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." Cia.gov. Central Intelligence Agency, n.d. Web. 

"History: In the Beginning." Iaej.org. 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." Cia.gov. 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.