WEBINAR – Ethiopian Israelis: Higher education as key for leadership, mobility and equality

HomeEventsWEBINAR – Ethiopian Israelis: Higher education as key for leadership, mobility and equality

Online webinar

Sunday, November 1, 2020


Ms. Shawna Goodman Sone is a former Montrealer now living in Ranana with her husband Todd and three sons. She earned a B.A. in Art history from McGill University before pursuing her passion for cooking. She graduated as a chef from the Natural Gourmet Cooking School and in pastry arts from the Institute of Culinary Education, both in New York City. She has also trained at the Cordon Bleu School in Paris and for the past 23 years she has been teaching, catering and cooking for clients in New York, Philadelphia, Toronto, Montreal and now Ranana. Shawna actively combines her love of cooking and living in Israel with her philanthropic work, creating culinary opportunities to highlight the social needs within the community. Most recently she has been leading a yearly tour for women called Shefa, that highlights Israel’s abundance in food, music, people and the capacity to feel fully alive. Shawna is the Chair of the Morris and Rosalind Goodman Family Foundation and the Founder of Summer Camps Israel, a collaboration formed to support the development of overnight summer camps in Israel for Israeli teens, as a way of encouraging inclusion, pluralism and personal development.

Dr. Nigist Mengesha was born in a small village near Gondor in Ethiopia, and served as a social worker for the Ethiopian Prisons Authority before immigrating, as part of Operation Moses, to Israel in 1984. After making aliyah, she continued her education, earning a Masters Degree in Social Work from the Hebrew University and a Doctor of Philosophy in 2007 from the University of Sussex. Nigist has been a community activist and advocate of Ethiopian rights since her arrival in Israel. Her activities included working for the Israeli Social Welfare Department, and founding and directing Fidel – the Association for Education and Social Integration of Ethiopian Jews in Israel. Most recently, Nigist was awarded the prestigious Samuel Rothberg Prize for Jewish Education from the Hebrew University. Currently, she serves as Director of the Education Division for the Rosh Haayin Municipality.

Michal Barak is the head of the Unit for Diversity and Inclusion at Hebrew University. This unit was established in 2019 with the goal of designing and implementing a comprehensive policy for an inclusive university. It works closely with all university administrative and academic units and staff. This division is an outcome of The Center for the Study of Multiculturalism and Diversity at Hebrew University. Michal was the executive director of the center until recently. Michal has an LLB in Law and an MA in Linguistics. She has worked for many years in various organizations focusing on civic education and education for democracy.

Michal Cotler Wunsh was born in Israel and grew up in Canada. She received her LL.B. from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and her LL.M. from McGill University in Montreal, Canada. Michal is a member of the Knesset for the Blue and White party and serves as Chair of the Special Committee on Drug and Alcohol Use and Chair of the Subcommittee on Israel-Diaspora Relations. She is also a member of the Law, Children’s Rights, Women’s Rights, and Immigration and Integration Committees. In addition, she Chairs the Canada-Israel Friendship Group, and is the Knesset’s Official Representative on Matters Relating to the International Criminal Court, and is a member of the Inter-Parliamentary Union


Merav Asres grew up in Kfar Saba, Israel. She has a BA in Sustainability and Government from IDC Herzliya and is currently a graduate student in the Glocal Program for International Development at Hebrew University. After high school, Merav did a gap year at the Maase Center, military service, where she served as a team commander in the “Dror” course in the Michavh Alon. After military service, she and her friends set up ‘Mentors in the Community’, an important project fostering academic, social, and personal support for youth of Ethiopian descent in the city of Kfar Saba. In its inaugural year, the project placed second for the Roni Feinstein Foundation Award for Urban Entrepreneurship.

Wanana Abrams is a married mother of three beautiful boys. Born in Bilbuhah village in Ethiopia, she and her family made Aliyah in 1991, when she was 3. Wanana holds a B.A. in Communications, and an MBA, taught in English both from IDC Hertzliya. She now lives in Netanya and is a graduate student in the Orit Guardians program at Tel Aviv University and volunteers at Negat, an organization that works to place young Israelis of Ethiopian origin in key positions in the Israeli business ecosystem. She recently founded L.A.B, a private Facebook group with over 1900 members, that encourages people to learn Amharic. She is thrilled at the prospect of playing a key role in bringing the Orit to academia and hopes to continue her education to the Ph.D. level, an important opportunity to learn and transmit the deep wisdom of Beta Israel’s religious leaders, which otherwise would be lost to future generations and the Jewish world.

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