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JCC Association and Israel’s Ministry for Diaspora Affairs Partner on Ongoing $7.2 Million Initiative

March 21, 2024
Lauren Magy, PR Specialist, JCC Association, [email protected] 

JCC Association and Israel’s Ministry for Diaspora Affairs Partner on Ongoing $7.2 Million Initiative  Mit-habrim | מתחברים | Connections  

Historic partnership welcomes Israeli heroes and survivors to JCCs and funds programming grants at nearly 100 JCCs  

NEW YORK JCC Association of North America, in partnership with Israel’s Ministry for Diaspora Affairs, announces additional programming as part of a new international initiative, Mit-habrim | מתחברים | Connections. The $7.2 million initiative, set to strengthen ties between North American JCCs and Israel and demonstrate solidarity with the country following the horrific attacks of October 7, has to date impacted more than 40,000 participants at 190 events and 112 JCCs and partner organizations, and will continue through the spring with grants for JCCs to create programs that honor and celebrate major Jewish and Israeli holidays and commemorations. Mit-habrim is supported by a $3.57 million grant from the Ministry for Diaspora Affairs, the largest grant to a movement outside Israel, with matching funds to be secured by JCC Association. 

Initially conceived in 2021 to provide funding to JCCs to design, develop, and implement programming for Yom HaShoah, Yom HaZikaron, and Yom HaAtzmaut during Israel’s 75th anniversary year, this partnership has adapted and grown significantly in response to the war in Israel. Since October 7, Mit-habrim has delivered programming and funds into JCCs to support a widening commitment to solidarity with Israel and Israelis. Programs born from the partnership between JCC Association and the Ministry for Diaspora Affairs are empowering JCC members, staff, and leaders to strengthen their connections to Israel and stand up to antisemitism, in all its forms, including anti-Zionism, while supporting engagement with their wider communities. Mit-habrim launched in the days following the October 7 attacks and events will continue through the summer. 

“This historic partnership, fostering movement-wide support of Israel, exploring the unbreakable bonds that bind us together as Jews is, perhaps more critical now than ever,” says Doron Krakow, president and CEO of JCC Association. “As the largest and most diverse platform for Jewish engagement in North America, we are uniquely positioned to impact commitment to Jewish peoplehood from coast to coast and provide unwavering support to the Jewish state in the wake of the atrocities perpetrated on October 7. Because of this momentous initiative, over the past five months, tens of thousands of participants in every corner of our movement have joined hands in unequivocal support for Israel and her people.” 

In May, the work of Mit-habrim will continue with $1.1 million in grants awarded to nearly 100 JCCs across 30 states and three Canadian provinces for the creation and implementation of programs focused on the three major Jewish and Israeli holidays and commemorations. Inspired by the original design of Mit-habrim, the grants, known as Yamim, provide seed funding to JCCs for the creation of Yom HaShoah, Yom HaZikaron, and Yom HaAtzmaut programs for their communities, proudly and powerfully demonstrating their commitment to Israel and the Jewish people. Select highlights of upcoming Yamim programs include: an exhibit featuring photos by photojournalist Erez Kaganovitz at the Merage JCC in Orange County, Calif.; a free outdoor Yom HaAtzmaut community carnival at Kings Bay Y in Brooklyn, N.Y.; conversations with women who were directly impacted by the October 7 attacks at the Miami Beach JCC in Miami Beach, Fla; a citywide Yom HaAtzmaut celebration at Shalom Austin in Texas; a family cooking workshop hosted by a Jerusalem-based couple at the Mandel JCC in Cleveland, Ohio; Southern Arizona Israel Week with a Yom Hazikaron commemoration and Yom HaAtzmaut barbeque in Tucson, Ariz.; and more. 

Among Mit-habrim’s most powerful, poignant initiatives is Giborim: First Testimony, which has brought 40 Israeli giborim, or heroes, directly to JCCs to share their experiences from the October 7 attacks and its aftermath. With the World Zionist Organization as a partner, giborim have visited over 30 JCCs thus far, welcoming thousands of attendees to engage with eyewitnesses and survivors of the events of October 7 and the ensuing war. Additional giborim visits to communities across the continent are scheduled throughout the spring.  

After four Israelis visited his community, Scott Seewald, chair of the JCC of Greater Pittsburgh, said: “We will always be grateful for spending time with these giborim and creating relationships that we know will last forever.… Our Pittsburgh Jewish community may be thousands of miles away from Eretz Yisrael [the land of Israel] physically, but our hearts and souls are with Israel always.”  

Additional components of Mit-habrim, created by JCC Association, which have had a powerful impact on dozens of JCC communities, include: Shufuni | Look at Me, which welcomed a group of young artists and performers from Sderot and other communities in the Gaza envelope to JCCs to share their music and stories; Zionist Talks, a lecture series featuring notable Israelis including Avi Melamed, Natan Sharansky, Shira Ruderman, and Einat Wilf whose perspectives and insights are enhancing understanding among American Jews of the current situation in Israel; Israel Solidarity Missions which brought more than 50 JCC Movement representatives to Israel over the last five months to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with Israelis and to bear witness to the atrocities perpetrated by Hamas; and during the winter, Together We Shine Bright Shabbatot which featured Hanukkah and Tu B’Shvat gatherings at JCCs throughout the movement. 

“Right now, it is critical that the Israeli-American relationship remains as strong as it has been through Israel’s 75 years. Israel is a complex and dynamic country, and to build meaningful connections with North American Jews, we need to continue to share more about Israel’s culture, history, and people,” notes Israel’s Minister for Diaspora Affairs, Amichai Chikli. “As a movement with reach across the U.S. and Canada, JCC Association is the most effective partner to provide financial and educational resources, allowing each JCC to engage in ways that best suit the community.” 

Before Mit-habrim was launched, JCC Association’s Center for Israel Engagement awarded approximately $750,000 in donor-funded micro-grants to JCCs across the movement. These grants predate the October 7 attacks and demonstrate ways JCC Association supports JCCs in instilling a commitment to Jewish peoplehood and building connections with Israel in their communities. Both the original micro-grants and Mit-habrim funding give JCCs significant autonomy to design and implement Israel-focused events and programs that address specific needs and objectives in their communities. The matching grant aspect of Mit-habrim provides an opportunity for local and national funders to support Israel-centric programming across North America.  

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About JCC Association of North America  

JCC Association of North America leads the JCC Movement, the most expansive and inclusive platform for Jewish life in the U.S. and Canada, which comprises more than 170 Jewish Community Centers and Jewish Community Camps (JCCs). By virtue of its size and scope—serving more than 1.5 million people weekly, in person, and online—and with guidance and support from JCC Association, the JCC Movement dynamically influences efforts to create Jewish community, vibrant Jewish life, and intentional and measurable Jewish outcomes in local communities and across the continent. Learn more at or on LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. 

Please note that JCC Association of North America should not be referred to as JCCA or the JCC Association but initially as JCC Association of North America and as JCC Association in subsequent references. 

About JCC Association Center for Israel Engagement  

Since its inception in 1977, JCC Association Center for Israel Engagement has connected countless JCCs and members with the many facets of the land, history, people, and cultures of Israel. Through custom-designed travel experiences to Israel for JCC professionals, lay leaders, campers, and members of JCCs, approximately 11,500 individuals—teens to older adults, first-time visitors, people with disabilities, and so many others—have connected to Israel through seminars, professional training opportunities, and other distinct initiatives. JCC Association Center for Israel Engagement also brings more than 400 shlichim to North America each year to serve in the JCC Movement’s camp network during the summer, with dozens more employed throughout the year at JCCs around the country. Shlichim are young Israelis who, following their mandatory military service, choose to serve for a year or more in Jewish agencies and institutions in communities around the world.  

About Israel’s Ministry for Diaspora Affairs and Combating Antisemitism

The Ministry for Diaspora Affairs is entrusted with fostering the connection between world Jewry and the State of Israel, through joint activities and ongoing dialogue, since the Israeli government sees itself as being responsible for all Jews worldwide, whether they live in Israel or the Diaspora. 

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