On November 8th, at the Just be Cause Center, our community came together to meet Beny Bitton, Mayor of Dimona, Israel. Bitton was here to thank our Jewish community for supporting the Lunch and Learn program in Dimona. IAUJC has been providing funds for several years through generous donations we receive. We took the opportunity of the Mayor's visit to create a public meeting which included our local organizations that are devoted to both education and hunger relief. Participating with Mayor Bitton in the discussion of how to help at-risk children succeed were: James Brown: President of United Way of Tompkins County, Dr. Luvelle Brown: Superintendent of Schools for the Ithaca City School District, Leslyn McBean Clairborne: Director, Greater Ithaca Activities Center, Barry Derfel: Assistant Superintendent of Instructional Services at Tompkins Seneca Tioga BOCES, Jen Edger: Director of Community Programs for Food Bank of the Southern Tier, Amie Hendrix: Director of the Tompkins County Youth Services Department, Leon Lawrence: Executive Director of Southside Community Center, and Meaghan Sheehan Rosen: Coordinator of Friendship Donation Network. About 30 additional people from the community attended to hear the discussion and make comments of their own.
Each representative talked about the focus of their organization and what they thought was essential in helping children succeed. Among the ideas discussed were: hunger relief, literacy, respect and empowerment, collaboration across groups lines and across organizations, engagement of parents and families. It was agreed that more discussion and communication among the organizations in Ithaca would be beneficial to all. Mayor Bitton was heartily welcomed and was impressed by the thoughtful discussion.
Our thanks go to Jerry Dietz who provided space at Just be Cause and to Alan Blankstein, board member of IAUJC, who moderated the discussion.