Shabbat Candlelighting 5:38 p.m.                                             Friday, October 29, 2010/21 Cheshvan 5771

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Lech Lecha
"Go out to the land, which I will show you…" This week’s parasha starts with God’s commandment to Abraham to begin his journey to the Land of Israel. This week I am writing from Israel, having just completed several days of meetings related to our partnership with the Upper Galilee Panhandle, and other projects in which our Federation is directly involved. A few highlights from the week:

Long-Range Impact of Israel Emergency Campaign Evident

It is now four years since the Second Lebanon War, and some of the longer range projects in which we invested are now fully up and running. Our community raised $3.75 million in that emergency campaign, and pooled our funds with the Coast-to-Coast communities in Canada (all but Toronto and Montreal), allocating a total of $11 million. In addition, Toronto and Montreal raised another $33 million. Most of our Coast-to-Coast funds and a significant percentage of Toronto and Montreal’s funds were invested in our partnership region, which bore the brunt of the missile attacks that summer.

While some funds were spent on immediate services during the war, and short-term investments to build social resiliency after the war, the Canadian Federations were intent on applying our funds to projects that would have long-term impact and that would spur growth and development in the Galilee. Here’s an overview of those I had the chance to visit this week:

Science Education a Priority at Tel Hai Academic College
A new Science Education Centre was dedicated last Sunday at Tel Hai Academic College. This is a new regional centre aimed at strengthening science education across the eastern Galilee. Students from high schools will visit the centre for lab-based work during which they are exposed to Ph.D.-level researchers and their students, and first-rate labs. This exposure will hopefully awaken new interest in academic focus on science – something that all western societies are struggling with.

Beit Canada Houses Early Childhood Centre
I also got a chance to revisit Beit Canada – a multi-purpose building which is the cornerstone of Tel Hai’s new campus; the new building for the Renanim School – a regional school for students with developmental disabilities; and the new early childhood centre in Kiryat Shemona – also a regional institution providing enrichment programs to other early childhood programs across the region, and early detection and treatment for children with special needs.

Youth Centre Flourishing Again
Together with our other Federation leadership in Israel this week we visited Beit Vancouver, the youth centre which opened in Kiryat Shemona just after the 2006 war. In its early years Beit Vancouver flourished as a new home for youth in the town . With the waning of emergency campaign funds and in the face of the recession, the program faltered badly last year. Working in partnership this year with the city and the Rashi Foundation, and with new management supervised by Rashi, the centre reopened in March and has quickly repositioned itself as a vibrant and welcoming youth centre. In fact, over the past seven months the new team has fulfilled the original vision we had when we worked to create the centre.

New Medical School to Drive Economic Development
One major issue clearly dominated my week – the development of a new medical school and research institute on a campus to be built in the hills outside of Safed. This plan was formulated in the wake of the Second Lebanon War as one of the major investments that could spur growth and development in the Galilee. The new medical school will begin operations next year, under the direction of Bar Ilan University. This will be accompanied by the upgrading of the seven hospitals across the Galilee to transform them into teaching hospitals, and by the establishment of a new research institute focused on biotechnology. The combination of these developments will create hundreds of new high-level jobs, and ultimately leverage thousands more. The ripple effects of such a development across the entire Galilee will be enormous.

The Tzafona plan which catalyzed this development was supported by our Canadian Coast-to-Coast communities through our emergency campaign allocations, and in particular, we funded their study of health and education issues in the eastern Galilee. The medical school/research institute campus and the Science Education Centre that just opened were both recommendations from the Tzafona plan. Related to that investment in regional planning we supported the development of the formation of an NGO sponsored by 15 mayors from the eastern Galilee, and it is this NGO that is actually being transformed into the medical school and research institute. Our modest investment in regional planning and empowerment of local entities is emerging into one of the biggest regional development projects in Israel’s history.

On Tuesday and Wednesday a Galilee roundtable conference was convened, bringing together 80 representatives of the philanthropic centre within Israel and from around the world, with representatives of the Israeli government. I was honoured to be asked to chair the conference session on Science and Research. Working together with leadership from the Jewish Agency for Israel, United Israel Appeal Federations Canada, Jewish Federations of North America, and United Jewish Israel Appeal of Great Britain, we were able to work towards consensus that the philanthropic sector should marshal and coordinate its resources to support the development of the new campus in Safed as a shared critical priority. The partners will be strategizing in the days ahead on how to build on that consensus.

Being here in Israel, it’s very clear that our community is continuing to play a leading role in making the strategically important Upper Galilee a more vibrant region. We can all be very proud of the impact our work is having.

Shabbat Shalom!

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