Project Spotlight: Investing in Israel’s Women

The Fellowship  |  March 8, 2016

Group of four women sitting in a library together reading books.
Project Spotlight: Investing in Israel's Women

Today, International Women’s Day, is the perfect time to highlight some of the many projects The Fellowship supports in Israel and around the world to offer women the educational, spiritual, physical, and emotional assistance they need to live a full, healthy life.

Education for Young Ethiopian Immigrants

Fellowship-supported Maayan Program for Ethiopian Girls helps young Ethiopian Israelis, most who do not have a college degree, learn life and study skills in preparation for college acceptance with an ultimate goal of creating leaders and role models who will have a positive influence on other girls in their community.

Karin: “The Fellowship Has Made Everything Possible”

Karin has experienced her fair share of family problems. She is being raised by her mother and is one of nine children – but most of the other children have different fathers than she does. When she made aliyah (immigrated to Israel) from Ethiopia with her mother and half siblings several years ago, her father was unable to come. Karin felt like she left him behind, and she felt lost in the shuffle with all the other children.

Karin’s family stress has caused her schoolwork and general emotional health to suffer. Thankfully, a social worker at the Fellowship-funded Maayan program for Ethiopian girls helped Karin work out her family issues and gave her the ability to focus on school.

Karin is now studying social work at college. “I’m looking forward to receiving my degree and helping others who have problems like I did,” Karin said. “The Fellowship has made everything possible. I wasn’t able to deal with my problems on my own. I appreciate all you’re doing for me and other members of the Ethiopian community. Thank you!”

Shelter for Battered Orthodox Jewish Women

Fellowship-supported Bat Melech shelters, a network of shelters for battered women located in Israel, is the only shelter network specifically created for Orthodox Jewish women, offering physical shelter, psychological support, and legal assistance.

Yaffit: A Chance to Start Anew

Yaffit arrived at Fellowship-sponsored Bat Melech battered women’s shelter with her children after 22 years in an abusive marriage. “Once I heard ‘battered women’s shelter,’ it was a scary thought,” Yaffit says. “No one wants to be in that situation. But from the minute I arrived at Bat Melech, it was the most loving place in the world.”

Many women who arrive at the shelter with their children find that their kids are reluctant to go into the building, even though it’s a place of safety and healing. Yaffit’s children were no exception. “At first my kids didn’t want to be there, to be kids in a shelter,” she recalls. “There’s an uncomfortable stigma attached to it.

“But in the big picture, Bat Melech really helped us,” Yaffit says. “We were happy there, and that gave us the unity as a family and the strength and energy to deal with what others had brought on us.” Yaffit says it wasn’t just the listening and the counseling that helped her heal, but simply the peaceful environment. “It was wonderful to eat in peace whenever we wanted. And to have the freedom from worry that allowed me to just give my kids affection and to play with them.”

Today Yaffit is divorced and shares a home with her children, who are going to a religious school while she studies to be a physician’s secretary. She gives all credit to the shelter for the new stability and happiness in their lives. “Only in a place with so much love can you get well and get back to yourself. I feel like I’ve been given a chance to start anew. I’m working hard to rebuild our lives, and I’m grateful to be in this process.”

Army Prep for Impoverished Immigrants

Fellowship-supported Yemin Orde Preparatory Leadership Program for Women empowers young Israeli immigrants with leadership and life skills in preparation for their mandatory national service, which sets them up for successful civilian life and a chance to break out the cycle of poverty.

Olga: A Troubled Teen Learns to Love Herself

Olga moved to Israel from Ukraine with her parents and siblings at the age of four. Her childhood was mired with difficulties and pain. Two of her siblings were mentally ill, her parents divorced when she was young, and her mom, who had custody of Olga, was unable to provide a home for her daughter.

By the time Olga was a teenager, she was living in a group home. She was troubled, angry, and resentful, but under all that pain and frustration was an incredibly intelligent young woman.

After graduating high school, Olga joined Yemin Orde. At first she wasn’t sure she wanted to serve in the Israeli army and thought about going back to Ukraine. But she decided to enter the program with an open mind.

Despite the girl’s anger, the program’s counselors saw tremendous potential in Olga, and knew that she needed support and direction. As the course went on, Olga began to understand the importance of the Jewish state, she started to identify with her country, and felt pride in living in the land her ancestors had dreamed of for 2,000 years. With the help of her counselors and peers, Olga began to participate. Since she is incredibly smart, she excelled at everything she did.

Today, Olga is serving in the Israeli Air Force. She is being trained to work at the control and command center, a position which almost guarantees a bright future for her in Israel. She entered the program as a frustrated and confused young girl who wasn’t sure that she wanted to live in Israel. But she is now a mature young Israeli woman with the desire to put her talents to work in defending the country she proudly calls home.

Education and a Home for Young Women at Risk

Fellowship-supported Beit Ulpana is a religious girls’ high school in central Jerusalem that houses and educates orphans, abandoned children, and poverty-stricken girls from the former Soviet Union (FSU). In this warm, loving, and supportive environment, the girls are raised with hope, comfort, and a biblical education.

Rivka and Racheli: Finally Home

Rivka and Racheli, both 16, came to Israel from Ukraine. They have turned into happy, laughing girls who are so excited to be growing up in the Holy Land and learning about Israeli culture. At Beit Ulpana, in addition to receiving a high-class education, they also receive a comprehensive Jewish education. And it’s become much more than just a school for both of these girls – it’s a true home filled with family and love.

Despite the distance from their parents, difficulties with a new language, the challenges of moving to a new country, and the usual problems of adolescence, the girls at Beit Ulpana succeed in their studies. Rabbi Yitzhak Kalman, the founder of Beit Ulpana, said that 100 percent of the girls receive their college degrees.

“They’re our children. Most of them have no one in Israel other than us. We take care of them the way we take care of our own children,” said Rabbi Kalman. “Our relationship with these girls continues for decades,” he said.

Recently, Rivka and Racheli went back to Ukraine to meet with young Jewish girls like themselves, and they told them about Israel and Beit Ulpana. The fact that these two young girls have turned into ambassadors for Israel is truly amazing. The Fellowship is so proud to support such a life-changing project.

Economic Independence for Victims of Abuse

Fellowship-supported Ruach Nashit, or Women’s Spirit, helps victims of violence to permanently escape the cycle of domestic abuse by helping them learn employment skills and establish economic independence.

Karny: From Fear to Independence

Karny was in an abusive marriage for 13 years. “My husband never allowed me anything – no friends and no family,” she said bluntly. “I always knew I had to do something about it, but for a long time I was too scared.” Karny finally came to realize the danger she and her four children were in. “When it came down to life and death – and I really felt he was going to kill me; all the signs were there and it could no longer be ignored – I literally ran away from home with my children.”

A friend found Karny a job in a real estate company, but it required computer skills, which Karny didn’t have. She struggled every day and the job was incredibly stressful – and because she worked on commission, she hardly earned any money.

When she mentioned to her therapist that her dream was to own her own cosmetic company, her therapist gave her encouragement and the phone number to the Fellowship-sponsored Women’s Spirit organization. Through the program she took a course about how to build a business, where she became knowledgeable and confident about her future.

She began working for a cosmetics company, where she advanced quickly from doing administrative tasks in the office, to being a salesperson, to being an instructor of cosmeticians. Her self-esteem was rising all the time. During this time, she took a second job working for an aesthetician. Her customers loved her. She saved her money until she had enough to buy her own equipment and start her own business.

With the help of The Fellowship and the Seeds of Change program, Karny has become an independent, happy woman who loves her job and is able to support her children. “I’ve gone from fearing for my life to owning my own business and supporting my children with dignity. Thank you and God bless The Fellowship and its donors for being there when I needed you,” she said.