Monday, December 15, 2014

Juggling at the SPACE Scholastic Assistance Program

By Gabriella Feingold
ENP Volunteer

This week was an especially productive week at Yeshivat Netivot Chayim.  I took the light rail straight to the school and started off right away with my first tutoring session.

My students, Noam and Yaakov are at very different levels of English. Yaakov can speak in full sentences and Noam has very little vocabulary at his disposal.  So I juggled encouraging Yaakov with some more challenging reading and writing exercises with the hope that he would learn some new vocabulary.  Meanwhile, I went through the parts of the body with Noam playing a sort of "Simon Says" to help him study them.  We also worked on question words (who, what, where, why, how, how many) and practiced asking different useful questions.

Next, Mola and Yosef came in for a tutoring session.  They are at similar reading levels, but as we read the passage about frogs and tadpoles together, I couldn't keep up with all of the vocabulary they asked for! It was a challenge, but I hope that they learned a lot of words. We also played Simon Says to get some extra body vocabulary in.  It was a jam-packed session!

Bonding Over Common Denominators (And Not Just the Math Kind!)

By Rachel Slater
ENP Volunteer
Student at Midreshet Moriah

This week at ENP I worked with two boys named Yonas and Arush. They worked on math word problems that dealt with temperatures of different substances. They also made number lines to compare numerical values.

The boys and I became instant friends because we bonded over basketball player, LeBron James, from the Cleveland Cavaliers. Both Yonas and Arush were so excited to learn that I live in the same city as their favorite player. They loved talking about the different sports they play and activities they do after school. They also told us a number of jokes, which made us all laugh. Even with their lively personalities, they were able to complete their math homework before class was over. It was a great week at ENP, and I'm glad I got to work with two new boys this week. 

A Rewarding Day at ENP's SPACE Scholastic Assistance Program

By Talia Klein
ENP Volunteer
Student at Midreshet Moriah

At the beginning of this week's session, I was introduced to a new student at the SPACE Scholastic Assistance Program. I was fortunate to have the opportunity to work with him because he was highly motivated and also welcoming of guidance and instruction.

We worked together for the entirety of the session, as he chose not to utilize his allotted break time because he wanted to make more headway in his work. Not only was I impressed by his focus, but I was also really happy to watch this child independently work hard through the challenging assignment. I literally saw him racking his brain to succeed - it was quite motivating.

Perhaps what stuck with me most was at the end of the tutoring session when he said to me very genuinely, "Thank you so much, it was very nice to meet you." This was the first student I encountered who acknowledged the help he was receiving and the relationships that were forming. I look forward to more encounters like this, where the students display a love of challenge. Perhaps I must think of a way to relate my love of learning to these students to serve as an example.  

Monday, December 8, 2014

New Lands, New Perspectives

Melanie Rivkin
ENP Intern
MASA Teaching Fellow in Ashdod

Before coming to Ashdod, Israel this year, I had recently completed the Repair the World: Pittsburgh fellowship, a program dedicated to mobilizing volunteers in urban communities, specifically those between the ages of 18-35. I volunteered with East End Cooperative Ministries (EECM), a non-profit organization that has served the city’s East End neighborhoods through programs in food access, education, housing, and employment since the 1970s. EECM is located in my former neighborhood, East Liberty, in Pittsburgh. Despite its status as a mixed-income and multiracial neighborhood, there are still many socioeconomic divides between East Liberty’s residents. EECM provided me with the opportunity to directly give back to my former community, to get to know my neighbors and to bridge gaps between us.
Although I am less familiar with community structures in Israel, Ethiopian Jewry contains a culture that I have always been fascinated by, curious about, and interested in being a part of. As a new resident of Ashdod this year, I want to be able to open up to my neighbors, to get to learn new traditions and cultures, and to give back from my own skills and experiences in return. I’m really excited to be working over the next months with the Ethiopian National Project in Ashdod and on social media projects for the organization. 
I’m looking forward to the next 7 months with ENP and to connect further with the community! 

My Personal Breakthrough

By Talia Klein
ENP Volunteer
Student at Midreshet Moriah

This past Wednesday seemed to be a breakthrough with the students, with much thanks to the Gymnasia School's coordinator, Aviva, who facilitated a more structured session by having us start the day off by personally introducing ourselves in front of all the students. We shared where we live in the US, what we are doing in Israel/for how long, etc. Immediately upon hearing of our hometowns, the male students asked about specific professional basketball players from the different NBA teams, and through that we found connections and similar interests. 

Afterwards, we were each placed to work individually with one or two students, as opposed to trying to balance the whole classroom at the same time, as we had done in the past. I noticed that this method was much more conducive to our learning. It was less intimidating for the students, I believe, and made it a little bit more personal. This past week, the volunteering was important for me because I discovered that I will progress with these students little by little each week. At the beginning they are all skeptical and untrusting, but through time I trust that they will begin to open up and appreciate and seek my guidance and previous knowledge. I will keep patient and break down the wall between us, student and teacher, little by little. 

Sunday, December 7, 2014

An Educational Week at ENP

By Aleeza Dessau 
ENP Volunteer
Student at Midreshet Moriah

This week at ENP, we had a fun time learning about the Amish! 

The students learned where they live and how they dress from reading together in text books and even a cool video about Amish life.

After learning about the Amish, we were able to learn a little bit about each other by playing fun games like hangman, and even a cool word search. I really got to know my students a lot better and hope to continue learning more about them as the year goes on.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Ready for a Challenge

By Talia Klein
ENP Volunteer
Student at Midreshet Moriah

This week's volunteering was more of a challenge in terms of the students' composure. I found myself having to work harder to encourage them to focus and to complete their assignments. While I was in the awkward position of not wanting to be too stern with them but also wanting them to sit down and get their work done, I think it is important that I was put in this position. These kids need some disciplining, I have begun to realize, and while it is not my responsibility to be a behavior police, it is my responsibility to build a relationship with these kids in order that they gain my trust and thus respect me and others. I am up for the challenge!

Reading and Understanding Reports

By Mona Mizikovsky
ENP Intern
MASA Teaching Fellow in Rishon L'Zion

While reading one of the end-of-year reports to one of our amazing funders I came across this phrase:

"It is important to note that the Government of Israel invests millions of shekels in the effort to register an improvement of single digit increases in matriculation rates for the general national population.  ENP has succeeded in improving performance ay a phenomenal scale, with minimal investment per child"

This phrase really got me thinking.  Initially about how successful ENP is at closing the educational gap by providing its participants with additional study assistance, lunch and academic and social support.  But also more generally about education. It's really amazing how a few additional hours of small group tutorials based on a child's needs can make a difference.  

In the grand scheme of things the scholastic assistance program doesn't seem like much but the changes it produces really are impressive, not only on to the ENP participants but on Israeli society as a whole. 

ENP really deserves as much credit as it gets for the work it does!

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Marketing and Fundraising, Galore!

By Mona Mizikovsky
ENP Intern, MASA Teaching Fellow in Rishon L'Zion

The last week at ENP has been all about marketing and fundraising.  

I have been given the opportunity to redesign the marketing card that ENP uses at various events.  I've been having a lot of fun looking into different options for the card but I am hoping to do something related to Ethiopian food because that is one of my favourite things about Ethiopian culture.  I was researching berebere last Thursday and apart from being ridiculously spicy, it seems to be a wonder spice that can basically be added to anything.

Apart from marketing, I have also been finalising a few grant applications, some to big corporations and others to smaller foundations.  It only costs $1,000 USD for each child to take part in the scholastic assistance program with this covering the extra tutoring, lunch and other activities, like field trips, for the whole year.  I really hope these organisations see the great work that ENP is doing and help fund additional participants particularly in the scholastic assistance program.

It was also really interesting to see the photos and hear about the Tiferet Mission to Israel of the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago.  The Mission visited the Youth Outreach Centre in Petach Tikva.  The groups shared stories and learnt how to cook a few Ethiopian dishes.  It really sounded like a great day of culture exchange (and fingers crossed I can be involved in one in the future)!

Thursday, November 20, 2014

The Start of a Beautiful Friendship

By Rachel Slater
ENP Volunteer
Student at Midreshet Moriah

My second week at ENP was exciting! The class room was very lively.

The girls and boys were more talkative than last week. After Hadas and Racheli finished their delicious sandwiches, they started their math homework. This week the math consisted of addition and subtraction with multiple numbers. After I showed them some quick trick to make the problems simpler, the girls were able to complete the worksheets without barely any help. It's great to see Hadas and Racheli solve the problems by their selves because they get so excited and they recognize that they can do it on their own.

Not only did we do math, but we continued to get to know each other. I can't wait to further build our friendship. 

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Apprehension and Excitement: Ready to Begin My Volunteering!

By Gabriella Feingold
ENP Volunteer

This week began with a lot of apprehension. I was to go to the schools I am volunteering at this year and talk about what I'll be doing. I had no idea what to expect! And everyone kept speaking in Hebrew! But then, I discovered the gratefulness of the staff and the willingness of the students. Just from two 10-minute meetings, the potential of my volunteer experience unfolded before my eyes. 

At Yeshivat Netivot Shalom, I met five boys with whom I will do extra English exercises to help strengthen their English studies. I expected teenage boys at the end of their school day to be disinterested, but they just listened attentively as I introduced myself and asked if I could start that day! (I couldn't, because I had no lesson plan prepared - but they certainly made me want to!) At Ulpanat Tzvia Yitziratit I met the Hebrew teacher, the principal, and the curriculum manager all of whom were thrilled that I am volunteering my time. When I said I could offer more hours a week than originally planned, they rushed into a frenzy finding all of the ways I can be useful to this school. And I hope that I will be. Next week I will start these exciting projects and I'm sure I'll have much more to report!

Monday, November 17, 2014

And I Thought Math Was Hard!

By Aleeza Hartstein
ENP Volunteer
Student at Midreshet Moriah

This past week I have the opportunity to volunteer at the Gymnasia School in Jerusalem with two Ethiopian boys in the seventh grade. At first they were a little hesitant to jump into their school work but after a few minutes they warmed up to me and we got to work. I volunteered to be put into the group that was teaching math thinking it would be basic algebra which I was fine with. The hard part wasn't converting 8/3 into a fraction, but deciphering the instructions which were in Hebrew and then trying to explain to the boys how to do the problem in Hebrew. After about an hour of slowly going through the worksheet (with much help from Google translate) we finally finished their school work and called it a day. It was a very fun yet challenging experience and I'm looking forward to working with the kids and getting to know them better throughout the year. 

First impressions

By Rachel Slater
ENP Volunteer
Student at Midreshet Moriah

This was my first week working with ENP! It was a great experience. The girls I spent the day with are named Racheli and Hadas. They are both very sweet and talkative. The girls had one worksheet of math, and they completed it with ease. After finishing the worksheet, we talked about our families and and got to know each other. I look forward to getting to know Racheli and Hadas better as the year goes on! 

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Welcome to ENP!

By Penina Gershbaum
ENP Volunteer
Student at Midreshet Moriah

This past Wednesday I volunteered in an Israeli public school to help teach English to Ethiopian children who need some additional English lessons. It was a really eye-opening experience working with these children. I had never worked with Ethiopian children before and I had never tutored anyone in English. There were 4 students who were scheduled for extra lessons, one who knew English pretty well and the other three were each on different levels. We were each given a student, and were given a worksheet with a few paragraphs and questions that the student had to complete. I thought I would just help the student with a few words she didn't understand or had trouble pronouncing, but I didn't realize how little she knew. We sat for an hour and a half working on the sheet, and we just finished reading a three paragraph passage. I helped her pronounce words she had trouble with, and translated many words into Hebrew so she would understand the meaning, and then would test her on the words. It was a little bit frustrating having to try to translate some words and repeat basic words that any 14 year old American would know, but it was rewarding at the end to know that I am making a difference in someone else's life. I am giving up 2 hours of my time a week, to help a student I don't even know, but these 2 hours of extra English are helping her and could change her life. Looking forward to what this week brings :)

Multi-faceted Challenges

By Talia Klein
ENP Volunteer
Student at Midreshet Moriah

This past Wednesday I began working with a handful of Ethiopian students at the Gymnasia School. Upon entering and being met by swarms of students, I was immediately excited because this was one of the first Israeli schools I had ever entered. I consulted briefly with the math teacher responsible for the children with whom I would be working and instantly found that I was really going to have to utilize my Hebrew, much more than I had expected when deciding to work with the Ethiopian National Project, which strives to integrate Ethiopian-Israelis into Israeli society. But this was the best news of the day as I was able to spend a few hours outside the confines of my midrasha (seminary program) at which I study to experience true Israeli culture and learning. 

This week I had the opportunity to work with two seventh grade girls who needed math assistance. We got to know each other a little and then delved right into their assignments, during which time all three of us were able to learn from one another in different respects. I learned and utilized new Hebrew terms and these girls learned and consulted with me regarding the math problems themselves. One of the most fulfilling moments, however, during our two hours together happened as follows: One of the students answered a math problem with what she had thought was the correct answer. I looked over her work to see if she used the proper methods to arrive at her answer, but I discovered that her answer was incorrect. Without hesitation, I was able to elaborate and describe in Hebrew why the correct answer was the correct answer, following which I saw her nod her head in approval and understanding. For her, it was the completion of one of the many math problems she was assigned. But for me, it was an incredible moment of joy that I was able to properly and efficiently communicate and teach in a foreign language. This undertaking already feels so rewarding due to the fact that not only am I teaching these students, but that truly they are teaching me as well. I look forward to continuing to build relationships with my students and to mapping their progress and mine. 

Sunday, November 2, 2014


By Mona Mizikovsky
ENP Intern, MASA Teaching Fellow in Rishon L'Zion

Hi! My name is Mona and I am a university graduate from Brisbane, Australia.  I recently moved to Israel for 10 months as an Israel Teaching Fellow living in Rishon LeZion.  I will be volunteering with ENP for the next 8 months in the International Relations Team.

While I have only had 1.5 days in the office I feel like I have already learnt so much about ENP and the incredible work that it does. Learning that the matriculation rate among ENP participants has nearly reached the national Jewish average and the superior performance of ENP participants in contrast to comparison group of similar background really proved to me that ENP is doing such important work.

My job over the next 8 months will be to assist with fund-raising, marketing and social media and I can tell you already, there is a lot of work to be done even to get the smallest amount of money for ENP. However, after hearing about the difference ENP is making in the Ethiopian Community in Israel, I know my time and effort is all worth it!  

Have a great day!

Monday, October 6, 2014

Beyond the Stats

By Orit Honigsberg
ENP Intern, Fall 2014
Student at Bar Ilan University

Most of my days I spend working with numbers and facts as I write applications and letters, appealing to different corporations to help ENP’s worthy cause. Statistics of the Ethiopian-Israeli community clearly indicate the necessity of ENP’s work. The latest report will tell you that Ethiopian-Israeli families are larger than the average Israeli family-almost half having 3 or more children. 44.7% of Ethiopian-Israeli families with children live in poverty. 12.7% of Ethiopian-Israeli families are dual-breadwinner poor. 45% of Ethiopian-Israeli women have no education and/or certifications. 47.3% of Ethiopian-Israeli children are placed in the lowest tracks at school, resulting in their inability to study the material that will make the college-eligible. 

Additionally, while 46% of Israelis pay for supplementary tutoring for their children during high school, this is a luxury that most Ethiopian-Israeli families cannot afford. Few Ethiopian-Israeli children aspire to reach elite professions, resulting in self-fulfilling prophecies of underachievement. ENP professionals encourage students to aim high, while equipping these children with the necessary tools and experiences in order to reach their goals and have promising futures.

On one of my many visits to ENP’s website, I came across the “Stories” section, where there is documentation of how Programs have affected the lives of the participants by reflecting with personal accounts. While working behind the scenes in non-profit, I learned the importance of remembering who we are fighting for- the secret to motivation behind a staff’s hard work is by keeping the goal in clear perspective, and by being reminded of progress along the way. Yes, I learned valuable skills in research, and in writing. But I also learned that skills feel of even greater value when put towards the right cause. I hope that my time at ENP has helped both the staff and the members of the program!

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Entering the New Year With a Sense of Gratitude

By Orit Honigsberg
ENP Intern, Fall 2014
Student at Bar Ilan University

After continued research about ENP’s programs, I’ve come across the organization's plans for expansion.

The Government of Israel has recommended that as of the academic year 2015, ENP serve as coordinating body for all educational programs for Ethiopian-Israeli school-aged children nationally. What this means is that the Program will expand from its current 4000 students (approximately) to include more than 12,000 students across the country. ENP will also increase the monitoring of its participants over multi-year periods, as well as after their graduation from the Program.

While reading this information, I felt so grateful that ENP’s work has gained such significant recognition and acknowledgment by the Israeli Government, the Ministry of Education, the Ministry of Finance, and the Ministry of Immigration. This expansion will take lots of resources and funds and inspires me to work even harder during my time here to help with this transition into ENP’s soon-to-be leading role in the Ethiopian-Israeli educational system. With Rosh Hashana approaching, I want to wish ENP a huge amount of success, and that they should continue to make such a powerful impact and continue to create equal opportunity amongst all of the members of Israel’s population. By next year, this program will be beginning to take effect and I look forward to seeing it happen! 


Sunday, September 21, 2014

ENP Summer Camp Pen-Pal Project

By: Michelle Markowitz
ENP 2014 Intern

Fresh off of a year of volunteering with ENP, I returned to Camp Ramah in the Poconos determined to spread the word to campers and staff members alike. I developed a new curriculum which would introduce groups of campers to untold Jewish narratives from around the world, with the main focus being on Ethiopian Jews. We spent two days talking about the experience of Ethiopian Jews as they left their home and traveled to Israel, and the campers were able to complete activities that allowed them to put themselves in the shoes of a new immigrant in a new land.  We were even able to have a guest speaker talk to the group, as one of the staff members at camp was an Ethiopian-Israeli.

On the second day of our class, I told the campers that they would have the opportunity to participate in a Pen-Pal Project, where they would write letters to Ethiopian-Israeli teens and could hear first hand from them what it’s like to grow up as an Ethiopian-Israeli.  The campers were extremely excited about the opportunity, and took their time crafting careful messages to their new friends.  Some campers even completed their letters outside of our activity time, and brought them to me when they were finished. Starting the very next day, the campers already began asking me if I had gotten a response from anyone at ENP, and they wondered when they would receive their letters.

When I finally was able to tell the campers that the letters had arrived in Israel and that responses were on their way, the campers were so excited, and were curious about what they would hear from their new friends.  By the end of the month-long session, the campers had learned about Jews from Ethiopia, Uganda, China, India, and Mexico, and had studied the stories of Refusniks in Russia and Marranos in Spain.  They had learned about Jewish cultures and traditions that they had never been exposed to, and were able to appreciate how easy it is for them to be Jewish in the United States after hearing the struggles of many of the Jews from around the world.  But at the end of all of this, the campers were most excited about their new pen-pals and the ability to hear firsthand the information we had learned together.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Feeling Like an ENP Veteran Already

By Orit Honigsberg
ENP Intern, Fall 2014
Student at Bar Ilan University

Just successfully completed my second week as an Ethiopian National Project intern! After hours and hours of reading about ENP’s work, and old reports, I can sprout off fun facts about the organization like a pro. 

This skill of sounding like a veteran ENP employee is coming in handy. For all of the phone calls I’ve been making-especially those in Hebrew- I am required to sound competent, confident, and well versed in ENP’s work. In any other place, making cold calls might feel a bit like telemarketing. However, Israel, as always, proves it is not like any other country. While targeting some major Israeli corporations, I’ve been transferred a billion times, and have been turned down bluntly once or twice as well (which is to be expected). However, even those who turn me down tell me Kol HaKavod for trying. When the nice lady at HaMashbir LeTzarchan (and Israeli department store) told me ENP wasn’t eligible, she kept me on the line for another few minutes gushing about the good work I was doing, calling me a “tzadika” (righteous). So instead of being discouraged when I can’t progress in a certain direction, I’ve been motivated.

What I like about my position is that it also requires creativity. My Google-ing skills have never been better. All other work or volunteering positions I’ve held in the past have been very hands on, working with other people in an active setting. This is the first time I’ve had a role that is 100% research and writing (and sitting). Still, the work is engrossing and I find the hours pass by quickly, always leaving me with work for next time!

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

The Cultural Gap

By Lisa Raizes
ENP Volunteer Summer 2014
Student at Southern Methodist University

After serving with The Ethiopian National Project (ENP) whose purpose is to help Ethiopian immigrants and their families succeed in Israel, I asked myself one question: Why do Ethiopian-Israelis have a harder time integrating into Israeli society than other immigrant groups?

Coming from a Markets and Culture perspective, I realized that one very influential reason is that there is a huge culture gap between Ethiopian-Israelis and Israelis. Transitioning from a “developing nation with a rural economy” to a “Western country with a high-tech market economy” does not come without its problems (“History”).

Israel maintains a very innovative, high-tech economy, having “the highest concentration of engineers and research and development spending in the world” (Senor & Singer, 9). Not only that, but “more Israeli companies are listed on the NASDAQ exchange than all companies from the entire European continent” (Senor & Singer, 11). With all of its innovations, it is no wonder that one of Israel’s leading exports is high-technology equipment (“Middle East: Israel”). Ethiopia, however, is still a developing country and the innovations the majority of Israelis can enjoy may only be experienced by the rich minority in Ethiopia. Agriculture is central to Ethiopia’s economy and “accounts for 46% of GDP and 85% of total employment” (“Africa: Ethiopia”) Rather than getting attention for its technology, Ethiopia has received foreign demand for their textiles, leather, and coffee (“Africa: Ethiopia”). Acquiring skills and finding jobs in a country that has a completely different economical focus than your native country is difficult and is one of the challenges immigrating Ethiopians are faced with.

Another difference between Ethiopia and Israel is that Ethiopia is a collectivist society and Israel has evolved into a more individualistic society. Israel has a collectivist history, apparent by organizations such as its Kibbutzim which are communal agricultural communities where people share the property and wealth. In the kibbutzim’s earlier days, even children lived in communal children’s houses. However, today Kibbutzim have become more individualistic with more individual choices such as housing options and educational pursuits. Most kibbutzniks, people who live on kibbutzes, make and enjoy their own salaries instead of salaries going directly into the Kibbutz’ ownership and then being shared evenly among its members. In an individualistic country, individuals tend to focus on the individual rather than the whole group. They pursue their own personal goals rather than group goals.

In Ethiopia, emphasis is placed on the group. The group’s etiquette, norms, and values tend to align with each other. Trust is given to the group and everyone in the group looks after each other. Perhaps if Ethiopians had immigrated at an earlier time when the collectivist Kibbutz was prevalent, their assimilation might have been a little easier. 
Israel is also a low-context country. Low context countries tend to have a need for order. Life is governed by laws. Business agreements can occur through written agreements even with strangers. There is high trust among Israelis because each Israeli believes others will follow the same rules they live by. This is opposite of a high-context country such as Ethiopia, in which trust must be earned before agreements and other transactions can occur. Nepotism is very common in high-context countries which make it even more difficult for Ethiopians who may be moving away from their family and friends with whom they have already built relationships with or with integrating Ethiopians into Israeli neighborhoods where they might be further away from other Ethiopians.
Israel is a very low power distance country, meaning decision making can happen on all levels of society and status is not very important. Israel is a country “with fewer class differences than most” and a big reason is this low power distance aspect (Senor & Singer, 52). Israelis have a lot of chutzpah, a word similar to assertiveness which can mean “incredible guts.” Chutzpah is seen in the way “university students speak with their professors, employees challenge their bosses, [and] sergeants question their generals” (Senor & Singer, 30). The attitude of chutzpah further closes the gap between Israeli citizens and Israeli authority figures. Another way in which people in positions of power continue to stay close to home is the use of nicknames. Israelis commonly use nicknames and authority figures are no exception. Current Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is known as “Bibi” (Senor & Singer, 31). All of this is opposite of the high power distance Ethiopia where decisions made by authority are not usually questioned. Class systems are prevalent in Ethiopia and may be based upon age, wealth, gender, or ethnicity. There is a huge gap between the rich and poor and status is very hierarchal. Social interactions reflect this hierarchy. For example, religious and political figures are seen to possess more authority than teachers or other workers, and this authority is not challenged. There also seems to be a lack of trust between people in positions of power and those with less power, such as the government and its people.  
The Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) plays a huge role in Israel’s low power distance culture. Army service is required for both men and women at the age of eighteen (exceptions may include Israeli Arabs and Hasidic Jews).  Although duration of service may differ depending on which unit one enters, women typically serve for approximately two years while men serve for about three years. After completion of these required years, Israelis continue to serve in the army reserves for a few weeks out of the year. Although specific army units have different levels of prestige (similar to the way different universities in America have different rankings), the IDF has a lack of hierarchy which generates a lack of hierarchy in civilian life (Senor & Singer, 52). Unity is created through compulsory army service, where people share the common experience of sleeping in bare tents or going without showering for days and places Israelis on equal footing. Not only this, but the IDF unites under fighting for the “existence of their country” (Senor & Singer, 54). This equal footing diminishes the gap between those in positions of power and those who are not. In Ethiopia, army service is not compulsory and as a result, the same equal footing that Israelis experience is not seen in Ethiopian society. Ethiopians also do not possess the same assertiveness and questioning that Israelis do. Even those that voluntarily join the military would not question generals, sergeants or others in officer positions as Israelis might do. Ethiopians must adjust from a country with voluntary army service to a country where the army is not only compulsory, but its culture also greatly emphasized even beyond the military itself.
There are national cultural differences and there are familial cultural differences. Ethiopia is a male-dominated society and elders are respected. In Israel, the youth of Ethiopian-Israeli children have adapted faster than their parents due to their young age and exposure to Israeli culture in schools and other places. Because of this, they have a better understanding than their parents of the language and cultural customs of Israel. This causes parents to rely on them, creating a role reversal where the children act as the “head of households” (Kaplan & Hagar, 136).
 Ethiopian women are encouraged to take a greater role in Israel than in Ethiopia. In Ethiopia, women do not have as many freedoms in the male dominated society. However, in Israel women are given more responsibility and autonomy than in their native country (Kaplan & Hagar, 136). Ethiopian-Israeli women now have the choice to make decisions about their education and family, for example, how far they would like to pursue their education, or the number of children they would like to have. More of them work outside of the home and they all join the Israeli army. To see women with so much independence from men would be very unusual in Ethiopian society. The loss of control males once had in Ethiopia causes them to be resentful (Kaplan & Hagar, 136). These new cultural behaviors often clash with their old ones and adjusting is difficult. 
Ethiopia is a collectivist, high-context, high power distance country whose economy is agriculturally based. Israel is the opposite - an individualistic, low-context, low power distance country with an innovative high-tech economy. These cultural differences play a huge role in the current struggles of Ethiopian-Israeli integration into Israeli society. Because of the huge cultural gap between Ethiopian and Israeli cultures, ENP’s youth outreach centers are necessary. It is important for Ethiopian-Israeli youth to have a place to go when they need a resource, a role model, peers that are going through the same things, or just to have something to do. 

Works Cited:
"Africa: Ethiopia." Central Intelligence Agency, n.d. Web. 

"History: In the Beginning." Israel Association for Ethiopian Jews, n.d. Web. 

Kaplan, Steven, and Hagar Isaac. Salamon. "Ethiopian Jews in Israel: A Part of the People or Apart from 
the People?" Jews in Israel: Contemporary Social and Cultural Patterns. Hanover: Brandeis UP, 2004. 118-48. Print. .

"Middle East: Israel." Central Intelligence Agency, n.d. Web. 

Senor, Dan, and Saul Singer. Start-up Nation: The Story of Israel's Economic Miracle. New York: Twelve, 
2009. Print.

Monday, September 8, 2014

The Aftermath of it All

By Lisa Raizes
ENP Volunteer Summer 2014
Student at Southern Methodist University

It’s been a little over a month since I left ENP and came back home to Texas. The last day at my center was very emotional. The staff gave me a picture frame with pictures of the memories I had made at ENP along with a sweet letter. Some of the kids wrote me notes or drew me pictures. There were times I had wondered if I had gotten through to the kids with the language barrier we faced, but in this moment I knew my time at ENP had been meaningful. I could tell that even small things like playing a game of checkers had made an impact on them. Showing genuine passion and care is not something you have to say. I showed it, and I knew the kids had seen it.

I still think of the youth and staff at my center frequently. I wonder how the girls nights have gone since I’ve been home, if the kids are improving in their English, if they are happy, if they think of me like I think of them. I don’t just think about the kids, I think about the staff that I grew close to. I think about the community of Ethiopians and how their life is in Israel. I still reflect upon my experience at ENP. I know that I don’t get to see the youth and staff at my center daily like I did while I was in Israel anymore, but I still cherish the memories I made with them.

Thinking of my girls at the Youth Outreach Center and missing the Girls Nights!

Sunday, September 7, 2014

What does ENP do? A Volunteer’s Perspective

By Lisa Raizes
ENP Volunteer Summer 2014
Student at Southern Methodist University

What does ENP do? A Volunteer’s Perspective

Note: Although ENP has multiple programs, I am specifically focusing on their Youth Outreach Centers since that is where I served during my summer with ENP. I recently came across an evaluation study of ENP from the Myers-JDC Brookdale Institute in 2005-2007 and thought it would be helpful to provide their statistics here. The study provides an in depth look at ENP’s youth outreach centers although it is important to keep in mind that the study was done a couple of years ago. The statistics in the study explain overall characteristics of ENP’s youth outreach centers, and not specifically the one I served at. 

To understand what ENP’s youth outreach centers do, it is important to understand the general characteristics of the youth that these centers serve. The following statistical characteristics were taken from the Myers-JDC Brookdale Evlauation study of ENP:

46% of the youth are born in Ethiopia and 54% of the youth are born in Israel 
90% of families have four or more children
In 30% of the homes, neither parent is working
10% of students fail four or more subjects and half of them fail at least one
33% of the youth have been involved in fights 

I feel that the center is very important to addressing these challenges. The center allows the children to interact with people who are facing the same challenges, get support, and get involved with different activities. The center also hosts parent’s nights to get the parents involved and help them understand what their children are going through. 

According to the Myers-JDC Brookdale evaluation study, “81% of the youth say they are satisfied with the center” and over half of the youth felt the center built their confidence as well as provided them with things to do in their leisure time that held interest and importance to them (Cohen-Navot, Baruj-Kovarsky, Levi, and Konstantinov 18-20).
The youth outreach centers aim to help the Ethiopian-Israelis socially and emotionally. It is important for Ethiopian-Israeli youth to have a place to go when they need a resource, something to do, a role model, or access to peers that are going through the same things.

Works Cited:

Cohen-Navot, Miriam, Ruth Baruj-Kovarsky, Dganit Levi, and Viacheslav Konstantinov. The Ethiopian National Project: An Evaluation Study of the SPACE Program - Scholastic Assistance, Youth Centers 2005-2007. Jerusalem: Myers-JDC-Brookdale Institute, The Engelberg Center for Children and Youth, 2007. The Ethiopian National Project. Web. .

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Behind the Scenes at ENP

By Orit Honigsberg
ENP Intern, Fall 2014
Student at Bar Ilan University

This week, I began an exiting new endeavor as an intern at the Ethiopian National Project. My job is behind-the-scenes, helping out with grant writing and fundraising. When I began this position, it was slightly daunting as this is an area I have no previous experience in. I spent my first day poring over old reports, familiarizing myself with ENP’s work, and trying to gain an understanding for the organization’s focuses and future goals. With each report, I grew increasingly touched and impressed. Touched, because these children, who are so deserving of equal opportunity and the chance at a brighter future, are being provided with the chance to improve. Reading through some of the student’s personal accounts and understanding ENP’s work in-action was incredibly moving, especially the charts which boast the incredible success rate of ENP’s programs.

Today, I reflected back on my own educational experiences. Having gone through the North-American academic system until my high-school graduation, I was afforded ample opportunities to excel. The learning environment I was in was both stimulating and competitive, where my peers and I strongly valued grades and were taught to look towards the future.  These values were subconsciously instilled in us at home by our parents and at school by our teachers. When I made aliyah, and became a part of the Israeli school system for University, my past academic experiences enabled a seamless transition, allowing me to keep up with the Israeli students in my class. I consider the large number of Ethiopians who made aliyah, like I did, and yet still struggle to find their place in Israeli society, despite having arrived many years before me. It certainly puts things in perspective, and makes me grateful for the opportunity to contribute to such an important cause.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Reflecting Back on My Summer at ENP

By Lisa Raizes
ENP Volunteer Summer 2014
Student at Southern Methodist University

This summer, I spent two months volunteering in Israel with the Ethiopian National Project (ENP), a non-profit organization whose purpose is to help Ethiopian immigrants and their families succeed in Israel. ENP has many programs, but I specifically worked at one of their youth outreach centers.

I remember my first day: the staff at my center was very kind and the kids were the sweetest! When I arrived, there was definitely a language barrier between the children and myself. They all spoke fluent Hebrew, while I was just a beginner in Hebrew.

Sometimes the kids pulled out their phones to use google translate to converse with me. Over time, my Hebrew improved, but I was still nowhere near the level I would have liked to be at. Through this obstacle, I learned that you do not have to solely rely on conversation to communicate with kids. Playing soccer, drawing together, or playing chess still brought the kids and me together. In times when I was leading an activity, another volunteer there who became my close friend, helped me to translate.

It is very difficult to adjust from a life in Ethiopia to one in Israel. Many people from Ethiopia come from villages and then arrive into a western, urban society. Not only do the Ethiopians have to start from scratch, but they also have to adapt to a new culture. Their kids also have a hard time growing up at the intersection of Ethiopian and Israeli cultures. They sometimes have to be the translator for their parents and their parents cannot always understand the challenges they face. Even asking for help with math homework is something not every Ethiopian-Israeli child can ask their parent. The center allows the children to interact with people who are facing the same challenges, get support, and get involved with different activities. The center also hosts parent’s nights to get the parents involved and help them understand what their children are going through.

Because of these additional challenges, I strived to empower the girls at ENP to give them the self-confidence to believe that they could get through any obstacle that may come their way. I did this through planning and leading girls’ nights. The girls’ nights were my way of building self-confidence within the girls as well as developing unity between them.  Each girls’ night we would eat food from a different culture and then participate in various activities. One of my favorite girls’ nights was the one in which each of the girls brought an Ethiopian food dish from home. Before we ate, I wanted each girl to tell me about the dish they had brought – what it was, how they made it. I don’t remember the names of each dish but I won’t forget sitting there and being so appreciative that each girl and their family took the time to cook something and the pride in which the girls talked about their dishes. On this particular day, another volunteer brought her friend to the center. Her friend was born in Ethiopia but moved to the U.S. when she was young. I think she and the kids quickly connected since she was someone who understood their struggles having been born in their same country and also having had to adapt into a new society. It was clear she and the kids had faced some of the same challenges. She also wore her hair natural and short. Most of the girls at the center straightened their hair and I think it was good for them to see someone with the same hair type wear it natural, short, and confident.  She was the perfect role model for the kids- an Ethiopian who was able to adapt into a new society, but still maintain her roots and culture. After all of the thoughtful conversation, we ended the night with a fun game. One person would hum the tune of a song and the audience had to guess which song it was. Multiple times one person would guess and then everyone would start singing together. It was a simple game, yet it allowed different cliques of girls to come together through music. It was unifying. Overall, I think the girls’ nights allowed the girls to have fun while exploring their identity as Ethiopian-Israelis.

My last day at ENP was very emotional. The staff gave me a picture frame and a letter. Some of the kids wrote me notes or drew me pictures. I felt that they had seen my good intentions and that even the small things, like playing a game of checkers, had made an impact on them. It’s been almost a month since I’ve been home and I still think of the staff and kids at my center regularly. I won’t forget the memories I made with them!

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Diving into ENP

By Nicole Heker
ENP Volunteer Summer 2014, via JInternship
Student at Pennsylvania State University

The kids that I had the opportunity of meeting at Petah Tikva this week took me by surprise. A little nervous for my first day on the job, I spent some time surfing the Internet hoping to prepare myself for the cultural diversity that I was to encounter, being that prior to my first time in Israel, I was unaware of the dynamic Ethiopian-Israeli community that existed. Even post-research, I had an image in my mind of what to expect. Walking in to the center at Petah Tikva I was greeted by a group of jokesters and Tupac-enthusiasts. It was an instant connection—music and laughs. After a few minutes of speaking with each other outside they led me to Zehavit, the wonderful leader of the center. I was greeted on the second level by a group of girls around the age of 15 whom I spent the next few hours with. We sat and got to know each other. Some spoke English better then others but their warmth and effort to engage with me and ask questions made me feel right at home with them. Another helping factor was our mutual admiration for the Queen B—BeyoncĂ©.

I work twice a week with these kids in Petah Tikva and the other two days in the office with Adina. Finally putting a face and voice to the emails was long awaited and amazing. My goal in the office is to create and help implement a project that will connect these kids in Petah Tikva with kids in the States. After lots of brainstorming, an idea is starting to form. The office environment and the freedom that I am provided with gives an atmosphere conducive to productivity and creativity and I immediately felt welcomed and part of the team. Getting to know these kids beforehand, and understanding their likes and dislikes gave me so much to work on because I know that what I am creating is designed FOR THEM. I can’t wait to get to know them better and, hopefully, give kids in the States the opportunity to connect with them the way I have and that they have the opportunity to form bonds, knowledge and break cultural boundaries together. 

Goodbye for Now

By Elyse Waksman 
ENP Volunteer Summer 2014, via Onward Boston Israel
Student at Clark University

            Today is my final day interning here in Jerusalem, but definitely not the end of my work with ENP. Recently, I’ve been working with a few other interns on designing a layout for the annual report to come out in October. As soon as I get back to campus, I plan to physically create the layout on a computer program so that our original ideas can become a reality. We’re really focused on making the presentation of the report more professional and appealing so that the content will stand out more than in the past. This is especially important this year, as ENP hopes to expand to help more and more youth at younger ages. I also plan to bring ENP to Clark by starting a pen pal club on my campus, which will allow for overseas connections with Ethiopian-Israeli youth, as well as mentorship, cultural exchange, and English practice. I hope that this will continue my relations with the ENP staff as well as the kids themselves.

            I am going to miss a lot about Israel, from the palm trees and sunny weather to the shuk and the Tel Aviv art fair. But first and foremost I will miss working here in the office and at the summer camp with the girls. I know that I will be back to Israel in the future, and I plan to stay in contact and hopefully come back to ENP someday. I’ve benefited immensely from my experiences here this summer and I know I’ll carry the lessons I’ve learned with me into my future endeavors.

Friday, August 8, 2014

L'hitraot ENP!

By Jessica Shankman
ENP Volunteer Summer 2014, via Career Israel
Student at University of of Minnesota

Last Sunday marked the end of my time as an intern at the Lod ENP center. To celebrate the end of the summer, we made a poster with everyone’s handprints and names. We also worked on a project outside where we asked the kids to trace each other on the ground with sidewalk chalk. After the bodies were outlined, we asked the kids to write aspects of themselves for certain parts of their body; they wrote about their dreams near their head, the things they care about most near their hearts, and where they wish to go in their future near their feet.  Of course they added much more creativity to their art, coloring in the outlines and using the chalk to graffiti the ground. Afterwards, the courtyard was glowing with bright color. It turned into a beautiful mural!

At the end of the day, we brought cake and sat down to say our toda rabahs (thank yous) and l’hitraots (see yous). The experience I had with ENP in the past two months has been incredible to say the least. I am so thankful that I had the chance to connect with the kids at the Lod center and learn about them and their unique culture. During some of the hardest times considering the country’s state of war, the center became a place that I looked forward to going every week. The kids were a breath of fresh air from all of the somber news surrounding us. Every day they were in high spirits and excited, which was such an wonderful thing to be part of. 

As I travel back to the states, I am so excited to bring the stories of the kids I met and the experiences I shared with them this summer. ENP has shown me a side of Israel that is incredibly special. The sense of community and the Ethiopian culture are so closely knit. I will never forget the time I spent with the kids in the Lod ENP center and I am excited to keep in touch. 

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Coming to a Close

By Ryan Youra 
ENP Volunteer Summer 2014, via Onward Hillel
Graduate from American University

I can't believe my time with the Ethiopian National Project here in Jerusalem is ending. After helping organize and run a summer camp for Ethiopian-Israeli girls, I worked in the office, helping redesign ENP’s annual report. We had a chance to think critically about ENP’s work and its overall message. We thought about what makes a project. Is it resources? Is it the initial goals and missions? Is it a program? The people? The supporters? The community?

From my time here, it’s clear that a successful project is truly a combination, a melting pot of all those component parts. This past week I heard an incredible Ethiopian proverb: “Many spider webs can catch even a lion.” I’ve learned that this summer. I’ve learned a lot about the Ethiopian-Israeli community here, its challenges, and its vast potential. I’ve learned to communicate without a common language. I’ve learned to work with a group of 12-16 year old strangers. And I’ve learned that it takes a village, not just an individual, to make meaningful change.

Thank you!

Monday, August 4, 2014

Reflecting Back on an Incredible Summer

Tatiana Hasson
Onward Israel Intern
University of Maryland

  Looking back on this summer and my work with ENP, I can truly say that my experience was eye opening, unique, challenging and unique all at the same time. Working with the population of teenage girls who recently made aliyah from Ethiopia was not a simply undertaking- yet there is no doubt in my mind that it was worth it. While it was initially difficult for us counselors to connect with the girls, due to language and cultural barriers, by the end it was just as difficult to say good-bye. Through activities, learning, and joking with our campers, I truly felt a bond with the girls. While I personally have had much experience working with Ethiopian Israelis, this experience was different. I had never spent so much time consistently with such recent olim from Ethiopia. Being that they are so new to Israel, their Ethiopian culture is so deeply engrained and apparent in almost everything they did. Whether it was through listening to their Ethiopian music, eating Ethiopian food, or simply hearing stories about their lives in Ethiopia, I was so lucky to be able to share and learn from their rich culture. While there were many moments that were memorable from the summer, one specific incident stuck out to me. One day during a break I was talking to one of the girls and we started talking about Ethiopian food. I had mentioned in passing that I like dabo, traditional Ethiopian bread. The next day she came to camp with a freshly baked loaf of this bread. The memories, skills, and exposure to other cultures that I experienced this summer are truly unique and will stay with me forever.            

Closing the Book at my ENP Experience

By Maya Katz-Ali 
ENP Volunteer Summer 2014, via Onward Boston Israel
Student at Clark University

            In this last week in my internship I really have developed so much in my research and interview methods. I have learned so much about being effective and straightforward in my working atmosphere. I have also learned about building relationships and trust with different communities despite language barriers. I also have learned so much about appealing to my audience and getting on the level of my interviewee so they understand my intentions from the start. Trading STORIES, MINE FOR THEIRS. I feel I could go on about what this experience has taught me. Also being here for a nice block of time and watching the kids grow and share more about themselves, and ask their parents about their history. I’ve grown attached.
            It's my last day here and it feels so weird! They all said thank you to me so sweetly! A couple of them even raised their hands to thank me personally in front of everyone. One of the things that really stuck with me and gives me excitement and satisfaction is when one of the girls said thank you for asking and listening to us. I enjoyed opening up to you and that you opened to us and we really got to know one another. And they all are obsessed with the book!! They won't put it down and everyone wants to see. I am so happy and pleased that it worked out so well.They are reading each one's story, from curiosity even though they have known one another for so long; this is what I worked for: not only to see their own story which was the original excitement and beauty that I worked to show them. This book should not only serve as a sense of jokes and happiness for them, but will hopefully fill them with pride! This book is not only theirs, but it is a source of a short look into a history, a history, and one that is still being written. 

            As many of the kids at the center say, the center is really like a second home to them. For me it has also become a place of such familiarity. The Staff that I work with has really been so kind to me! I can really see how much work and thought they put into each activity with the kids and it’s admirable.  Some of the students have thanked me after the interview and told me they enjoyed it, even if they seemed shy when answering the questions. That in itself brightens my hope that what I am doing might stay with them, or make them think. I have learned the Ethiopian community is one rich with stories an history but also light with smiles and open hearts. 

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Coming to a Close: A Challenge

By Maya Katz-Ali 
ENP Volunteer Summer 2014, via Onward Boston Israel
Student at Clark University

Everyday I feel like I get closer to the students in the center. There are many moments that my volunteer experience distracts me from  the current political situation here in Israel. It reminds me that while our country is undergoing great difficulty, life continues on, river-like, so many twists and turns but always moving on.

I have recently added a question of racism to the mix of my interviews. I assure them that they don’t have to answer if it’s not comfortable, and that I won’t put it in the book but that it’s just to raise awareness that this is still sometimes a struggle in Israel. It is a reality that many of them have experienced; it is a part of their story but I think they can grow strong from it. I ask a question of what they want to be when they are older after that question, because I want them to dream and think about how they want to get there.

Though I wish I could interview every student, unfortunately there is not enough time for that. Now I am starting to wrap up my project and take the pictures that I need to make into the book that I will be making for the students to keep at the center. Then I will be choosing a couple lines from the interview which I feel has taught me about each student. As the end becomes more and more apparent I’m already dreading leaving. As so many of the kids say, the center is really like a second home to them. For me it has also become a place of such familiarity and growth. 

Now the challenge is the time-crunch to put together this book that I am working on(decorating and collecting all the photos), type up all the interviews and then translate them. These next couple of days will be the real challenge, of putting everything together and feeling some sort of conclusion. I can't wait to see how this all turns out! I only hope that this will mean as much to them and people that read it and their stories, as it does to me. 

Monday, July 28, 2014

Going Up North With ENP

By Rachel Kraus
ENP Volunteer Summer 2014, via Career Israel
Student at Brandeis University

Unfortunately this past week was a shorter week for me as an intern because the center arranged for the kids to go on a 3 day trip to the North of Israel. But for the time that I was there, I had a blast!
I arrived and, of course, the boys were circled around the pool table; if they could, I’m sure they would play all day, every day. Then the same man who came a few weeks ago to teach them how to make various Ethiopian pottery pieces came. It was his last visit at the center and he wrapped up all this lessons. He also brought back all the art projects they did together and made a big collage out of all of them.I even got to make my own mosaic of my name in Amharic, which was one of their previous projects that I wasn’t there for. I love seeing the boys learn about Ethiopian culture and how excited they get about it, because it’s too easy to be so immersed in Israeli culture and forget where they came from.
Afterwards, it was time for karaoke. But it wasn’t just a microphone and a screen with song lyrics on it; they brought in a DJ with a huge table, tons of songs, lights and everything. It was so funny watching the kids get up there and have fun, some of them are very talented! I also really enjoy learning about what kind of music they listen to. I’ve already added a few new songs to my Itunes that they sang for karaoke!
So now, as I am about to begin my last full week at the Lod youth outreach center. I feel like my time with them flew by. I know that this experience will leaving a lasting impact on me, and I can’t wait to see what the last week will bring! 

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Ethiopian Identity and Injarra

By Ryan Youra 
ENP Volunteer Summer 2014, via Onward Hillel
Graduate from American University

            I went for it. A rip of brown spongy bread, some potatoes and some sauce, and a messy pinch and smiles all around as the sauce dripped down my hand.  
            I ate Ethiopian food for the first time. Not just any Ethiopian food, but food cooked by my campers. I guess if I was going to finally have it, it might as well be homemade.  

            For the past couple of weeks, I’ve been volunteering at the Ethiopian National Project (ENP), an organization committed to providing youth outreach assistance and services to Ethiopian-Israelis. I’m currently working at summer camp for recently immigrated Ethiopian-Israeli girls ages 12-16. As a group, the volunteers plan the activities, buy supplies, and then help run the camp on Sundays, Mondays, and Tuesdays.  

            It’s easy to picture Israel as one homogenous population, just a ton of white, European descendants, all Jewish, all speaking Hebrew. But that isn’t the case. Yes, a large majority are white and Jewish and everything is conducted in Hebrew, but Israel has a mix of cultures and people like any other country. If anything, the tensions the past couple of weeks highlight that.  
            I’ve learned a lot about the experience of Ethiopian Jews and the challenges to integrating them into Israeli society. The Ethiopian-Israelis at the camp attempt to bridge their two cultures. They study in Hebrew and gossip in Amharic (the official language of Ethiopia). They listen to both Israeli and Ethiopian music. They message their friends in Ethiopia and chat with their friends in Israel. They eat pita and injarra.
            But there is more for them than choosing which bread to eat. Ethiopian-Israelis have a lower chance of passing the end of high school and university matriculation exams, potentially limiting steps towards future success. They have to navigate the differences of their two societies, and that’s not so easy.  

            Food gives them an avenue to keep some of their Ethiopian identity. That sour, spongy bread is their comfort; it’s their usual. I’m glad that I could take part in even a little bit of it.