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Special Initiatives

Israeli women yearning for economic and social empowerment...frail elderly in the former Soviet Union who must decide between rent and medicine. Whenever and wherever our Jewish community finds challenges, the Greater Miami Jewish Federation is there, too.

Our initiatives in Israel and around the world provide unique opportunities to accomplish real change by working directly — person to person — with those seeking dignity and a better life. Read more about our initiatives below.

Yerucham

For the past 14 years, the Miami Jewish community and the city of Yerucham have had a special partnership under The Jewish Agency for Israel’s Partnership 2Gether platform. Located in the Negev desert, and boasting the second largest lake in Israel, Yerucham is a 13-square-mile city founded in 1951 as a transit camp for new immigrants. Today, it is home to a diverse population of over 11,000 residents representing a microcosm of Israel’s many cultural and ethnic communities.

The mission of the Miami-Yerucham Partnership is to leverage social, human and financial capital to inspire community engagement and development. By investing in relationships, education, culture and community-building initiatives, the partnership fosters a deeper commitment to Israel and the Jewish people, while enriching the quality of life in our community.

Read more about the Miami-Yerucham Partnership.

Women’s Amutot Initiative

In Israel, there are thousands of women and girls struggling every day with economic and social issues, including abuse, poverty and isolation. The Women's Amutot Initiative was established in 2003 to focus exclusively on the needs and welfare of females in Israel. Annual grants are allocated to Israeli not-for-profit organizations (amutot) that provide programs and services for women and deal with economic and societal empowerment, integration and equality, protection against and prevention of violence and leadership development. Projects include:

  • A legal advocacy hotline that helps marginalized and impoverished women with issues such as employment rights, insurance benefits, public housing, health care and debt management
  • A 24-hotline — with assistance in eight languages — for women in southern Israel who are victims of violence
  • Micro-enterprise loans for women wanting to start their own businesses in a wide variety of industries
  • A legal aid clinic to help women in family law matters such as child custody, support payments and property distribution
  • Promote attention to issues facing single mothers through media campaigns, as well as assisting single mothers in community organizing
  • Vocational training for women exiting prostitution

Click here to learn more about the Women’s Amutot Initiative.

Click here to learn more about Women’s Amutot Initiative Grants.

Youth Futures in Yerucham

Nearly one out of every three children in Israel lives below the poverty line.Youth Futures is a high-impact, community-based program that helps children and parents from underserved Israeli communities address challenges and fulfills their potential. t is leading positive-intervention program focusing on at-risk children ages eight to 18 by providing them with positive role models (mentors), as well as tools for academic and personal success. It creates opportunities for the strengthening of children, teens, families and communities by means of a model unique to Youth Futures – the Youth Futures Mentor. Since its establishment in 2006, Youth Futures has grown to serve 12,000 direct beneficiaries (children and parents) in 36 communities, from all sectors of Israeli society — including recent immigrants, Arabs, Druze, Bedouin, and Jewish (ranging from secular to ultra-Orthodox). In our Partnership city of Yerucham, the Youth Futures program has a staff of seven professional, full-time Mentors serving 106 children, for a total of 318 direct beneficiaries (children and parents).

Food Insecurity

Nearly one out of every four Israelis suffers from food insecurity, or a lack of access to sufficient, nutritious food. Federation supports several programs that provide hot meals, food packages and other resources to thousands of Israelis, including children, single-parent families, the elderly and the unemployed. Projects include:

  • A sandwich program that provides a nutritious breakfast for children in a low-income neighborhood in Jerusalem. Children at the school are from Ethiopian families, other immigrant families, single parent families, orphans living with relatives, and low-income families.
  • Leket, the country’s largest food bank and food rescue network, which assists other organizations through nutrition, education, food safety and capacity building projects. The meal rescue project addresses waste in the catering sector by rescuing prepared food that would otherwise be destroyed, collecting food from corporate caterers, hotels and the IDF.
  • Food parcels delivered to needy elderly, including many Holocaust survivors, in Jaffa, South Tel Aviv, and Bat Yam areas.

Ethiopian-Israeli Initiative

There are 160,000 Ethiopians living in Israel, with a third of them born in Israel. Many have faced unique challenges. Acculturation difficulties have resulted in a higher incidence of unemployment, poverty, substance abuse and family violence among Ethiopian-Israelis.

We have been supporting various organizations that touch on various areas to assist the community. Programs focusing on education and employment are critical. Together with the Ministry of Education and Merchavim, we created a pilot program to help place Ethiopian-Israeli Educators and are now in our sixth year of supporting this program. In addition, we currently support the following:

  • Fidel Association: Lod youth Center – provides enrichment and prevention programming for 75 pre-teens and teens in Lod at the Youth Center. The Step-up program employs successful students from Fidel youth centers to provide tutoring to students that need assistance.
  • Tebeka: Free Legal Aid Program: provides quality legal counsel to the Ethiopian-Israeli community that cannot afford representation. Educates the community in Amharic on their legal rights.
  • Tech Career: Full Stack Developer Tech Training Program – provides professional technological training for 22 participants offering an entry into high-tech. This includes a nine-month training course, career development, and job placement.
  • Yemin Orde Youth Village - provides additional instructional hours to 10th-12th graders to improve academic skills through individual and small group sessions. 20% of youth in the village are Ethiopian-Israeli.

These programs help intigrate the Ethiopian-Israeli community into Israeli society, with a focus on education.

Ethiopian Aliyah

Over 97,000 Ethiopians have made Aliyah with the support of the Jewish Federations and the Jewish Agency for Israel. This past year, 3,000 Ethiopians made Aliyah. At the same time, thousands who remain waiting in Ethiopia to make Aliyah face a humanitarian crisis. Malnutrition, inadequate medical care, and a lack of housing have been exacerbated by Covid and a civil war. The new Olim are more educated than past Olim, with a third of the new immigrants ages 18-35.

Once the Olim are brought to Israel, they are given housing in one of 15 absorption centers for two years and are provided with an array of services and programs that include ulpan Hebrew Language courses, assistance in integrating children into schools, employment guidance, professional training, counseling services, as well as classes on family-life management and financial management. They also participate in classes on Israel and Israeli culture and guided tours around the country in an effort to strengthen their Jewish identity and heritage.

Loan Funds

The Jewish Agency administers various loan funds - grassroots economic development engines for entrepreneurs and small business owners in Jerusalem, the Negev, and Galilee. The Loan Funds support Israeli entrepreneurs from target populations such as new immigrants, the Arab population, the Haredi (ultra-Orthodox) population, and the Ethiopian-Israeli community. Loan Funds provide technical assistance and guarantees to applicants to help them qualify for bank loans, granted at special terms, and enjoy exceptional payback rates. The Jewish Agency also provides guidance on starting or developing a business. Since 2002, the year the loan funds were established, the loan funds have assisted more than 2,000 businesses with loans totaling more than $100 million, and have led to the creation of about 10,000 new jobs.

Federation is supports loan fund programs that help aspiring entrepreneurs and spur local economies in Israel. These include:

Ness Negev Business Loan Fund
In partnership with the Jewish Federation of Greater Metrowest, the Greater Miami Jewish Federation supports the Ness Negev Business Loan Fund to assist entrepreneurs and small business owners in the Negev, with the broader aim of creating jobs and accelerating economic activity in Israel’s southern region. By providing resources for economic development, regional growth, and the creation of critical new jobs, the fund provides entrepreneurs with initial capital and professional mentoring to help them realize their business vision, bringing prosperity and vision to the underdeveloped Israeli Negev.

Some examples of the Ness Loan Fund at work:

Helping a couple establish a food business

Helping a young woman open a gift shop specializing in balloons

Helping a young man renovate his paint store and purchase business equipment

Helping two brothers purchase a pool manufacturing plant

 

Negev Now Network

Almost every economic indicator shows that development of the Negev region is essential for Israel’s security and future growth. Federation is playing a major role in this effort by joining with other Federations - Federation CJA of Montreal, Jewish Federation of Metrowest, and the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia The Negev Now Network was established to bring together a greater pool of resources to identify and undertake broader Negev-wide initiatives. Its mission is to inspire and support the development of the Negev, driven by a shared passion for the opportunities the Negev provides for its residents, Israeli society and our Diaspora communities. The focus is on inclusive innovation, embarking in a “smart partnership’ with the Ministry of Defense,the Negev Development Authority., the Ministry of Education, the Ministry of Health, and the academic institutions in the Negev. The goal is to make the Negev a creative, vital place to live for current and future residents.

Elderly Welfare Programs in the Former Soviet Union

We are providing vital care to more than 78,000 vulnerable elderly Jews in the former Soviet Union (FSU) who struggle for daily survival, unable to afford even the most basic necessities, such as food, rent or heating fuel. Many of them have lost their pensions, their savings and even their homes. Most of them have no living relatives to turn to.

Our overseas partner, the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, has set up Hesed (welfare) centers across the vast regions of the FSU to help these frail seniors. The centers provide food packages, hot meals or food cards to those who are hungry. They also provide medicines and medical care for the sick and distribute items such as heating fuel and blankets to ensure survival and comfort during frigid winters.

Seniors who are well enough to visit the centers can participate in group activities and celebrations to avoid loneliness. Those who cannot make it are visited as often as possible by caring, compassionate volunteers. There are nine volunteer centers in 25 locations across the FSU with the aim of cultivating increased local involvement leading to stronger local communities. This past year, more than 1,600 volunteers were active in helping their communities.

75% of Ukraine’s Jews, including 90% of JDC’s elderly clients remain in Ukraine. Rising inflation and high costs of essentials has left many impoverished, elderly clients at risk. Since the beginning of the conflict, JDC has been on the ground providing assistance ensuring the most vulnerable receive the help they need to survive.

Religious Diversity

Many forms of Orthodox and non-Orthodox Judaism are thriving in Israel. There is enormous diversity of Jewish life including all major denominations. In addition, a “renewal” movement provides an indigenous Israeli approach to spiritual expression with an array of grassroots programs and initiatives. Religious streams and other organizations are working on building more religious tolerance into Israeli society. There are broader efforts to offer programs to strengthen the Jewish identity of Israelis.

  • Our Federation supports iRep, a consortium of 34 Federations, aiming to strengthen Israeli civil society, promote pluralism and encourage respect for diverse Jewish expressions in Israel by engaging the Israeli public through support of organizations working in the field. Since 2016 iRep has allocated over $2.5 million in support of more than 30 civil society organizations working on the ground to promote religious diversity in Israel. iRep invests annually in grassroots projects run by Israeli civil society organizations that focus on increasing accessibility to diverse ways of celebrating life-cycle ceremonies and Jewish holidays as well as projects advocating for government and municipal support for diverse Jewish programming. In September 2023, iRep granted its eighth round of allocations in the amount of $375,000. Click here for a list of the most recent grantees. 

Some of our other partners are:

  • Itim whose Public Policy Center and Legal Center helps people navigate the Rabbanut and address religion and state challenges through coordinated policy reform and legal action. The Centers aim to protect Jewish Israelis’ civil rights, advance the cause of Jewish pluralism, and bridge the divide between Jewish life in Israel and around the world.
  • Tzohar whose Shorashim (Roots) program helps authenticate the Jewish status of immigrants from the Former Soviet Union. They operate in nine offices throughout Israel to help immigrants all over Israel.

Argentina

Argentina’s economic situation continues to deteriorate leading to widespread social unrest and insecurity. Over 1/3 of the population lives in poverty. This crisis has been challenging for Jews living in 14 provincial communities where poverty is more widespread and resources are scarce.

With the help of our Federation’s overseas partner, the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, community programs are taking place in the provinces outside of greater Buenos Aires, providing food support, stable housing for families at risk of homelessness, and medicine.

Venezuela

Political discontent and hyperinflation in Venezuela have made life a daily struggle. Hundreds of Jews are in desperate need in Venezuela where 94% of the population is poor and 75% live in extreme poverty. With the help of our Federation’s overseas partner, the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, we are able to provide humanitarian relief by providing monthly food packages, life-saving medication and decreasing isolation and loneliness among seniors with social activities and a hot meal at the Hebraica Jewish Community Center. In addition to meeting the material needs of Venezuela’s Jews, through professional guidance, local leaders were empowered to respond effectively in the current harsh financial reality.

Special Needs

The State of Israel provides services to children and adults with physical, sensory, mental health and intellectual disabilities. Israel ratified the United Nations Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities and legislation has been passed to promote the inclusion of people with disabilities in the community. However, despite these developments, much still needs to be done in order to better integrate people with disabilities into all aspects of Israeli life and to help them realize their full potential. Our partners include:

  • Beit Issie Shapiro- Israel’s leading developer and provider of innovative therapies and state-of-the-art services for children and adults across the entire range of disabilities impacting over half a million people annually.
  • Shalva-The Israel Association for Care and Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities: One-on-one early intervention therapy program for infants with disabilities, ages 0-18 months and their parents. Provides holistic, early intervention therapy solution for infants with disabilities and their parents. Services are provided free of charge, serving 150 infants with disabilities, ages 0-18 months, and their parents.
  • Bar Ilan University-Music and Community Center: (MACOM) Keilim Shluvim (Instruments of Communication) program that utilizes the power of music to help individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities realize their full abilities. where every weekday for 5-6 hours per day, they receive appropriate instruction in different aspects of music-making – including singing, drumming, piano and guitar playing, and music history.

For more information, contact us at [email protected] or 786.866.8495.

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