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A change-generating relationship

Avraham Azulay, current director general of the Regional Council, was head of the department of Education and Social Welfare when
the partnership with the Atlanta and St. Louis Federation first began. It was at that time that a process was set into motion, of preparing
programs that operate and continue to evolve to this very day. He looks upon the Partnership as a relationship that generates real changes
in the lives of the individual, the family, and the community of the Regional Council.
"The first ten years of the Partnership," says Avraham, "were important in the sense of the Israel-Diaspora relationship, but we didn't truly
view it as being significant at the time. About a decade into the
relationship the overseas partners reached the conclusion that
what was needed was a connection that generates real change.
For our part, we were hesitant. Change is scary; we wanted to
deal with the known. But, in keeping with their request and
upon the end of an extremely in-depth process, we submitted
a program that was founded on making tangible changes in the
situations of families in distress. These were families we thought
needed to be removed from a trajectory of neediness and mis-
ery by 'giving them a fishing rod' rather than fish."
"Prior to submitting the program to the Americans, I wasn't able
to sleep for several nights. I realized that it isn't enough to build
a nice looking program, you actually need to implement it. So
for each targeted family we crafted a vision, a dream, and ways
of achieving them. Thus the Family Empowerment program was
born. They accepted the programs we submitted in their
entirety," Avraham points out, "and even contacted the
Brookdale Institute for the purpose of tracking, evaluating and
studying each program and its implementation.
This naturally placed a huge commitment on our shoulders.
And so we began with 70 families.
"In the first years," explains Avraham, "the program succeeded beyond expectations. We witnessed the families we worked with standing
on their own two legs. For me personally," Avraham confesses, "this program became my 'baby'. We continued working and developing
more and more programs geared to needs on the ground. We brought in more families and expanded our circles of groups, education
systems and communities involved in the programs. Everything was done by working in-depth-as the basis of our endeavor and in the
interest of creating a better future and life in the community."

Working tools

As mentioned, today Avraham serves as director general of the Regional Council, however he says he won't forgo his total involvement in
the programs as well as his leadership on the Partnership Steering Committee. "The fact that we need to be showing results each year," he
explains, "presents us with challenges that force us to develop our endeavors to the highest quality. We won't tolerate mediocrity among
individuals, families and groups, and we hold ourselves to the same standard. Training our people for this project has given them numer-
ous, extensive working tools. They've learned how to define and construct tasks, how to get organized, how to place their belief in people,
children, and families. Our people in the Social Welfare department, social workers (including those who at first had a hard time connect-
ing with our outlook and programs), and new joiners of programs-all are seeking to strengthen and preserve the initial basis of our work,
i.e., that the family is at the core of our efforts. They're asking us for training sessions."

Those who give receive

Avraham is aware of the fact that the Regional Council is given resources and support, however he believes that those who give also
receive. "Without a doubt, the resources we've received from the Federations have made all of this tremendous work possible. But above
all, the trust that they placed in us, our partnership and its genuine openness-where we can say anything and everything, and lay it all on
the line-that is our main strength and it's an outcome of authentic partnership. They are partners in deciding where the money goes and
what the goals are. They see their money creating true changes in Israeli society. The Ministry of Social welsare has implemented major
reforms in all its working areas, based entirely on our programs. We've appeared before the Reform Committee of the Ministry of
Education to present our programs and activities. And the Ministry has gone with that."
"We're talking about community robustness," says Avraham, reiterating the nature of the Partnership. "In the face of this country's social
and security situation, our American friends have been able to witness the assistance they extend in its practical fulfillment. We saw how
vigorous our community was during Operation Protective Edge, when we hosted 2,000 residents from the south. Our American partners
can rightly view themselves as genuine partners in all of this."
"Now is an opportunity for us to truly thank the Americans for this genuine and sincere partnership. Thanks to them we've moved up a
notch, gone to the next level, evolved, and generated change." It's a great feeling knowing that we have true partners who won't abandon
us, feel concern for us and continually reinforce us, even in times of crisis."

18 Megidon | February 2015
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