This past May as part of Partnership2Gether with the Sovev Kinneret, six young adults from our partnership region in Israel participated in the First Annual Reciprocal Birthright Program here in the Midwest. Partnership2Gether (P2G) is a program through the Jewish Agency for Israel and is designed to cultivate people-to-people relationships, projects and professional programs between the Sovev Kinneret and the Madison, Milwaukee, and St. Paul Jewish communities. Young Adult American Jews have the opportunity to attend Taglit/Birthright, where they travel to Israel for 10 days to learn about the Jewish homeland, it’s history, and culture. The purpose of the Reciprocal Birthright Program was to give the same opportunity to Israelis so they can experience what it is like to be Jewish in the Midwest. In addition to the six Israeli’s, there were three young adult Madisonian Jews and one young adult Milwaukeean Jew who joined the trip in it’s entirety. There were also many locals who joined up for different stops along the way. The Israeli’s were here from May 16, 2017 – May 23, 2017 and had the opportunity to experience Chicago, Madison and Milwaukee.
The trip started with two nights and three days in Chicago. We had the opportunity to visit KAM Isaiah Israel, which is a synagogue in Hyde Park as well as to visit the JCC Chicago Hyde park. We also had the unique opportunity to go to the Israeli Consulate and visit with Itay Milner, the Deputy Consulate General in Chicago. Part of the Reciprocal Birthright Program was to have the Israelis see what is it like to be Jewish in America, along with building lifelong relationships. The other purpose of the trip was for them to experience everything that America has to offer. With that in mind, we were able to take them to a Chicago Cubs game, visit the Shed Aquarium, Millennium Park and of course the Bean.
From Chicago, we caravanned up to Madison, and started where everyone should go when they get here, the Memorial Union. While in Madison the delegation was able to go to Gan Hayeled and visit with the kids and get ready for Shabbat. The delegation received a tour of Hillel and had the unique opportunity to attend Shabbat services at Temple Beth El, as well as having Shabbat dinner there. They were also able to schmooze with the community at the Oneg after services. The delegation also had the opportunity to get a behind the scenes tour of both Camp Randall, with former Badger Matt Bernstein, and the Wisconsin State Capitol, with Michael Blumenfeld.
Our final stop was Milwaukee. The delegation did everything from the Sprecher Brewery Tour to visit the Milwaukee JCC and Milwaukee Jewish Day School. The delegation had the chance to visit many museums, but their favorite was when we got to tour the Milwaukee Jewish Museum and visit with Hannah Rosenthal. They also toured the Urban Ecology Center, where they learned about environmental initiatives and got to immerse themselves in the outdoors.
There is a growing disconnect between the Diaspora and Israel, especially for the young adult demographic. P2G and specifically programs like these help bridge the gap and develop a broader understanding of the issues that each population faces. Throughout this program we created long term connections between two sides at a critical age, when each side is about to shape their lives and perspectives on the world.
For anyone interested in future Parternship2Gether programs or if you would like to join the Partnership2Gether committee, the 2017-2018 Kickoff meeting is Monday August 14, 2017 from 5:00 pm – 6:30 pm at the Jewish Federation of Madison building.