Conversation With… Laura Campbell

Original Article Published On The Jewish Ledger

SNEC director builds people-to-people relationships with Israel

Laura Campbell is the new executive director of the Southern New England Consortium (SNEC), a network of 13 Jewish Federations in Connecticut, Rhode Island and Southern Massachusetts.

She grew up in Orange, attended synagogue at Mishkan Israel and graduated from the Ezra Academy, the school that her two sons, ages 10 and 7, attend.

Early in her career, she worked for CBS in New York City as a financial analyst in their operation’s division. Upon completing her MBA at New York University, Campbell returned to New Haven, where she has held a number of jobs serving the Jewish community. Campbell notes that she “opened the new JCC building” approximately ten years ago. She served as membership director for the JCC. In 1993, she began working for the Jewish Federation, where she has worked on special projects for the Department of Jewish Education, and manages the Eder Leadership Institute.

She recently spoke with the Ledger about exciting projects and developments with our partnership community of Afula and Gilboa in Israel.

Q: What is the goal of SNEC?

A: SNEC is committed to establishing relationships with the people of Israel’s Afula-Gilboa region by sharing in the development of mutually beneficial programs and by participating meaningfully in the budgeting and distribution of Partnership 2000 funds through the Joint Steering Committee. Our current SNEC president and chairperson is Nancy Mimoun.

Q: Can you tell us a little about Partnership 2000.
A: The Jewish Agency’s Israel Department launched Partnership 2000 in 1994, together with the United Jewish Communities and Keren Hayesod/UIA.

Partnership 2000 links Jewish communities abroad and regions in Israel in a mutual effort to strengthen Israeli society, while promoting unity and Jewish identity. Partnership 2000 marks a noticeable transition from the traditional Project Renewal twinning model, in which one side gives and the other side receives. In this model, decision-making is a joint process, and it creates a more shared, if not equal forum, for Israeli and American Jews to learn, grow and build their communities together.

Q: What are the primary goals of Partnership 2000?

A: To build people to people relationships between Jewish communities in the Diaspora and Jews in Israel To create programs that mutually benefit partners. To strengthen Israeli partnership regions through people-to-people and social service programs. To use Partnership programs and relationships as a campaign tool for Federations.

Q: How many regions in Israel and in the Diaspora participate? What are some areas of collaboration between Israeli and Diaspora communities?

A: To date, 42 regions in Israel have been matched with 550 Diaspora communities. Nearly every region combines urban centers with neighboring rural communities. The principal categories for intervention are immigrant absorption and population growth, job creation, and human needs.

Q: Can you tell us a little bit about the Afula-Gilboa region and the people who live there?

A: The city of Afula is the capital of the Jezreel Valley. There are 40,000 people living in Afula; 13,000 people (33% of the population) are new immigrants 4,000 are from Ethiopia and 9,000 are from the Former Soviet Union. The Afula industrial area included a number of large factories, there are 22 schools in Afula (serving about 10,000 students), and HaEmek Medical Center serves the population of the entire area. The Gilboa region is one of the most beautiful in the country and includes all forms of rural settlements including kibbutzim and community settlements. There are 32 settlements in the Gilboa Regional Council, including five Arab villages. Arab villages comprise 40 percent of the population of Gilboa.

Q: What are some of the priorities for SNEC in the Afula-Gilboa region?
A: We have several major goals, including assisting newcomers to

Israel, encouraging cooperation between the city of Afula and surrounding Gilboa region of eight kibbutzim, 15 moshavim and five Arab villages, and establishing relationships with partners within the consortium. Partnership priorities include peaceful coexistence (between Israeli Arabs and Jews), integration of diverse groups, and “the living bridge.” Living bridge projects create connections between group members from the SNEC communities, and the Afula-Gilboa region. Some living bridge projects include the Young Emissaries, the Teacher Exchange/Cultural Development project, and Mifgash.

Q: Can you tell us about the recent Mifgash and about the Young Emissaries Program?

A: We are very excited about the recent Mifgash. Fifty teenagers from New Haven, Hartford, Bridgeport, the Greater Stamford area and Western Connecticut participated in a incredible endeavor to Israel over winter break. They spent time in the region, living with families, visiting their schools, living their life. And the Israelis and Americans spent Shabbat together in Jerusalem. Programs like this are the best and easiest ways to make connections with our sister cities, to make a difference in Afula-Gilboa, and to bring Israel alive here. We are hoping that next year, teenagers from Afula-Gilboa will come here for a mifgash. We are also excited about the Young Emissaries Program. Young emissaries come to Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island to work and share in our communities in the year before their army service. It was exciting when our mifgash participants got to see these shlichim in Israel – especially since some of them had stayed in their communities and in their homes! Our teenagers got to stay with their families. We hope to have 14 young emissaries next year, serving in seven communities.

Q: What are some of the current programs and projects of SNEC and of the Afula-Gilboa region?

A: Current projects we fund in Afula-Gilboa include a teen information and guidance center; a Women’s Business forum; Unistream, a business initiative center for Arab and Jewish teens; a hot meals program at various children’s centers; a drug prevention workshop for parents and teens; a “Jumpstart” program run by the Center for Educational Technology; and the various exchange programs I mentioned before. In April, we are hoping to host a strategy and planning retreat with our colleagues from Afula-Gilboa so we can continue creating bridges and choosing projects.

Q: How is SNEC funded? How can our readers become involved in SNEC?

A: SNEC receives its funding from the Federations. (We don’t solicit donors from our communities). We are an extension of the Federation, and we are one of the ways communities in our region are able to have a direct link to communities in Israel. It is one of the goals of Partnership 2000 for us to be a tool to strengthen the Federations’ campaigns. We are always open to people getting involved in our work. Readers may contact me at 203-387-2424 ext. 315.

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