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PAGE 16A HERITAGE FLORIDA JEWISH NEWS, AUGUST 12, 2011 Is Tel Aviv/Los Angeles partnership still working? By Julie Gruenbaum Fax Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles It's one of those visions that becomesso natural in its real- ization it's easy to forget just how cutting-edge it once was. In 1995. leaders of The Jew- ish Federation of Greater Los Angeles sought to establish a connectionwith acommunity in Israel that would be based on intimat~ and mutually ben- eficial relationships, not on the rich uncle-poor nephew model that until then had characterized how U.S. Jews related to their Israeli cousins. Federation established the Tel Aviv/Los Angeles Part- nership in 1997, a sister city network that involved schools, professionals and artists in collaborative- l~rojects and exchange programs. The Tel Aviv/Los Angeles Partnership became the first and eventually largest of the Jewish Agency for Israel's Partnership 2000 program, and by all accounts evolved into an international model for fostering a more mature relationship between Israel and the Diaspora. Now, Federation is put- ting that relationship under a microscope, to determine what it can learn from the successes of the past 16 years and where there is room for expansion, improvement or elimination of some elements of the program. Nearly all agree the most successful component of the program has been the School Twinning Program, through which 38 middle and high schools, 19 each in Tel Aviv and Los Angeles. collaborate onjoin[curr',cula, partlclpate in video conferencing and exchange delegations annu- ally. Federation estimates that, since its inception, the School Twinning Program has touched some 60,000 people including, in ad- dition to the students, the educators and families who house the delegations and alumni of the program attest to the lasting relationships built through it. A cinema master class. which brings together top film and television professionals from both cities for a sum- mot workshon (a ~r,~ur~ I-hat included Jerry Bruckheimer and J.J. Abrams. among oth- ers). met with Israeli film- makers in Los Angeles. It resulted in collaborative film projects and adaptations of Israeli shows--such as "In Treatment" breaking into the American market, thus indirectly reaching millions. While the school twinning comprises ,85 percent of the roughly $1.4 million budget of the Partnership, and the master class another 10 per- cent, many smaller programs have also built bridges, in other areas master classes" in opera, choreography and the visual arts, a~d initiatives on poverty, school violence and fundraising. Mayor's councils in both cities have at times involved top mu- nicipal leadership and led to a collaborative environmental effort, includingaSister River agreement signed in 2008 by Mayors Antonio Villaraigosa and Ron Huldai, involving the Los Angeles and Yarkon Riv- ers. Collaborations between museums, galleries, universi- ties and municipal agencies created connections with Jews and non-Jews. In the process, according to both external and internal evaluations. Angelenos have connected in a real way to Israel and Israelis, and secu- lar Tel Avivians experienced, often for the first time. what liberal Judaism could look like. and have built a connec- tion to Diaspora Jewry. But even with that success, the Partnership needs some fresh energy to move forward, according to Federation. "The Tel Aviv/Los Angeles Partnership was the flagship project of [The Jewish Agency for Israel's] Partnership 2000, and people sort of took it for granted that it was smooth sailing and very effective," said ship in Tel'Aviv, and we have some new thinking and new ideas and new people, then we will reconstitute the Partner- ship in a way where we can look at creatirig programs that speak t6 our new priorities and integrate into our work." Sanderson said. The Reut Institute believes the international Partnership model is a key element in a successful Jewish future, and is deeply involved in support- ing and shoring up the Jewish Agency's Partnership 2000. recently renamed Partner- ship2Gether, or P2G. When Grinstein heard that the L.A. Federation was re-evaluating its partnership, he offered to conduct a study. Reut inter- ,viewed more than 50 partici- pants in Los Angeles and Tel Gidi Gri~gt~il~, president of ~Aviv last summer,'abSorbing the Reut Institute, a Tel Aviv strategy group that conducted a study of the Tel'Aviv/Los Angeles Partnership in 2010. "In 1995, this Partnership was the most far-sighted, cutting-edge; break-through idea. And if you look at the documents of 15 years ago, even today they are relevant. They were way ahead of their time." Yet, he said,"Whatwe found in our study is that in order to continue to lead and serve as a model partnership, it needs to be restructured and transformed." The re-evaluation is part of a comprehensive review of all its programs that Federation began undertaking in the last five years, first under the chairmanship of Stanley Gold. and then more intensely when Jay Sandersonwas hired to fill I~ederatlon's top professional position: Decomlng president in January 2010. Federation traditionally has been a fund- ing umbrella for the Jewish community, but its campgign of roughly $40 million has been relatively fiat through the last decade. "When Stanley and I first got involved, one of the issues w~ addressed was where does Federation spend its money. Does a program get Fed- eration money just because it got funded last year?" said Richard Sandier. who served as vice chair with Gold and is now l~ederation chairman. the t~l~ ]~.v lo~e]o~l~;p po~t. "I came into this position first and foremost as a donor, and as a donor I want to know where my money is going, and whether it is being spent in a way that makes the greatest impact." While the evaluation was taking place over the last 18 months. Federation sus- pended all Tel Aviv/Los An- geles Partnership programs except for the school twinning and the master class. The lay steering committee and chair- manship of the Partnership has also been dissolved both in Los Angeles and Tel Aviv. Federation is in the process of convening a group of lay leaders and professionals to examine which programs will continue, which will ex- pan& which will get cut and what new programs might be added. Sanderson and a large team of top Federation profes- sionals met in June with lay leaders in Los Angeles, and he is meeting in August with leaders in Israel. "Once we have new leader- the cost of the study. The study found that the Partnership can continue to hold great relevance and enrich both communities. "For this to happen, there needs to be much greater focus on partnership and mutuality around a much smaller number of bigger efforts, because one of the things we have heard from many, many people is that the Partnership is not creating the critical mass of value for the communities," Grinstein said. "It creates a lot of value for those that participate in the different activities, but not necessarily for the wider community." The report also recom- mended that the two cities identify and focus on ,com- mon narratives such as the entertainment industry or Jewish innovation and creative Spirituality. The report suggests inte- grating the partnership into Federation's overall vision and focusing its diverse programs into a unified vision. To date. the Partnership has served as an umbrella for many diverse efforts. Jewish Family Service introduced Tel Aviv to its Cafg Europa, a social and resource program for Holocaust survivors, and the cities regularly exchanged social workers to learn from each other's best practices. A health initiative involved Tel Aviv University and UCLA, and m~di~l +x+hang+m involved major hospitals in both cities. An initiative on food inse- curity helped TelAviv reframe its food bank system, and the visual arts committee set up artist-in-resident exchanges and art collectors delegations; and helped establish relation- ships between top Tel Aviv institutions and the Los An- geles County Museum of Art, the Museum of Contemporary Art. the Otis College of Art and Design, and private galleries. But some of these small, specialized exchanges need to be broadened, Federation leaders say. "We need to ask whether a program can have a much broader reach or is it a limited activity? I'd like to see us do things where we can build on small things and leverage dollars and resources to make a much greater impact," said Irv Weintraub, chair of the Israel Advisory Committee at Federation."Ifallwe do is year after year engage five people in an exchange, at the end of five years that means you've only impacted 25 people, and The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles Ella and Talia Levy with their mother, Sharon Levy, and their Israeli guests, Amit Manor and Ofir Chadida, at Temple Israel of Hollywood in 2008. maybe those same dollars could be spent in a way to impact 250." The Los Angeles side has carried most of the financial burden, according to leaders in both cities. The Reut report recommends that Tel Aviv contribute to every program and that Tel Aviv leaders tap into the emerging culture of philanthropy. Weak leadership in Israel has hampered the program. according to the report. While the leadership in Los Angeles has rotated regu- larly-albeit among leaders generally within the same age range in Israel there has been very little changeover in the top leadership, which often comes from among Tel Aviv's municipal leaders. The last chair. Natan Wolloch. was forced to step down last month as deputy mayor. Lastyear. Wolloch was found guilty of fraud, and in June a Tel Aviv judge found that his crimes were also tainted with moral turpitude and corruption. Leaders in Los Angeles say it has been difficult to cultivate new volunteers in Tel Aviv. and. further compli- cating matters, some recent headway was lost when some of the programs were put on. h01d in early 2010 for the re- ~valual~l+n Nevertheless. Grinstein is confident that Israeli interest in the Partnership has re- kindled in the last few months. attracting new leaders. "Tel Aviv is striving to be recognized as one of the world's global cities, with doz- ens of events going on as part of this campaign." Grinstein said. "The relationship with L.A. is now viewed in that context, creating renewedand revitalized interest." But itwill take some rebuilding, because most of the lewish Agency staff people in Israel who were dedicated to the Part- nership no longer work for the program, and the Israeli lay leadership felt blindsided by the halt in programming, according to Niv Ahituv, a Tel Aviv University professor who has been involved since the inception. Some Federation volun- teers in Los Angeles were also distraught when programs, such as the environmental initiative or a planned delega- tion of art collectors, were halted midcourse. The disruption left them baffled and angry, and won- dering if Federation was interested in continuing the Partnership. "The Federation has pretty much eviscerated the Partner- ship. This was the best thing that the Federation'has done in years and it was shunted aside," said Herb Glaser, head of the Glaser Development Co. and an active Jewish communal lay leader, who served as the founding chair of the Partnership. "I think it's appropriate to evaluate programs and see what is possible based on the limited resources that the Federation Inns. I just think this was done too quickly, too unilaterally andwithout an understanding of what was achieved and what was intended." Lay leaders, who are both significant donors and vol- unteers, say communication simply stopped 18 months ago, in early 2010. "We were working-in a vacuum and trying to find out what was going on," said Sonia Cummings, a lay leader who co-chaired the visual arts committee. Cummings said in the last few months Federa- tion leadership reached out and held two meetings. Federation Chairman Rich- ard Sandier says one of his ~oal~ ~t Pede~at;o~ I~a~ ~oon to shift a balance that used to give lay leaders more author- ity over professionals, and he acknowledges that the changing dynamic may have contributed to lay leaders feeling left in the dark. "We have to make sure that everything We do here is professionally driven, and in doing that, looking back. if we have moved too far, if we have moved in that direction and made our lay leaders feel not included or not appreciated, or not part of the process, then that was a mistake," ~Jandler said. All these issues came out in a heated meeting June 30, where the top professionals met with Partnership lay leaders. Lay leaders were unimpressed with the Reut report, which they said did not add much to an internal. detailed analysis and recom- mendations published in 2007 and updated in 2008. "We wasted a lot of time waiting for this report to be issued, while the programs atrophied, and we thought it was going to be some kind of appraisal or evaluation of what we've done and where we are, and it was none of that," Glaser said. Grinstein said the report was never meant to offer recommendation on specific programs, but rather to offer goals and criteria by which to judge programs. Volunteers and profession- als will press forward with evaluation and recommenda- tions on specific programs. Sanderson said. But what that ~roup will look like and where it will fall in Federation's leadership structure has not yet been determined. Also unclear is whether the Partnership will have its own committee or if Partnership programs will be woven in to the existing committees. Where and how to fit the Partnership into Federation is complicated by the fact that, last year. Federation dissolved its Israel and Over- seas Department. where the Partnership resided, in favor of integrating Israel-related programming throughout all of Federation's strategic areas Ensuring the Jew- ish Future, Caring for Jews in Need, and Engaging Our Community. "Our new structure in- elude_~ Igrael programming and thinking everywhere." said Andrew Cushnir. chief program officer at Federation. "We're not doing our work in stand-alone committees we're doing things integrated, and the Partnership connects in lots of places. The conver- sation about how this will go forward will involve multiple pods of lay people and profes- - sionals.'" Lorin Fife. a founder and past chairman of the Part- nership, iS optimistic that the partnership will get back on track. "I've known Jay andAndrew for years, and they are really good people, and Jay has hired a really capable team. I think if we handle it right moving forward, we can re. engage the donors and volunteers who are frustrated with the way this has all been handled and actually have a much better, more effective Partnership than we did before." Reprinted by permission of the Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles; www.jewishjour- nal.coro.