by Ozzie Nogg
Children and youth in the western Galilee region of Israel are better off today because of gifts made by Henry Davis to Partnership with Israel, now called Partnership2 Gether. “Henry chose to become personally involved with programs designed for at-risk Israeli families and youth,” explained Stacey Rockman, former Omaha Partnership Chairman. “In general, Partnership builds people-to-people relationships between our Jewish community and Israel. It’s the vehicle that gives everyone an opportunity to get connected and involved. Henry’s financial support of Partnership will have a direct, positive impact on the residents of the Western Galilee. His gifts will really make a difference to the future of these kids, and Partnership thanks him very much for his generosity.”
Donor programming options offered by Partnership include cultural, educational, social, medical, economic and regional development. “Stacey came up with many different areas that deserved support,” Davis said. “And while I understood that each option had value, I’m always most attracted to programs that benefit youth. Here in Omaha that includes Children’s Hospital and Project Harmony. Israeli kids have special needs, too, so my decision was easy.”
From the list supplied by Rockman, Davis chose:
• Hafuach al Hafuach, cafe and counseling centers in Akko where teens in distress — both Israeli and Arab — can talk with peers, professionals and volunteers in a warm, safe setting. Over the past few years, the centers have provided counseling and assistance for well over 100,000 teenage boys and girls.
• Kivunim, a program providing life-skills training that enables young Israelis with disabilities to manage household expense, pay bills and become independent. Kivunim sign language interpreters for deaf participants — along with lap tops — help the kids integrate into society through social networking. This unique program is also open to youngsters from the U.S. with sensory or physical disabilities who are interested in experiencing Israel.
• House on Wheels, a center that provides drama, art, music and sports activities for physically handicapped children, along with respite for their families.
• Youth Futures, a program that mentors at-risk kids — beginning with elementary-aged children — by acting as their advocates in school, at home and in after-school setting.
• Orot Hesed, an organization which collects and distributes food to more than 350 underprivileged families in the Akko community. On school days, the group delivers over 450 sandwiches to children who might otherwise have no lunch.
• Playground Maintenance, for the benefit of developmentally disabled Israeli and Arab children in the Matte Asher Regional Council area. This specially designed playground allows children to challenge themselves in a safe environment, under the supervision of trained staff.
As social gaps in Israel continue to widen, Partnership continues to address disparities in economic and geographic advantage, in education and equal opportunity. According to Rockman, “We sometimes forget that Israel is faced with problems other than defense. There is urban neglect and pockets of poverty and hunger. Some kids drop out of school and get into trouble. The programs Henry chose to support ensure that families and youth receive social assistance services they too often lack — financial consultation, nutritious meals, drug counseling, camping experiences. Henry has given these kids and their families a brighter tomorrow in which they can thrive.”
Rockman stressed that funding for Partnership programs comes from a variety of sources, including grants from the Israeli government, gifts from Israeli citizens, allocations from Annual Campaigns in the U.S. and direct gifts from the American Jewish community. Partnership programs are staffed, in the main, by Israeli volunteers. Case in point — David Ovdi, a retired army hero who served in the 1967 Six-Day War and the Yom Kippur War of 1973. According to Rabbi Jonathan Gross, “Ovdi, for no pay, now manages an army of volunteers for the Orot Hesed food bank. He was driving an old van, distributing sandwiches to kids, and would joke that driving all around Akko in a beat up vehicle was more dangerous than being in battle. Of course, buying an automobile in Israel is a big expense. When Henry Davis heard about the need, he donated a new car to Orot Hesed.”
Davis prefers to eliminate middle-men from his philanthropy. “For me, giving directly to a particular cause makes more sense than writing a check to an organization which then decides how my gift will be used. With Partnership, I feel a direct connection to the recipients. The kids, the families, the volunteers aren’t abstract. They’re real. Each time Stacey comes back from a trip to Israel I ask her what’s going on there. Who needs what. And if I can help effect positive change or make a difference in any way, I will.”
For details on Partnership donor opportunities, please contact the current Omaha Co-Chairs, Stacie Brodkey – 402.397.3684 or Patty (Steve) Nogg – 402.493.3479. Information is also available from Mary Sue Grossman, Associate Executive Director of the Center for Jewish Education – 402.334.6445.