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Over the past two decades Haifa and Boston have enjoyed a unique relationship, manifested particularly in the collaboration between Boston’s Jewish community and the people of Haifa.Over the past two decades Haifa and Boston have enjoyed a unique relationship, manifested particularly in the collaboration between Boston’s Jewish community and the people of Haifa.

Founded back in 1895, CJP (Combined Jewish Philanthropies) is one of the most respected philanthropic organizations in the U.S. In 1989, CJP established the Haifa-Boston Connection in conjunction with Haifa Municipality. Barry Shrage, the legendary President of the CJP, together with lay leaders and staff from Haifa and Boston designed the partnership together. The founders of the Haifa-Boston Connection were people from Haifa and Boston. The Haifa-Boston Connection had and still has a clear vision to build a variety of bridges between Boston’s strong Jewish community and the city.

The Connection was the first to create a direct model of community-to-community collaboration and partnership. The model revolutionized the way communities in the Diaspora worked with Israel, and allowed a more direct approach that enabled greater and more localized impact. The Connection, as it is colloquially referred to, has been impacting and changing the lives of thousands of people for over two decades.

Vered Israely, the Connection’s director in the Haifa office for the past ten years, in conjunction with partners in Boston, has brought a steady and strategic approach to the organization. “One of the first things we did was to take a five-year planning approach. This allowed us to affect meaningful change and long-term impact on the city and its citizens.”

The Connection boasts an extensive system of logistics, and all its activities are carried out in full coordination and cooperation with hundreds of volunteers from the Boston Jewish Community and the citizens of Haifa. “The personal ties that move people to engage in joint activity form the basic motivation for the activities of the Haifa-Boston Connection and its members, who are partners in the vision of One Community, One Heart,” says Israely with a modicum of pride.

The Connection works on different areas, including leadership development for the next generation, Jewish education & Identity and social justice (Tikkun Olam). All initiatives are developed in tandem with the municipality and the volunteers of the partnership.

In order to ensure the community’s continued existence and to encourage young adults to stay in Haifa, the Haifa-Boston Connection is investing considerable resources in empowering the next generation. Activities in this area focus on strengthening and fostering the volunteering spirit among the young adults, reinforcing ties between the young adult communities in Haifa and Boston, and developing initiatives around employment and entrepreneurship.

The Connection is also a pioneer in raising the importance of exploring our Jewish identity and peoplehood by creating platforms for dialogue. Thousands for students and educators have participated in our programs and exchanges, creating an authentic revolution in Haifa as a city where Jewish renewal is one of the most unique characteristics. This agenda presents yet another example of the amazing partnership between Haifa-Boston and the Municipality’s department of Education.

The Jewish values of CJP and the Connection are also the motivation to provide support to struggling populations. This is why the Haifa-Boston Connection launched holistic, multi-service programs providing a response in several key areas: Ethiopian Jewry, integrating Health, Education, Employment and Multi-cultural sensitivity, and Horim BaMercaz/Parents at the Center, a unique prevention model providing tools and knowledge to parents of young children from birth to six years of age.

Mayor Yahav recognizes the importance of the Haifa-Boston Connection, both in terms of its impact as well as a framework for building such relationships with other communities in the Diaspora. “The connection has been a phenomenal tool in impacting the city through a wealth of proactive initiatives. I would like to see the city reach out to additional communities, especially ones with a strong Diaspora who would like a chance to impact Haifa in a positive way’” Says Yahav.

The Connection started its love affair with Haifa following the massive Russian immigration of 1989. Part of its DNA undoubtedly has to do with absorbing the great waves of immigration that Israel has dealt with. Nowhere is that DNA more evident than in the case of the Ethiopian Jewry and the efforts the Connection has invested in its absorption and integration into society. Following the success of the “Shiluvim” program, again with the partnership of the Haifa Municipality, the Connection set out to address other major challenges in society by creating Netivim, a support and guidance system preparing young Ethiopians to ensure a successful entry and service in the army; and Kurat, a program promoting entrepreneurship among young members of the Ethiopian community.

For more on the Haifa-Boston Connection, feel free to check out their site and join their Facebook.