By Charles Bernsen
By profession, Shlomit Zimring is a human resources professional who runs an HR department for the kibbutz movement in Israel. But her passion is nurturing Jewish peoplehood, which is why she is also a volunteer with Partnership2Gether, the 21-year-old initiative of the Jewish Agency for Israel that pairs Jewish communities in the diaspora and Israel.
“For me, Partnership is the way to build the Jewish people,” Zimring said last month during a dinner meeting with members of the Jewish Federation of Nashville and Middle Tennessee’s Grants Committee.
Zimring is a member of the P2G steering committee in Hadera-Eiron, the region north of Haifa that is partnered with 10 cities in the U.S. Southeast, including Nashville. She was part of a five-member P2G delegation from Hadera-Eiron that included two other volunteers – steering committee chair Doron Rubin and member Dorit Zini – as well as Director Hana Sirkis-Katz and Program Coordinator Maya Shoham.
The group was in the United States to attend the annual Southeast consortium steering committee meeting, which was held this year in Richmond, VA. They used the opportunity to visit four other consortium communities in Knoxville, Charlotte, Charleston and Nashville.
Their visit to Nashville was short – less than two days – but busy. In addition to the dinner meeting with the Grants Committee, they visited students and teachers at Akiva School, met with the staff at Vanderbilt Hillel to discuss upcoming Birthright Israel trips to Hadera-Eiron, talked with teenagers who will be staying with host Israeli families in the region this summer as part of a Get Connected exchange trip, and met with religious educators at West End Synagogue. They also squeezed in a quick tour of downtown Nashville led by Mark Cohen, a professor at Vanderbilt’s Owen Graduate School of Management who has twice accompanied students to Israel as part of a course on global entrepreneurship.
Zimring traces her awareness of Jewish diversity and her interest in building connections with the Jewish diaspora to her experience as a shlicha (Israel emissary), first in Sydney, Australia and then in Palm Beach, FL. As a member of a P2G education sub-committee, she has been particularly involved in exchange trips and joint programs involving American and Israeli teachers.
“When dedicated educators get together,” she said, “that’s when the miracle of Jewish peoplehood occurs.”
The purpose of P2G is to foster personal connections and long term relationships between diaspora Jews and Israeli Jews through a variety of educational, economic development and community-building initiatives. Over the years, Nashville has taken part in P2G exchange trips and projects involving students, teachers, artists, musicians, firefighters, and business entrepreneurs. This month, a delegation of doctors from Hadera-Eiron is visiting Nashville.
Through the Federation, the Nashville Jewish community also funds a several programs in Hadera-Eiron – a youth center and after school tutoring and sports programs for the children of Ethiopian immigrants as well as the the Hadera Young Adult Center.
At the Grants Committee dinner, Federation Executive Director Mark S. Freedman said P2G has become “an essential part of the Federation’s mission – and one of the most personally rewarding for me.”
Rubin, a retired IDF lieutenant colonel, is relatively new to P2G. It was only about 18 months ago he even became aware of the program and was persuaded to chair steering committee. Yet he said he is already aware of the special kinship the program has fostered among Jews from Nashville and the other Southeast consortium cities.
“Everyone who comes to Hadera-Eiron, it feels like a cousin is visiting,” he said. •