Bonds, Birmingham Federation to Mark 30 Years of Rosh Ha’Ayin Partnership

Next month, Israel Bonds, the Birmingham Jewish Federation and Birmingham Jewish Foundation will team up for a community celebration marking the 30th anniversary of Birmingham’s relationship with Rosh Ha’Ayin.

Mayor Moshe Sinai and Meir Serrouya, head of the Rosh Ha’Ayin Music Conservatory, will be visiting Birmingham for the Dec. 12 event, which will be held at Temple Beth-El at 5:15 p.m. No reservations are necessary. Birmingham Mayor William Bell is also scheduled to speak.

As part of the evening, the Federation and Foundation will present their annual awards.

In 1981, Birmingham was paired with Rosh Ha’Ayin, then a forgotten development town of about 15,000 inhabitants, most of whom moved to Israel from Yemen in Operation Magic Carpet in 1949. Project Renewal was an initiative of then-Prime Minister Menachem Begin to pair such development towns with Jewish communities around the world; Birmingham’s relationship is seen as one of the strongest from that program.

The relationship began even before Project Renewal, as Birmingham’s Kimerling family built a community center in Rosh Ha’Ayin, which was renovated and rededicated in 2007.

In the mid-1980s, the renowned Rosh Ha’Ayin Mandolin Orchestra made visits to Birmingham, and there was an exchange of young adults for summer camps.

After the 1985 Birmingham Festival of the Arts Salute to Israel, Birmingham-Southern offered a full scholarship to one Rosh Ha’Ayin student.

In the 1990s, Russian and Ethiopian immigration, coupled with industrial development and the building of several new neighborhoods for retired military, swelled the area’s population to almost 40,000. Located at the end of a rail line to Tel Aviv, Rosh Ha’Ayin is now considered a bedroom community for Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.

Rosh Ha’Ayin is building its reputation as Israel’s city of music. Rosh Ha’Ayin groups Meitav, Batterista and the Young Rosh Ha’Ayiners have performed in Birmingham in the last four years. There have also been culinary and educational exchanges, and every community mission from Birmingham includes a visit to Rosh Ha’Ayin.

In 2005, Partnership 2000 was launched, pairing Rosh Ha’Ayin with Birmingham and New Orleans. New Orleans continues its relationship with Rosh Ha’Ayin through P2K’s new name, Partnership 2Gether.

Earlier this year, four celebrity chefs from New Orleans visited Rosh Ha’Ayin to do cooking demonstrations and provide Louisiana-inspired dishes for the dedication of Rosh Ha’Ayin’s promenade.

As a city, Birmingham officially became sister cities with Rosh Ha’Ayin on Nov. 9, 2005. In a first for any city, Birmingham had a simultaneous signing for sister city relationships with an Israeli and an Arab city, Karak, Jordan.

Birmingham had a civic trip to Rosh Ha’Ayin earlier this year. Mayor William Bell, scheduled to be on the trip, had to stay in Birmingham to deal with aftermath of the April 27 tornadoes.

On that trip, Birmingham musician Eric Essix performed at a music festival in Rosh Ha’Ayin. The trip also focused on expanding business ties between the two cities.

At the Dec. 12 event, the Federation will present the annual Joanie Plous Bayer Young Leadership Award to Hilary Gewant. The Young Leadership Award is presented to an individual in the community, age 40 or under, who has already made a mark in volunteer service.

Lisa Engel will receive the Federation’s Susan J. Goldberg Distinguished Volunteer Award. The Foundation will recognize Pat Weil with the N.E. Miles Lifetime Achievement Award, presented to an individual or couple with a lifetime history of philanthropy, and who has endowed an annual campaign gift.