During my time serving as CEO of the Jewish Federation of Greater Nashville between 2011 and 2018, the Federation granted annually about 35 percent of its available funds from the annual campaign to meeting Jewish needs overseas. That translated to about $750,000 per year. The bulk of it was allocated to the Jewish Agency for Israel (JAFI) and the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) to address a host of social and human services programs in Israel (primarily through JAFI) and in nearly 70 Diaspora countries to serve pressing Jewish needs (primarily through JDC). The ratio of the distribution held steady over the years with 75 percent of the funds going to JAFI and 25 percent to JDC.
Well, those, as they say, are the facts.
But there’s much more to the story. And embedded in the annual grant to JAFI, when I arrived in 2011, about $44,000 (or just about 8 percent of the oversea allocation) was directed toward the federation’s Partnership Together (P2G) community in Hadera-Eiron. The grant primarily supported teen exchanges and a handful of school twinning programs. By 2018, the P2G funding had grown to nearly $96,000, about 18 percent. Still a relatively small percentage of the total annual overseas grants, yet this modest investment yielded big results and touched almost every corner of Jewish Nashville.
P2G transformed the relationship and deepened the connection between the Nashville Jewish community and Israel, with Hadera-Eiron serving as the Israeli epicenter of the constantly blossoming engagement. The Partnership celebrated its 10th Anniversary in 2012 (which at the time included Knoxville, Jacksonville, Charlotte, Pinellas County, Daytona Beach, Chattanooga, and Ft. Myers with Richmond and Greensboro joining in later years) and Nashville sent a small delegation to Hadera as part of the “Taste of Partnership” mission. As a result of this mission, Nashville really raised its stake in Partnership.
As part of her responsibility overseeing the federation’s grants and allocations process at the time, Harriet Schiftan devoted a greater portion of her time to P2G programming and activities. Her commitment and professional devotion strengthened every aspect of our P2G activism locally and in the region. Here’s just a few examples:
· The local P2G Committee expanded and diversified its membership bringing new volunteers to the Federation.
· The Federation hosted the annual Joint Steering Committee meetings of the Partnership in 2013 and 2018, thereby exposing all of the partner cities in the U.S. and the delegation from Israel with the opportunity to experience the richness of Jewish Nashville.
· The Get Connected teen trip to Israel was integrated into the annual Partnership budget and the number of days spent in the Hadera-Eiron region increased along with the opportunity for home hospitality for our Nashville teens.
· Our federation provided critical leadership for art and music initiatives including three art exhibitions and a music initiative:
· Windows of Identity Artist Exhibition in 2012
· The Sound of Many Waters in 2013
· Psalms: Art Beyond the Boundaries in 2016
· Music Together in 2015 which resulted in the release of a 15 song CD entitled Kosher Cuts produced entirely by Partnership musicians and music production specialists.
The three art exhibitions toured and were on display in Israel, and in most of the U.S. partnership communities. The Sound of Many Waters was exhibited at The Bible Lands Museum in Jerusalem which included a gala opening as part of the Jewish Federations of North America General Assembly in November 2013.
During the time of my seven-year tenure in Nashville, in addition to the art and music initiatives, Federation volunteers, leadership, and the professional team played significant roles in:
· A medical exchange delegation in 2017 in collaboration with Hillel-Yaffe Hospital in Hadera
· The Leadership Together initiative for emerging young leaders from the U.S. Partnership communities with budding young leaders from Hadera-Eiron. Nashville served as a host city for the first Leadership Together Retreat
· Hadera served as host to then Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam during his trade mission to Israel in 2015
· All this was in addition to the ongoing summer teen exchanges, school twinning projects and visits to local synagogues that served to strengthen the bonds of friendship and colleagueship, all of which endure and thrive through today.