Empowering city residents to build cities they can thrive in.
Tucson, Arizona / Be’er Sheva, Israel
Initiating and engaging
Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom
Residents of modern towns and cities can feel lonely and disconnected. Citizens living at the margins – as members of minority communities or in towns distant from economic power – are particularly disengaged from community life. A generation of younger adults are drawn to larger, more central cities where they believe they’ll have a higher quality of life. In cities of all types, young adults feel disconnected from their communities and disempowered to impact the environment around them in meaningful ways.
Bella has spent her career living out the belief that every citizen has the right and the opportunity to create the city they want to live in. Under her leadership, Eretz-Ir has empowered 53 different communities to improve local education and cultural spaces, while supporting 180 local entrepreneurs. Eretz-Ir projects are designed to create a sense of belonging, ownership, and responsibility that encourages young adults to invest in their local communities. Besides tangible community improvement projects, participation almost quadruples young adults’ perception of being able to impact their city in a meaningful way.
Now, she’s leading cross-cultural exchange to take Eretz-Ir’s work to the next level. As The Jewish Agency’s Israeli emissary in Tucson, Arizona, Bella leverages her experience to help local synagogues and nonprofits engage youth in community development. In the process, she’s sharing expertise and learning from successful efforts in the US, with the goal of strengthening young adult community development on both sides of the world.
“In the beginning we worked mostly on Israel’s southern region, and now we are influencing the whole country, working with over 50 cities in order to increase the quality of life by supporting grassroots communities of young residents. When I began my job, the organization was very small—only six workers—and we had a budget of $600,000. After a lot of tough work, believing in people, and developing new ideas, we’re a thriving, professional organization of 80 workers with an annual budget of $5 million.”