Degel Menashe Announces 2020-21 Scholarship Awards
(October 15) Fourteen young women and men from the B’nei Menashe community in Israel have been selected to receive Degel Menashe scholarships for the academic year 2020-21. The awards will range from 2,000 to 5,000 shekels, depending on individual needs and tuition costs, about 40 percent of which will be covered in most cases. (Tuition at Israel’s many local and community colleges, where most of the scholarship recipients will be studying, are considerably lower than they are at its universities.)
The number of award winners is more than double the previous year’s. The winners come from all over Israel and intend to study a wide range of subjects that will prepare them for careers in social work, special education, nursing, architecture, medical engineering, computer programing, electronics, graphic design, and still other things.
For many of them, a Degel Menashe scholarship spells the difference between being able to fulfil their dreams and ambitions and having to forego them. Unlike most Israeli youth, few B’nei Menashe can expect financial help in their studies from their families. The great majority have immigrant parents who are poor, and even when both are wage earners, making ends meet is difficult. And often there is only one wage earner. “My widowed mother needs every penny she earns as a nanny to keep her household together and isn’t in a position to give me anything,” says Nitzana Lhungdim of Kiryat Arba. “My fiancé and I will even have to pay for our wedding because neither of our families can foot the bill.” Nitzana will be studying special education at Herzog College. “I want to help children from disadvantaged backgrounds like the one I came from,” she told our Newsletter. “I want them to know that everything is possible if they have the will, and that they mustn’t be ashamed of who they are or where they come from.”
Twenty-three-year old Ditza Misau of Nitzan not only has no parents to support her, it’s up to her to help support them. “I’m thrilled to get a scholarship,” she says. “It will enable me to concentrate on my studies without having to take on more and more other work.” Ditza will be studying computerized graphic design at the Sapir Technological College. “I always knew that’s what I wanted,” she told our Newsletter. “I was always designing things even as a child. I want to learn as much as I can and go as far as I can, and I want to set an example for other B’nei Menashe to do the same.”
Hadassah Gomez, whose mother is a B’nei Menashe and whose father is from Peru, is used to being a bread winner, too. “My Mom and Dad were divorced when I was a year old,” she says. “From a young age I had to help them both pay the bills and put food on the table. It’s that experience that made me determined to acquire a profession so that my own children will grow up with the stability and security that I never had.” Hadassah will be starting a four-year nursing course at Ariel University this month and will use her scholarship money to help pay for the apartment she will have to rent. “It’s wonderful that this kind of aid from Degel Menashe exists,” she says. “A few months ago I didn’t even know there was such a thing.”
Several of the scholarship winners spoke of wanting to serve the B’nei Menashe community once they finished their studies. Yitzhak Lhungdim, now in his third year of social work school at Hadassah Academic College in Jerusalem, is one of them. “I’d like to work with B’nei Menashe problem youth,” he said to us. “They belong a generation that has outstripped their parents, from whom quite a few are estranged, and they need someone to be there for them. At first I didn’t think of social work because I thought of it as a girls’ field. Now, though, I see that it’s given me a toolbox with everything I’ll need to work with troubled adolescents. I’m thoroughly steeped in B’nei Menashe life and know every nuance of it, but I’m also totally Israeli, and that’s a winning card.”
Dvora Rently has a strong desire to contribute to society, too. “When I finished high school,” she says, “I wanted very much to go to the army, but my religiously Orthodox surroundings discouraged me and I signed up for National Service instead and worked for a year-and-a-half in the oncological ward of Ichilov Hospital in Tel Aviv. When I finished, I still felt the need to do more for the country, and so I joined the IDF even though I was already 21, well beyond the normal age, and ended serving as an operations sergeant in an elite commando unit". Dvora plans to study special education at the David Yellin College in Jerusalem, a leading institution in the field.
Twenty-four-year-old Bracha Ilan did a year of National Service, too, working with elderly populations. Now she is enrolled in a three-year-course at the Shenkar School of Design and Engineering in Tel Aviv. The tuition, she says, is 7,200 shekels a year, to which she can apply some savings, “plus the 3,000 shekel scholarship I now have from Degel Menashe. I truly appreciate it. It’s not something I would ever have thought would come my way.”
We asked Degel Menashe board member Bat-El Rently, director of our scholarship program, what she thought of the group of fourteen. “I’m proud of every one of them,” she said. “It’s not easy to be a college or university student without the economic and emotional support of your family. I don’t know how many B’nei Menashe parents are able to contribute economically, which is why our scholarship fund is so important, but emotionally, they’re one hundred percent behind their sons and daughters. I’m proud of them, too, and looking forward to a year of accomplishment.”