the “Promising Ones”
For many women, the knowledge that one must go to school, complete one’s studies, attend university and develop a career is an intrinsic part of life. We think about what we want to study, which university we would like to attend and what we will do as our professional life progresses. But for some women in Israeli society, things are different. Studies, an education and the opportunities that they bring cannot be taken for granted. Strauss has made it its mission to change this situation and to give these women the opportunity they deserve.
For the Strauss Group, diversity, inclusion and equal opportunity are far more than just nice words. They are part of the Strauss family’s long-standing heritage, inspired by its founders, Hilda and Richard Strauss, who taught their children to respect all men regardless of religion, race or ethnicity. Richard was raised on this humane, egalitarian doctrine, and was a man of feeling and soul who loved people – all people. To Hilda, an independent, entrepreneurial woman with a social and business vision, community involvement and contribution to create a shared, inclusive society for men and women of all religions, ages, ethnic backgrounds and cultures was a personal crusade, a mission that is the lifeblood of the company to this very day.
Hilda and Richard Strauss
As a result of this passion for action and in line with the family tradition, the Strauss Group has established a scholarship program for the advancement of women in Israel. The program is designed to help women from diverse populations, from all parts of Israeli society, with emphasis on socially excluded populations and minorities, and focuses on higher education and excellence to enable women to become leaders in their community. Most of these women will be the first and/or only ones in their family to attend studies and to be given the opportunity to change their lives. In the past year, eighteen scholarship recipients were chosen – three from the Ethiopian community in Nes Ziona,Ramat Gan and Rishon Lezion; ten from the Bedouin sector in Rahat, Tel Sheva, Arara and Houra; and five from the ultra-Orthodox Jewish community in Bnei Brak and Jerusalem.
The eighteen scholarship recipients with Ofra Strauss
The Al-Wa’eidat group, or, in English, the “Promising Ones”, is part of the scholarship program and is the product of cooperation between the Strauss Group and the Volunteer Center (“The Tent”), a division of AJEEC, the Arab-Jewish Center for Equality, Empowerment and Cooperation, and several colleges, including the Achva Academic College, the Sapir Academic College, the Sami Shamoon College, the Kaye Academic College of Education, Bar Ilan University, the Ben-Gurion University of the Negev and the Open University.
The group includes ten Bedouin students, studying at higher education institutions in line with the program’s concept, which espouses the empowerment of the local women’s community. The program encompasses three academic years, during which the students are accompanied from their first year of study through to completing their degree, and its goal is the inclusion of young Bedouin women in higher education, in occupation promoting professions.
These students are not simply a means; they are first and foremost a goal in its own right. They promise to be part of the solution and lead a change in the status of women in the Bedouin sector. Consequently, they lead social ventures in Bedouin society, such as teaching women to read and write and changing the discourse within the community to positive talk.
The Hilda Strauss Scholarship
The members of the Al-Wa’eidat group take part in empowerment workshops given by different facilitators, which address diverse subjects such as empowerment and personal development, dealing with cultural and social conflicts, motivational talks, and help with academic issues.
“As students, we seek not only to complete our degree and start working; we want to help and contribute to our society. This is a good time for the tough journey of building one’s personality, getting to know one’s surroundings, and most important – getting to know ourselves.
“What students and young women need is to see a living example, someone who has succeeded in paving her way, circumventing barriers, breaking through without breaking, planting rather than destroying, and to draw power, love and strength from her,” said scholarship recipient Biyan Gabor at a personal meeting with Ofra Strauss last December, where she and her friends spoke about their plans and dreams.
Ten “Promising Ones” – the Negev Institute – AJEEC
As another step in the advancement of women and occupational diversity, on International Women’s Day 2011 Strauss awarded a special prize to organizations taking action to promote women of diverse backgrounds.
Three special women won the prize:
For the advancement of ultra-Orthodox Jewish women: Rabbanit Adina Bar Shalom, chairperson and founder of the Jerusalem Haredi College
For the advancement of women in the Bedouin sector: Amal al-Sana al-Hajouj, founder of AJEEC – the Negev Institute
For the advancement of women of the Ethiopian community: Yifat Ovadia, founder of Olim Beyahad
You can learn more about these strong women who proved that things can be done differently in this moving video.
Rabbanit Adina Bar Shalom, Amal al-Sana al-Hajouj and Yifat Ovadia with Ofra Strauss and Gadi Lesin.
In view of the program’s success, Strauss plans to continue its collaboration with the “Promising Ones” through workshops, projects and empowerment sessions for the women in the group. The number of scholarships will be increased, Strauss will hold a team-building workshop to create a shared space for activist activities by the women, and will offer networking sessions and create joint projects with the scholarship recipients.
First published in Strauss Blog: Food For Thought