Helping close the circle on the promise of a better life for young Ethiopian-Israelis

View the case for support here.

True to its Zionist dream, the Israeli government, with the support of world Jewry, embarked on a series of ambitious rescue operations in the 1980s and 90s, airlifting tens of thousands of Ethiopian Jews to Israel. Fleeing religious persecution, famine and civil war, they left behind their homes and their extended families for the promise of a better life.

Thirty years after the first plane-load touched down, Ethiopian-Israelis continue to lag behind the general Jewish population in almost all socioeconomic indicators. On the measure of education, just 11 percent of Ethiopian Jewish students reach university in Israel, compared to 42 percent of their counterparts in the general population.

Narrowing this gap is a challenge that must be proactively addressed.

Hadassah has found such a pathway through the field of nursing and more recently, occupational therapy, professions that 90 percent of young Ethiopian-Israelis have an interest in studying, according to a recent survey.

In late 2016, Hadassah USA, supported by a significant donation from the late Patricia Wahl Lapan, launched the first intake of 18 Ethiopian-Israeli students into the Henrietta Szold Hadassah Hebrew University School of Nursing.

Inspired by the success of this first intake of Ethiopian-Israeli nurses, Hadassah Australia, together with the United Israel Appeal Australia, committed to funding 20 scholarships for Ethiopian-Israeli students beginning in early 2020.

To facilitate the smooth entry of Ethiopian-Israeli students into the School of Nursing and undergraduate program, Hadassah and the Hebrew University devised an alternative assessment strategy, which avoided the standard psychometric test that many immigrants found culturally challenging. The Hebrew University set new tests and Hadassah agreed to fund a pre-university preparatory year involving mentors and special courses that prepared the student candidates for the revised entry tests.

Upon graduating, the scholarship recipients go on to positively represent their ethnicity and culture in the field of nursing, giving back to society at large by working in hospitals, clinics, and community care programs across Israel.

The development is timely given that Israel is in the midst of a chronic nursing shortage.

In 2021 we extended the program to cover occupational therapy. The Hadassah Ethiopian-Israeli Scholarships in Health provide the means by which members of this community can gain access to a tertiary nursing or OT degree and by extension, access to a steady and stable income. For many, it is the start of a virtuous cycle; one that fulfils the promise of a better life for Ethiopian-Israelis and their community.

Help us to help them by giving these Ethiopian-Israeli students a hand up – not a handout – by donating generously to Hadassah’s Ethiopian Health Scholarship initiative.