July 22, 2020
If all Israelis – native and foreign-born – face challenges linked to the country’s complex reality, those of Ethiopian descent have a decidedly harder time. As a visible minority the Ethiopian Jewish immigrant community must overcome numerous hurdles. Leveling the playing field in the area of academia will help advance the community in myriad positive ways.
Long concerned by the plight of Ethiopian Israelis and the hardship they endure, The Morris and Rosalind Goodman Family Foundation (MRGFF) is partnering with Israel’s top two universities – Tel Aviv University and Hebrew University – to take concrete action to redress this issue. To this end, they are providing scholarships to assist financially needy Ethiopian Israeli graduate students who are engaged in social, community or academic leadership activities for the benefit of the Ethiopian community and others.
To be divided equally between Tel Aviv University (TAU) and Hebrew University (HU), the gift will have a multiple impact. It will support students pursuing graduate studies while highlighting the importance of such studies among this demographic and promoting community engagement. The Foundation believes that academic achievement at a high level is important in promoting the achievements of the Ethiopian community and changing the lens through which racial minorities are viewed.
Today, more than 35 years since the first of two major waves of immigrants arrived from war-torn Ethiopia via Sudan, Israel is home to more than 150,000 Israelis of Ethiopian descent. While the story of their immigration to Israel is one of great bravery and perseverance, their integration into Israeli society has been difficult since the time of their arrival. Currently, about half of Ethiopian Israelis live under the poverty line, a result of the diverse social, cultural, language and economic challenges they face.
Despite initiatives by the government and non-profit organizations to improve opportunities for Ethiopian Israelis, critical gaps remain that affect their status and well-being. At Israel’s universities, for example, they are vastly underrepresented, especially at the graduate level.
Education is a vital step toward upward social mobility and quality employment. Ensuring that more Ethiopian Israelis have access to university studies and graduate programs can help to enhance their standing in society overall.
The Morris and Rosalind Goodman Scholarships reflect the MRGFF’s focus on education. In this case, it is supporting Ethiopian Israeli young adults on their path toward an academic career or other leadership roles. The objective: To create a new cadre of Ethiopian Israeli leaders, particularly in academia but also across society at large.
“The intention of this grant is to help on multiple levels,” says Maxyne Finkelstein, President of MRGFF. “It is to assist students with financial needs and also to raise awareness of the importance of graduate studies for this population in the context of creating greater social and economic benefit through advanced education.”
The initiative marks a new era of collaboration between universities in Israel, with TAU and HU joining forces to strengthen Israel’s Ethiopian Jewish community and its culture. Both institutions share the Morris and Rosalind Goodman Family Foundation’s commitment to encouraging Ethiopian Israeli students to pursue graduate studies and to take on leadership roles in social impact programs and academia.
Designed to encourage young adults to recognize that their value and contribution to society can increase greatly through higher education, these inaugural financial awards will help seed the landscape for developing other projects that harness academia to advance Ethiopian Jewry in Israel. They will help garner greater opportunities for Israeli Ethiopians to achieve high-level positions across all areas of society.
“The Morris and Rosalind Goodman Scholarships will help Hebrew University to provide increased opportunities for Israelis of Ethiopian origin to pursue graduate degrees and to take up positions of leadership in Israeli society and academia,” says Michal Barak, Director of HU’s Center for the Study of Multiculturalism and Diversity. “We are committed, through academia, to advancing the wellbeing and transformation of communities.”
As most Ethiopian Israeli students represent the first generation in their families to pursue higher education and usually face economic hardship, financial assistance is key to their success, even at the graduate level. Scholarships encourage students to continue toward master’s and doctoral studies, lead to research opportunities, both in Israel and abroad, and, eventually, to teaching and tenure track positions.
“We see diversity in academia as a key element in building a strong Israeli society, and this is why Tel Aviv University seeks to increase the number of Ethiopian students across all degrees and professions,” says Limor Shem-Tov, Head of the Unit for Student Advancement at TAU. “The Morris and Rosalind Goodman Scholarships will provide motivated students from the Ethiopian community the opportunity to realize the dream of a higher education, become agents of change and gain social influence. We are honoured to be partners with the Foundation in this important initiative.”
Indeed, such scholarships can open the door for more Ethiopian Israeli students to continue toward advanced degrees.
“My parents came to Israel from Ethiopia in 1983,’ says Sarit, a TAU Engineering student. “They walked through Sudan in order to fulfil the dream of Zion, to create a better future for our family in the Holy Land – Israel. As a young girl, my mother loved studying but unfortunately, here in Israel, she had to work to support my brothers and me. A part of me wants to accomplish this dream for her, so that she can see me completing my degree with excellence, entering the engineering sphere and later continuing to advanced degrees.”
Through their generous support of this initiative, the Rosalind and Morris Goodman Family Foundation is sending a strong message to Israel and world Jewry: That the Ethiopian Jewish community is a vital, inseparable part of Israel that should enjoy a status equal to that of other communities, both within and outside of the universities.
It is the family’s fervent wish that these scholarships will have a snowball effect and attract others to support such initiatives aimed at positively influencing the status and perception of Ethiopian Jews in Israel and beyond. Combating negative biases toward the community is an overarching goal, in which education can play a critical role. In the future, the Foundation also hopes to support additional programs at both universities to raise awareness of the rich of culture and history of Ethiopian Jewry.
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For more information, please contact:
(Mr.) Sharon J. Fraenkel
Canadian Friends of Tel Aviv University
Ottawa, Quebec and Atlantic Canada
Tel.: 514.344.3417, ext. 350
Senior National Director, Communications
Canadian Friends of Hebrew University
Tel: 416-485-8000, Ext. 111