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


ISEF Co-Founder and Honorary Chair Lily Safra received an honorary doctorate from the Technion in 2018 "for her outstanding support of the ISEF program that helped thousands of students throughout Israel, including hundreds within the Technion."



ISEF alumna Dr. Karin Carmit Yefet was named "Outstanding Researcher of the Year" by the University of Haifa.

Karin was chosen from among the entire university faculty to receive this prestigious award, and all of us in the ISEF family - students, alumni, and supporters - may take great pride in her achievement!

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Dmitry (Dima) Shimelfarb 

Executive Director

Dima joined ISEF in November 2017. Previously he was Executive Director of the JPF Foundation and served as Vice President of Israel and Global Philanthropy for the Jewish Agency for Israel. Over a decade of experience with Jewish communities around the world informs his work as an ambassador and advocate for Israel.  After completing his service in the Israel Defense Forces, Dima served as a Jewish Agency emissary for informal Jewish education in Moscow, Russia.  Upon his return to Israel, Dima was appointed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to serve as spokesman and press secretary for the Likud Party.  As the first non-native Hebrew speaker to hold this position, Dima worked to break the glass ceiling on behalf of new immigrants to Israel.

Dmitry holds an M.B.A. in Public Policy Leadership from the Interdisciplinary Center (IDC) in Herzliya, Israel, and a Master’s in Negotiation and Conflict Resolution from Columbia University.


Nancy Wellins 

Director, Communications and Grants

Nancy has worked with ISEF since 1992, including service as acting executive director (2015-2017). Previously she was Bureau Chief for Israel’s Consul-General in New York; Head of English Publications, International Center for Peace in the Middle East; and Correspondent and Acting Editor-in-Chief, English News Department, Israel Government Press Office.

Nancy had a professional singing career with the New Israel Opera and the Israel National Choir. She holds a B.A. in Religious Studies from Yale University.


Adi Helfer 

Director, Next Generation & Student Affairs

Adi began working with ISEF in April 2010.  She holds a B.A. from the University of Massachusetts in Amherst in Sociology with a focus on social services, and a Master’s in Middle Eastern Studies from Ben Gurion University of the Negev in Beer Sheva, Israel.

She has previously worked for over a dozen nonprofit organizations all over Israel, providing social services and legal advocacy for disadvantaged youth, women, immigrants, and other marginalized populations.


Yana Fomin 

Associate Director, Operations and Member Support Services

Yana began working at ISEF in May 2018. She holds a BA in Russian History and French Language from Manhattanville College. She also studied in France at the College International de Cannes where she received a degree in French Language and History. Previously, she worked at Ernst & Young as Events Manager in Client Retention and Acquisition and prior to that at JPMorgan Chase (back when it was still Chase) organizing annual events for the Advisory Boards.

Yana also has a background in the nonprofit sector, working at New York Association for New Americans, helping Russian Jewish refugees settle in New York during the 90’s.

Bridge to College

This fund is helping hundreds of at-risk Israeli teens to finish high school and qualify for college.

ISEF pairs each vulnerable teen with an ISEF university student mentor from a similar background. The teens look up to our students--who tutor them in tough subjects, boost their confidence, and show them the way forward to a better future through higher education.

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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.


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.