JUF's Partnership with the region of Kiryat Gat, Lachish and Shafir leverages JUF support, funding programs benefiting thousands of residents. Allocations are made by a joint committee- half from Chicago and half from the Partnership region - some of whom have been involved with Partnership 2Gether ("P2G") for 25 years, since its 1995 inception.
More than just making allocations to wonderful social service organizations, P2G is a group of committed and conscientious friends. When the Chicagoans visit the region twice a year, they and their Israeli counterparts travel together for several days, visiting inspiring projects. The bonds get stronger every year.
One special friendship that transcends decades and oceans is between Chicago's Roberta Edelheit and Masuot Yitzhak's Yehuda Oren.
Yehuda's first "click" with Roberta was thanks to their shared passion for photography. You will never catch Roberta without her camera, and her visits to Israel invariably give birth to countless photos of the country's real moments, people and colors. Yehuda shares that passion and is energized by Roberta's laughter-which, he says, carries across the room-and "her joy of living".
"Her laughter and her photography are the foundation for our friendship," he said.
For Roberta, special bonds form spontaneously- and so it was with Yehuda, a great-grandfather who still runs marathons and sports an impressive mustache. Roberta remembers the moment he introduced himself, over two decades ago; she immediately noticed his generosity and warmth, his gracious nature in opening his home to her: He is "a truly authentic individual from whom she has received the gift of unexpected moments of joy and comfort."
Roberta got to know Yehuda's wife Henya and their family. And Yehuda quickly bonded with Roberta's husband Rick (although his mustache is smaller and darker).
Yehuda and Roberta have spent hours on a bench in his backyard, learning about each other's countries, cultures, values, and families. Roberta says that on this bench they shared mutual joys in life's milestones, as well as moments of sadness and despair.
Roberta recalls how she once extended her time in Israel and stayed with Yehuda and Henya, exploring the country "Yehuda Style." She remembers it well: "Whether frantically screaming as I zip-lined miles high above a deep canyon, or touring unique historical sites, I saw Yehuda's efforts to provide that 'singular' worthy experience. More serene adventures involved a quiet meal on a secluded hilltop farm with friends and even grimacing while gulping fresh milk on a goat farm."
Similarly, Yehuda likes to extend his Chicago visits to stay with Roberta and Rick and explore their city. For him, the most important part of the Partnership is connecting with members of our Chicago community. "You discover," he says with a twinkle, "that we are all human. We all talk about the same things: our health, our work, our family and our holidays, even sharing the same Yiddish jokes."
"The Oren family will always have a place within my heart. They are my family," said Roberta. "To know Yehuda is to love him. I am inspired by his enthusiasm for life, intelligence and friendship. Lately, forced by the epidemic to share milestones virtually, they remain the 'glue'! Can you get any luckier than that?"
For Yehuda, in spite of their different languages and backgrounds, the essence of his bond with Roberta lies in their ability to describe the world around them. For Roberta, joining philanthropically with Yehuda is a gift that keeps on giving.
This is what our Partnership is about. Real friends from Chicago and from the "region" sharing life's moments, while working together to make our world and our region better.