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 Chicago and in Kiryat Gat-Lachish-Shafir.
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 partnership of Kiryat Gat-Lachish-Shafir-Chicago is born.
1996 Our first steering committee takes place. It is a marathon meeting to develop consensus on strategic funding priorities. • Our partnership allocates an initial $1 million in funding.
1997 Our partnership shifts its focus from regional development to education, social and community affairs, and people-to-people projects. • Two young volunteer interns from the region spend two months in Chicago on a work and study program in Jewish communal service — the first of what becomes an annual occurrence.
1998 Budget allocation rises ten percent, from $1M to $1.1M. • A delegation of 50 high school dancers perform at Chicago’s celebration of Israel’s 50th Anniversary.
1999 Communications Center for local community radio is established with P2K funding. • Volunteers of all ages come from Chicago at various times every year to work in different sectors in the community.
2000 Chicago celebrates 5 years of partnership with a huge “happening” in the region—”Chicago on the Square.” • A large delegation from the region attends and volunteers in Chicago at the General Assembly of the UJC. • The P2K budget rises to $1.3 million.
2001 The partnership takes a strategic decision to focus on educational projects in elementary schools. • Online games of chess are played regularly between Chicago and Israeli children; the tradition continues and was expanded to include Kyiv.
2002 First group of teens from the region attends summer camp in Chicago.
2003 Introduction of teaching English at kindergarten level and deeper involvement with informal activities for youth (youth at risk, leadership development and leisure time activities).
2004 A regional mapping of needs, programs and services is undertaken. • Volunteers of all ages and backgrounds come from Chicago as counselors at our English summer camp (Kefiyada) for the ninth year in a row.
2005 Our partnership successfully establishes the Third Sector Forum, inviting all philanthropic funders to work together.
A Decade of Connection
When our remarkable partnership was established a decade ago, its mission was twofold: create bridges between Chicago and the Kiryat Gat, Lachish and Shafir communities; and improve the quality of life for the area’s residents.
The region is located in the northern Negev. A wave of new immigrants doubled Kiryat Gat’s population to 52,000—straining educational and social systems. The Lachish and Shafir regional councils are each home to some 7,000 residents living in rural communities primarily dependent on agricultural work, but their populations are growing quickly. Like all areas in Israel’s periphery, Kiryat Gat-Lachish-Shafir has struggled with the challenge of high unemployment rates.
A Decade of Mutual Impact
Our visionary partnership has contributed greatly to the educational, economic and social development of the area.
Our support has helped start-up businesses become commercially viable. Thanks to assistance from the Economic Development Unit and the Technological Incubator, we helped the region transition to a broader-based economy that can support diverse employment opportunities. We’ve supported activities for youth, especially those facing extraordinary family difficulties or developmental disabilities. We’ve sponsored multiple social projects with the elderly and activities for disabled children and adults. We have been there to support the social integration of new immigrants from the Former Soviet Union, South America, France and from Ethiopia.
We have funded vitally important formal and informal education projects to create equal opportunities for area youth.
Emphasizing technology and science, we funded the “ecological bubble” —a biology and environmental studies program for elementary school students. We have upgraded science labs in Kiryat Gat high schools and supported Chavayeda—studies in science and technology. We know that these youngsters will ultimately transform the socioeconomic reality in these communities. They are Israel’s future.
We have built living bridges between Chicago and Kiryat Gat-Lachish-Shafir through scores of reciprocal visits of teachers, principals, families, students and volunteers— strengthening both of our communities.
“P2K is a living bridge that never stops. It is moving forward all the time in a dynamic process of new programs and initiatives; and new people are involved in the decision making process from all our communities. It is these extraordinary people-to-people exchange programs that create such wonderful personal connection.” Dagan Yahel, director of the Kiryat Gat industrial park, Steering Committee member from Lachish
“Partnership 2000 (P2K) is a fantastic program, which enables the Jewish communities of Chicago and Kiryat Gat-Lachish-Shafir to positively impact one another. We work together to identify needs, allocate resources and develop programs, which enrich our daily lives and strengthen our Jewish world.” Andrea Solow, Co-Chair of JUF Partnership 2000
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 Kiryat Gat-Lachish-Shafir are improving education and helping develop Israel’s future leaders, strengthening employment opportunities and promoting regional cooperation. We are helping transform the Negev into a place where families want to live and work.
At the same time, we are seeking ways to connect our next generation to Israel; creating enduring relationships that will shape Chicago’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.