The partnership between Birmingham and Rosh Ha’ayin will be recognized this summer by Sister Cities International at its annual convention in Belfast, Northern Ireland.

Birmingham and Rosh Ha’ayin became official sister cities in 2005, though the Birmingham Jewish community has a relationship with Rosh Ha’ayin going back to 1981.

Rosh Ha’ayin is also paired with the New Orleans Jewish community through Partnership 2000 of the Jewish Agency, and many programs involve all three communities.

The award will be for innovation in youth and education programming for American cities with populations between 100,000 and 500,000.

Programs between Rosh Ha’ayin and Birmingham the past few years include an “E-Pals” program, which connects students in the Birmingham city and Hoover school systems via email with peers in Rosh Ha’ayin, and an educators’ exchange, through which Birmingham area teachers visited Rosh Ha’ayin and then hosted teachers from Rosh Ha’ayin at their schools.

In 2008, the Meitav Vocal Ensemble from Rosh Ha’ayin performed throughout Birmingham and New Orleans. In Birmingham, there were joint concerts with the University of Alabama at Birmingham Gospel Choir and the Huffman High School choir.

Another 2008 project was involving Rosh Ha’ayin in Birmingham’s “Read It Forward” program. The Jefferson County Library Cooperative sought to have as many local citizens as possible read “To Kill A Mockingbird.” Residents of Rosh Ha’ayin read Hebrew translations, furnished by the Birmingham Jewish Foundation, and held programs about the book.

Another project has been E-Pals, connecting students in Birmingham city and Hoover school systems via email with peers in Rosh Ha’ayin, and an educators’ exchange, through which Birmingham area teachers visited Rosh Ha’ayin and then hosted teachers from Rosh Ha’ayin at their schools.

Additional programming took place last year as the Birmingham International Center honored Israel and Jordan.

“We are so proud of this international honor,” said Joyce Spielberger, assistant executive director of the Birmingham Jewish Federation, who is the Federation’s staff coordinator for the partnership. “I think it says a lot about our Jewish community, our broader community and the people of Rosh Ha’ayin.

“Many people have played a role in the development of this partnership,” Joyce added. “This award is indicative of the great work and outreach done by volunteers from both the Jewish community and broader Birmingham community.”

The Birmingham Sister City Commission, which oversees Birmingham’s 11 Sister City partnerships, is dedicated to global cooperation, cultural understanding and economic development between the people of Birmingham and cities around the world. The Federation’s Rosh Ha’ayin committee works closely with the Sister City Commission to advance the Birmingham-Rosh Ha’ayin partnership.

Birmingham’s relationship with Rosh Ha’Ayin began when Birmingham’s Max and Tillie Kimerling provided the funding to build a community center in Rosh Ha’ayin, at the time a development town of 14,000, mainly Yemenite Jews who fled their villages after Israel was established.

The Birmingham Jewish community’s official ties to Rosh Ha’Ayin began in 1981 with Project Renewal, with the pairing coming from the existing relationship with the Kimerling family.

Copyright © 2007, Deep South Jewish Voice All rights reserved.

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