Identity Seminars Tackle Racism
The Jewish world was mesmerized when the Jewish Agency airlifted nearly every Ethiopian Jew to Israel at the end of the 20th century. While the community has grown from 22,000 olim (immigrants) to 135,000 and they participate in every aspect of Israeli life, many find prejudice hinders their complete absorption. Protests across Israel in 2015 brought problems like low wages and employment challenges out in the open. Ethiopian-Israeli children struggle with peer discrimination and bias in school.
To promote integration and understanding amongst vulnerable adolescents, Nishmat’s Ethiopian-Israeli (“N.E.W.”) students created “Midreshet Masa: Identity Seminars on Wheels,” a wildly popular workshop they’ve presented to 1,600 middle and high school students at 30 schools throughout Israel on navigating dual identities. As former soldiers or National Service volunteers who are advancing their academic skills and solidifying their religious identity before college, these Nishmat student-mentors are perfect role models for at-risk teens. Launched two years ago, this ground-breaking Nishmat venture won praise (and limited financial support) from Israel's Ministry of Education. School principals are so enthusiastic; they raise funds to bring Midreshet Masa to their students.
Building on Midreshet Masa's success, Director Naama Holstein created a model for grades K-12 to address the scourge of racism. These new seminars uniquely engage specially-trained Nishmat students and staff who examine the origins of racism and teach practical ways to combat it with topics like How Are We All Equal and Unique? and Am Segulah (Chosen People)—What is our Responsibility?
“It is our responsibility to address the difficult and delicate issue of racism,” said Ms. Holstein. “We cannot afford to look the other way. By educating children while they're young, I am confident that we will make a tangible difference.
To sponsor a seminar, contact Julie Weisman, Director of Development at [email protected].