The latest update from Arnon Mantver, Director of JDC-Israel
As the new Israeli government settles in, we continue to strengthen our partnerships with the relevant Ministers, Directors-General, and top senior staff of the Ministries of Welfare, Education, Labor and Industry, Health, Immigration and of course -- the Finance Ministry. Nor are we overlooking the Mayors, who are critical to implementation on the local level of national programs formulated with the Ministries. Finally, we continue to cultivate the business leadership in Israel – individual and corporate – who can provide professional and financial support to JDC programs. I'm pleased to share with you some recent developments related to our ongoing collaboration with Israel's top leadership:
A New Partnership with the Ministry of Education
Last week we had an excellent meeting with the new Director-General of the Education Ministry, Shimson Shoshani, who is returning to this position and is widely considered to have been one of the most effective leaders of the Ministry. The Ministry is seeking JDC's assistance in expanding programs for Ethiopian students and will be joining JDC in a major new initiative to attract and place top-notch teachers to Israel's periphery to raise the level of academic achievement in the countries outlying and poorest towns. The impetus for this program came from JDC Board members -- specifically the Strategic Visioning Committee -- which recommended that JDC-Israel "have an impact on the quality of education for the most vulnerable". Even during these difficult times of budget cuts – or perhaps especially during these times – JDC-Israel must be open to entering into new partnerships in order to maintain its' role as an innovator and developer of new social services. Happily, the 25% funding which JDC is required to put into the partnership in order to leverage 75% from the Government, is being provided by a private Israeli foundation.
Reaching the Clients in the Field: Netivot and Ofakim as an Example
This week the management team of JDC-Israel visited a number of JDC-Israel programs in Netivot and Ofakim, two of the Negev's poorest cities. In both cities, the Mayors detailed the impact which JDC programs are having on the vulnerable citizens in their cities – poor and frail elderly; immigrants who are struggling to integrate into Israeli society; Haredim, immigrants and veteran Israelis who have never succeeded in entering the workforce; families of young children and youth that are at risk of falling apart. In Ofakim we also met with leaders of the Haredi "Beit Yaakov" school system for girls, who are introducing vocational training into their seminaries (high school and post-high school frameworks) so that women graduates can be ready to enter the workforce with marketable skills and provide financial support for one of the poorest sectors within Israel society. These forays into the field are critical for JDC-Israel staff to assess how the decisions taken by us and our partners on the national level are applied on the local level, touching the lives of the people we aim to help.
Collaborating with Corporate Israel and a U.S. NGO to help Youth at Risk
The NFTE program was established in Israel by Ashalim, NFTE U.S.A., the First International Bank of Israel and MATAN- your way to give, to help youth who have dropped out of school to put their street smarts to work in the world of business. This month marks the third annual NFTE competition during which three groups of youth at risk who have been chosen as finalists, present their business idea and plan to a panel of top Israeli businesspeople. This year's business ideas include an ergonomically balanced tray for servers; a "smart" shopping cart that locates and prices food items in the supermarket; and a chip, which can be installed in a car's steering system to monitor reckless driving. Since inception of Ashalim programs to promote entrepreneurship 2,500 at-risk youth in over 40 locations have acquired skills which enable them to move with confidence in the business world.
Youths Give back to Society
When the AMEN program was first introduced, the rate of youth volunteerism in Israel was a lowly 9% but newly released statistics show that in a number of AMEN cities the rate has risen dramatically. Eight AMEN cities report that over 40% of their teens now volunteer on a regular basis. The intensity of these volunteer resources was brought home to me when I read about President Obama's Serve America Act, as it is clear that the future of social cohesion in communities around the world rests in no small part on people's willingness to voluntarily help others on an ongoing basis. Unfortunately we had to terminate support to five AMEN cities as part of 2009 cutbacks which translates into hundreds of youngsters who won't be enjoying a satisfying and ongoing volunteer experience but we hope to re-visit these cities if and when the financial situation allows.
Regards from Jerusalem,