Left to right are Stephen Gaerber (Jewish Federation of Greater Vancouver board chair), Mayor Ilan Orr of Yesod Hamaaleh, Mayor Rabbi Nissim Malka of Kiryat Shmona, Mayor Giora Saltz of Galil Elyon, Vancouver Deputy Mayor Andrea Reimer, Mayor Binyamin Ben-Muvchar of Mevoot Hahermon and Ezra Shanken (Federation CEO). (photo by Rhonda Dent courtesy of JFGV)
One of the goals of the Jewish Federation of Greater Vancouver is to strengthen the community’s partnership region in Israel, Etzbah HaGalil (the Galilee Panhandle). The efforts of Federation are combined with five other Jewish communities across Canada (Atlantic Canada, Ottawa, Winnipeg, Calgary and Edmonton). Known as the Partnership2Gether (P2G) Coast-to-Coast initiative, this is the framework on which relationships between the people of Etzbah HaGalil and these communities of Canada are built and strengthened. The relationships foster a love of Israel and a long-term commitment to Jewish peoplehood, promoting the growth and health of each community involved.
The P2G Coast-to-Coast’s partnership is governed by a joint steering committee comprised of representatives from five Israeli and six Canadian partner cities, and Federation recently hosted the committee’s biannual meetings from June 15-17. Representatives from the local community included Stephen Gaerber, national chair of the Coast-to-Coast partnership; Karen James, chair of the Israel and overseas committee and P2G; and Pam Wolfman, chair of the local Gesher Chai (Living Bridge) committee. The meetings were an opportunity for representatives from Israel and across Canada to review funded projects together and explore potential investments in Etzbah HaGalil’s ongoing progress in three key areas: youth and education, the Gesher Chai program (which includes people-to-people exchanges between the two countries) and capacity building (social programming and regional development).
Etzbah HaGalil is geographically, economically and politically isolated. Residents often miss out on the social, educational and employment opportunities available to those living in central Israel. Through P2G, Federation strategically invests funds to reverse the north’s overall vulnerability by laying foundations for community resilience, emergency preparedness and economic growth.
One of the many projects in which Federation is investing is a new initiative called Green Farms, which develops and supports organic farming in the region. Through a partnership with the Centre for Sustainable Food Systems at the University of British Columbia Farm, two professors mentor and work closely with Israeli farmers; they have been to Israel and will be going again. During the recent P2G meetings, committee members visited UBC Farm to see their environmentally responsible farming project. Committee members were surprised to discover such a beneficial program in our own backyard. “I was impressed by the extent of the farm, the diversity of plants grown, and how they are mentoring some Israeli farmers,” shared James. The goal of the program is to build a healthier, more sustainable food system in northern Israel. Program like this are a key focus of the partnership and of Federation’s investment.