Helping Ethiopian Jews Thrive in Israel

By Jane Fantel, Director of Israel Connections for the Jewish Federation of San Diego

It has been 30 years since the first mass emigration from Ethiopia began, but Ethiopian Jews in Israel are still struggling to integrate fully into Israeli society. While the gaps in participation in the workforce among Ethiopian-Israeli young adults appear to be closing, the quality of that employment reveals that 26% of Ethiopian-Israelis are working in the lowest level Jobs. Many are trapped in minimum wage and low paying positions with limited opportunity for advancement. As a result, to date, 52% of Ethiopian families in Israel live below the poverty line.

During my recent visit to Israel, I was able to meet with Gennet Remez, the Director of Ready to Advance, a program for underemployed Ethiopian Young Adults, in Rehovot.

The Ready to Advance program is tailored to Ethiopian-Israelis and provides counseling to determine the participant’s individual career path and provide practical steps to reaching their potential. Often times, participants will receive scholarships to take part in vocational training courses that help them gain more lucrative and fulfilling employment. Staff members also conduct outreach to prospective employers to develop career paths for participants that meet the specific professions that these companies are seeking.

There are currently 60 young adult centers funded by the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC), and within these centers, seven have the Ready to Advance program and five more will open by 2017, serving Ethiopians ages 22-45. 

We met with Talia, a 29-year old woman who is receiving support from the program.  She came to Israel with her family from Gondar, Ethiopia, when she was only four years old.  In her youth, she lived in a caravan site where conditions for Ethiopians were terrible. She eventually moved with her family to Yavne, and after finishing high school, she joined the 8200 unit of the IDF, an elite intelligence unit where she worked in logistics. 

Thanks to Ready to Advance, Talia received help in returning to school to follow her career path towards becoming a dental hygienist. Gennet says they are working closely together to get all the English and financial literacy classes she also needs.

Ready to Advance’s unique intake process determines which skillsets each individual has or needs. Such as the case with Talia, where the program determined not only did she need training in her chosen field, but money management and foreign language skills that would greatly benefit her in the long run.

Your Federation gift not only provides resources for those in need, but helps give them the skills to change their lives and transform their communities. For more information about this program and the other work Federation is doing in Israel, please contact Jane Fantel at (858) 737-7122 or


(Photo: Left: Talia / Right: Gennet Remez)


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