Friday, March 8, 2013

Sha'ar HaNegev Delegation Strengthens Ties to Israel

Check out this wonderful video the of the Sha'ar HaNegev Delegation

Federation Leadership and the Sha'ar HaNegev Delegation - Photos by Angela Solange
This past weekend, the 14 delegates from San Diego’s sister-city, Sha’ar HaNegev, kicked off their trip to San Diego with incredible experiences and discussions across San Diego County. Hosted in the homes of San Diego community members and leaders, the delegation enjoyed a relaxing weekend complete with Shabbat meals, tours of the city, and a private catamaran cruise of the San Diego harbor.

The intensive, focused learning and dialogue of the trip began on Sunday afternoon with lunch and a conversation on Jewish identity, led by Rabbi Philip Graubart of Congregation Beth El and hosted at the San Diego Jewish Academy. Shimon Keren Zvi, a member of the delegation and Treasurer of Sha’ar HaNegev Regional Council, also helped lead the conversation to provide a unique Israeli prospective, as well.

In between a meeting and then the public conversation, the delegates and local community leaders enjoyed an informal lunch where they were able to share their experiences from the weekend and their thoughts about the trip.

Tomer Golan, a member of the steering committee and from Kibbutz Ruchama in Sha’ar HaNegev, shared that this was his first time in San Diego, and he was enjoying himself very much. “The hospitality has been wonderful,” he said, “on Shabbat we gathered with a few families at Rabbi and Debbie Kornberg’s and then went to synagogue [Beth Am]. It was nice to see their customs, to hear the singing. It is not something I typically do, and it was very special to see so many kids and adults there.”
Sha'ar HaNegev Mayor Alon Schuster Addresses the Delegation at Beth Am
“It was beautiful,” added Gil Ya’ari, the Partnership 2Gether Director on the Israeli side who works for the Jewish Agency. “The service incorporated Israeli songs and music, and we had a chance to learn just a few ways for how you make Jewish life meaningful in San Diego.” Delegation member Oded Plut added that on Saturday, the delegation spent time at the KEN, having lunch with the 300 children and families who participate in the weekend activities that take place there.

The delegation is spending the majority of their time in San Diego discussing Jewish peoplehood, youth exchanges, and business development. Tomer commented that he believes the personal connections are the main piece in this partnership, because “if we succeed in making personal connections, it will influence and strengthen our communities’ other work together as partners.” He continued on to discuss how the Partnership 2Gether program and the relationship with San Diego gives Sha’ar HaNegev opportunities to create new projects and ideas, to get to know new people, and create more feelings of community. “I hope this is just the beginning,” Tomer said.

Udi Tzuri, the chair of the Sha’ar HaNegev Partnership Steering Committee Chairperson, discussed the business development aspects in depth. “We will spend a full day touring and learning about different business models in San Diego, learning about investment and different strategies.” Udi explained. “We will discuss our own unique economic challenges and opportunities to develop platforms to connect our communities economically.”

Rabbi Philip Graubart of Congregation Beth El and panel discuss Jewish Identity
Larry Acheatel, San Diego’s Partnership Steering Committee Chairperson commented that he was hopeful of “the opportunities that will be developed as a result of this business development gathering”. A group of entrepreneurs from Sha’ar HaNegev with ideas for new projects or in the early planning stages of new businesses will receive training and coaching to develop business plans, marketing knowledge, and other skills that will lead up to the opportunity to present their business ideas to a group of businesspeople and investors in San Diego. The idea is to create a tangible and meaningful business and economic relationship between the sister-communities.

Another feature of the Partnership 2Gether and this delegation’s visit in particular, is collaboration on youth programming. Arieh Hudera, the Director of Education at the community center in Sha’ar HaNegev discussed the conversations he has been having with leadership at the KEN and ideas and opportunities to bring the various San Diego youth movements together, including BBYO and the Israeli Scouts. “Each movement is on their own, and there is not a lot of connection,” Arieh explained. “In Israel, it’s different, and we can learn from each other and make a youth leadership project to join all the youth movements together, to create a door to deeper connection in the future.”

Gil touched on the importance of connecting youth and learning from each community’s traditions and celebrations. “Sha’ar HaNegev is secular, and San Diego also has its challenges, and we can each learn new approaches.” He continued on to discuss how a delegation member, who had opened a synagogue on his kibbutz, was developing new ideas and solutions for Bar/Bat Mitzvah celebration on his kibbutz by experiencing a Bat Mitzvah celebration at Beth Am this weekend. “People are getting to know each other and what it means to be Jewish in San Diego,” Gil added, “it’s very uplifting.”

Debbie Kornberg
Debbie Kornberg, responsible for local efforts of Partnership 2Gether, said the goal of this trip was in three parts: Engage San Diego and Sha’ar HaNegev people in conversations about Jewish Peoplehood and Business Development, foster SD- SHN organizational connections, and provide multiple learning opportunities about Jewish Peoplehood to increase understanding about each other’s culture. “This is more than just Americans helping Israel,” Debbie added, “this is really an opportunity to learn from one another, to strengthen the personal and communal connections between San Diego and Sha’ar HaNegev.”

To get involved with Partnership 2Gether, please contact Debbie Kornberg, Director of Israel & Overseas Center at the Federation, at


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