By Jenna Soroka
(AJNews) – The Coast-to-Coast Partnership2Gether (CTC-P2G) program, formerly known as Partnership 2000, has dedicated 20+ years to building gesher chai (living bridges) between Jewish communities around the world and Israeli communities to help generate innovative projects and meaningful connections. Canadian communities that are part of the Partnership include Edmonton, Calgary, Atlantic Canada, Ottawa, Vancouver, and Winnipeg. These six communities work as a system with five communities in Israel, including Kiryat Shmona, Metulla, Yesod HaMa’ala, Upper Galilee, and Mevo’ot Hermon, to enhance capacity building and relationships in the region.
For Calgary Jewish Academy and Edmonton Talmud Torah alumni, CTC-P2G brings up memories of Israeli pen pals and an exchange trip to grow in-person connections with Israeli students. When looking at the full scope of the CTC-P2G program though, its impact is truly astounding. In addition to these mifgashism (meetings), the Partnership creates countless education initiatives that support youth and educators as well as projects that focus on leadership development, mental health, artistic expression, innovations in agricultural technology, relationship building, and more.
The Jewish Agency for Israel (JAFI), in partnership with the Jewish Federations of North America (JFNA) and Keren Hayesod (KH), outlines their vision for CTC-P2G as creating a “global and united Jewish people made up of a tapestry of strong, lively, flourishing and interconnected Jewish individuals, families and communities working together to enrich Jewish continuity, identity and cultural understanding between Jews in Israel and their peers around the world.”
This work is made possible through volunteer chairpersons, staff, and lay people who are part of the Partnership joint steering committees and subcommittees. Twice each year the Partnership meets – once in Canada and once in Israel – to visit projects they have funded, discuss future allocations, and nurture connections. CEOs of the Edmonton and Calgary Jewish Federations, Stacey Leavitt-Wright and Adam Silver, recently came back from one of these meetings in Israel which Stacey described as a” big family reunion.” Erin Wright and Cathy Cole, Chairs of the CTC-P2G program in Edmonton and Calgary respectively, also attended this annual meeting.
Adam Silver explained that the Partnership’s strength is derived from the people involved. “It’s about building gesher chai between all the eleven communities. There is room for community members to get involved,” he said. It is the countless hours of dedication from people, such as those mentioned above, that helps fuel CTC-P2G and keeps a flame of kindness, passion, and philanthropy burning brightly in partnered communities around the globe.
Tal Toubiana, who had the role of Israel Engagement and Director of Security for the Jewish Federation of Edmonton for a combined total of 12 years, was in Israel at the time of the meetings. He was given a special thank you for his support of the Partnership over the years.
Other attendees included Ambassador of Canada to Israel, Lisa Stadelbauer in addition to representatives from Jewish Federations across Canada.
The itinerary of the trip included visiting various projects and learning about supported programs to see their impact on the partnership and local communities, hearing a security update by the IDF General Moshe “Chico” Tamir, and listening to a briefing on the Israeli elections by Yaron Deckel, JAFI Regional Director to Canada. The three subcommittees of CTC-P2G, Gesher Chai, Youth & Education, and Capacity Building, also met to discuss funding around projects like the Terry Fox Run and the STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics) multidisciplinary learning program for elementary and junior high schools.
During the height of Covid, the CTC-P2G joint steering committee and subcommittees committed to providing funds to a youth mental health centre in Israel whose crisis response team was overrun. This allowed for hiring a clinical psychiatrist and dieticians, updating the clinic, and making a huge impact on their waiting list to help many families This was one of the many projects the group visited while in Israel. Stacey shared that “it was such a wonderful experience and feeling knowing that we were able to make this happen and have such an impact.”
Adam expressed how many other partnerships between Israel and North America stalled during Covid. “We’ve had significant virtual mifgashim around chagim (holidays) and education with sometimes over 100 people jumping on the call.” It is this commitment from all parties that maintains these important connections which facilitate and initiate important projects such as the one mentioned above.
Volunteering and fundraising through UJA campaigns, the Edmonton Jewish Film Festival, directed donations to Calgary Jewish Federation for Israel projects, as well as support from the Jewish Community Foundation of Calgary are various ways people and organizations can contribute to CTC-P2G’s continued initiatives and programming.
You can also take advantage of the program by reaching out to the Jewish Federation. They can help connect you with the necessary people to enhance your experiences and time in Israel. “If people are planning a trip to Israel, I can without a doubt tell you that they will be warmly welcomed into the region, and we are very happy to make that connection for them,” Stacey commented.
Cathy Cole, who has been intimately involved with the program for 8+ years as chairperson of the Calgary Jewish Federation CTC-P2G, added that if anyone is planning a visit to Israel, they should definitely visit up north and take in the amazing projects they have been involved in to understand the impact these projects are having in the communities. “I always tell people, ‘You get a big bang for your buck’ up there.”
CTC-P2G is a unique program, and you can feel the pride of everyone who is involved. Adam, Stacey, and Cathy all emphasized that true, authentic partnership is at the program’s core. From regional to local levels, CTC-P2G’s scope and commitment ensures communities in the partnered regions receive support that makes a significant difference. Through opportunities to become directly involved with projects and initiatives, ideas are shared to build Jewish identity and thriving communities. If the program feels like a good fit for you, don’t hesitate to contact Adam Silver (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Stacey Leavitt-Wright (email@example.com) to speak with them about getting involved.
Jenna Soroka is a Local Journalism Initiative Reporter.