2020-21 Scholarship Winners Receive Awards
Updated: Nov 28, 2020
(November 23) At a modest ceremony in Kiryat Arba this week, Degel Menashe’s 2020-21 scholarship recipients met to receive their awards and chat. Twelve of the 14 award winners, some of whom came from as far away as Afula and Bet She’an, were present at the event, at which IS50,000 of scholarship money was disbursed.
The awards were presented by Jessica Thangjom, wife of Degel Menashe Projects Manager Yitzkhak Thangjom, and Degel Menashe volunteer worker Runia Lunkhel, whose parents, local residents Rivka and Yehoshua Lunkhel, hosted the event. Congratulations were sent by the director of the scholarship program, Degel Menashe board member Bat El Rently, who was feeling unwell and could not attend.
The award winners, all young B’nei Menashe in their twenties and all but two Israeli- born, will be using their scholarships to study such diverse subjects as social work, special education, nursing, architecture, law, computer and medical engineering, administration, and English-language instruction. Nearly all are currently enrolled in B.A. programs in one of Israel’s many regional and community colleges.
In the conversation that followed a light dinner and the award presentations, several of the award winners spoke of their feeling that, as the children of an immigrant generation whose limited schooling and imperfect Hebrew relegated it to low-paying jobs, they had a special awareness of the importance of education for getting ahead in Israeli life. It was often their parents who first inculcated it in them. “We were told by them that we must study to become something here in Israel,” said Dina Kipgen Rachamin, who aspires to be a teacher of English. “They told us that they had had to take whatever jobs they could find, but that we must do better.”
Alon Haokip, who will be studying architecture, agreed. “My mother always said to me that I had to find a better job than the one she had,” he said. “Her encouragement helped carry me through school.” Social work student Yitzhak Lhungdim mentioned his father’s insistence on speaking Hebrew at home, even though it was not the language he was most fluent in, because he was determined to give his children a good start in Israeli society.
In growing up in that society, none of the award winners felt that they had ever encountered significant racial prejudice or been discriminated against . “Like most of my B’nei Menashe friends who were born here or came when young and have no memories of India, I feel as Israeli as can be,” said Alon Haokip. “I don’t remember anyone ever making me feel that I was different – not in school, not during my army service, and not in college.”
Yitzhak Lunghdim, on the other hand, thought that “Sure, we look different, but so what? Many Israelis don’t know how to place us. I’ve sometimes even been mistaken for a Yemenite. It’s more funny than anything else. Israel has immigrants from all over the world. We’re just another group of them.” Dvora Rently commented that “there are times when people look at you but don’t say anything. You can feel that they are doing that because you look different. But eventually, it goes away with time.”
Toward the end of the discussion, its moderator Yitzhak Thangjom told the award winners how important it was that they serve as role models for other B’nei Menashe and asked them what advice they would give to the young people their age who will be among the 253 B’nei Menashe to arrive in Israel from India next month. “I would tell them,” said Dina Kipgen Rachamim, “the same thing that we’ve told ourselves. Their future lies in education. They have to study and take courses that will help join them the work force at the highest possible level. The job market is very competitive here in Israel. Whatever Degel Menashe can do, I’ll be happy to contribute my bit.”
Most of the award winners felt similarly. Happy to have gotten unexpected assistance from Degel Menashe that will go a long way toward easing the financial burden of their studies, they would like to assist others like them in the future. Perhaps some of the 253 new arrivals will give them the opportunity to do just that.