May 26, 2015

Federation’s P2G Sister City Exchange Takes JFS Social Workers to Israel

It was no surprise that when two managing social workers from Ruth & Norman Rales Jewish Family Services (JFS) recently headed to Kiryat Bialik, Israel, just north of Haifa, they were welcomed like family. They set out to learn about how clinical care and senior/social services operate, and returned with far more.

Our Israeli Sister City may be located far across the globe but, since 2002, the two communities have just kept getting closer by building living bridges through Partnership 2Gether (P2G) of the Jewish Federation of South Palm Beach County. Residents and institutions – women, students, athletes, educators, physicians, law enforcement and more - have been coming together through a wide array of exchanges, visits and shared projects around common experiences, goals and needs for the enhancement of both communities. And all the while they’ve also been forging personal multigenerational relationships among individuals and families.

In the latest professional exchange, Dianne Matthew, LCSW, JFS Vice President of Clinical Services, and Laurie Intondi, LCSW, JFS Vice President of Senior Services, spent five days with social workers in Kiryat Bialik. Together with Shosh Sukenik, local head of social services, and her devoted staff, they toured various senior day centers, after-school programs for children from families in need, a day club for Ethiopian-Israeli women, youth center for teens at risk, and more.

Matthew and Intondi also took part in a training session at a family therapy center, and watched a unique, emotionally moving theatrical production, "Edut" (testimony), enacted by Holocaust survivors together with teenagers.

Throughout the visit, the JFS social workers met many Israeli professionals and, from the outset, learned how social services function in Kiryat Bialik and Israel in general. At their welcome reception, dignitary greetings and an impressive performance from local young musicians were followed by a "here and there" open discussion, comparing the different frameworks of social services in Israel and the US.

“Many of the same concerns we address also face Israel’s social services, like mental illness, domestic violence, child abuse and the array of senior needs,” said Matthew. “Yet they operate quite differently within the government structure and national health care. Preventative care for children is good from young ages on, and everyone has access to care, but there are huge waiting lists for government-sponsored social service programs and there is always a risk of cutbacks in difficult times.”

“In fact, many services depend heavily on our Jewish Federation and others to meet vital needs,” added Intondi. “We saw an overwhelming respect and sense of responsibility for elders, including them in all activities.”

As this was Intondi's first time in Israel and Matthew's first visit in many years, their hosts made sure they took a little time for nearby sight-seeing during the particularly lovely green and blossoming season.

“This latest professional exchange continues the great success of our innovative Partnership 2Gether program in sharing expertise that directly benefits our community and Kiryat Bialik, while building personal and professional relationships between our community and Israel,” said Matthew C. Levin, Federation President & CEO.“

“We are grateful to the Federation’s P2G program for making it possible for us to learn so much, to make wonderful friendships in our Sister City, and to strengthen the bridge between South Palm Beach County and Kiryat Bialik,” said Danielle Hartman, JFS President & CEO.

For more information about Partnership 2Gether, contact Barbara Kabatznik at 561.852.6050 or barbarak@bocafed.org.

Photo captions:

  1. (from right): Dianne Matthew, Shosh Sukenik, Laurie Intondi at the Glickman Center where, with support from South Palm Beach County’s Mollie Rosenthal Fund, the skills of those who care for the elderly in varied capacities are built and enhanced for the Kiryat Bialik area.
  2. Dianne Matthew and Laurie Intondi at the WIZO club for Ethiopian women, who wore their traditional costumes especially for the occasion.
  3. Intondi dancing with participants at the senior center in Kiryat Bialik.