Jewish Federation of Greater Phoenix has been allocating money to the Jewish Agency for Israel as a whole for years, but a need to reconnect with the Israeli people has propelled Federation to begin giving money to a specific Jewish Agency program, this one for youths.

For a number of years, Federation took part in the Jewish Agency’s Partnership 2000 (now called Partnership2gether), which allowed for an all-encompassing relationship with a region in Israel that included some of the Gaza border. 

At one point, Federation had to opt out of Partnership2gether, but the connection with the people was not forgotten.

“Federation felt like a space in our heart wasn’t being filled because we no longer had a direct connection to something we could actually reach out and touch in Israel,” said Robin Loeb, chief operating officer for Federation. “We had continued to fund the Jewish Agency and were involved with other projects and programs in Israel in a big-picture way, but our leadership really made it a priority to connect again in some direct way with people.”

Starting last year, Federation began allocating $50,000 of its larger overall Jewish Agency allotment of $113,500 to the Jewish Agency’s Youth Futures program.

Youth Futures was established in 2006 as a way to help children, young adults, families and communities throughout Israel implement social change. 

It is active in 36 locations and 200 schools, sending 300 mentors to serve more than 12,000 students annually from elementary school through junior high. Federation will continue funding the program.

“The location we specifically connected ourselves to was Lod,” Loeb said. “We wanted a location that members of the Phoenix Jewish community could visit even if their trip to Israel only pretty much encompassed the area between Jerusalem to Tel Aviv.”

Jewish Federation of Greater Phoenix leaders and donors recently received an update on the Jewish Agency’s programs when Jewish Agency Senior Vice President for Israel and Global Philanthropy Mort Naiman visited the Valley. 

Based in Minneapolis, Naiman has been with the Jewish Agency for two years.

“We are a very, very large organization with a budget that’s close to $400 million, of which about $100 million comes from Federations in North America alone,” Naiman said. “I thank God the government of Israel picked up a huge portion and gave us about $177 million to $180 million at a time when our partners around the world have decreased their allocations.”

Aside from the specific Youth Futures allotment, the Jewish Federation of Greater Phoenix does not dictate how the Jewish Agency should use its donations. 

“One of the things we’re trying to accomplish at Federation is that delicate balance between wanting to have our fingerprints on specific things, but at the same time we still very much believe in the concept of the kupah, the collective pot,” said Federation CEO Marty Haberer. “There is a trust that those dollars are going to be put to use where they are most needed. Sometimes the wisdom of those who are running these organizations has to be trusted because there are things that are needed that aren’t necessarily the shiniest object.”

Naiman and Haberer have been friends for years — a relationship that’s proven to be mutually beneficial for the Jewish Agency and Jewish Federation of

Greater Phoenix.

“He has helped me secure Federation annual campaign gifts that have nothing to do with the Jewish Agency,” Haberer said. “He does it because he cares about the greater good of the Jewish community. We’re brothers in arms and there’s nothing I wouldn’t do for him.” JN

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