Programs in the Region

Programs in the Region


JUF’s Partnership Together (or as it’s sometimes abbreviated P2G) is a program of the Jewish Agency for Israel (a major JUF beneficiary and overseas partner) that links communities in the Diaspora with communities in Israel, mainly in Israel’s periphery of the Negev and Galil.  Chicago has been partnered with Kiryat Gat-Lachish-Shafir, which is located in Israel’s northern Negev, for the last 21 years. Through this partnership over $30 million of funding from JUF’s annual campaign has been allocated to projects that promote the region’s development, improve the quality of life for its residents and connects them with Chicago Jewry through “people to people” programs.  This year $900,000 will be allocated to the region through JUF’s Partnership Together.  Below are the programs that received an allocation in FY17.

Budo for Peace Association – Dojo Kiryat Gat Absorption Center

Budo for Peace was founded in 2004 and uses traditional martial arts as a platform for social change and education.  The group meets twice a week for 1.5 hours with the youth (9-18) at the Shoshanna Absorption Center in Kiryat Gat.  This program instills confidence, promotes appropriate behavior, patience and respect.  Further this project is designed to develop young leaders and role models, encourage gender equality and instill civic responsibility.

Nirim in the Neighborhood

Nirim in the Neighborhood reaches out to 14-19 year old youth at extreme risk to work with them one-on-one.  Nirim works directly with the teens and with social services to provide connection and support. A Nirim club house is also open to any teen every day, except Shabbat.

Enav – Taking Responsibility

Taking responsibility encourages at-risk teenagers to be involved in their community as part of their therapeutic process.  There are three stages to the program.  The first is volunteering at a program in the city of Kiryat Gat (Hinneni community garden or Sahi) which will teach value in giving and strengthen their self-esteem.  The second stage is learning safe driving and the third stage is practicing the safe driving with the help of a driving “tutor”.  All teens want to learn to drive and feel independent.

Sahi – Special Grace Unit

A true win-win program, the Sahi project is a social contribution project for teenagers 13-21 in which “at risk” teenagers, with histories of violence and vandalism, contribute to their community by delivering weekly food packages to needy area families. Through this program school dropout is reduced, the number of youth involved in teenage vandalism is decreased, and the number of teens entering the IDF is increased.  This year’s allocation to Sahi is directed to girls within Sahi and developing special programming for this cohort.

Maccabi Kiryat Gat-Hoops for Kids

Professional basketball players volunteer as basketball coaches for 15-20 at-risk youth from municipal after school programs and local nonprofits. A good program all around: the teens, in addition to have structured afternoon programming, are able to learn from professional basketball players.  The players, who play for Maccabi Kiryat Gat but typically do not live in the area, are able to connect and give back to the community they represent on the basketball court.  The team builds strong fan base and goodwill in the community.  150 teens participate in this program.

Sheltered Summer Camps – Shafir Regional Council

During the month of August a summer camp for 100 children, aged 6-10, whose families are participating in Department of Welfare programs.  Camp provides programming and structure that the children would otherwise not have.     

Shafir Community Center – Connected to Youth

There are seven centers in Shafir where at-risk youth gather to participate in social events, academic tutoring, anti-violence activities and more. The youth leaders in charge have been trained to work with the ultra-Orthodox youth that make up the Shafir community.

Lachish Community Center – Comprehensive Program for the Prevention and Treatment of At Risk Behaviors

At-risk teens from the Lachish region are identified to participate in activities and counseling programs in an effort to guide them towards a productive and fulfilling life. 

Ramon Foundation– Aviators Club

This is a two-year leadership program for 20 children in elementary school.  A squadron from the Israeli Air Force adopts a school in the periphery and then accompanies the children, alongside professional instructors, from the Ramon Foundation through different activities over the two years.

Tor Hamidbar– Developing Social-Business Ventures

This program provides residents aged 18-35 of Kiryat Gat, Lachish and Shafir with new employment opportunities and alternative social services.  This encourages current residents to remain in the area and helps the local economy to grow.      

Orot Hakirya and Hinneni– Kiryat Gat Social Cooperative

The two organizations will work together to start a food co-op, which will reduce prices for local shoppers. In addition there will be a physical space in the back of the co-op for community activities. Each member (or family) of the co-op will receive a 15% discount in return for working 2 hours a month in the co-op or in the community room.

Maslan – Let’s Talk About It

Maslan is the Negev’s sexual assault and domestic violence support center.  “Let’s Talk About It” is an educational project to end violence and sexual violence in Israeli society using psycho-educational workshops for educators, teens and children in both formal and informal education settings.  

Yachdav – Annual Enriched Recreation Outing

An added program for the participants, with developmental disabilities, in an occupational training program to have a day of fun and respite. The program will meet five times over the course of the year for trips, some as short as one day, to the Northern area of Israel, the Carmel area, Be’er Sheva, Jerusalem and within the Kiryat Gat-Lachish-Shafir region.  The program is aimed at 37 factory workers with disabilities, 10 assisted occupational workers, volunteers and staff.  

ELEM – Working with Ultra-Orthodox Youth at Risk

Elem is a national organization in Israel that initiates, develops and operates a variety of programs for prevention, outreach and treatment for youth.  The demographic that ELEM helps can range from teens with standard issues that come with adolescence to homeless youth and adolescent prostitutes.  In Kiryat Gat, where the ultra-Orthodox population is one-fifth of the city’s general population and growing, there is a special need for the teens in that population who need culturally sensitive programs.  ELEM identifies and works with 30 ultra-Orthodox teens who are in distress.

Birthday Angels - Youth Angels Program

Birthday Angels is a non-profit founded in 2005 in Israel to promote self-esteem, a sense of belonging and social responsibility among socio-economic, at-risk Israeli youth through service learning programs and educational birthday parties.  The Teen Angels program trains at-risk teens to facilitate birthday parties in their own communities using Birthday Angels party kits.  During an eight session training course the teens learn presentation skills, how to manage time, how to facilitate a group and handle problem children.  By providing birthday parties for disadvantaged children an emotional need, which can be just as important as material needs to children, is met and the teen doing the facilitating learns skills and serves a purpose in the community.

Hinneni – Families Generating Change

Working in two specific neighborhoods in Kiryat Gat, with residents from, or descendent of, Ethiopia and the Caucuses, a network of parents and children to develop social involvement.  A grassroots program that includes 10 year-cycle events (150 participants), weekly events for the entire family (50 participants), house calls (50 families per year) and twice a week activities for children(70 children in 3 groups).

Hinneni – The Minute Entrepreneurship Project

This project is a social start-up which supplies members of the Ethiopian-Israeli community with employment in areas that they have traditional knowledge and experience.  90 community elders are participating in different areas of this program.  

Be-Atzmi – Turning Point for Haredi Families

One of two pilot locations in Israel this program works with 45 couples in Kiryat Gat to integrate both the men and women into the workforce.  The program also provides separate workshops and individual coaching to help Haredi couples understand and manage their finances.  The goal is to break the cycle of poverty for Haredi families.

Edith Folk Community Center – Media Camp for Youth and Youth with Special Needs

During the school year, from 2:00 through late evening, the center provides a place for teens aged 15-17 and in 9th-12th grade, from disadvantaged backgrounds educational and social enrichment.  The participants receive help with homework, social games, and activity groups at no cost to them (music, sports or art).   

Kulanana-Ruach Tova

A national program that helps to bring Israeli society together by connecting different NGOs within communities.  This both creates natural connections and improves efficiencies.  One example is between an NGO that works with Ethiopian-Israeli Youth and another that works with older Ethiopian-Israelis.  This is the second year of the program in Kiryat Gat.  It was so well received the first year that this year the allocation was doubled to increase projects.          

Lachish Regional Council – For the Gold

This program creates volunteer partnerships for residents of Lachish with elderly residents who are considered at-risk due to their health, cognitive or mental decline.  All suffer from social loneliness.  There are 600 elderly people in Lachish and 300 are considered at-risk.  The volunteers are any council resident which covers a wide range of ages and professions. 

Neve Hanna – Path to Peace

The Neve Hanna children’s home in Kiryat Gat was founded in 1974.  It includes a children’s home, that is currently home to 80 children aged 6-18 who have been removed from their homes by social services or court orders, a daycare center attended by 45 children, after school programs, therapeutic and social treatments, leisure and enrichment activities, a cultural center, library, synagogue, petting zoo, bakery, games and other facilities open to children from the area.  The “Path to Peace” program began in 2004 and currently serves 14 Jewish and Bedouin-Muslim children aged 8-14 from Kiryat Gat and Rahat.  The program promotes coexistence with programming in both Hebrew and Arabic, meals together and explorations of each other’s culture, religion and customs.

The Community Center Network of Kiryat Gat – Culture for Children at Risk

The Community Center in Kiryat Gat exposes children, aged 5-9, from disadvantaged families to four theater performances throughout the year.  The idea being that appreciation for art is acquired through exposure and is beneficial at a young age.  Children would attend the theater productions with their parents.  A total of 200 participants, children and adults, participate in the program.

Krembo Wings – Youth with Special Needs

Named after a favorite seasonal candy treat in Israel that is so delicate each one needs to be wrapped by hand Krembo Wings is national youth movement in Israel for children with mild to severe special needs. Each child is given individual care and given “wings” to experience life.  Krembo Wings branches meet weekly after school and bring together children, aged 7-21, with special needs and match them with two able-bodies and specially trained peers each, aged 13-18. This allows each child to fully participate in all of the activities.  Activities can include group games, songs, drama and arts and crafts.  In addition to the counselors who work directly with the Krembo Wings participants, there are volunteer branch managers, a volunteer guidance team responsible for creating and implementing the weekly activities, a special needs coordinator and a supervising adult (a university student or national service volunteer).  Krembo Wings provides transportation to and from each session for each participant and a qualified nursing care worker is always present.  For this year there is a new branch consisting of 8-10 pre-army volunteers from around Israel who will live and volunteer in Kiryat Gat. The branch in Kiryat Gat currently has 27 members and 60 youth counselors.

The Yaacov Herzog Center – Taking the Lead

A well respected Orthodox, but pluralistic, institution offers the Taking the Lead program for 120 religious and secular 10th graders to learn from each other and promote tolerance.  The program meets seven times between November and March and focuses on dialogue, religious study, volunteer activities and leadership development.

World ORT Kadima Mada– YOU-niversity Centers for Excellence

Established in 2012 the center offers a wide range of science and technology enrichment classes for local children and teens.  Course topics include outer space, applied physics, CSI forensics, robotics, architecture and design and more.  Last year over 350 children from grades 1-9 participated in these programs. 

Israel Children’s Zone

The Israel Children’s Zone is the flagship educational intervention program developed by Israeli education experts in cooperation with JUF’s team in Israel. It incorporates existing national programs, Revadim, Youth Futures and Etgarim which provide a variety of interventions based on the needs of the students. ICZ is currently available in part in all 17 schools in the Region.

  • Revadim is a school reform plan that assesses student difficulties and offers tailored solutions looking at both academic need as social support and family involvement. 

  • Interventions for those students include: tutoring and counseling and may also include music, art and animal therapy.

  • Youth Futures, and intensive intervention, uses young-adult “mentors” working full time to build strong relationships with at-risk children and their families.  Each mentor develops a personalized plan for each student and works with them and their families throughout the year. YF is in its 7th year of operation in Kiryat Gat.  JUF and local Chicago donors also supports YF programs in Tiberias and Sderot.

  • Etagrim works with students with special needs through outdoor training and adventure therapy.  Established by a group of IDF veterans with disabilities and rehabilitation experts

  • Etagrim works with students with impaired senses, developmental disabilities, autism and also victims of trauma, terror and youth at risk.


Kefiada is an English-speaking day camp for 4th, 5th and 6th graders.  Kefiada serves as a bridge during the month of July for 120 campers to help retain, and expand, upon the English that they learned during the school year and, just like any good day camp, have fun.  Activities include swimming, arts and crafts, sports, hikes, day trips, plays, songs and more.  The campers are able to strengthen their English skills and enter the next school year better prepared to learn more English.  The camp is staffed by college students from Chicago who volunteer their time and live with Israeli host families for four weeks.  It is also an opportunity for the American counselors to really become part of Israeli life.  In addition to the American counselors there are Israeli junior counselors and Israeli staff including a camp director.

Living Bridge- JUF’s Partnership Together People-to-People Programs

A wide variety of programs that connect the Jewish community of Chicago with the residents of Kiryat Gat, Lachish and Shafir.  Some examples include Birthright, YLD, JUF and synagogue missions that visit the Region each year.  Plus, Israeli 8th grade students who come to Chicago for exchanges with Bernard Zell Anshe Emet Day School and Solomon Schechter Day School.