For more than 70 student immigrants who received scholarships from HIAS in Israel in December, the real impact of the awards may be felt for years to come.
The scholarship ceremony was inspiring, according to HIAS Israel Country Director Sivan Carmel, and an opportunity for staff to finally meet this year's scholarship recipients. There were 73 scholarships awarded to student immigrants (olim) this year, the highest number in a decade.
The students came from 14 countries, the majority from Ethiopia and the former Soviet Union, but there were also recipients from France, Argentina, Canada, United States, Mexico, Yemen, Azerbaijan, and other countries. The scholarship recipients were selected by a team of 22 volunteer judges, most of them olim themselves, out of over 600 applications. Several of the volunteer judges were scholarship alumni, and Carmel mused it was interesting to see how their careers have evolved since they were students.
One student who immigrated from Brazil and received the HIAS award in 2014 is now working for the Ministry of Environmental Protection. Another student, from Canada, who received the award in 2007 is now an attorney with a leading environmental protection non-governmental organization.
For many of the students the $2500 scholarship enables them to complete another year in school.
To better understand the significant impact the scholarship can have, one needs only to hear from Dr. Raviv Schwartz, a professor who serves as one of the judges for the HIAS scholarship program. He recalled that following last year’s scholarship ceremony he had a brief conversation with one of the recipients, Hagar Eilin.
Schwartz stayed in touch with Eilin and helped her prepare her Fulbright Fellowship application to pursue a master’s degree in the U.S. Eilin was accepted as a Fulbright Fellow and will begin her studies at an American university in the fall of 2019.
“I was thrilled for her but not at all surprised,” Schwartz said.
Eilin came to speak at the high school for at-risk youth where Schwartz teaches, and met with the 10th and 11th grade students to talk with them about the Sigd holiday in particular and the Ethiopian Israeli community in general. “The students were absolutely riveted by her,” Schwartz said. “It would be no exaggeration to state that her visit was one of the cultural highlights of the school year.”
Schwartz says he sees the ripple waves that resulted from a single HIAS scholarship, and suspects that the American Jewish community will one day be hearing about Hagar Eilin.