REHOVOT, Israel – In 2003, the Minneapolis Jewish Federation Board decided to re-enter Partnership2Gether, a program that partners Jewish communities around the world with cities or regions in Israel to mutually strengthen and uplift their respective communities. After being presented with three partner city options, Eilat Harel, the Senior Director of Community Impact and Engagement at MJF, and three lay leaders who represent the congregation on the P2G steering committee, toured the communities and ended up picking Rehovot, a city of roughly 150,000 people between Tel Aviv and Ashdod.
Thursday night, Rehovot welcomed the Minneapolis Jewish Federation’s group of 250 travelers on the Experience Israel 2023 Mega Mission, with open arms for a dinner and cultural experience. The event included visits from current and past P2G alums, JAFI staffers, and Rehovot’s Mayor, Rahamim Malul.
“The heart of the matter is this amazing partnership between communities,” Malul said through a translator. “It makes both cities thrive, especially in culture, art and education.”
Past P2G participants, Rehovotans and Minnesotans alike, sat together at each table to create greater connections between the communities, while artists from Rehovot entertained the crowd with dance, songs, and violin playing.
“One of the first things that I realized based on [a lot of] discussions was that Minneapolis needs a city-to-city relationship,” said Eilat Harel. “We met the people there, they all presented why we should pick them and it was phenomenal,” Harel said. “All the options that we were given were so amazing that it took us two days until we were able to say out loud who we thought was the best because we felt bad for the other two.”
Harel said that in choosing Rehovot they were looking for a community that matched up well with Minneapolis. “They have a large Ethiopian community, they have a large Russian community, they have orthodox, reform, conservative (congregations),” she said. “So just on the range of the different people in the community, we felt that it was a good reflection of matching our community values.” “We thought it would fit the personality of our community as well,” she said, citing a strong cultural scene, science, agricultural, and business sectors, and wide-ranging makeup of the community.
P2G works to create revitalized, ongoing and meaningful engagement based on mutual endeavor and shared Jewish identity between the communities or regions that partner. There are 165 Jewish and Israeli communities in 40 city-to-city and region-to-region partnerships. The partnerships engage thousands of participants each year in meaningful, ongoing connections between Israelis and Jews from around the world.
Each Partnership is led by a joint steering committee, comprised of volunteers in both communities dedicated to the creation of ongoing, bilateral engagement, programs based on one-on-one experiences and shared Jewish identity.
“It’s people to people,” said Mark Appelbaum, Co-Chair of the P2G steering committee. “And it’s to try to break down barriers so that there are actual relationships between real people, and not just Instagram feeds and highlights from newspapers. And I can say we’ve had a number of successes, whether it’s people’s engagement back into the community or engaging with Israel.”