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by Rhonda Spivak, November 3, 2014




The atmosphere was warm and engaging as over 100 students, gray Academy and Brock Corydon teachers Jewish Federation Staff and others came together on October 20 at the Shaarey Zedek synagogue to celebrate the 18th anniversary of the P2G (Partnership 2Gether) Program, formerly known as P2K (Partnership 200 program).




It was clear from the expressions and smiles on the faces of the latest group of Israeli teachers and students who arrived in Winnipeg from Kiryat Shmona visiting here as part of P2G, that the connections and bonds between the participants of P2G last a lifetime.




As Winnipeg Co-Chair of P2G Faye Lynn Katz noted the program builds  unbreakable bonds between the Winnipeg and Israeli students and teachers and is for many, a life changing experience, one which makes Israelis appreciate diaspora Jews and vice versa.




As Lori Binder, Gray Academy Associate Head of School and a pioneer in the P2G experience, noted,there is virtually no other program out there that instills a love of Israel in as significant  a dose as  P2G. 



As David Kroft, President of the Jewish Federation of Winnipeg, whose own daughter has traveled to Israel as part of P2G   told the Winnipeg Jewish Review:


“ Members of our community have taken their children to Israel as part of a family trip.However the P2G experience permits the children themselves to forge their own personal connection with the country and more importantly,  to make friends of their own age. They “own the experience”. I have seen firsthand that these personal connections not only endure but strengthen over the years.  Federation could not be prouder of the P2G program.  Our support of this program is the most powerful thing we can do to ensure a lasting bond between the Winnipeg Jewish Community and the people of Israel.”



[Editor's note: I too have had the privilege of having a P2G experience with my own children in Israel when they were in elementary school at Brock Corydon which partnered with Ramat Korazim elementary school, which is just north of Lake Kinneret. I took my kids out of school the last week in June one year and spent a week with them at Ramat Korazim, where they learned at the school, and played with the children, visiting them on a nearby moshav, meeting their dogs, cats and goats,  hanging out on the moshav, swimming together  and getting to know each other.  It was a special experience and one which we will forever cherish. ]




This year as part of the P2G program, Brock Corydon Principal Ara Grafinkel and four of her  teaching staff will be going to Israel in March to visit Ramat Korazim elementary school . While Brock Corydon partners with Ramat Korazim , Gray Academy partners with Danziger High School and  Nachshonei Hachula elementary school in Yesod Hamala in the Chula Valley, also in Northern Israel 




At this year's P2G anniversary event, Gray Academy graduate, Baillee Shuster, who has since made aliyah and  enlisted in the IDF , spoke about her experience going  on the P2G program, which resulted in her falling  in love with Israel. Shuster wrote in the Winnipeg Jewish Review in 2010 about her experience:




"We learned so much about Israel by feeling like Israelis and living with our now second families. Some of the activities we did were visiting memorials for fallen soldiers, going on a memorial walk for one of our good friend’s fallen brother, visiting former war bunkers, renovating a youth recreation centre. We became close with our P2K family; we really honestly experienced the ups and downs of being an Israeli teenager in Kiryat Shmona. We spent days lounging by the Jordan River, playing basketball, and we felt deeply the loss on Yom Hazikaron and the excitement and pride on Yom Ha’atzmaut. We were welcomed into the community like visiting family....




This trip transformed me as a person and I wish that I could give back what this trip has given me in life, but there is absolutely not enough I could ever do in return, that is how transforming and amazing it was."




Binder, Katz and Shuster each recognized the Jewish Federation of Winnipeg for its significant support  for the program over the years. 




Marjorie Blankstein and Sharon Wolchuck who had been involved initially as "pioneers" when the first Partnership program (P2K) was initiated were both at the event.




One of the most poignant moments of the evening was when Nachshonei Hachula School Principal Rache Bar Moaz spoke about how her son who served in Gaza during the Hamas-Israel war this summer received several phone calls from Winnipegers who wanted to make sure that he was OK.




The P2G program is all about creating a 'Gesher Chai", a “living bridge” between partnership communities, and first began as a change between teachers and then became an exchange program with students. 




"Thus far we have had 92 students from Winnipeg participate in the program. Every year we send groups of 6-8 students to Danziger High School in Kiryat Shemona [in Northern Israel on the border with Lebanon] and an equal number of their students visit the Gray Academy and Brock Corydon School," Binder said.





Jonathon Kroft, past President of the Jewish Federation of Winnipeg spoke about his childrens' experience on Gesher Chai, and the bonds they made with their new Israeli friends. "When we went to Israel last, our son, Daniel was able to show us around. And during this last Gaza war, our daughter Emily, was able to keep us up to date on events through her friends in Israel."





The evening also featured a video with former Gray Academy students talking about the impact P2G has had. Avi Posen, the Gray Academy teacher who is now in charge of P2G on the Winnipeg end, spoke on the video about how the P2G  program was his first time visiting Israel and how big an impact it had on his life. The evening also included a song by Esty Brandes, visiting Israeli student.





No celebration would be complete without food, and the evening ended with a serving of dessert, fruit and humus  and pita chips (of course !).




To view a video related to P2G Delegations, click here:



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Rhonda Spivak, Editor

Publisher: Spivak's Jewish Review Ltd.

Opinions expressed in letters to the editor or articles by contributing writers are not necessarily endorsed by Winnipeg Jewish Review.