18 Ethiopian-Israelis have begun to fulfill their life dreams by participating in a five-year academic program at the Henrietta Szold School of Nursing.
Aviv Imharen, 25, was a combat medic in the IDF. From the first moment he treated fellow soldiers he saw himself as a nurse in a hospital setting.
“I took a psychometric course, but unfortunately my scores were not high enough to gain acceptance into nursing school. Then I heard about Achotenu and thought I might have a chance.”
Imharen, whose captivating smile and penetrating brown eyes express both modesty and seriousness, is in the first year of a five-year academic nursing track at Hebrew University’s Henrietta Szold School of Nursing. Thanks to a unique partnership between Hadassah Women’s Zionist Organization of America, Hebrew University, the Henrietta Szold School of Nursing and JobKatif-Achotenu, Imharen and 17 other students have begun to fulfill their life dreams.
Imharen is studying in an innovative academic program, which opens the doors to high-level academic studies for Ethiopian-Israelis who, despite high intelligence, score 25% lower than their Israeli-born peers. This makes them ineligible for nursing.
“Hebrew University agreed to eliminate this barrier, which is a culturally biased assessment tool,” said program director Michal Nurick. “In lieu, they agreed to use a different, more culturally sensitive assessment tool. This opens opportunities for Ethiopian-Israelis who can indeed contribute to the nursing profession in Israel.”
JobKatif-Achotenu worked together with academic experts to create an evaluative process, including one-on-one interviews and rigorous simulation exercises. As a result, the first cohort of 18 students enrolled in the Achotenu program at the Henrietta Szold School of Nursing.
On Tuesday evening last week, the School of Nursing opened its auditorium doors to welcome candidates for the second group of potential students who will begin the five-year BSN program in the summer 2017. Many came in response to a one-minute clip of Imharen posted on Facebook, which invited young Ethiopian-Israelis to learn more about the program.
119 young men and women traveled from as far south as Beersheva and as far north as the Haifa suburbs. They listened to presentations from nursing school staff and administration and had the opportunity to speak with Imharen and his fellow classmates.
‘Nursing opens so many avenues in our lives’
Nursing, they learned, is a profession that draws those who want to help others, but requires love and devotion. “It’s demanding, it becomes your life,” said head nurse and nursing instructor,Aviva Sagido, who emigrated from Ethiopia at the age of six. “Nursing opens so many other avenues in our lives.”
“Maybe one out of five of the attendees at the open house will be eligible to enter the program,” according to Nurick. “This is a rigorous program which requires them to devote the next five years of their life to serious studies.”
The majority of the funds for scholarships, dorms, living subsidies and mentoring comes from Hadassah, the Women’s Zionist Organization of America, through the Patricia Lapan Nursing Scholarship named for a generous donor who was both a nurse and businesswoman. Other funds are donated by JobKatif-Achotenu and the Government of Israel.
JobKatif-Achotenu was first launched in 2013 by Rav Yosef Zvi Rimon, an internationally renowned educator, lecturer, author, head of the Batei Midrash (Torah study) of the JCT Lev Academic Center and founder and chairman of JobKatif. “I was bothered seeing so many young Ethiopian-Israelis working in low-paying, dead end jobs. Young men and women who had grown up here, served the country, and yet, had no viable future in front of them. Wasn’t there something we could do?”
Michal Nurick was brought on board to conduct a field survey. Her mandate: What do these young men and women want to do? And what would provide them with steady, satisfactory employment with a positive future vector?
After several months of interviewing and researching, Nurick zeroed in on nursing, which dovetailed with a recent OECD report indicating that Israel will need to double its nursing staff within the next few years. The success of a customized JobKatif pilot program for registered nurses was the springboard for expanding the program to include nurses with academic degrees.
Hodaya Tekla Mula, a graduate of Achotenu’s pilot program and single mother of two young children, is working as a nurse in a Netanya hospital and proudly supporting her family. “When people ask my kids what they want to do when they grow up, they say they want to be just like me, their mother.”