Sunday, September 23, 2012

Raising the education bar for Ethiopian Jews

Pnina Gaday Agenyahu is the first Ethiopian-born member of Israel’s Council for Higher Education, and directs the Tel Aviv University Hillel.
Pnina Gaday Agenyahu
Pnina Gaday Agenyahu’s classmates in Haifa all got parental help with homework. Her own mother couldn't do that -- she wasn’t literate in her native language and certainly not in Hebrew. But her decision to live among Israelis rather than in an Ethiopian immigrant community was well thought-out.

“We were the only Ethiopian family in our neighborhood,” Agenyahu says. “On the one hand, it’s a privilege to live among a wider family and we missed that support, but on the other hand my mom understood that here she would be able to raise her kids with more opportunities. It was more challenging to be on our own, and it was lonely, but it also required us to be like the Israelis around us.”

And despite the lack of homework assistance, she excelled academically. Now 30, Agenyahu was recently appointed as the first Ethiopian-born member of Israel’s Council for Higher Education. Since August 2007, she has been the Hillel director at Tel Aviv University, the world’s only Ethiopian-born director among more than 500 Hillel campus clubs. -- Avigayil Kadesh, Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs

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