In Israel, it is not sufficient for JDC to be innovative and effective on behalf of Israel's most vulnerable citizens. It is not enough to do "nice things" for needy people. In Israel, it is imperative to be relevant. Being relevant means that the people who ultimately create social policy and the "systems" which carry out that policy believe that your organization has knowledge, ideas and models for the most pressing social issues of the day.
A number of JDC-Israel senior staff and I were asked to present to PM Netanyahu's team which is forming the agenda for his first 100 days in office, which will begin immediately upon establishment of the governing coalition. The Prime Minister is well aware that in these trying economic times, social services cannot be ignored and he has designated programs for the elderly and unemployed as top priorities on his social agenda. In addition he intends to work closely with major Israeli NGOs.
The Prime Minister has a deep appreciation for efficient social programs which provide critically needed services in the community, while reducing the need for more expensive institutional services or welfare payments. During his tenure as Finance Minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, visited JDC-Israel's Supportive Community for the Elderly in the Gilo neighborhood of Jerusalem, praised the program for doing just that, and told JDC that he seeks to support similar models in all areas of social services. He also put his money where his mouth was, helping us expand the service to over 200 communities reaching more than 37,000 elderly.
JDC-Israel has been asked to provide the PM's team with position papers on innovative and cost-efficient services for elderly and unemployed.
Protecting Israel's Children
This month the second Beit Lynn Protection Center opened in Tel-Aviv, joining the ground-breaking Center which already exists in Jerusalem. The Centers are based on a model developed in the U.S. which assesses and investigates victims of child abuse, bringing together health, social, police and justice workers under one roof to interview the children with the utmost sensitivity and expose them to the minimum amount of discomfort. The Center in Tel Aviv is the first to be housed in a hospital, taking advantage of the proximity of specially trained health professionals. Both Centers have been enabled by the vision, professional partnership and generous financial support of our own Lynn Schusterman. Each year, the Centers will serve a total of 1,200 children aged 3-18 who have been physically, sexually or psychological abused by family members, grown-ups or other children.
Myra Kraft, Chair of the Israel Committee, spent a week in Israel with us. She and I met again with Zvika Livnat, a top Israeli businessman who is a friend of Myra's, to concretize the steps we will be taking to promote enhanced philanthropy in Israel. We also met with Nir Barkat, who just began a five-year tenure as Mayor of Jerusalem, Israel's largest, poorest, and most diverse city. Finally, we were able to celebrate Purim together, witnessing the varied and unique ways in which Jerusalemites commemorate the victory of the Jews over those who wished to destroy us.
Regards from Jerusalem,