'Up by the bootstraps' achievers honored

Scholarship fund ISEF to honor 8 outstanding Israelis in different fields in Tel Aviv.

311_david knafo (photo credit: Courtesy)
311_david knafo
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Eight Israelis will be honored on Wednesday night by the Edmond J. Safra-funded International Sephardic Education Foundation for their outstanding achievements and contributions to Israeli society in the fields of medicine, science, business and hi-tech.
The honorees will then be inducted into a newly created Edmond J. Safra Honorary Society of ISEF Alumni in a ceremony at the Diaspora Museum at Tel Aviv University.
The eight awardees, all former recipients of ISEF Foundation academic scholarships, are MK Daniel Ben-Simon (Labor); Dr. Ronni Gamzu, directorgeneral of the Ministry of Health; Simcha Getahune, doctoral candidate at Bar-Ilan University and director of Multi-Cultural Programs for Youth in Distress; architect David Knafo, co-founder of Knafo-Klimor Architects; Prof. David Levi-Faur from the department of political science at Hebrew University of Jerusalem; Solly Mizrahi, director of surgery at Soroka University Medical Center and professor of Medicine at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev; Dr. Ami Moyal, head of the Center for Language Processing and senior faculty member at Afeka Tel Aviv Academic College of Engineering; and Prof. Rivka Savaya, head of the Shapell School of Social Work at Tel Aviv University.
Created in 1977, the ISEF Foundation has given thousands of academic scholarships to gifted youth from some of the country’s most disadvantaged communities, including those of Sephardic descent, third- and fourth-generation Israelis, Russian and Ethiopian immigrants and the Druse population.
Today, some 600 students on 21 campuses countrywide benefit annually from the ongoing grants.
According to ISEF President and co-founder Nina Weiner, more than 90 percent of the program’s graduates have gone on to successful careers in a wide variety of disciplines “vital to Israel’s growth.” “This award will help shine a spotlight on some of our most brilliant and successful alumni. who continue to serve as role models in their communities,” Weiner told The Jerusalem Post. “Each of the inductees has assumed a leadership position in Israel and we applaud the positive impact they have had on Israeli society.
“Our goal is to find jewels from neglected and disadvantaged neighborhoods and help them strive for excellence,” she explained, adding that the financial assistance often allows those from poor families to reach higher education and even doctoral and post-doctorate studies abroad.
“We have some outstanding success stories, a Druse student getting a doctorate at Oxford University and a student from Kiryat Shmona studying at Harvard University for example,” she said.
Asked why only one woman – out of thousands of ISEF alumni – was being honored on Wednesday, Weiner explained that while today women make up about 50% of the scholarship recipients, in the past fewer were involved in the program.
“All of this year’s honorees graduated more than 20 years ago,” she said. “Today we see many more women graduates who are achieving success.” Although Lily Safra, chairwoman of the Edmond J. Safra Foundation and honorary chairwoman of ISEF, will not be attending Wednesday’s awards ceremony, she expressed support for the new honorary society in her late husband’s name.
“It has been a privilege to watch so many promising young students achieve success in their chosen fields and become leaders in Israeli society,” Lily Safra said in a statement.
“The inaugural members of the Edmond J. Safra Honorary Society of ISEF Alumni embody my husband’s values – hard work, professional integrity, and a duty to help others – and I am proud that they are now connected even more closely with Edmond’s life and legacy.”