This decision led to a rigorous selection process, which included conference calls with candidate organizations, expert briefings in the States, culminating in an intensive tour of finalist projects and the final selection made by PPSNI. The Rashi Foundation put all its experience and knowledge at the disposal of the group, acting in an advisory role, without voting rights.
The Creation of the New Partnership
In response to the Second Lebanon War and facilitated by the Center for Entrepreneurial Jewish Philanthropy, ten New York businessmen and fund managers came together to form a new giving group: the Philanthropic Partnership to Strengthen Northern Israel, or PPSNI. Rashi matched the group to create a fund to make a significant impact on the lives of at risk populations in Northern Israel, targeting programs in the areas of early childhood development, formal and informal education for at-risk children, volunteerism and leadership, and small business incubation.
Most remarkably, one of the goals of the PPSNI was to educate themselves about the critical social issues facing Israel and to understand the inner workings of giving to Israel, while strengthening their families' connection to Israel.
Members of the PPSNI, with some of their children, on a tour to inspect candidate projects in the North, Spring 2009
The winning projects were: Otzma, to expand the number of Scouts from economically-challenged neighborhoods of Haifa (Tzofim Haifa); Ma'arag Arts Center in Kfar Vradim, to construct a vocational rehab setting for disabled artists to produce, display and market their artwork alongside that of able-bodied artists from the region (Kochav Ha'Tzafon); a year of voluntary community service and preparation for matriculation exams, for youth at risk from Kiryat Shmona, Tiberias and Hadera (IsraCorps); Feuerstein Enrichment Method of teaching in 25 schools across the North (International Center for the Enhancement of Learning Potential); program of accelerated learning to close educational gaps in elementary and high schools in Tiberias (Tafnit).
In 2008, PPSNI opened a second round, focusing more narrowly on early childhood education, advancing children and youth at risk through education, and volunteerism and leadership. Again, the group's members were keen to learn about the issues in depth, including first-hand through an Israel trip with some of their children. The final selection was: construction of an early childhood center in Merom Hagalil (Northern Goals); construction of a new high school for Jewish and Arab children with mental health problems (Kishorit); expansion of the number of youth participating in a multi-year leadership development course (Kav Hazinuk); after-school educational reinforcement for high-schoolers in Tirat Carmel (Youth Renewal Fund); after-school programming and enrichment for young Ethiopian-Israelis in Hadera (Maksam); scholarships and apartment renovations for students are leading community-building projects in Acre and Kiryat Shmona (Ayalim).
For Round 3, the group decided to concentrate on the town of Tzfat where Israel’s fifth Medical School is being established, so as to leverage it for the social and economic development of the town, improvement of quality of life for existing residents, and attraction of new residents. PPSNI is investing in six projects: an excellence program in the Amal High School, a program to nurture musically talented schoolchildren (as a step towards opening a conservatory), construction of a youth center in the new part of town, construction of a municipal swimming pool and sports center, renovation and modernization of the Beit Yigal Alon Cultural Center, and addition of a classroom building in the Tzfat Academic College.