Thursday, June 16, 2011

An exciting opportunity.

A year ago while I was in the middle of my masters studies I decided that I would like to return to Israel for an extended period of time one last time. The last two years I have been studying for my Masters in Social Work at Washington University in St. Louis, concentrating on social and economic development and management of non-profits. Part of completing my masters I had to do 600 hours of concentration practicum and I could do it anywhere in the world. With that, when I decided returning to Israel was a priority of mine, I chose to start researching non-profits in Israel that met my interests, goals and ambitions.

A year ago I randomly stumbled upon the Ethiopian National Project. I had been networking, trying to connect with people and researching what was out there, with no intention of actually finding something so far in advance. I emailed the contact, Grace Rodnitzki explaining myself, my goals and what I was looking for, only with the intentions of gathering information and putting out the idea of having a masters level intern come the following summer. In turn I received a very enthusiastic reply saying they would love to have a masters level intern. The question that may be posed is why did I choose ENP when there is many other non-profits out there.

What drew me to ENP was several things. I've spent the last two years studying social work but I've focused on studying community development, international development and poverty. Along with this I have been interested in the macro level non-profit management area of social work. Not typically what people assume I'm doing when I say I am getting my Masters in Social Work. Throughout the last two years I have focused on the education of children, youth and teenagers and how poverty, family systems and communities can create barriers to education. So to answer this question, what drew me to ENP was their mission, their vision and the work they were doing directly with the Ethiopian community. What also sparked my interest was the opportunity they could offer me to explore different areas of interest and what I now I can see as an opportunity to be creative and think outside the box. Two concepts that are very important to me. Lastly, what drew me to ENP was the enthusiasm of their Director of International Relations.

With that, I met with Grace in January when I was staffing a birthright trip and decided this was going to be a great opportunity. My school approved the affiliation between ENP and Washington University in St. Louis. Lastly they approved the internship itself, even giving me a scholarship to come here to do my final 360 hours of concentration practicum.

And amazingly, here I am. Two weeks in I feel connected to the work of ENP and after experiencing my first mission visit in Beit Shemesh, I feel very enthusiastic about the work I will continue to do in the central office in Jerusalem.

May 24th (June 13th = Hebrew Anniversary) marked the 20th anniversary of Operation Solomon, where over 14,000 Ethiopian Jews were flown on nonstop flights in only 36 hours to Israel. An event that would be marked in history as a modern day miracle. In commemoration of Operation Solomon, ENP has launched a fundraising intuitive called Solomon's Mosaic. With 10,000 tiles it represents the 10,000 children that were flown to Israel on Operation Solomon. For $36 dollars a tile, it represents the 36 hours that it took to fly over 14,000 Ethiopian Jews to Israel. Lastly, its more that, it represents the 17,000 current Ethiopian teenagers out there that will benefit from the support of the community when tiles are purchased.

For me, education is important and I see the work I'm doing with Solomon's Mosaic not just as an opportunity to fundraise, but its an opportunity to educate others about Ethiopian Jewry and Operation Solomon. Just as ENP provides educational opportunities to Ethiopian-Israeli teens to help them realize their full potential, this is an opportunity help others feel knowledgable about the Ethiopian community.

I will be interning with ENP until the beginning of September but by August I will have completed my hours in order to receive my final degree for my Masters in Social Work. I may have had to extend my degree in order to have this opportunity, but for such a unique, outside the box opportunity it was definitely worth it.

In conjunction with the scholarship I received in order to come to Israel to work with ENP I am writing my own blog about my work. Feel free to follow my blog