Our Jewish Federation nurtures a dynamic and mutually beneficial relationship with Israel through the Philadelphia – Netivot & Sdot Negev Partnership, established in 1997.

Each year, more than 350 Philadelphians visit the city of Netivot and the Sdot Negev region through the Jewish Federation, including teens and young adults. They experience everyday life in Israel, develop relationships with Israelis and get a glimpse of what it’s like to live in the Negev, close to the Gaza border.

About Netivot & Sdot Negev

Netivot and Sdot Negev are located in the Southern District of Israel, less than 10 miles from the Gaza border – which has been at the epicenter of the current war. These regions are diverse with a rich cultural tablet of various backgrounds and traditions.

Netivot, northwest of Beersheba, is the closest Israeli city to Gaza with a population of over 42,000. The Sdot Negev Regional Council, which includes Netivot, covers 200 square kilometers and is home to more than 53,000 residents, including many immigrants from North Africa, the former Soviet Union and Ethiopia. The area includes 14 moshavim, two planned communities and two kibbutzim, including pioneering kibbutzim that brought water to the Negev in early days of the State of Israel.

Netivot was originally founded as a city of North African immigrants. These residents then welcomed Russian-speaking and Ethiopian immigrants, wanting to help the next waves of aliyah make a smooth transition to life in Israel.

Our Partnership’s Goals

The Jewish Federation’s home office and its team in Israel work all year round to understand, vet and facilitate assistance for the unique needs in these communities. Through the establishment of these robust relationships, our Israeli team effectively channels our local community’s investment to maximize significant and long lasting impact. 

Over the past 25 years, the Jewish Federation has invested over $15 million dollars in our partnership region while building a strong relationship that transcends dollars and capital projects. Our goal is to continue to build the personal connections that have grown between the people of Philadelphia and Netivot & Sdot Negev.

Philadelphians get to explore their Jewish identity and volunteerism, bonding with their peers in Israel about issues of shared concern. We work collaboratively to design and implement innovative programs in the areas of education and community, regional development, religious pluralism, Ethiopian-Israeli issues and Jewish identity.

Our Jewish Federation is part of the Negev Funding Coalition, working with other Jewish Federations to raise the quality of life in the Negev. Many of the innovative programs we have developed through our partnership have been replicated in other Negev communities.

A Warm Welcome in the Negev

A critically important component of the partnership’s success is the warm welcome residents of the Netivot & Sdot Negev Region have extended to the Jewish community of Greater Philadelphia. Embracing its relationship with Philadelphia, Netivot even boasts a replica of the Liberty Bell.

How the Partnership Works

A steering committee comprising members from Philadelphia, Netivot & Sdot Negev makes annual allocation decisions. In FY22-FY24, the allocation was $376,000, which funded 14 programs plus staff and the cost of hosting visiting delegations.

About Partnership2Gether

The Philadelphia-Sdot Negev relationship is part of the Jewish Agency for Israel’s Partnership2Gether program, a global initiative that connects 300 Jewish communities around the world in 43 partnerships. These partnerships emphasize people-to-people relationships, collective decision making, and development of collaborative programs.

Being on the socio-economic periphery, the Jewish Federation’s P2G initiative focuses on reducing food insecurity while also promoting opportunities for quality education, job training and employment that may not be available otherwise to those in both of these regions. 

As part of their responsibilities, committee members participate in a grants allocation process. The priorities of the current three-year cycle of P2G grants are:

  1. Programs promoting pluralism and that deepen the connections between our communities
  2. Program promoting social cohesion and community resilience
  3. Education to enhance employability among youth and young adults through STEAM education or 21st Century skills building
  4. Empowerment, volunteering, or leadership programs for youth and young adults
  5. Social entrepreneurship

Some of the funded programs include:

Creating a platform for Jewish students in universities from the Sdot Negev region and the Philadelphia region to come together (virtually, if not physically) for joint learning and joint action. To build the virtual global meeting ground as a tool to promote a sense of fellowship and stronger ties between young people from different communities. Creating a connection between students / young people from Israel and the USA for joint study and substantive discussion allows for the building of relationships, mutual learning and deepens the connections between the communities both at the level of the professionals and at the level of the students.

Every year, thousands of young men and women donate a year of their time for society and the community and volunteer in one of the volunteering frameworks offered to young people graduating from high school in Israel. The vast majority of volunteers come from strengthened populations and work in the settlements of the social periphery in Israel, but only less than 10% of all volunteers are residents of the socio-economic periphery (Arabs, residents of the development towns, youth considered to be at-risk youth, boarding school graduates, new immigrants, young people from disadvantaged communities) . This phenomenon contributes to the stigma and further weakening of the settlements of the Israeli periphery as a place where young volunteers come from strengthened communities. The Merkaz Maase association is asking to change that and recruits young men and women from the periphery to participate in an empowering year of volunteering in the peripheral settlements, to allow them the opportunity to transform from recipients and those in need to donors and leaders.

Today, about 8,000 young people (between the ages of 18-40) live in Netivot and there is not a single pub in the city!! There is nowhere where young people can meet, hang out and connect. There is no space in the city that allows a sense of life, culture, art and creativity for young people. A space that will enable and promote the stay of young people in the city.

The most important goal of the Tozeret Haaretz is to reverse the negative migration of young people from the periphery to the center and to encourage local young people and young people from the center to establish their home in the peripheral cities. And a pub project as a center of attraction for young people can promote this goal significantly and importantly.

The spiritual center is an important focus of community growth, works to preserve the special heritage, and to strengthen the cultural identity of the Ethiopian community. and at the same time encourages integration between the communities. The project provides a cultural response to the community and takes actions to preserve the heritage of Ethiopian Judaism among the Ethiopian public as well as other communities in the city. The project meets the needs of strengthening community identity, encouraging integration between communities and developing community resilience. 

The establishment of the Schwartz Reiman Center in Netivot for physics studies is a springboard for scientific education in the city of Netivot and in the entire Western Negev region. Our goal is to expand the circle of physics students in the city as well as to expand the circle of students who take 4-5 math units. We believe that by creating a valuable scientific educational sequence from kindergarten age on, it will lead us to achieve our goal, one of its derivatives is to grow graduates who will turn to high-tech professions and engineering in the academy as well as will serve a significant purpose in the IDF. The “Young Scientists” project helps to develop the educational continuum and provide scientific and technological solutions at the younger ages.

The Morasha program emphasizes social Jewish values in educational content, and by connecting these values with social activism; We develop pupil facilitators in dialogue circles – “Movilei Havruta,” transforming the pupils into active partners who take responsibility for their educational process. We widen the learning and discourse in intimate circles of Beit Midrash learning that enables the pupils to express themselves and be partners in the learning process; Professional training for teachers in facilitating dialogue and building their confidence to teach Jewish texts; By validating the Masorti identity and giving legitimacy to a wide array of identities in the school community, the pupils feel a sense of belonging and are proud of who they are.

Twenty years of experience operating youth entrepreneurship programs and thirteen years of experience in Netivot have shown us, year after year, that education in general – and education for entrepreneurship, innovation, and above all the entrepreneurial life, in particular – are significant and practical tools that enable youth participating in our programs to realize their personal potential and enable their success.

The basis of Unistream’s approach is the recognition that entrepreneurship is a tool for socioeconomic change. Therefore, the proposed program provides a special and unprecedented opportunity for youth and young adults from the socioeconomic and geographic periphery to establish startups in the framework of a comprehensive educational process through which they acquire valuable 21st Century employability skills crucial for successful integration into the labor market.

The initiative will provide an answer to 85 young women and girls at risk per year, aged 17-25 (mainly from a religious background) who come to us from all over the country. The large majority of female participants experienced severe trauma due to violence and sexual assault and many times they dropped out of the education system completely. This vulnerable group will experience the greatest difficulty in entering the labor market and is more likely to depend on the welfare system in adulthood.

Through the simultaneous inclusion of several elements in the field of education, employment and care; personalized treatment for each participant; empowering participants through volunteering in their community; creating a positive culture of peer groups; involvement in the business community for the purpose of opening employment doors for our youth, we strive to achieve the following goals:

  • Assist in the acquisition of a matriculation certificate or vocational training certificate for female participants;
  • Provide participants with tools for independent living and responsibility for their future;
  • Develop correct work habits in the participants, including work ethics and ethics in general;
  • Providing incentives to save money for the future;
  • Development of life skills such as time management, personal budget management, teamwork, social skills, etc.;
  • Creating a holistic and supportive framework that includes financial assistance that will provide a basis for occupational development.

The need is to provide a relevant and quality framework for the voluntary field among the children and youth of the council, who are the future generation. Creating mentors in the field of volunteering will be an educational model for giving, education for seeing the other, embracing the other and accepting it, turning the youth into significant agents of change and connected to their community while providing assistance and support to families in need in the community.

The project will meet the need for the development and health of the youth in the Negev Fields Council and the addition of a place where the youth are seen and promoted in a period of uncertainty and lack of routine that has created many social gaps and challenges.

In addition, the contribution of the project will also be in the health aspect for the youth. According to a study published in 2014, it was found that “volunteering during adolescence may affect the mental, physical and social health of an adolescent in a way that rewards both the youth and society.”

The uniqueness of the project is that it is an innovative model that combines educational, therapeutic and social elements that lead the youth in positive directions, the impact will be broad and touch the whole world of the boy: peer group, family, educational figures, neighborhood, community and more. This project will yield positive results in the short and long term.

The therapeutic station, in collaboration with the Resilience Center, supports and cares for children and families with the aim of assisting them in dealing with stress and crisis situations and returning them to functional functioning. This is a long-term plan for developing and strengthening personal, family and community resilience while providing answers to unique needs. This is a holistic project, a multi-system program, which considers the needs of the families and children at the regional level and works to build a network of community services and create cooperation between the various caring agencies, to strengthen the resilience of the families.

Resilience Domes
The aim of the resilience project is to develop emotional and social resilience in the young people while developing digital skills and skills of the 21st century. Local middle school students build a geodesic dome and then create original interactive digital visual and sound programs that give the students an empowering experience.

Healthy Placemaking 
Promoting a healthy lifestyle has become a primary focus of the Region and led to the formation of a Health Roundtable, bringing together representatives from several municipal departments along with community volunteers. Activities range from integrating math and science classroom-based FitBit activities to sponsoring a half-marathon and a fun run, Ron’s Race, that draws hundreds of runners.

Get Involved

Interested in volunteering on a local project? Joining a committee? We are here to help you find your connection to Israel. To learn more, contact Beth Razin, Associate Director of Jewish Life, at brazin@jewishphilly.org.

If you’re planning to be in Israel, whether on a mission, a group trip or family trip, add a visit to Netivot & Sdot Negev to your itinerary. We’re happy to provide an experience, activity or project to help you get to know the region and see the things we helped to build. To learn more, email missions@jewishphilly.org.

Our Partnership Post October 7

Netivot and Sdot Negev are located in the Southern District of Israel, less than 10 miles from the Gaza border – which has been at the epicenter of the current war in Israel.

Through longstanding conversations, relationships and trust, the Jewish Federation has been able to identify and address various issues that have helped and continue to help these regions flourish and be actively prepared for emergencies, such as the Oct. 7 massacre. As a result of our year-round allocations through our Annual Campaign, residents have received support to strengthen their resilience, and the areas have been supplied with lifesaving resources – such as security cameras that saved countless lives during Hamas’ attacks.

Learn more about our emergency allocations by clicking here.