Making a Difference That Matters

There are few times in one’s life where they have the opportunity to see real transformational impact happening and be a part of it. In January I was able to participate in a trip to Israel with the Israel Committee of the Jewish Community Federation and Endowment Fund. We had the chance to meet program staff and participants in strategic efforts to have long-lasting change in the lives of many Israelis.

Much of the work that the Federation supports in Israel is helping build a pluralistic society and working to create equal opportunity for all Israelis, especially those on the geographical and social periphery. We met with representatives from the Israeli Arab, Bedouin, Ethiopian Jewish, Haredi, and business communities. All these people are working hard to create opportunities so that disenfranchised members of Israeli society are able to actively participate in mainstream life. The story of these peoples’ lives is so different from the stories we hear in the media. The discord we read about is completely overshadowed by the lives of these people filled with warmth and desire for a harmonious and prosperous society in Israel. Hundreds of people are working so hard to make a difference.

We had the opportunity to see this type of work with The First Thousand Days, a program funded in part by the Federation and facilitated by our on-the-ground partner, the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC). This program works in partnership with the Bedouin Community in the south of Israel to provide physical and occupational therapy for infants during their first 1,000 days of life. In these Bedouin communities, where almost no early childhood development support is given, the families work with professionals to teach their children fine motor skills and interactive play. The excitement and appreciation from these families for the work of this program are overwhelmingly sincere and gracious.

We also saw first-hand the business and entrepreneurial efforts taking place within Arab villages to help strengthen their communities: We visited a locally-run guest house and a gallery that shows art, paintings, and photography created by members of the community. We spoke with leaders of a program called Moona that is effectively helping Arab teens learn, work, and succeed in technology fields. And we met with an organization, and Federation grantee called Collective Impact that is focused on working toward the full integration of the Arab community into the workforce of Israel.

What we saw were success stories that can not only be replicated but more importantly, efforts that are having ripple effects throughout the country. As people get to know participants in these programs, the positive feedback and future emulation of their activities will continue to help the country grow and succeed.

The experience was not tainted by my rose-colored glasses, but slightly depressing as well. For every excellent program that is out there, it’s apparent that they are addressing real problems that are greater than the efforts to fix them. And, by talking with diverse groups of people, my hope for a peace plan for the region happening in the short-term has been completely crushed. At this point in time, given the leadership within the region, I do not see the opportunity for lasting peace. However, I do hold out great hope that in the long-term, if the right steps are taken today, there is a real opportunity for a genuine settlement and peace plan. I know that it doesn’t seem very realistic at the moment, but with the slow and gradual efforts of the leadership in the region and with the grassroots efforts the Federation supports which are having a strategic impact within the country, it is possible.

The Federation's Israel Committee

For more information on the Federation's work in Israel, contact Rachel Barton.

Categories: Israel, Overseas


February 01, 2019


Steve Ganz