Student en route to win int'l social innovation contest

By
February 7, 2011 16:04

Dovid Levine, 20, and his proposed homeless shelter in Jerusalem are the only Israeli contenders in the top 20 in a Dell-sponsored competition.

2 minute read.



Matzav founder Dovid Levine

dovid levine 311. (photo credit: courtesy)

A 20-year-old Bar-Ilan University student is on his way to win an international contest for socially innovative students, after proposing the foundation of a homeless shelter in Jerusalem.

Dovid Levine, an oleh from New Jersey who has been in Israel since 2005, started Matzav - short for Merkaz l'Tzrachim Basisim, or Center for Basic Needs. He and the students that help him plan to open a shelter that will also help Jerusalem's homeless gain the tools they need to improve their lives and change their situation.

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Levine has entered Matzav in the Dell Social Innovation Competition, a joint effort between The University of Texas at Austin, an international search for university students "with innovative ideas to solve a social or environmental problem," with a cash prize of over $100,000 to at least five winning teams.

Matzav is the only Israeli idea in the top twenty, ranking at fourth place in early February, but Levine calls for action over this idea. The more votes the idea gets, the more likely it is to win the grant.

"People are always lookign for ways to give back and help those in need. This is one of the few times where it's effortless," Levine told The Jerusalem Post. "By winning this contest, we will be able to start the process of creating a homeless shelter in Jerusalem, something that is sorely lacking.

"I first got exposed to the issue of homelessness when I came to Israeli in tenth grade [on the Jewish Agency's Naale Elite Academy Program]," Levine says, adding that growing up in suburban New Jersey, he had never been "exposed to such high levels of homelessness and poverty as in cities like Tel Aviv and Jerusalem."

"I couldn't understand how so many people suffered such a predicament and why not nearly enough was being done to help," he explained. "Current solutions, I think, are merely treating the symptoms and not the underlying issues, much like this country's over-reliance on Acamol."

Levine explained that there are very few homeless shelters in Israel, a fact that he credits to Israel's Housing Assistance laws, which give those who have been on the street for over 30 days and suffer from mental illness to receive a place to live.

Levine and the other students involved in Matzav posit that, unlike in the US and other places, the most homeless people in Jerusalem are in their position due to lack of job qualifications, and not mental illness. Therefore, Matzav hopes to become the first "Center for Basic Needs" in the capital, which will give the homeless homes and job training.

"Jerusalem is the capital of 3 major religions in the world. It should be the paradigm of social justice, instead of mired with homelessness and poverty," Levine says. "This is the first step to a better future."


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