Heritage Florida Jewish News - Central Florida's Independent Jewish Voice

A visit to our Partnership2Gether community, Kiryat Motzkin


Cathy Swerdlow met with several members of MASHAL during her visit to Kiryat Motzkin. Shown here are (l-r) Hannah Glickman, tutor; Tami Kna’an-Harpaz, MASHAL director; Cathy Swerdlow; Carmit Gilad, coordinator of projects; and Eshel Fram, Partnership2Gether director.

I had been hearing about Kiryat Motzkin, our JFGO Partnership2Gether community in Israel, for many years. But this past September I had the opportunity to visit several of the organizations that our Jewish community helps to support through an allocation from the Jewish Federation’s annual campaign. On an ambitious itinerary arranged by Carmit Gilad, coordinator of Projects for Partnership2Gether of the Jewish Agency for Israel, I spent a full day in the city. It was a day full of wonderful people doing amazing work on shoestring budgets. Of all the people and programs I met that day, three really had a tremendous impact on me.

There was the Mashal—Center for Learning Improvement—that provides afterschool tutoring to students with a wide variety of needs. Some need tutoring in academic studies and some need therapies such as speech or occupational therapy. Most of the students are in regular classrooms in school and need the extra assistance that this afterschool program can provide in order to be successful in that setting. I met with the director, Tami Kna’an-Harpaz. She is an amazing woman who manages to know every child, every family, every staff person and their schedules that keep everyone in the right place at the right time. Kna’an-Harpaz shared with me the struggles of an agency that impacts the lives of its clients in so many positive ways and has a waiting list of more than 200—nearly twice that of its current capacity. She also introduced me to one of the tutors, a highly skilled reading specialist, Hanna Glickman. A grant from the Jewish Federation of Greater Orlando enables her to tutor at Mashal now that she has reached the mandatory retirement age of 67. This allows her to support herself and use the skills she has to continue to interact with the students whom she loves.

Shirly Lampel at the Youth Unit is also a woman with tremendous dedication and resiliency. The Youth Unit has two distinct programs. One program is a social action based program for teens. These teens meet on a weekly basis after school, and they plan and organize their own projects based on the needs that they see in the community. Projects include mentoring younger students, visiting elders, working on environmental issues and much more. In addition to this group, Lampel also has a group for at-risk teens. These teens may come from broken homes or have a parent who is incarcerated. They may have been in trouble with the law themselves or have a substance-abuse problem. Lampel is firm but caring. Often she is the one adult these teens can count on, and she is frequently the recipient of calls late at night from someone at the police station or the hospital—all this while also being a wife and mother to three young girls.

Finally, there was the Mashma’ut Center and Dr. Lea Ganor. Dr. Ganor shared with me not only the work of her agency, but also her fond memories of Orlando. She and her family visited our community several years ago and she was very touched by the warmth that she felt at that time. The Mashma’ut Center—an acronym in Hebrew for Heritage, Holocaust, Tradition, Values and Rebirth—is located on the ground level of an apartment building for seniors, many of them survivors. On the day I visited, I met a man who had survived the sinking of the Patria in 1940 who was detained at Atlit prior to being granted permission to settle in what was then the British Mandate of Palestine.

The center hosts conferences, houses a library and museum area and serves as a resource for not only Kiryat Motzkin but also for cities and schools throughout Israel. A great emphasis of the center is in programs that deal with moral and human values as it relates to Israelis and modern Israeli society and culture. Mashma’ut has fostered many intergenerational projects that connect survivors with young Israeli soldiers. Currently Dr. Ganor is working on a post-doctoral project to record the testimonies of the first Israeli pilots. Approximately 300 of these men were Holocaust survivors but they never spoke of their pasts and never shared their stories, not even with each other.

After spending the day with these wonderful people and having extended talks with Gilad, I left with a renewed sense of what is possible for our partnership. I now know that it is truly a partnership. It is not just that we send money to Israel. Yes, the monetary support is important for these agencies, just as it is important for the JFGO. But there is much we can learn from each other. There is much that Israel can do for us to enable our Jewish community to thrive.


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