An ISEF scholar (right) with the pupil he mentors - embodying ISEF\'s mission to open the doors of education to all

Because Israel's single greatest natural resource is the minds of its young people. ISEF opens the doors to higher education for more than 400 promising young Israelis from underserved and immigrant communities throughout Israel. Learn More


The acclaimed memoir by ISEF President Nina Weiner shares the joys and challenges of building The ISEF Foundation and the exciting life journey which led her to that purpose.

“Weiner writes with great zest and a clear eyed devotion to facts and to the harsh realities of life that awaited displaced Jews from the Middle East upon their arrival in Israel.” – Andre Aciman, author of Out of Egypt

Click to purchase Circles of Empowerment on Amazon. All proceeds benefit ISEF.


ISEF Israel's annual Shabbat Leadership Conference, March 24-25, 2017, welcomed 400 young ISEF scholars along with ISEF alumni for interactive study sessions, relationship-building activities and commemoration of ISEF’s innumerable accomplishments in developing Israel's intellectual capital spanning four decades.




From earning prestigious awards and top appointments, to publishing research, film premiers and leading international conferences, ISEF scholars and alumni are inspiring the next generation of Israel's leaders. Read More

Archive: ISEF's success stories!

Mission and History

Our Mission

ISEF’s mission is to narrow Israel’s socio-economic gap through higher education for gifted students from disadvantaged backgrounds.  Our unique methodology combines scholarship grants with required community service, as well as training in leadership and social awareness.

שבת אייסף  2016




ISEF’S core values are:

  • Education as a means of individual and national development;
  • Social awareness and advocacy;
  • Pride in ethnic heritage as part of the Israeli culture; and
  • Zionism, the commitment to the existence of a Jewish democratic state.

ISEF was founded in 1977 by Edmond J. Safra (z”l), Lily Safra, and Nina Weiner. The foundation supports Israelis who have completed military or national service. Though originally created by and for Sephardic Jews, today all cultural and ethnic groups in Israeli society who share the foundation’s values are represented in ISEF’s student body.

Nina Weiner’s Inspiring Memoirs Benefit ISEF

Our History

ISEF arose in response to the challenges Israel faced at its birth – fighting for survival while absorbing Jews from Asia, North Africa, and elsewhere. Many new immigrants, particularly those from Sephardic or Mizrahi communities, were ill-equipped to merge into Israel’s economic and social mainstream. By the 1970s, the plight of this underprivileged population had led world Jewry to create Project Renewal, to rehabilitate Israel’s poorest areas. But ISEF’s founders, Edmond J. Safra (z”l), his wife Lily Safra, and Nina Weiner, believed the real key to renewal lay in developing Israel’s intellectual capital.

In the 1990s, the organization changed its name to the ISEF Foundation, and its programs became open to all underprivileged Israelis, regardless of ethnic origin, who had completed army or national service. Today around one-half of ISEF’s more than 600 annual beneficiaries identify as Sephardic, with the rest representing other groups on society’s margins – Former Soviet Union, Ethiopians, Druze, and others.  ISEF selects its beneficiaries based solely on financial need, scholastic excellence, and leadership potential.

Bridge to College

Through the Luna and Selim Benardete Bridge to College Fund, young scholars are trained in leadership and serve as mentors, tutors and role models for young Israelis in their home communities.

The program targets high school students in the distressed area of Nesher, who show clear potential for college, but need financial assistance, along with help to develop self-confidence, pass their matriculation exams and gain admission to higher education.

Read more about the program

Student Testimonials

ISEF Alum & Nesher Mayor Speaks at Bridge to College Fund Event

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Lily and Edmund Safra

ISEF was founded in 1977 by Edmond J. Safra z"l, Lily Safra and Nina Weiner.