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During divided times, this Israeli university promotes inclusion and diversity with an unusual approach



Tal Levine is the first person in her family to go to college. Her mother, a child of illiterate Moroccan immigrants to Israel who spoke only Arabic, left school after eighth grade to help her parents on their Israeli farm. Her father dropped out of high school after his own father died, and he worked his entire career in the Israeli post office.

Levine herself did odd jobs from a young age, scraping together whatever money she could.

“I’ve been working since I was 13 years old, from dog walking to waitressing to whatever I could find,” said Levine, now 28. “My parents could not help me.”

Despite her hardships, Levine found her way into dentistry thanks to a special Hebrew University diversity program that seeks out students from challenging backgrounds. Not only was Levine accepted as a student into the Hebrew University-Hadassah Faculty of Dental Medicine, but she also received a life-changing scholarship that enabled her to pursue her dream.

“I wanted to do something to help people, and not just sit in front of a screen,” Levine said of her career ambitions.

Levine’s story is not unusual: Each year, students from diverse backgrounds are actively recruited to the university, where they are eligible for financial, cultural, academic and mental health support.

It’s part of Hebrew University’s vision for the school as an oasis of diversity, coexistence and inclusion at a time when Israel is facing headwinds of division, discrimination and discord.

The university is a unique and special place in Jerusalem — and in Israel generally — where students from a wide range of socioeconomic, ethnic and religious backgrounds come together. The student body includes Orthodox haredim, Palestinian Arabs, Mizrahim, Ethiopians, people with disabilities and members of the LGBTQ+ community.

“We are working hard to bring together people from different backgrounds, where they practice listening to each other and learning about cultural diversity,” said Professor Mona Khoury, vice president for strategy and diversity and former dean of Hebrew University’s School of Social Work. Khoury made history as the first Arab woman to be appointed as a dean at the university.

“Just as an example, I recently had lunch with Arab and Jewish students from East Jerusalem and Beersheva,” she said. “Right now, it’s hard because the situation in Israel isn’t good. But even though they were very different politically, they were able to talk and had a very real and genuine conversation. This may have been the first time they had this kind of exchange. And it’s because Hebrew University purposefully enables this to happen — encourages it.”

The university seeks to promote inclusion and diversity in a variety of ways. All the signage at the university is in Hebrew, Arabic and English to make it easier for students of all backgrounds to navigate the campus. The Rothberg International School has gender-neutral bathrooms to ensure students of all gender identifications feel comfortable. Extra help with Hebrew is available to new immigrants and Arab students. Students with disabilities receive special assistance. The School of Social Work offers counseling courses in Arabic, sends out emails in three languages, and celebrates Jewish, Muslim and Christian holidays.

Each minority group in Israel faces its own challenges: Economically disadvantaged students may not have enough money even to apply to the university; haredim and ex-haredi students lack basic educational foundations, and Arab students face linguistic,
cultural and social challenges.

Tala Atieh, a 22-year-old student in education and anthropology from Kfar Aqab in Arab-populated eastern Jerusalem, has benefited directly from the university’s efforts. Although she graduated at the top of her class in high school, she did not know any Hebrew. So she enrolled in a yearlong academic preparation course that the university offers students in her situation. Within a year, Atieh’s Hebrew was fluent and she was able to get into a degree program.

Atieh and Levine are both members of Hebrew University’s Ambassadors for Diversity program: 24 students from varied communities who receive scholarships, engage in multicultural activities and commit to working 100 hours in return for their benefits. As part of the program, Atieh shares her experiences with Arab young people and talks to them about how Hebrew University can help them thrive.

“I have met people from all over the country with many different backgrounds and perspectives,” Atieh said. “For example, I learned a lot about the Jewish holidays that I did not know before. And I share my own holidays as well. These exchanges bring
greater understanding between our different peoples.”

Promoting tolerance is among the university’s core values. The Center for the Study of Multiculturalism and Diversity (CSMD) promotes the development of multicultural sensitivity and tolerance, helping students develop critical perspectives on power
relations within their society and offering courses, clinics and events that explore multiculturalism and enable students to interact with those from different backgrounds. The center is the first academic body in Israel to harness behavioral science to focus on multiculturalism, and researchers at the CSMD are developing innovative policies to foster more social integration and cohesion.

“In the Ambassadors program I encounter people I would have never met otherwise,” said Tova Abeve, 34, a master’s degree student in public policy of Ethiopian descent.

Also the first in her family to attend university, Abeve is a social influencer and content creator with podcasts and other media aimed at Jewish women of Ethiopian descent. She uses her influence to tell her followers about the opportunities that Hebrew University offers.

“Most people don’t know that these opportunities exist,” she said. “I’m sharing a vision for what the world could look like.”

Shiran Brosh, a 38-year-old Orthodox student in education, is also in the Ambassadors program. “I have never met such a special group of people with different languages and cultures,” Brosh said. “We all come together. It’s a wonderful experience.”

Abichai Tzur, 24, is a former Orthodox Jew who spent much of his teen years cut off from his family following his decision to leave Orthodoxy. In order to get into the university’s program in international relations and communication, Tzur not only needed help overcoming gaps in his education but also financial support, mental health support and mentorship. Today, in addition to studying, he works at the Ministry of Social Equality in the LGBTQ division as manager of international relations, leads the Model United Nations program at the university, and speaks to other ex-Orthodox Jews about diversity and inclusion.

“The reason I advocate for social equality and share my story is that I know what it feels like to have a disadvantage and to need some help to get on your feet,” Tzur said.

Levine also talks to prospective students about her experience.

“My message to students is simple: You can do it,” Levine said. “Even if you don’t have money, even if you don’t think you are a good student, even if you haven’t studied — you can overcome all those obstacles and succeed.”

The post During divided times, this Israeli university promotes inclusion and diversity with an unusual approach appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

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Phyllis Pollock died at home Sunday September 3, 2023 in Winnipeg, after a courageous lifetime battle with cancer.
Phyllis was a mother of four: Gary (Laura), daughter Randi, Steven (deceased in 2010) (Karen), and Robert. Phyllis also had two grandchildren: Lauren and Quinn.
Born in Fort Frances, Ontario on February 7, 1939, Phyllis was an only child to Ruby and Alex Lerman. After graduating high school, Phyllis moved to Winnipeg where she married and later divorced Danny Pollock, the father of her children. She moved to Beverly Hills in 1971, where she raised her children.
Phyllis had a busy social life and lucrative real estate career that spanned over 50 years, including new home sales with CoastCo. Phyllis was the original sales agent for three buildings in Santa Monica, oceanfront: Sea Colony I, Sea Colony II, and Sea Colony. She was known as the Sea Colony Queen. She worked side by side with her daughter Randi for about 25 years – handling over 600 transactions, including sales and leases within the three phases of Sea Colony alone.
Phyllis had more energy than most people half her age. She loved entertaining, working in the real estate field, meeting new and interesting people everyday no matter where she went, and thrived on making new lifelong friends. Phyllis eventually moved to the Sea Colony in Santa Monica where she lived for many years before moving to Palm Desert, then Winnipeg.
After battling breast cancer four times in approximately 20 years, she developed metastatic Stage 4 lung cancer. Her long-time domestic partner of 27 years, Joseph Wilder, K.C., was the love of her life. They were never far apart. They traveled the world and went on many adventures during their relationship. During her treatment, Phyllis would say how much she missed work and seeing her clients. Joey demonstrated amazing strength, love, care, and compassion for Phyllis as her condition progressed. He was her rock and was by her side 24/7, making sure she had the best possible care. Joey’s son David was always there to support Phyllis and to make her smile. Joey’s other children, Sheri, Kenny, Joshua and wife Davina, were also a part of her life. His kids would Facetime Phyllis and include her during any of their important functions. Phyllis loved Joey’s children as if they were her own.
Thank you to all of her friends and family who were there to support her during these difficult times. Phyllis is now, finally, pain free and in a better place. She was loved dearly and will be greatly missed. Interment took place in Los Angeles.

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Local News

Gwen Centre Creative Living Centre celebrates 35th anniversary



By BERNIE BELLAN Over 100 individuals gathered at the Gwen Secter Centre on Tuesday evening, July 18 – under the big top that serves as the venue for the summer series of outdoor concerts that is now in its third year at the centre.
The occasion was the celebration of the Gwen Secter Centre’s 35th anniversary. It was also an opportunity to honour the memory of Sophie Shinewald, who passed away at the age of 106 in 2019, but who, as recently as 2018, was still a regular attendee at the Gwen Secter Centre.
As Gwen Secter Executive Director Becky Chisick noted in her remarks to the audience, Sophie had been volunteering at the Gwen Secter Centre for years – answering the phone among other duties. Becky remarked that Sophie’s son, Ed Shinewald, had the phone number for the Gwen Secter Centre stored in his phone as “Mum’s work.”

Raquel Dancho (left), Member of Parliament for Kildonan-St.Paul, and Nikki Spigelman, President, Gwen Secter Centre

Remarks were also delivered by Raquel Dancho, Member of Parliament for Kildonan-St. Paul, who was the only representative of any level of government in attendance. (How times have changed: I remember well the steadfast support the former Member of the Legislature for St. John’s, Gord Mackintosh, showed the Gwen Secter Centre when it was perilously close to being closed down. And, of course, for years, the area in which the Gwen Secter Centre is situated was represented by the late Saul Cherniack.)
Sophie Shinewald’s granddaughter, Alix (who flew in from Chicago), represented the Shinewald family at the event. (Her brother, Benjamin, who lives in Ottawa, wasn’t able to attend, but he sent a pre-recorded audio message that was played for the audience.)
Musical entertainment for the evening was provided by a group of talented singers, led by Julia Kroft. Following the concert, attendees headed inside to partake of a sumptuous assortment of pastries, all prepared by the Gwen Secter culinary staff. (And, despite my asking whether I could take a doggy bag home, I was turned down.)

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Palestinian gunmen kill 4 Israelis in West Bank gas station



This is a developing story.

(JTA) — Palestinian gunmen killed four people and wounded four in a terror attack at a gas station near the West Bank settlement of Eli, the Israeli army reported.

An Israeli civilian returning fire at the scene of the attack on Tuesday killed one of the attackers, who emerged from a vehicle, and two others fled.

Kan, Israel’s public broadcaster, said one of those wounded was in serious condition. The gunmen, while in the vehicle, shot at a guard post at the entry to the settlement, and then continued to the gas station which is also the site of a snack bar. A nearby yeshiva went into lockdown.

Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant announced plans to convene a briefing with top security officials within hours of the attack. Kan reported that there were celebrations of the killing in major West Bank cities and in the Gaza Strip, initiated by terrorist groups Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad. Hamas said the shooting attack Tuesday was triggered by the Jenin raid.

The shooting comes as tensions intensify in the West Bank. A day earlier, Israeli troops raiding the city of Jenin to arrest accused terrorists killed five people.

The Biden administration spoke out over the weekend against Israel’s plans to build 4,000 new housing units for Jewish settlers in the West Bank. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also finalized plans to  transfer West Bank building decisions to Bezalel Smotrich, the extremist who is the finance minister. Smotrich has said he wants to limit Palestinian building and expand settlement building.

Kan reported that the dead terrorist was a resident of a village, Urif, close to Huwara, the Palestinian town where terrorists killed two Israeli brothers driving through in February. Settlers retaliated by raiding the village and burning cars and buildings.

The post Palestinian gunmen kill 4 Israelis in West Bank gas station appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

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