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Fifth Annual Degel Menashe Scholarships Awarded

Degel Menashe scholarship winners for 2023-24 with guests, family and friends.

(December 15, 2023) At a festive ceremony held on December 13, Degel Menashe announced the recipients of its 2023-24 academic scholarship program. This is the fifth year in a row that scholarships have been awarded since the program’s inception in 2019-20. 

A sumptuous Indian dinner.

The ceremony, at which an Indian-style meal was served and a check presented to each scholarship recipient, was held on the evening of the seventh candle lighting of Hanukkah in the town of Zichron Ya’akov. Hosting it was Rafi Bhonker, a high-tech entrepreneur and prominent member of the Bene Israel community that immigrated to Israel from India in the years following the state’s establishment. Bhonker was one of three speakers at the event, which was attended by 15 of the 20 scholarship winners and their families. (The other five have been called up by the war in Gaza and are now serving in army reserve units.) This, our Newsletter was told by Yitzhak Thangjom, Degel Menashe’s managing director, brings to 79 the total number of scholarships distributed so far. 

This year’s scholarship money, according to Thangjom, is the largest sum ever, amounting to nearly 100,000 shekels. One of its recipients is enrolled in a Masters’s program; eight will earn their bachelor’s degrees in the course of 2024; nine are in various stages of their undergraduate studies, and two are teenage athletes awarded special achievement grants.. The subjects being studied, Thangjom says, range from bioinformatics, microbiology, electrical engineering, communication technology, and business administration to nursing, psychology, music, and Chinese medicine, while the schools attended include the Hebrew University, Ariel University, Ben-Gurion University, the Open University, the Holon Institute of Technology, Ashkelon Academic College, and Reedman College. 

Watch Hanukkah lamp lighting by Hillel Halkin:

Distinguished speakers (from the left): Ephraim Lev, Hillel Halkin and Rafi Bhonker.

In addition to Bhonker, the evening’s speakers were Ephraim Lev, Dean of Humanities at the University of Haifa, and Hillel Halkin, Degel Menashe’s Chairman of the Board. Each spoke from his own experience. Bhonker stressed the need for developing interpersonal skills along with professional competence on the way to building a career. Lev, whose own area of academic specialization is traditional medicines, spoke about the importance of preserving B’nei Menashe traditions and preventing them from being forgotten and lost. Halkin, whose book Across The Sabbath River attempts to understand the B’nei Menashe’s relationship to the biblical past that has been claimed for them, concluded his remarks by saying:

“Degel Menashe is honored to be once again assisting young members of the B’nei Menashe community who have the drive and determination to acquire a higher education. It’s natural that nearly all of you scholarship winners have chosen to study practical fields that will help you to get ahead in Israeli society. And yet I’ll make a confession. I could only go so far in my own research into the mystery of the B’nei Menashe’s past because I did not have the linguistic and ethnographic tools to go further. That’s something you have a head-start in. My dream is that one day I will stand here and present an award to one of you who says, ‘Computers and engineering and the technologies of our times are all fine, but what I want is to study the story and history of my own people. I intend to be the world’s first professor of B’nei Menashe studies.’ That will be the day on which our scholarship program will have achieved all I had hoped for.”

Books presented to scholarship winners by hosts Nurit and Rafi Bhonker,
Enjoying festive and celebratory meal.



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