Jews around the world and Israelis are forging lasting relationships one city at a time. And this spring, the Memphis Jewish community had the pleasure of hosting delegates from its new partner city of Shoham.

The Memphis/Shoham partnership is the newest of 47 linking 550 Jewish communities around the world to communities in Israel through Partnership2Gether Peoplehood Platform (P2G), a program of JAFI (Jewish Agency for Israel). P2G was launched over 18 years ago and includes city-to-city and region-to-region partnerships.

Memphis-Shoham partnership

These partnerships facilitate meaningful connections between Israelis and Jews in other countries through unique programs like school “twinning,” teen and young adult leadership projects, programming for young families and real people-to-people relationships.

Jewish Community Partners (JCP) convened a steering committee to guide the process chaired by Scott Notowich. Beni Dragutsky, Melanie Fine, Cindy Finestone, Jonathan Frisch, Lisa Kaufman, Stuart Lazarov, Marla Mounce, Kate Schaffzin, Ken Steinberg, Lynn Susser and Scott Vogel round out the volunteer committee.

“Along with the other committee members, I’m excited about this new partnership with Shoham,” said Scott, who also serves as JCP’s Vice Chair, Israel & Overseas. “It’s going to complement and expand upon our community’s already-strong ties with Israel. My counterpart in Shoham, Orly Lahat, and I are in touch on a regular basis to get this partnership off the ground. The committee was eager for the chance to reciprocate the warm and generous hospitality extended to the two Memphis delegations that have already visited Shoham.”

Both steering committees have been getting to know each other and laying the groundwork for the partnership. JCP members first step was to map existing Israel programming in the Memphis community to assess which programs could be easily “plugged in” to the Shoham partnership and to identify other needs.

“I was amazed and incredibly impressed by the depth of Israel engagement in our community,” said JCP’s Director of Community Impact and staff coordinator for the Memphis-Shoham partnership Bluma Zuckerbrot-Finkelstein. “Our relationship with the people of Shoham will enhance the ties we already have with the people of Israel.”

People in Memphis and Shoham are already leveraging real people-to-people relationships. Participants in the JCP/MJCC Kehilla trip to Israel in November 2016 spent an afternoon in Shoham getting to know the city and the people. Laura Linder, president and CEO of JCP, visited Shoham in February 2017 during a mission to Israel with Jewish Federations of North America (JNFA) for executive directors of intermediate Federations. And the MJCC has formed a relationship with the Shoham community center.

“I had a fabulous experience in Shoham meeting adults and youth who are so excited about the Memphis-Shoham relationship. There is great energy there,” said Laura.

As part of the school twinning, the Bornblum 8th grade class visited Shoham during its annual trip to Israel. Students toured the Yahalom school and engaged in a workshop about Jewish and Israeli identity and enjoyed a traditional Israeli meal together in the Shoham community garden.

Parallel to JCP’s partnership initiative, Memphis Jewish Federation’s Lemsky Endowment Fund is providing a grant for Temple Israel’s mentorship of a budding Reform congregation in Shoham, whose rabbi, Rinat Sefania, visited Memphis early this year.

This year, Roni Gamzon, one of the two Scouts staying in Memphis for the summer, is from Shoham. The Friendship Caravan’s recent performances also included two young people from Shoham, Yonatan Kantarowicz and Yuval Jankelowitz.

Memphis-Shoham partnership

During the delegates’ visit, our Shoham visitors enjoyed home hospitality from members of Memphis’ steering committee and received an insider’s tour of the city. They toured the National Civil Rights Museum, Belz Museum of Asian and Judaic Art and spent time at Memphis’ Jewish agencies and synagogues. During the visit, locals and their guests met to discuss the partnership and to plan joint projects for next year.

Two upcoming JCP women’s missions to Israel will feature time in Shoham as part of the itinerary – a November 2017 trip in partnership with the Jewish Women’s Renaissance Project and a February 2018 JFNA Heart to Heart Women’s Philanthropy Mission.