ISEF scholars at Shamoon College of Engineering

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.



Check out ISEF-Israel's events paying tribute to four decades of educating youth, transforming lives and securing Israel's future!


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From receiving prestigious awards and top appointments, to heading international conferences and publishing vital research, ISEF alumni are inspiring the next generation of Israel's leaders. Read More

Archive: ISEF's success stories!

ISEF News Archive

Double Honors for Dr. Yifat Bitton

The New York Jewish Voice
November 18, 2016


Dr. Yifat Bitton, an alumna of the ISEF Foundation’s scholarship programs for immigrant and under-served young Israelis, was recently named to a full professorship at a top Israeli law school – and also to the Israeli Minister of Justice’s “short list” of 28 candidates to fill four vacancies in Israel’s High Court of Justice.

Dr. Bitton of Israel’s College of Management Academic Studies Law School in Rishon LeZion, is co-founder of Tmura -The Israeli Anti-Discrimination Legal Center. An active leader with ISEF for more than a decade, Prof. Bitton held a postdoctoral stint as an ISEF International Fellow at Harvard Law School.

Read full story in the Jewish Voice

 A Scholarship That Keeps on Giving
The Jewish Week: June 10, 2015
JW Article June 10 2015
Click here for the full article
Sephardi philanthropist worries about students falling between the cracks
Jerusalem Post: May 18, 2015

JPOST article May 2015

Click here for the full article
The Hypocrisy of Academic Boycott
Israel Hayom: December 4, 2014

Israel Hayom article picProfessor Eli Avraham praises The ISEF Foundation in this powerful op-ed piece attacking the growing international movement for boycotting Israel’s academia, in Israel’s top daily national news publication, Israel Hayom.

“Many university graduates — including 11,000 students who graduated through the ISEF Foundation, which offers higher education to gifted students from disadvantaged backgrounds — are grateful to the universities that allowed them to begin impressive careers and to overcome various obstacles. Muslims, Druze, Christians and new immigrants to Israel were all able to improve their quality of life thanks to their academic studies. Universities are a part of Israeli society, they help strengthen disadvantaged neighborhoods and fund social activities and student communities that help those in need, including in Arab villages.”

Professor Avraham is chairman of the ISEF Foundation and head of the Comper Center for the Study of Anti-Semitism and Racism at Haifa University.

Click here for the full article
Ray Bitton’s Mission Impossible: To become a doctor in Israel
Haaretz: November 28, 2014

Ray Biton story pic

ISEF medical student, Ray Bitton, is featured in this Haaretz article on the financial struggles among Israel’s medical students and applicants.

“One address for the not-well-to-do is the ISEF Foundation, which grants scholarships to the needy for higher education, in order to narrow social gaps. It is presently financing medical school for 27 students, who are at various stages of study. ISEF isn’t just for medical school, but the barriers to students from poor backgrounds are higher there — the long years of study, for instance.

The sense that medical school is only for those who can afford it has affected the medical profession in Israel and the “standard” image of doctors, agrees ISEF deputy director Galit Caspi Cohen.

The foundation feels it important that doctors be people who grew up in the community and who know the community: Israel’s social diversity should be reflected in its physicians, too.

Former Health Ministry Director General Prof. Roni Gamzu, who received aid from ISEF himself as a medical student, agrees that Israel needs doctors who come from all socioeconomic groups. “Universities should provide equal opportunities, without economic barriers,” he says. Gamzu has also spoken out against nepotism in medicine, for instance when the children of senior physicians get preferential treatment in internship placements. Now he says the expensive test-prep system is an obstacle to equality and is unacceptable.”

Click here for full article

ISEF Israel Director Talks Mental Health and Inequality
Channel 10: “Making A Change” October 23, 2013

Tomer Samarkandi on Making a ChangeISEF Israel Director Tomer Samarkandi and ISEF alumna and clinical psychologist Dr. Vered Almoyal-Peleg discussed the increasing need for mental health services in Israel and the lack of ethnic diversity among its professionals on the popular television program, “Making A Change.”

The financial demands of pursuing a degree and career in clinical psychology often discourages entry by young Israelis coming from lower socio-economic backgrounds.

The result, as Tomer explains, is that Israelis of diverse ethnic backgrounds are turning to an increasingly homogeneous group of mental health specialists, ill equipped to understand the cultural and social context of their patients’ psychological conditions. As the need for  mental health services in Israel increases, especially among its more vulnerable communities, there is a lack of cultural representation among its professionals in the field.

ISEF is helping to bridge this gap of inequality by supporting Israeli students of Middle Eastern and Ethiopian descent, to pursue an education and career in mental health care. If there were more Israelis from peripheral and immigrant communities working as psychologists, social workers, and counselors – there would be a greater quality of treatment and willingness to receive these services among the populations that need it most.

Click to watch video! or read more at JSM

Nina Weiner’s Social Affair
Globes Magazine: July 2, 2013

President Nina Weiner visited Israel last week for ISEF’s 36th Anniversary Benefit at the Camari Theater in Tel Aviv. The evening featured a special performance of “Kazablan” and a ceremony honoring former ministers and Knesset Members: ISEF alum Moshe Kahlon and Professor Amnon Rubinstein. Also in attendance were ISEF Chairman Carlos Benaim, Nancy and Albert Nasser, attorney Guy Busy, and Dr. Yves Bitton. 

Beating Cancer

Yediot HaNegev: April 26, 2013











ISEF International Fellow Dr. Moshe Elkabets, whose journey from the southern development town of Ofakim to Harvard Medical School, was profiled in a special feature for Israel’s top news publication. Moshe’s incredible story continues as he recently joined the prestigious Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center as an Associate Scientist.

A perfume for Rachel Weisz? Call Carlos Benaim

The Jewish Chronicle: August 23, 2012

ISEF’s esteemed Chairman Carlos Benaim shares his fragrant life and connection to ISEF in this special lifestyle feature.

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Nina Weiner: Godmother to Thousands of Israeli Students

The Algemeiner: July 8, 2012

Nina Avidar Weiner takes a personal interest in the lives of many of the 600 students that the ISEF Foundation (International Sephardic Education Foundation) provides university scholarships for each year.








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Special Photo Spread of ISEF’s 35th Anniversary Benefit Dinner

Maariv: June 10, 2012

Photos: 1. Sara Sela with Shira and Jay Ruderman 2. Guest of Honor and ISEF co-founder Lily Safra 3. ISEF President Nina Weiner with ISEF-NY Executive Director Janice G. Stolar 4. Professor Amnon Rubinstein 5. Prominent businessman Alfred Akirov 6. Eli Elezra, ISEF alumnus and recipient of the Edmond J. Safra Alumni Society Award.

Safra Foundation Honors 10 Top Achievers

The Jerusalem Post: June 7, 2012

By Ruth Eglash

The Edmond J. Safra-funded ISEF Foundation celebrated 35 years Wednesday night  by honoring 10 outstanding individuals for their personal achievements and  professional contributions to Israeli society in the fields of medicine,  science, business and hi-tech.

Read more:

ISEF’s 35th Anniversary Benefit Dinner in Israel

In the days leading up to our milestone event honoring Lily Safra at Tel Aviv’s Hilton Hotel on June 6th, ISEF has been all over Israeli television, newspapers, and radio programs. 

On Friday June 1st, Edmond J. Safra Alumni Society honorees Dr. Asher Bashiri and Eyal Edrey stopped by Israel’s Channel 10 morning show to talk about ISEF’s impact on their own lives and on Israel as a whole!

Click here to watch the full episode!

Dr. Adi Koll is also one of our 2012 Edmond J. Safra Alumni Society Award winners, and Israel’s top national newspaper, Maariv, featured her incredible achievements and contributions in their special weekend edition:

Breaking Barriers

Israel Hayom- Weekend Edition: February 12, 2012

By Yael Barnovsky

Two exceptional ISEF scholars were profiled in the weekend edition of Israel Hayom this month, sharing their incredible journeys and their thoughts on the progression of Israel’s Ethiopian community. With more than 350,000 subscribers, Israel Hayom is the nation’s most widely read newspaper, and we are proud to be featured in this inspiring story.

The article, Breaking Barriers by Yael Barnovsky, highlights three Ethiopian-Israeli medical students, excelling at Israel’s top universities. Their dream is to help many more young Ethiopians follow in their footsteps, and they speak openly about the cultural barriers and obstacles they’ve faced.

ISEF scholar Rachel Nega is 26 years old and a first year medical student at Tel Aviv University. Her parents made their way to Israel by way of Sudan in 1984.

“I believe that continuing one’s education is a way of life. My mother was 17 when she came to Israel, already pregnant with me. My mother gave up on so many of her dreams because she thought she had to do what was best for her family and children. There are seven of us. She paid a very high price for not pursuing her own career. Now that we are finally grown she has begun to study for her high school diploma, taking courses and working as a cleaning lady.”

Maru Gete is also an ISEF scholar. At 28, he is the father of two, and he looks back on how far he has come since his childhood in a small village in northern Ethiopia. Never having to learned to read or write, the first time he stepped foot in a classroom was in Israel, he moved here with his parents at the age of 8.

“When we arrived here, my father told us he was unsure if he would ever be able to truly assimilate. But he looked at us, his children, and he said ‘you are young, remember, education is the most important thing of all.’ Those words have stayed with me to this day.”

Today, Maru is a fifth year medical student at Ben Gurion University in Beer Sheva.

ISEF President Nina Weiner explains the importance of supporting young Ethiopians in their studies.

“Our hope is that we can help cultivate an entire generation of Ethiopian-Israeli physicians who will be the pride of Israel.”

She believes that by helping young Ethiopians achieve their dreams, it will have a ripple effect on the entire community.

As part of his ISEF scholarship, Maru volunteers as a mentor and tutor for Ethiopian youth in his community.

“I believe my biggest contribution will be to show that you can succeed no matter who you are. I want to be a role model for young Ethiopians and when I speak to them I always say, the most important thing is education.”

Check out even more ISEF stories:
Up by the Bootstraps Achievers Honored — Jerusalem Post
Giving Generations of Sephardim a Chance — New York Daily News
For Sephardic Students, A Sense of Empowerment — The Jewish Week
Using Education to Redress the World’s Unfairness — New York Sun

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.