Federation employee participates in international Partnership2Gether learning program


By Jewish Federation of Jacksonville


                During the past eight months, Federation Communication Director, Matt Franzblau has been taking part in a unique Partnership2Gether (P2G) program called 'Leadership2Gether', where Jewish young professionals from around the southeast are matched up with peers in Jacksonville's sister region in Hadera-Eirnon in Israel to write and respond to assignments and then share their answers with each other from across the globe.
                The assignments, which were developed by Hamidrasha at Oranim College in Israel, are provided on roughly a monthly basis with opportunities for further dialogue via e-mail and Skype. The goal of the curriculum is to support this inaugural cohort in exploring their Jewish identity, while creating meaningful Israeli/Diaspora conversations, and gaining new perspectives on their role in the Jewish world. This fall, program participants will meet in person for the first time during a weekend retreat in Tennessee.              
                "The program has been pretty interesting thus far," Franzblau explained. "It really gives you a unique perspective and opportunity to see into certain aspects of an Israeli's life that you wouldn't otherwise have during an abbreviated trip overseas."
                Certain subjects tackled thus far between Franzblau, a 33-year old communications professional from New Jersey and his counterpart, Shelly Levi, who is in a similar stage of life and lives and works as an attorney in Hadera, includes responses to prominent and poignant quotes, how they view themselves in the world, conversations about previous travel to foreign lands, and special photo essays.          
                "This program has enabled me to meet another Jewish person from halfway around the world and to learn about his mentality which has been shaped by his experience in the States," Levi said. "In addition, this has been an amazing opportunity for me to expose my partner to what our life is like here in Israel and show him that it easily could become his home."
                "I think once we meet in the fall, it will be just so easy to communicate and connect because we have already laid the foundation for a solid friendship during our study this past year," Franzblau echoed of his Israeli peer's sentiments. "When an American Jew meets an Israeli, there is many times already a strong bond, but that bond will be made stronger because of our prior communication with one another and exploration of these deep and meaningful issues."
                "I feel grateful to have been given the opportunity and the privilege to meet a new amazing friend," Levi added. "I have no doubt that this friendship will become stronger and that we'll see Matt a lot more here in Israel as he feels more and more at home here."     
                The nearly yearlong course consists of 20 participants, 10 from the U.S. and 10 from Israel.
                "The idea of this program is the more you know about people somewhere else in the world, the more likely you are to feel connected and engaged in that place through the people," said Rebecca Engel, Director of Strategic Initiatives at Charleston Jewish Federation.
                Charleston is one of 10 cities in the southeast region of the U.S. that is partnered up with Hadera-Eiron in Israel, and administrators there helped spearhead this unique program for a very specific reason.
                "Like many Jewish organizations, we were looking for a creative way to engage young professionals ,with limited time but a desire for meaningful connections," Engel explained.
                That void has quickly been filled thanks to Hamidrasha’s  curriculum, enabling young professionals in the U.S. and Israel to connect and make the distance between their desks and phones seem much smaller than halfway around the world.
                "As I get to talk to someone about what is going on day in and day out, I find they have the same kinds of general challenges there as we do here," said Charleston participant Joseph Alvo. "We are very much the same, with one exception, and that is that we have found most Israelis take it for granted that they are mostly surrounded by a majority of other Jewish people in their daily life, while of course, that is not the case here in the United States," he added.  
                "My faith conjures a sense of pride, peace, and belonging to something greater than myself, and connecting with an Israeli Jewish young professional gives me a deeper appreciation for this religion that is also so much a culture," explained Charleston counterpart Katie Strumpf of her experience in the program thus far. "Despite living on different continents, we are linked through our Judaism, which transcends miles and drastically different societies."
                Those two similar but very different worlds will converge Nov. 3-6 in Chattanooga, where both Israelis and Americans are scheduled to take part in a very special bonding experience through a number of various meaningful activities and discussions. Plans are also being developed for a potential trip for the Americans to Israel during summer 2017, so for more information on Partenrship2Gether's Southeast consortium or to sign up for the next Leadership2Gether program, contact Jill Abel at 904-448-500, ext 200 or via jilla@jewishjacksonville.org.