city and region have formed relationships that never would have transpired. Prior to this wonderful program, the extent of many Clevelanders’ knowledge of life in Israel was what they saw on CNN or Fox News. Perhaps they knew about Israel, but they didn’t know Israelis. The Partnership platform made a dialogue possible on an equal level where all sides contribute.”  Zvi Perelman, Kibutz Ein Hanatziv, graduate of P2K Community Builders program

“Together, we’ve involved hundreds—perhaps thousands—of individuals in dozens of activities. We feel good about what we’ve accomplished over the last 10 years, but we know there is still much more we can do. Our goal is to eventually touch the lives of everyone in the city and the region and in the Jewish community of Cleveland. It’s an ambitious goal, but the effort alone will help build stronger Jewish communities for both of us—and isn’t that what this Partnership is all about?”  Bill Heller, Cleveland, Partnership 2000 Co-Chair

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 Beit Shean are leveraging regional resources; creating community leaders; developing multiple exchange opportunities. We’ve been 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 Cleveland’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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Thursday 24 April, 2014 (c) All rights reserved to the Jewish Agency יום חמישי כ"ד ניסן תשע"ד