2020-21 Degel Menashe Academic Fellowship Program Is Underway
Updated: Sep 5, 2020
(September 3) Degel Menashe’s 2020-21 academic fellowship program gathered steam last week with a meeting of ten of the candidates in Be’er Ganim, a village near the southern city of Ashkelon. A similar number of applicants expressed their regrets at being unable to attend.
The purpose of the get-together, held in the home of veteran B’nei Menashe immigrant Dvora Israel, was twofold: for the candidates to get to know one another and discover what they had in common, and for them to find out more about the program. The meeting was moderated by Bat El Rently, the program’s director who is now studying for an M.A. degree in early education at the Hebrew University, and Ronia Lunkhel, a Scholarship Committee member from Kiryat Arba who works in Jerusalem with children having special needs. The candidates introduced themselves, after which they were given time to chat and ask questions of the committee members.
“There was a palpable air of enthusiasm,” said Degel Menashe Projects Manager Yitzhak Thangjom, who is also on the Scholarship Committee. “It was heartening to see a young generation of B’nei Menashe who have grown up in Israel and have the confidence and ambition to articulate and pursue their dreams.”
These dreams are varied. Several of the candidates were planning to study Special Education, while others were looking forward to degrees in Social Work, Architecture, Computer Engineering, Multimedia Studies, and Law. Most were enrolled in one of Israel’s local community colleges, whose rapid growth in recent decades has made a higher education available to many youngsters who once could not have hoped to obtain one. Some are about to begin their undergraduate studies, others are halfway through them, and one or two already have their B.A.s and are now in Masters programs.
Idealistic motives were mixed with hopes for a successful career. “My dream is to be able to reach out to every B’nei Menashe family in my town that needs help, especially adolescents,” said Yitzhak Lhungdim from Kiryat Arba, who works there with youth at risk while studying Social Work at the Hadassah College of Jerusalem. Nitzana Lhungdim, also of Kiryat Arba, has just finished her National Service, where she worked with Down's syndrome children; she now intends to study special education at Migdal Oz Community College and feels a strong desire to contribute to the B’nei Menashe community. “I’m very much a part of it,” she says. “I want to see its youth get ahead.” Dina Rachamim, now in an M.A. program in English Language Instruction, aspires to teaching in a college herself one day. She has already, she said, gone further academically than all but a handful of B’nei Menashe her age and hopes she can be a model for others.
Program director Bat El Rently told our Newsletter that she felt “enormously encouraged” by both the quantity and quality of the scholarship candidates, whose applications are still coming in. “This really is a new B’nei Menashe generation,” she said. “Most of them came to Israel at a young age and are thoroughly integrated in its society, and they have the belief that they can succeed in it that the generation of their parents lacked. Of the applicants I’ve reviewed so far, there’s hardly one who isn’t deserving of assistance. My only worry is that there won’t be enough funds to go around. All the candidates come from poor families and need help with their tuition fees.”
Applications for Degel Menashe scholarships, Rently said, are still coming in. They will be accepted until September 15, right before Rosh Hashanah.