Danielle V. Minson — Raising the Bar
Cincinnati 2020 in 2017: Scott Joseph
Each installment in this series features a different perspective on Cincinnati 2020, the Jewish community’s visionary plan for building an exceptional future.
This week, the Jewish Federation of Cincinnati’s President, Tedd Friedman, interviews Scott Joseph, co-chair of the Federation’s Partership2Gether (P2G) committee. P2G is a program of the Jewish Federation of Cincinnati in collaboration with the Jewish Agency for Israel (JAFI). The P2G committee is composed of two halves, one from Cincinnati and one from Netanya, Israel, which work together to build bridges between the two communities.
How did you first get involved in Cincinnati 2020?
When the leaders of our community convened the first Leaders Forum in 2011, they brought together leaders of forty organizations from throughout the Cincinnati Jewish community. I was intrigued by this concept and thoroughly impressed that the planners were able to achieve agreement on the shared community vision. Getting this many Jewish leaders to agree on anything is unprecedented. Our P2G committee shares the goal of connecting, by engaging as many community members as possible in establishing people-to-people relationships with our partners in Netanya.
What does Cincinnati 2020 mean to you?
Cincinnati 2020 means that we are prioritizing our connections in and among our Jewish family, both in America and in Israel. Our P2G programs are specifically designed to engage community members in people-to-people relationships between Cincinnati and Netanya. We try to insure that we reach out to as many people as possible here in Cincinnati. Our Chaverim M’Israel (Friends from Israel) program, now in its twelfth year, brings two high school graduates from Netanya to live with host families in Cincinnati for a year. These young adults teach about Israel and Netanya in our religious schools, secular schools, synagogues, and agencies and organizations. The connection to Israel and its people through our programs strengthens our Jewish identity.
Why should Cincinnati 2020 be important to the community?
Cincinnati 2020 continues to promote the caring, connecting, and community values basic to Judaism. The Jewish Foundation of Cincinnati has supported the Israel travel grants for high school and college students for many years. They recognized very early how vital it is to make the connection to Israel. Last summer’s Community Mission was another example of how the Foundation supports this connection. Cincinnati 2020 provides the structure and road map for us to follow to make Cincinnati a destination city.
What does the future of P2G look like through the lens of Cincinnati 2020?
Our P2G committee meets regularly here in Cincinnati and via Skype with our Netanya partners. We recently completed our budget process for next year and have approved 14 programs to engage more and more members of the community. A “school-twinning” project will have 5th through 8th grade students at Rockwern Academy and a school in Netanya studying the same material and sharing their thoughts. A “Re-Art” project will result in an art show showcasing 70 works of art from artists in Cincinnati and Netanya. A third project will connect physical, occupationa, and speech therapists from both cities to learn best practices from each other. The G’vanim project will educate leaders to promote pluralism in Israel. All of these projects involve community engagement, making connections to Israel, and building lasting relationships. The future is bright!
Has P2G been successful so far? Do you think the successes of Cincinnati 2020 and P2G are related?
I would say unequivocally that P2G has been successful. We have developed and implemented so many programs reaching so many in our community. Those of us on the committee have benefitted the most by making and keeping the relationships with our Netanya partners. But beyond our committee, every family who has hosted the chaverim has developed enduring relationships. Our Camp Friedlander program connects tzofim (Israeli scouts) with Boy Scouts from all over the greater Cincinnati area. These young Netanya scouts frequently return to Cincinnati either as leaders of another delegation or as chaverim. Participants of our social workers exchange involving Jewish Family Service continue to exchange emails and Facebook communications. Our Holocaust educators exchange participants continue to communicate on a regular basis. Israeli and American campers from Camp Livingston keep in touch with each other. Our “Reach for the Stars” program connects younger students in Netanya with their counterparts in Cincinnati by way of sharing the remarkable story of Elan Ramon and the Torah that went into space on the Columbia shuttle. We have sponsored counselors to both Camp Livingston and the Mayerson JCC summer camp. Participants from a bike/hike exchange last fall resulted in several new members to our P2G committee. The results of these connections are beneficial to both Netanyans and Cincinnatians. We as a Cincinnati Jewish community expose Israelis to diverse ways of practicing Judaism through our P2G exchanges, so when Israelis leave Cincinnati, they often are inspired to find new ways to practice Judaism. They realize how much American Jews care about Israel and what it takes to create a Jewish community when living in the diaspora. These bridges between us strengthen our understandings of one another although we are oceans apart. We can recognize what we have in common and we can better understand our differences.
Most importantly we walk away knowing we are there for one another. It’s all the “connecting” priority of Cincinnati 2020 at work.
Can you think of a particular example that highlights Cincinnati 2020’s priorities at work through P2G?
Our son participated in the Israel Poland Experience in 2005. After he returned, I joined the P2G committee. We hosted Amit Bachar, one of the chaverim in 2006 and developed a very close friendship that persists to this day. In 2007, I chaperoned the Israel Poland Experience and was able to reconnect with Amit in Israel. His father, Ronnie Bachar, is the co-chair of the Netanya committee. Amit’s younger brother, Ido, was a chaver in Cincinnati in 2015 and we hosted him. Ronnie and his wife Mina and another brother Omer have stayed with us as we have stayed with them in Netanya. Over the course of 12 years, our two families have essentially merged. What more can you say about people-to-people relationships, connection to Israel, and strengthening our Jewish identity? My involvement in many other Jewish organizations in Cincinnati has stemmed from my love of Israel.
What do you hope the community accomplishes through Cincinnati 2020 in the next 4 years?
We need to stay focused and continue the efforts that have already been implemented. The Cincinnati 2020 “Northstar” success metrics are clearly defined, and now we need to follow through. The P2G committee is a vibrant, energetic group of individuals working to develop and implement a wide range of programs that will advance the “connecting” priority of Cincinnati 2020, by continuing to build even more people-to-people relationships with our partners in Netanya.