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 Scholars and Alumni: Making an Impact


ShellyISEF/Hebrew University Ph.D. scholar Shelly Endaw Vanda, received the 2017 Nira Shenhar Prize for Excellence for her research on risk perception and protection of social workers in relation to Ethiopian-Israeli children in distressed communities. Read More



Dr. Shirin Elhaik Goldman was presented with the Outstanding Scientific Research Award from the Shirin Elhaik GoldmanSociety of Biological Psychiatry, for her study of high-fat diets, the cerebral blood barrier and Alzheimer’s disease. The ISEF alumna is a postdoctoral researcher at The Joseph Sagol Neuroscience Center at Sheba – Tel Ha Shomer Hospital.


acco-festival2ISEF alumnus, Dr. Naphtaly Shem-Tov’s book, Acco Festival: Between Celebration and Confrontation, chronicles the history of the Acco Festival for Other Israeli Theater from 1980-2012. This well-received work provides an insightful history of a cultural institution, which has brought together acclaimed directors and actors, fringe artists, and local Jewish and Arab residents for more than 40 years. Dr. Shem-Tov is a senior lecturer in the Department of Literature, Language and the Arts at The Open University of Israel.


dr-liav-orgadDr. Orgad is a Faculty Fellow at the Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics at Harvard University and Associate Professor of Law at IDC Herzliya. Last fall, he published his first book, “Cultural Defense of Nations: A Liberal Theory of the Rights of the Majority,” and was recently inducted into the prestigious International Global Academy. Original story reported in the Hebrew-language publication, The Marker, December 27, 2016



ISEF International Fellow, Dr. Yitsik Biton, is the recipient of the 2016 Young Investigator Award by the American College of Cardiology for his postdoctoral heart research at the University of Rochester. Yitsik joined Harvard Medical School this fall as a cardiac fellow!



HAIFA AT RISK GIRLS PROGRAM PIC 2December 2015 – Six ISEF MA Students at the University of Haifa raised funds and launched an after-school program for at-risk girls from distressed neighborhoods and impoverished single-parent families. Without support services, adolescent girls face a real danger of dropping out of school.

This new safe space provides 24 at-risk girls with a weekly program that teaches valuable life skills, provides positive role models and mentors, and familiarizes them with college life as well as professional and cultural opportunities.

“I never dreamed that just a couple of hours a week could be so life-changing.”

Liav Orgad Book Cover

ISEF alumnus Dr. Liav Orgad released his first book in the fall of 2015. The Cultural Defense of Nations: A Liberal Theory of Majority Rights,” was published by Oxford University Press and met with critical acclaim for its insightful analysis of immigration and its effect on modern nations. Liav is a Faculty Fellow at the Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics at Harvard University and Associate Professor of Law at IDC Herzliya.




Dr. Inbal Rachmin, whose groundbreaking discovery of protein’s ability to combat heart Inbal Rachmin Awarddisease and breast cancer has garnered international acclaim, continues her cutting-edge heart research as an ISEF International Fellow at Harvard University Medical School. Inbal grew up in Jerusalem, one of six children. When she was just 16, she lost her mother to breast cancer, which inspired her medical studies. Inbal is pictured here receiving an award of excellence from The Israel Heart Society in the summer of 2015.



Former ISEF International Fellow Dr. Haim Haim_Suchowski_300dpiSuchowski (UC-Berkeley) joined the Physics Faculty at Tel Aviv University, where he opened his own lab with a generous grant from the European Research Council. His research is revolutionizing the depth and speed with which scientists can see into space.



Ziona Tagאייסףana
, ISEF alumna and Law graduate of Bar Ilan University, became the first Ethiopian-Israeli to be accepted to the prestigious Israeli Supreme Court internship program.  She is pictured here receiving the 2015 Edmond Levy Outstanding Law Scholars Award from Mrs. Levy, ISEF President Nina Weiner, and ISEF Alumnus Prof. Nir Kedar, Dean of Sapir College Law School in Sderot (far right).

ISEF Alumni Elected to Israel’s Parliament
March 2015

Meirav Ben Ari- Kulanu PartyISEF alumna and attorney Meirav Ben Ari, who earned her degree in Law and Government from IDC Herzliya, was elected to Knesset in the 2015 elections, as part of the newly formed “Kulanu” (All of Us) political coalition headed by Moshe Kachlon, the new Minister of Finance.

Meirav first gained national acclaim in 2006, when she won Israel’s television reality competition show, “Looking for a Leader,” and was awarded $1 million by the Rashi Foundation to create the “Through Challenge” Center in Netanya, which offers physical challenge, academic mentoring, and personal guidance for impoverished teens.  In 2009, Meirav established a second youth center in Hertzliya, “Through the Waves,” where ISEF’s scholarship winners lead programs that benefit the community.

Also elected to the Knesset this year was ISEF alumnus Dr. Yossi Yonah, a member of the new Zionist Union party.

2015 Awards and Honors for ISEF Alumni

January 26, 2015

Hedva Eyal headshotHedva Eyal, an ISEF scholar pursuing her Ph.D. in Government and Public Policy at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem,  has been awarded the prestigious Yuval Neeman Prize by Israel’s Ministry of Science and Technology.  

Hedva’s research focuses on the laws governing treatment of participants in clinical trials. Her research supervisor is none other than Professor David Levi-Faur, an alumnus of ISEF who has played a major role in ISEF’s PhD program in Israel.

On top of her studies, Hedva manages the “Women and Medical Technology” program at the “Woman to Woman” empowerment organization in Haifa. She also serves on the board of The Israeli Fertility Association and is a fertility studies fellow at Haifa University’s International Center for Ethics, Law, and Health.

Hedva lives in Haifa, is married and the mother of two girls.    

ISEF alumnus Rami Kimchi’s documentary film, “The Night of Fools,” about the Algerian-Jewish underground resistance to the pro-Nazi movement in North Africa during World War II, aired this week on Israeli public television to critical acclaim. (UPDATE: Click to read this YNET article about Kimchi’s important film.  Night of Fools

Dr. Kimchi is the author of several books, including “A Shtetl in Disguise: Israeli Bourekas Films and their Origins in Classical Yiddish Literature.” Rami lectures at Ariel University’s School of Communication.

Dr. Kimchi earned his Ph.D. in Middle Eastern Studies from the University of Michigan in 2008, and was an ISEF scholar throughout his M.A. studies in Hebrew Literature and Jewish Civilization at Tel Aviv University. 

ISEF- Beit Dani Learning Program Boosts Grades

September 18, 2014

_J3T5975_isefDr. Israel Sela, ISEF alumnus and the founder and director of The Center for Improving Academic Achievement at the Beit Dani community center, released an uplifting report this week on the academic progress of a special ISEF learning program.

The Center has helped more than a thousand students from the working class “Hatikvah” neighborhood and other underprivileged communities in southern Tel Aviv to complete their high school matriculation. A significant number of these graduates have gone on to become ISEF scholars and pursue professional careers.

A collaborative effort between the center, and ISEF’s nationwide after-school learning program, has yielded incredible results among its young participants. His report shows a 20% increase in grades among 39 high school pupils over the course of the year. Several participants saw even more impressive achievements, beginning the year with below passing grades and later scoring 85%-100% in some subjects.

ISEF scholars enrolled in universities and colleges throughout Tel Aviv took part in this program as tutors and mentors for the teen participants, and they too saw an increase in their grades since the year began. 

ISEF Alumni Reach New Heights 

August 30, 2014

Following our announcement earlier this summer about Professor Ami Moyal, named as the President of Afeka College of Engineering, several more of ISEF’s prestigious alumni were appointed to exciting new leadership positions.Keren Azulay Cropped

Dr. Keren Azulay, formerly Senior Legal Advisor to the Chief Justice of Israel’s Supreme Court, Dorit Beinisch, has been appointed as a judge in Jerusalem’s District Court. 

Keren, who grew up in Dimona, earned her Ph.D. in law fromColumbia University as a joint ISEF-Fulbright Fellow. 

Professor David Levi Faur

Professor David Levi-Faur has been named to head the Federmann School of Public Policy and Government at The Hebrew University of Jerusalem

David did his postdoctoral research at the London School of Economics and at the University of California, Berkeley. He was also a visiting scholar at Oxford University. ISEF supported David’s studies from B.A. through postdoctoral training.Nissim Mizrahi

Professor Nissim Mizrachi is now Chairman of the Department of Sociology and Anthropology at Tel Aviv University.   

As an ISEF International Fellow, Nissim earned his Ph.D. in Medical Sociology from the University of Michigan and did postdoctoral research at Harvard University

Nir Kedar

Dr. Nir Kedar, who received his S.J.D from Harvard Law School as an ISEF International Fellow, was recently appointed as head of the Law School at Sapir College. Previously, Dr. Kedar was a Professor of Law and Legal History at Bar Ilan University.       

ISEF Combat Soldiers Return Home
August 10, 2014

We are so proud of all our student soldiers and volunteers, for their commitment to the safety of Israel’s citizens and for inspiring us with their goodwill. Our reservists are now safely back in their homes and we received this touching letter from one brave soldier: 

Dear Nina,

I am just back from the Gaza border, and wanted to send you this quick note.  I was in the first round of call-ups for reserve duty, so I closed my books and put on my uniform.

While I was stationed near at the border at my IDF post, people brought us hot meals and offered to do our laundry. In this crisis, it has been encouraging to see how we have all pulled together to reach our common goal. There are no people like our Jewish people! 

These have been hard weeks: words cannot describe the missiles shrieking overhead, and what our eyes have seen.

I hope everyone at ISEF is well.  Please think of us and our fellow ISEF students still at the front, and support us however you can. We really will appreciate ISEF’s help as time goes forward so we can finish our degrees on time and do positive things for Israel — in peace even more than in war.



Kobi R. is an ISEF scholar at Haifa University, and served as a combat soldier in Gaza last month.

ISEF Scholars Report for Duty: Operation Protective Edge
July 30, 2014

Dozens of ISEF’s scholars were called to reserve duty since the beginning of Operation Protective Edge and many more are supporting our soldiers and residents of Israel’s south through many volunteer efforts. Take a look at some of the ways ISEF scholars continue to inspire with their bravery and love:

Sharon Chaimov 2ISEF scholar Sharon C. is completing his first year as a Bio-medical Engineering major at the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology. For the last few weeks, Sharon is serving in the IDF’s Reconnaissance Platoon as a reservist. Sharon, who lives in Kiryat Ata, previously served in the IDF’s Field Intelligence unit, and has recently completed a stellar first year of studies.

Shiran V. is serving as a Brigade Officer in the reserves for Operation Protective Edge. Shiran is an ISEF scholar from Kiryat Gat, in Israel’s south, and is pursuing her M.A. in Economics at Ben Gurion University.

Chagi Mastbaum 2Chagi M., ISEF scholar and Mechanical Engineering major at Ort Braude College, is fulfilling his military reserve duty as an Officer for Operation Protective Edge. Chagi is a Dean’s List student that has volunteered at several ISEF learning centers and college preparatory programs in the north, as well as mentoring at-risk teens in Carmiel.

Kobi R. is a Political Science major at the University of Haifa and lives in Kiryat Ata, Kobi Rabinovichhis childhood home just outside of Haifa. Before reporting for reserve duty, Kobi received a personal message from the university’s President Amos Shapira, to wish him good luck and a peaceful and safe return home. Kobi is currently serving as a combat fighter in Gaza. In addition to his ISEF leadership training and volunteer work with local youth, Kobi serves as the manager of the Student Union’s division of Interior, Welfare, and Campus Life.    Yaron Samimi Volunteer

ISEF alumnus Yaron Samimi returned from distributing packages of sandwiches, snacks and other treats to IDF soldiers serving in Gaza. He reports that the soldiers welcomed him and his partners with warmth and love, and passed along their messages of gratitude to the residents of Netivot who helped prepare these special packages.

ISEF scholar and Ashdod resident Oshrit Birvadker, brought special treats and roses to the injured soldiers recovering at Tel Hashomer Hospital, and the worried mothers at their bedside. Hoping to raise the soldiers’ spirits  and show their gratitude, Oshrit and her friends stayed up all night preparing the Oshrit volunteer 2packages. Oshrit is a PhD candidate at Bar Ilan University’s Middle Eastern Studies department.

In 2012, Oshrit took part in ISEF’s National Ministerial Internship program as a research assistant to Israel’s Ministry of Economy. Oshrit proudly represented her heritage as an Indian-Israeli as part of a global delegation to India.

ISEF Beer Sheva Supply Drive 2

ISEF scholars Christina Boizvh, Shlomi Laluz and Raam Peretz initiated a special care package drive for our braveISEF Beer Sheva Supply Drive 1 soldiers in Gaza. Our scholars, residents of Beer Sheva and students at the Sami Shamoon College of Engineering in the Negev, collected food and toiletries, and assembled loving packages to send to reservists and IDF soldiers stationed throughout Gaza.   ISEF scholar Einav Shragi with IDF

Einav Shragai, ISEF scholar and M.A. student in Beer Sheva, hasn’t taken a moment of rest since the beginning of “Operation Protective Edge.” She’s been volunteering in local shelters, organizing activities for children and elderly residents, washing clothes and cooking for soldiers serving at the “Yemen Field” military base near Beer Sheva. Einav also prepared a special lunch for a family of 7 who came from northern Israel to be close to their son, recovering in Soroka Hospital from injuries he sustained during the military operation in Gaza.

Dr. Yifat Bitton Honored by Hadassah Foundation
June 11, 2014

IDr Yifat BitonSEF Alumna, Dr. Yifat Bitton, is this year’s winner of the Bernice S. Tannenbaum Award. Yifat is honored for establishing “Tmura—The Israeli Anti-discrimination Legal Center,” an organization that advocates for Israeli women who suffer sexual, physical and economic abuse. The prestigious award is presented annually by the Hadassah Foundation, to an outstanding young female leader who advances the status of women and girls in Israel or the United States. Click here to read the full article

Prof. Ami Moyal – President of Afeka College of Engineering
June 6, 2014

President Ami MoyalProf. Moyal will assume the presidency of Afeka College in October 2014, succeeding Prof. Motti Sokolov, who served as president for the past 12 years. The Board of Governors of Afeka College of Engineering in Tel-Aviv has named Prof. Ami Moyal to the post of president of the college.  Prof. Moyal is expected to assume the presidency in early October 2014, succeeding current president Prof. Motti Sokolov, who has held the post for 12 years. Afeka, the Academic College of Engineering in Tel-Aviv, trains engineers in a variety of disciplines. Founded in 1996, it currently enrolls 2,300 students and has more than 3,600 alumni filling key positions in high-tech, research and development, security, electronics, medicine, and other fields.Ami Moyal Graduation with Nina Weiner Prof. Moyal, 51, married and the father of four children, holds a Ph.D. in Electrical and Computer Engineering from Ben-Gurion University. His area of expertise is in speech recognition and processing. He has chaired the Department of Electrical Engineering since 2010 and heads the Center for Speech Processing, which he himself established at the college and which engages in R&D projects in partnership with industry. Before moving into the academic sphere some five years ago, Dr. Moyal held a series of positions in the industry, serving most recently as CEO of Natural Speech Corporation (NSC), which develops speech-recognition products.  He also served as Chair of the Executive Committee of the ISEF Foundation. Click for article in Hebrew

Technion Highlights ISEF Scholars
April 26, 2014

The Technion-Israel Institute of Technology’s April 2014 newsletter featured a special article on ISEF alumni, including two of  the Technion’s newest faculty membersDr. Shenhav Cohen and Dr. Eitan Yaakobi. 

Focus Technion Newsletter

“Fulfilling a Dream” highlights the individual achievements of ISEF’s scholars, and ISEF’s impact at the national level–opening the doors of opportunity for immigrant and marginalized young Israelis.

Eitan Yaakobi at Cal Tech

 Click here for the article!  

National Seminar Features ISEF Leaders for Social Change
March 27, 2014
Meir CohenOn March 26th, 400 ISEF scholars and alumni from all over Israel took part in our national conference, Zionism and Social Justice.  Held at the Ayanot Youth Village, this annual event featured key note speaker, Knesset Member and Minister of Social Services, Meir Cohen.
The conference explored various Zionist-Social Justice models as part of a special panel of directors and founders of Israeli organizations, which included prominent ISEF alumni: Tal Ohana- Municipal Head of Yerucham
Dr. Yves Biton- Founder & Director of Med-trix
Dr. Israeli Sela-Founder & Director of HaLev

Alon Futterman- Development Director, Jewish Agency Our annual ISEF conference also included distinguished partners: Knesset Member Shimon Solomon Professor Benjamin Ish-Shalom, Founder and President of Beit Morasha Noam Dan, Bina Center for Jewish Identity and Hebrew Culture

ISEF at the Knesset
March 13, 2014

On March 12th, ISEF-Israel Director Tomer Samarkandi was invited to take part in a special Knesset hearing to address the social, educational and economic issues facing Israel’s peripheral communities.

ISEF in the Knesset

National Ministers, Knesset Members, and top officials came together for this important discussion on how to promote and strengthen Israel’s most distressed regions. The ISEF Foundation received great acclaim for its long history of advancing leadership and opportunity throughout the periphery. 

Tiberias mayor Yossi Ben-David, also an ISEF alumnus, gave special praise for ISEF’s programming and its impact on Israel’s peripheral communities.

ISEF Alumnus Dr. Roni Gamzu, Director-General, Ministry of Health, Meets with ISEF’s PhD and MD Scholars
February 20, 2014

Ronni Gamzu meets with Phd and MD scholarsEach year, ISEF’s PhD Leadership Program works on a nationwide initiative to narrow the social gaps in Israel. This year an impressive group of 33 PhD scholars and medical students is studying Israel’s healthcare gaps and how to reduce them. Dr. Roni Gamzu (standing in photo, left), Director-General of Israel’s Ministry of Health and an ISEF alumnus, led the group’s February 2014 meeting, which focused  on four specific issues: promoting healthy cities, safeguarding the rights of surrogate mothers, safeguarding the rights of the mentally ill, and promoting equal access via healthcare legislation. ISEF’s PhD Leadership Program provides guidance from ISEF alumni and leading experts, helping our scholars to promote their social justice initiatives and advance their professional careers. Other ISEF alumni who shared their experience with the group this year include: Dr. Vered Padler Karavani, a member of the Tel Aviv University faculty who heads her own cell research lab; Erez Roemi, founding director of the Rothschild Ambassadors Program; Professor Eli Avraham, Senior Lecturer at the University of Haifa’s Department of Communications and Chairman of ISEF Israel; and Dr. Shai Srougo of the University of Haifa’s Department of History.

ISEF Alum Dr. Yaakov Amsalem Saves Stroke Victim’s Life
October 2013

Eli Azari and Dr. AmsalemRambam Hospital in Haifa made headlines this week when Dr. Yaakov Amsalem, Chairman of the Invasive Neuroradiology Department, saved a stroke victim’s life with a miracle operation. Dr. Amsalem was raised by Moroccan immigrant parents, in Israel’s northern Galilee region. He dreamt of becoming a doctor, but working on his family’s farm often came at the expense of attending class, and Galilee regional schools did not have the educational facilities needed to gain admission to a competitive medical school in Israel. Despite these hardships, Yaakov was determined to reach his goal, and after his military service he was accepted to the University of Ferrara Medical School in Italy. Yaakov spent six lonely years in Italy, alone and hampered by language difficulties: he hardly knew any English, and spoke no Italian.  But his single-minded dedication enabled him to overcome these obstacles. ISEF was with him every step of the way, for six years. With amazing perseverance, he excelled in all his courses. “ISEF’s unwavering support through the years has great meaning for me and has truly helped me to realize my dreams.” Dr. Amsalem was an ISEF International Fellow throughout his medical studies and specialized training in Interventional Neuroradiology. He is only one of five Israeli physicians trained in this field, and thanks to ISEF’s support, he has become one of the few experts able to expand this treatment option to more Israelis suffering from life-threatening conditions. Eli Azara, who arrived at Rambam Hospital in  “extremely critical condition” following a severe stroke just weeks before his wedding, is alive today because of Dr. Amsalem. Click to read the incredible story here!  

Fanny Cohen Appointed to Head Judge
October 2013

Judge Fanny CohenAttorney and mediator Fanny Cohen was appointed as Head Judge of Israel’s Family Court for the southern district. In a historic decision last month, Israel’s Judicial Selection Committee chose 29 senior judges and registrars, of which 16 were women. Fanny earned her  law degrees from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem with ISEF’s support and has managed her own law firm for over 10 years.

ISEF Alum Yehezkel Rachamim Wins Prime Minister Prize for Hebrew Writers
October 2013

Yehezkel Rachamim

On October 16th, ISEF alumnus and celebrated author Yehezkel Rachamim was awarded the Prime Minister’s Prize for Hebrew Writers. Israel’s Minister of Culture praised this year’s winners for their “ultimate contribution to Hebrew culture, the Hebrew language, Jewish values and Israeli society.”
Yehezkel was born in Yaffo to Iraqi immigrant parents, and spent most of his childhood in youth homes, boarding schools and foster families. Overwhelmed with financial and family struggles, his parents knew they wouldn’t be able to provide the resources and academic support Yehezkel needed to flourish. After graduating from a boarding school for gifted children, Yehezkel served as a combat officer and worked in construction before attending Tel Aviv University as an ISEF scholar. Yehezkel later pursued Ph.D. studies in Paris as an ISEF International Fellow. His poetry and prose have been translated to Italian, Spanish, English and Polish and his work has won him numerous awards and international acclaim.
Weizmann Institute of Science Highlights ISEF Scholars
September 2013 

Weizmann Institute Highlights ISEF Scholars Excerpt from article: Reut Yosef is studying towards her Ph.D. in the lab of Dr. Valery Krizhanovsky, incumbent of the Carl and Frances Korn Career Development Chair in the Life Sciences. Her interest in this area developed during her master’s degree studies with Prof. Avraham Ben-Nun, the Eugene and Marcia Applebaum Professor, when she studied the effect of a particular protein on multiple sclerosis. Throughout these critical years of her advanced education − and during her undergraduate degree at the Technion − Reut has received grants from the ISEF Foundation, which supports hundreds of Israelis from underserved and immigrant communities through living stipends and/or tuition expenses. In addition to the financial assistance she receives, says Reut, ISEF alumni and current students comprise a worldwide network that she hopes and expects will “be a very powerful tool once I finish my Ph.D.” Since its founding in 1977 by the late Edmond J. Safra, his wife, Lily, and Nina Weiner − its president still today − ISEF has awarded 19,000 scholarships; more than half of the recipients are the first in their families to be educated beyond high school. In addition to Reut, there are currently three other students on campus who have received ISEF grants. “Being a member of the ISEF Foundation (as a grantee) has enabled me to focus on my academics − to put my efforts into my Ph.D studies at the Weizmann Institute and broaden the scope of my research,” says Eldad Marom, who is studying in the Science Teaching Department. Weiner says that ISEF, which originally targeted Sephardi students, now makes grants across the Israeli population, and the percentage of female students has grown to about half, up from one-fifth in the early years. “ISEF is dedicated to empowering hundreds of outstanding students,” she says. “It is exciting to see the progress ISEF has made in 36 years of success stories,” says Weiner. “We are extremely happy to have been able to increase the number of our scholarships from 250 each year to 500, to be distributing our scholarships to students at 20 institutions of higher learning in Israel, and to have increased our percentage of women to 52 percent, up from 15-20 percent in our early years.”

Tel Aviv University Honors ISEF Alumni
September 2013 
Tel Aviv University Honors ISEF Scholar Dr. Vered Padler-Karavani

Tel Aviv University honors ISEF in a special feature about their partnership and remarkable alumna: “ISEF’s TAU alumni hold key roles throughout Israel’s commercial, public and academic sector. Dr. Vered Padler Karavani, now an assistant professor at TAU’s Department of Cell Research and Immunology, George S. Wise Faculty of Life Sciences: ‘It has now been 18 years since I first joined ISEF as a first-year TAU biology student,’ she says. ‘ISEF has always been like a second family to me, encouraging me to realize my full potential.’ Vered, whose parents made aliyah from Yemen, has already made seminal contributions to her field, including the discovery of a novel cancer bio-marker that could enable the early detection of the disease.”

Filling the Gaps in Israel’s Medical Care
August 2013 

This fall, Dr. Eran Zittan, an esteemed gastroenterologist and ISEF alum, will embark on an advanced clinical fellowship at the University of Toronto and Mount Sinai Hospital. Eran became an ISEF scholar in 1998, and studied at Israel’s most prestigious university for science and medicine, the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology. For years, Eran has been immersed in clinical research at Haifa’s Carmel Medical Center which serves over one million patients in Israel’s north-west. In response to the overwhelming number of patients in the region suffering from gastro-immune disorders and the lack of medical care available in this field, Carmel Medical Center chose Eran to spearhead a new clinical and research program focused on treating IBD patients. Eran is determined to provide the residents of Israel’s north-west with the same level of quality health care that s available to Israelis in more central and affluent regions. Eran was born and raised in Beer-Sheva. His parents came to Israel from Tunisia in the early 1950’s and, like hundreds of thousands of North African Jews, they were sent to underdeveloped areas in Israel’s periphery.  Eran was just a young child in the 1970’s, when Sephardic Israelis from North Africa and the Middle East began to realize there was a social, educational and ethnic gap affecting Israeli society. As a successful physician, he says today:  “Treating patients with chronic illnesses which are present in patients of all ages and with variable clinical courses, require a thorough understanding of the pathophysiology of the underlying disease, the interpretation of physical findings, accessory tests and therapeutic options. Treatment options for IBD are quickly evolving and I aspire to achieve the highest standards of training. Combining clinical and scientific expertise, with patient perspectives and aspirations, is why I entered the medical field and why I want to excel.” Supporting medical careers has always been one of ISEF’s foremost priorities, especially when the training of our scholars contributes to the betterment of Israel’s health care system and establishes treatment opportunities for the citizens of its under-served regions. We are proud to help support Eran, his wife, and 3 children with their move to Toronto and the challenges ahead.

Building for a Global Future
July 2013

Knafo and NinaArchitect David Knafo is a graduate from Columbia University, an ISEF alum and a 2010 inductee into the Edmond J. Safra Alumni Society. We are proud of his recent win for a national bid to represent Israel at the 2015 World Expo in Milan. For over 160 years, the World Expo has been a catalyst for the creation of iconic buildings and national parks, most notably the Eiffel Tower. Founded in 1980, Knafo Klimor Architects has been Israel’s top design firm and a major player in the global movement towards greener urban spaces. David Knafo’s work has garnered numerous international design awards, and we are proud that one of ISEF’s brightest stars will be representing Israel in such a prestigious and universal arena. “The pavilion to represent Israel in the exhibition, creates an immediate visual experience and powerful performance of agricultural engineering, reflecting the extraordinary journey of Israeli agriculture to the future of humanity.”  David Knafo, Knafo Klimor Architects

Hebrew University Honors ISEF Alumni: A Partnership of Pride
July 31, 2013

Meir Buzaglo lighting torchDr. Meir Buzaglo was one of 12 exceptional Israelis chosen to light the torch at the opening of the National Independence Day ceremony at Mount Hertzl. Dr. Buzaglo is a lecturer at Hebrew University of Jerusalem’s Department of Philosophy as well as an author, social activist, and ISEF leader. Meir’s work also includes the creation of a special mathematics education program also adopted by Israeli schools and ISEF learning programs, in an effort to improve math performance among Israel’s disadvantaged youth. Dr. Buaglo’s achievements were featured in a special article along with fellow ISEF and Hebrew University graduates: Knesset Member Dr. Adi Koll, Dr. Ifat Bitton, and Dr. Solly Mizrahi. We are proud to share the first of many articles that will be published about ISEF in various Israeli university publications, in honor of ISEF’s 36 years of achievements. Click to read article!

Celebrating 36 Years in Israel
July 2, 2013

More than 900 guests attended ISEF’s 36th Anniversary Benefit in Israel last month, held at the iconic Cameri Theater in Tel Aviv. ISEF President Nina Weiner and Chairman Carlos Benaim joined our Israeli supporters and alumni for an electrifying performance of the 1954 revival “Kazablan,” a timeless Israeli musical that sheds light on the barriers between Sephardic and Ashkenazi communities in the early days of the Jewish nation.

Israel gala main photo

Our honorees, who both served in Israel’s Parliament and as national Ministers; Professor Amnon Rubinstein and ISEF alum Moshe Kahlon, spoke about their pride for ISEF and the organization’s role in the evolution of Israeli society and the narrowing of social gaps. Israel’s prominent business and academic figures were also in attendance, including Albert and Nancy Nasser, Mr. Joseph Brenner, and Eli Elezra. Representatives from Israel’s top corporations, banks, high tech companies, and law firms came out to show their support, and it was a family affair with esteemed alumni Dr. Yves Biton, Yosi Lahav, Guy Busi, Ilana Bar, Eyal Edrei, and Avner Zaken. Over 200 ISEF scholars and soldiers from a special combat engineering unit were invited as special guests, in appreciation for their contribution to the state of Israel. The evening was topped off by a special 80th birthday celebration for President Nina Weiner.

Honoring Excellence in the Neighborhood
June 6, 2013

On Thursday, June 6th, in the underprivileged Hatikvah neighborhood of southern Tel Aviv, ISEF held a special scholarship ceremony along with the Center for Improving Academic Achievement for dozens of local youth who succeeded in graduating from high school with a full matriculation certificate, as well as for university students from the area. ISEF also distributed scholarships for textbooks to local middle and high school students, thanks to the generosity of the Yvonne and Barry z”l Cohen Book Fund. ISEF’s scholarship recipients, enrolled in colleges and universities throughout the Tel Aviv area, volunteer as tutors and mentors for youth at the Center, which is located in the Hatikva neighborhood. Knesset Member and ISEF alumna Dr. Adi Koll praised the scholarship winners and shared her own experience as a high school dropout. Adi’s incredible journey, from completing her high school matriculation to earning her doctorate and now getting elected to Israel’s Parliament, has all been part of her lifelong pursuit of social change. The Center for Improving Academic Achievement was founded in 1992 by ISEF alumnus Dr. Israel Sela.  The Center has helped more than a thousand students from the Hatikvah neighborhood and southern Tel Aviv to complete their high school matriculation. A significant number of these graduates have gone on to become ISEF scholars and pursue professional careers.

Photo: (Right to Left) Center Director Dr. Israel Sela, Knesset Member Dr. Adi Koll, ISEF-Israel Director Tomer Samarkandi

ISEF’s Annual Ph.D. Ceremony and Belmonte Award Honors
June 4, 2013

On June 4th, at Tel Aviv University’s Museum of the Jewish People, ISEF held its annual award ceremony for its graduates of doctoral and postdoctoral programs. More than 100 ISEF scholars and alums attended the event, which also featured the Belmonte Award — a prize given by ISEF Chairman Emeritus Norman Belmonte to one ISEF doctoral student who has demonstrated outstanding achievements in the sciences.  Yifat Berkov Zrihen, a Ph.D. candidate at Tel Aviv University, was presented with the 2013 Belmonte Award for her research on the development of novel concepts for the discovery and preparation of antibiotics.

Chairman Emeritus Norman Belmonte presents Yifat-Berkov-Zrihen with Belmonte Award

Mr. Belmonte, who has served on ISEF’s board since its inception, is a successful industrialist and a Zionist who is committed to the advancement of higher education in Israel, especially for those who come from Israel’s outlying areas.  Mr. Belmonte praised ISEF’s graduates and exceptional scholars, encouraging them to continue to excel on their academic journey and thus support Israel’s continued role as a leader in scientific innovation and its advancement as a more equal society.

The ceremony also featured a special academic panel in memory of Dr. Galit Saada-Ophir z”l, an ISEF scholar who passed away shortly after giving birth to twins. The panel discussed Galit’s book: “From Sderot to Kiryat Yam,” and comprised ISEF Alumnus Professor Nissim Mizrachi of Tel Aviv University, as well as current ISEF Ph.D. scholars Moti Gigi, Almog Bahar, and Kalanit Tzalach.

ISEF Fellow Conducts Groundreaking Breast Cancer Research
April 26, 2013
The incredible journey of ISEF International Fellow Dr. Moshe Elkabets, from the southern development town of Ofakim to Harvard Medical School, was profiled in a special feature for Israel’s top news publication this month. An ISEF scholar since 2006, Moshe spent 3 years conducting post-doctoral research at Harvard Medical School’s premier cancer lab. His work towards identifying novel anti-cancer therapies led to the development of clinical therapy trials on aggressive and un-treatable cancers. For the last year, Moshe has been in New York City, continuing his groundbreaking work at the Memorial-Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, one of the world’s most prestigious cancer research institution.
ISEF International Fellows Accept Positions at Top Israeli Universities
April 16, 2013

We are proud to announce that Dr. Eitan Yaakobi, an outstanding ISEF alum and International Fellow will be joining the faculty of the prestigious Computer Science Department at the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology. Growing up in the development city of Kiryat Shmona,  Eitan watched his working class parents struggle to support their five children. Eitan has been an ISEF scholar since 2002, and graduated summa cum laude from the Technion with a double degree in Computer Science and Mathematics.

While at the University of California, San Diego, Eitan received the UCSD Jacobs School Fellowship and in September 2009, he was named a recipient of the very prestigious Marconi Society Young Scholar Award. The Marconi Society award has been regarded as the equivalent of the Nobel Prize in communications science. In April, 2010 Eitan was selected as an Intel PhD Fellowship Winner; an extremely competitive grant awarded by a sub-set of the Intel Fellows and Sr. Principle Engineers.

Dr. Shenhav Cohen, who conducted postdoctoral research in muscle atrophy in the Cell Biology Department at Harvard Medical School as an ISEF International Fellow, accepted a tenure-track position at the Faculty of Biology at the Technion Institute in Haifa.

Dr. Shay Lavie, who earned his J.S.D. at Harvard University Law School, accepted a tenure-track position at Tel Aviv University Faculty of Law.

ISEF Alumna Dr. Miriam Bitton Awarded for Research
March 4, 2013

The ISEF Foundation — which seeks to close Israel’s social and economic gaps by expanding access to higher education — is proud to announce that an alumna of its programs, Dr. Miriam Bitton, has just been named winner of the Zeev Zeltner Prize in Law. The prize, awarded jointly by Tel Aviv University and Rotary International, is given annually to honor the most outstanding junior legal scholar in Israel. 

This is not the first time Dr. Bitton’s work has garnered international recognition. In 2008, she received the Marie Curie International Reintegration Grant (100,000 Euros) awarded by the European Union.  She also won a 2009 Alon Fellowship, given by Israel’s Council on Higher Education to enable her to conduct her research in intellectual property law.

Born and raised in a Moroccan immigrant family in Ashkelon, Dr. Bitton earned her Ph.D. at the University of Michigan as a joint Fulbright-ISEF International Fellow and is now on the faculty of her alma mater, Bar-Ilan University, where she holds a tenure track Associate Professorship in Law.  She earned her LL.B. and LL.M. magna cum laude at Bar-Ilan and did Ph.D. and postdoctoral research as an ISEF International Fellow at University of Michigan, George Washington University, and UC Berkeley, where she was a Microsoft Research Fellow.

As an intellectual property law expert, she is working to expand the possibilities for individuals and companies by reducing limitations put into place by Israel’s current patent policy.  Dr. Bitton is designing patent reform initiatives that will modernize Israeli Patent Law. In addition to teaching, she is also the academic supervisor of the Civil Legal Aid clinic and is an ardent advocate for the empowerment of women in Israel.

“I have been with ISEF for over 10 years now.  Thanks to ISEF I managed to pursue my graduate studies in the U.S.  Moreover, ISEF has been like a family to me during my studies and has supported me throughout the years in many ways. 

Today, I am on the faculty of Bar Ilan University. I’m also a very proud and active member of the ISEF Israel Alumni Association, trying to assist ISEF in every way I can with its holy and challenging mission.”

The ISEF Foundation congratulates Dr. Bitton on her latest achievement.

ISEF Alumna Dr. Yifat Bitton Wins Dafna Fund Prize for Advancing Women’s Rights
February 5, 2013

ISEF alumna, Dr. Yifat Bitton, has been named by The New Israel Fund and the Dafna Fund as one of two recipients of the funds’ 2013 Prizes in Law, Social Justice and Human Rights.  As an ISEF International Fellow, Dr. Bitton pursued her postdoctoral research at Harvard Law School. 

Dr. Bitton teaches at the College for Administration and is the founder and director of the Tmura Center for Legal Justice, which works to combat discrimination in the spheres of law, legislation, and public opinion. The Center’s latest achievements include obtaining major punitive damage awards for sexual assault victims, and ending the government’s practice of automatically changing a woman’s last name to that of her husband upon marriage.

The award cites Dr. Bitton’s “creativity, courage and originality in establishing a cutting-edge legal center to advance women’s rights at both the legal and civic levels,” and her “contribution to advancing Israeli legal and public discourse on victims’ rights.”

“I congratulate Dr. Bitton on her award with all my heart,” said ISEF President Nina Weiner, “and I take pride in this latest proof that ISEF’s investment in developing Israel’s greatest untapped natural resource – the minds of bright young people from immigrant and marginalized communities – offers such a wonderful ‘return on investment,’ benefiting not only all Israeli women, but indeed, Israeli society as a whole.” 

ISEF Leaders Elected to Israel’s Knesset
January 24, 2013

The ISEF Foundation is proud to announce that two leading figures in the Foundation’s work have just been elected to Israel’s 19th Knesset on the Yesh Atid (There Is a Future) ticket headed by Yair Lapid. 

Dr. Adi Koll, 36, rose from a deprived background to earn her J.S.D. (Ph.D. in law) at Columbia University as an ISEF International Fellow.  She then founded “University of the People,” which enables underprivileged Israelis to prepare for entry into degree programs. She is also a prominent activist for causes including health, education, and protecting children from abuse.  She won the Knesset Speaker’s Quality of Life Prize in 2011, and received ISEF’s highest honor – membership in the Edmond J. Safra Society of Alumni – in 2012. Adi will carry ISEF’s mission into the legislative arena – as she says in her election video:  “I believe that the education system holds the key to closing Israel’s societal gaps.”

Shimon Solomon, 43, fled Ethiopia on foot and arrived in Israel in 1980 with his parents and five siblings. Since earning his social work degree at Ben-Gurion University, he has headed numerous organizations to assist Ethiopian Jews and refugees in Israel.  Until recently he was education director at the Agahozo-Shalom Youth Village for genocide orphans in Rwanda. From 2005 to 2007 he worked at the Israeli Embassy in Addis Ababa.  He is a member of ISEF’s governing association in Israel and continues to serve his country as a major in the IDF reserve paratroops unit. “I’m not here to say, ‘There’s a problem’ – I’m here to help solve it.”

“We are delighted to see these two outstanding leaders achieve national prominence, so they can expand their positive impact on society even further,” said ISEF President Nina Weiner. “These are just two of ISEF’s thousands of outstanding young people who are changing the face of Israel for good, rising out of difficult circumstances to make their mark in every sphere of endeavor. ISEF is developing Israel’s single greatest natural resource – the minds of its young people – and training them to become agents of change. Adi and Shimon embody ISEF’s credo, and its success.”

International Fellow Nir Reichental Leaves Cambridge for Israel’s Prime Minister Office
September 2012

Nir Reichental, one of ISEF’s most promising International Fellows, has completed his doctoral research at the prestigious Cambridge University. This fall, Nir will begin a prominent new position as political advisor at Israel’s Prime Minister Office. His in-depth research on the dominant role of Pakistan’s military on its nuclear development, has shed light on its national security policy on all major issues such as the Global War on Terror and the threat of nuclear weapons.

“I am positive that I will have the opportunity to apply the experience and skills I acquired during my post-graduate studies, and I will be able to continue to develop professionally. Furthermore, I am happy that I accomplished the main goal of ISEF Fellowship: to contribute back to Israel from my post-graduate studies.
I wanted to express my deepest gratitude to ISEF for the warm support during my studies which enabled me to fulfill my professional objectives. ISEF was like an indispensible friend during the challenging period of my studies and a key player behind my success to graduate and receive a PhD degree. I thank you for your generous financial support and for the foundation’s encouragement and empathic approach in completing my course of study.
I am proud that I was selected by ISEF as one of its International Fellows, and I hope to continue to justify your trust in me in the future. I will never forget your support when it was most needed.”
ISEF Scholar Sarit Oriel -Levy Awarded International Prize for Scientific Research
August 2012

We are proud to announce that ISEF scholar, Sarit Oriel- Levy, has received the international John Goldsmith Award for “sustained and outstanding contributions to the knowledge and practice of environmental epidemiology.”

Sarit, 28, is pursuing her doctoral studies at Ben Gurion University’s psychology department. Her research on the effects of pesticides on brain development provides a greater understanding of the development of mood disorders, autism and ADHD in humans.

The ISEF Foundation has supported Sarit in her doctoral studies for two years, moved by her incredible perseverance and hard work. Having made “aliyah” from France at 15 years old, Sarit applied herself to science from a young age. Sarit is a single mother, and has  earned an undergraduate degree in Molecular Biology and a Master’s degree, with honors, in Microbiology, from Bar Ilan University.

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.