By Gila Golder
In 2016-2017, Memphis Jewish Federation granted $782, 363 to the Jewish Agency for Israel (JAFI), one of our Jewish Federations of North America overseas partners. We’re proud to partner with this incredible organization and to support its critical work in Israel and around the globe.
Mark Moskowitz, JAFI’s Senior Vice President, Israel and Global Philanthropy, visited Memphis in recently and briefed the Jewish Community Partners board and staff on the work of JAFI. He also thanked JCP for its annual grant to JAFI through Memphis Jewish Federation, noting, “The Jewish Agency for Israel is proud of the historic relationship with the Memphis Jewish community. Your longtime support has helped thousands of Jews across the world. You are a model for other Federations across the country.”
Here’s a look at how MJF funding made an impact through JAFI programs in Israel and all over the globe.
JAFI connects the global Jewish family, bringing Jews to Israel and Israel to Jews, by providing meaningful Israel engagement and facilitating Aliyah and absorption. JAFI programs build a better society in Israel and beyond, energizing young Israelis and their worldwide peers to rediscover a collective sense of Jewish purpose. The agency’s four strategic priorities are connecting young Jews to Israel and their Jewish identity, connecting young Israelis to the Jewish people and their Jewish identity, supporting vulnerable populations, and Aliyah and absorption. Below are examples of how they do it.
JAFI functions as “first responder” in the Jewish world, addressing critical needs in Israel and overseas through funding designated for emergency assistance. This funding is deployed to address a wide variety of global Jewish needs, such as providing emergency loans to small businesses in Jerusalem, enhancing security measures for Jewish institutions at risk in the Ukraine, or enabling millions of Jews living in politically unstable or unsafe locations to make Aliyah to Israel. In November 2016, hundreds of wildfires broke out in Israel, destroying homes and businesses and displacing tens of thousands of people. JAFI was on the scene to provide disaster relief, including trauma care; immediate cash grants to families whose homes were destroyed or rendered unlivable; and special assistance to seniors, Holocaust survivors, people with disabilities, and families at risk.
In Israel, JAFI partners with the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) to provide critical support for “lone soldiers,” young immigrants who are serving in the army and have no immediate family in Israel. Through its program Wings, JAFI supports lone soldiers with care packages, phone guidance and mentorship, counseling and mental health services, and practical skills seminars on topics such as money management, job searching, and applying to college and university. Wings also provides support services to lone soldiers navigating the transition to civilian life for up to two years following their discharge from the IDF.
Masa Israel Journey, a joint project of JAFI and the Government of Israel, provides subsidies to enable thousands of Jewish young adults every year to participate in gap year, college, and post-college long term Israel programs. Participants experience Israel through academic study, career internships, and/or volunteer opportunities. Since 2010-2011, 119 young adults from the Memphis Jewish community have received Masa grants for programs in Israel.
JAFI operates flagship day camps and overnight camps (summer and winter) for Jewish children in the Former Soviet Union. Staffed by trained local counselors and Russian-speaking Israeli counselors, the camps provide an immersive Jewish learning experience. For many of the children, the camp experience represents their first-ever exposure to any kind of Jewish education or Israel education. In 2016, this unique Jewish engagement opportunity reached 8,000 children in overnight camps and 1,000 children in day camps.
JAFI’s Partnership2Gether Peoplehood Platform (P2G) links Jewish communities around the world with communities in Israel, establishing deep and meaningful people-to-people relationships between the two communities. To date, P2G has formed 47 such partnerships including some on a city-to-city level and others on a region-to-region level. Last year, Memphis joined the P2G community in forging a new partnership with the city of Shoham in Israel.
Lemsky Endowment Fund
JAFI sends shlichim (messengers/emissaries) to Jewish communities around the world. JAFI shlichim are Israeli citizens spanning a wide range of demographic and professional backgrounds. Within their assigned communities, the shlichim facilitate programming designed to increase Jewish awareness, knowledge, and pride; to bridge the gap between Jews of different backgrounds and Israel; and to promote an understanding of Israel and its ideals. The MJCC’s Israel Center, funded in part by the Lemsky Endowment Fund of Memphis Jewish Federation, brought two shlichim from JAFI’s Zionist Seminars Program to Memphis last spring for the MJCC’s annual Morris and Mollye Fogelman Israel Week Celebration. Shlichim Yossi Argov and Ayellet Azura enhanced Israel engagement through a wide range of public programs in all sectors of the Memphis Jewish community.
JAFI provides significant financial assistance specifically designated for Jewish young adults from the Ukraine to participate in Masa Israel Journey (see above). For the majority of young adults from Ukraine, Masa is a precursor to making Aliyah, allowing the participants to get first-hand experience of life in Israel. Many young adults from Ukraine emigrate without their family members. The Masa experience makes the decision to leave their homes for a life in Israel easier. The Lemsky Endowment Fund provided a designated grant to JAFI for Masa Ukraine in 2016-2017, enabling Masa Israel Journey to recruit nearly 1,200 participants from the Ukraine.
Through Youth Futures, established in 2005, JAFI provides a community-based framework for mentoring at-risk children and youth. Mentors- young adults trained specifically for this role- work as trusted guides to help children and youth improve school performance, eliminate harmful behavioral patterns, and strengthen social integration and community engagement. Youth Futures mentors connect youth, families, and communities with services and local resources to help them realize their full potential. Youth Futures is active in 37 socioeconomically disadvantaged communities in Israel. The Lemsky Endowment Fund granted funding to Youth Futures in the community of Sderot, a vulnerable area that borders Gaza and has been subjected to rocket and terror attacks regularly.
Nativ, operated by JAFI in collaboration with the Office of the Prime Minister and the IDF, provides a Jewish and Zionist education to immigrant soldiers. Each year, an estimated 2,250 recent immigrants are on active duty, many of whom have minimal connections to their Jewish background and/or are not considered to be halachically Jewish. These soldiers must adapt to the demands of military life while also learning a new language and culture. Nativ ensures that Israel’s immigrant soldiers feel a personal connection to their new homeland, and strengthens their Jewish identity. For those who are interested, Nativ also facilitates the formal conversion process. Nativ serves soldiers from all geographic areas of the State of Israel. The Lemsky Endowment Fund granted funding to Nativ in the Kiryat Moriah and Zichron Ya’akov locations.
JAFI empowers at-risk youth, training them during the formative high school years in the hi-tech field, now in high demand in Israel. The innovative Net@ program was created by JAFI in partnership with Cisco Systems, Appleseeds Academy, and Keren Hayesod in order to promote social change in disadvantaged communities throughout Israel by developing excellence in technology and social leadership among teenagers. Jewish and Arab teens in grades 9-12 receive English language instruction as well as hands-on technological training to become certified computer network technicians. This training will serve them throughout their academic, military, and professional lives. The curriculum is supplemented by engagement in local community service projects, enabling participants to learn the social values of personal and communal responsibility, leadership, pluralism, equality, and volunteerism. Net@ operates in 24 communities throughout Israel and has reached over 3,500 at-risk teens since its inception. The Lemsky Endowment Fund granted funding to the Net@ program in Kfar Saba and neighboring villages.
For more information about JAFI, click here to read an article by Andy Groveman, member of the JAFI Board of Governors and Chair of the United Israel Appeal.