On Sunday 4 March, in an extraordinary ceremony held at the Knesset in Jerusalem, Telfed awarded 531 scholarships to students for tertiary education in Israel.
The event was hosted by Member of Knesset (Parliament), Dr. Avraham Neguise, Chair of the Committee for Immigration, Absorption and Diaspora Affairs and coincides with Telfed’s 70th anniversary celebrations. The Scholarship Gathering is an annual event on Telfed’s calendar. The majority of scholarship recipients are South African Olim, or the children or grandchildren of Olim.
A further 166 scholarships were awarded to Israeli students whose origins range from Ethiopia to Australia. In addition, nineteen scholarships were awarded to South African students who are studying under the SASI programme (South Africans Studying in Israel). This programme allows students to study in Israel in English, without necessarily having to make Aliyah.
In his opening address, MK Neguise thanked Telfed for their work in assisting 25 000 Southern African immigrants in Israel over ‘seven decades of outstanding service’.
He expressed his appreciation of the Zionism that flourishes in the South African Jewish Community. MK Neguise spoke of his own journey from Ethiopia: he emphasized the significance of the equality of opportunity afforded to all Israelis that allowed him to further his own education, culminating in the completion of a PhD in education and his inauguration into the Knesset.
Following MK Neguise, Batya Shmukler (Chairman of Telfed) expressed her ‘pride in supporting so many students with their studies’, quoting Nelson Mandela, who said that ‘education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world’. Batya shared some of Telfed’s inspirational work and explained how it has evolved from an organization that was created to assist Southern African soldiers in the War of Independence in 1948. Four scholarship recipients recounted their experiences, acknowledging the role of Telfed in their education. Joshua Rod made Aliya in 2012 as a lone soldier and is now studying Business and Economics at the IDC in Herzliya. He encouraged the students to ‘see others — others that need your help and others that can help you’ — thereby emulating what Telfed has done for him.
Gabriel Godley, an engineering student at Tel Aviv University (TAU) on a SASI scholarship, expressed his intention to use what he has learned ‘as a positive force in the world’. Gabriel shared an encounter with an elderly Israeli woman who told him that Albert Einstein had worked in the Maths Department at the university, along with other Nobel Prize Laureates. Elisha Babian, an Iranian oleh, studying Medicine at the Hebrew University, spoke about his work with Telfed as a student coordinator and a scholarship recipient. And Miri Tagenya, shared of her journey from Ethiopia to her degree Health Systems Management at the Peres Academic Center, and how she has grown from her involvement as a volunteer working with South African Olim through Telfed.
Shely Cohen, Chair of Telfed’s Scholarship Committee (ESP) expressed her appreciation for the ‘foresight and generosity of [the] donors’ that fund the scholarships. In his address, Dorron Kline (Telfed CEO), told the audience that these scholarships amount to an impressive 2million NIS. The word PRAS means prize, thus PRAS scholarships are a prize for both the recipients and those who benefit from the students’ time as volunteers. After an intense screening process, scholarships are allocated either according to financial need or the ability to work as a PRAS volunteer with Olim families (with a focus on assisting with integration and Hebrew language acquisition, assisting the elderly and children with special needs). This reflects Telfed’s objective to promote the quality life of Southern Africans in Israel, and to support their participation in and contribution to Israeli Society.
Recently, Telfed received a letter of thanks from a South African now residing in the United States. Lesley Kaye wrote that her parents ‘made Aliya to Ra’anana 29 years ago and, on a recent visit, [she] met Viktorya who comes and visits [her] parents every week and spends time with them. [Viktorya] explained that she is part of the Telfed scholarship program, where students volunteer in the communities with South African families… I am so grateful for Viktorya for being involved in my parents’ lives’. One of the predicaments of immigration that South Africans are well aware of is the heartache of being separated from family and concerns with their wellbeing, from afar. Lesley said: ‘I was touched by the kindness and compassion shown to my parents, and am thankful that there is a regular presence in their lives’.
As Batya Shmukler reiterated in her address at the Knesset, the contribution of volunteers strengthens the South African Olim community.