"My girlfriend says I'm a Jewish Agency success story," Luques laughs.|
Michael Lev is a resourceful young man of 24, an immigrant from Belorussia who first came to Israel to attend high school through the Jewish Agency's Naaleh program. Today he is in his second year at Hebrew University's undergraduate program in Economics, studying full time and working part-time as a guard for a factory.
Were it not for the Jewish Agency, he says, he would have to work an additional 20 hours each week just to make ends meet. He is a recipient of the Fund for Lone Immigrant Students and Soldiers, which provides to young people, who have immigrated without their families, either 675 NIS per month during the school term or 4500 NIS in tuition subsidy, depending on whether the student is also receiving tuition assistance from the Student Authority. Last year, the Fund's launch period, over 2600 young olim received the vital income from the Jewish Agency, which allocated 3.6 million dollars for the program.
"Because of the Jewish Agency, I have money to eat," said Moldova native Dennis Krogan, 27. Krogan made aliyah in 1998 and, after serving as an officer in the army, enrolled in Ben Gurion University to study Industry and Management. "There were times before that I had only 400 NIS per month for food. Now I have over 800. That's double the food." Krogan, too, credited the Fund for Lone Immigrant Students for helping him get better grades; it allowed him to lower the number of hours that he works as a waiter and a janitor on his campus.
"Knowing they have a steady income while they study lets them feel comfortable they will not be on the street," says Fund coordinator Rachelle Schilo. "At least they can pay their rent. A lot of them work as waiters and waitresses, which is not a steady income. Some students were falling asleep in class because they were working as guards or waiters at night. The Fund helps them concentrate."
But the Fund committee does encourage students to work at least a little bit, she said, "because after a few years in Israel, you are ready to enter society. It's not a condition, but they really should also be looking for jobs and getting something on their resumes."
"This Fund is so important," Lev said. "It's good that someone is taking care of me, and that they aren't putting conditions on it, such as saying that I'm not allowed to work. If you are trying to help people accomplish something, you can't tell them not to find employment."
"I came here because of the Jewish Agency, and I'm staying because I love Israel," says Luques.|
If anyone had told Lisandro Luques that at 24 he would be living in Israel and looking forward with pride to serving in its military, he would never have believed it. Growing up in Argentina, he had no Jewish education and saw Israel purely as a place to attend medical school at low cost before moving on to the US, Canada, or Europe.
The financial assistance offered by the Jewish Agency, together with that from the Student Authority and the army, convinced Luques to choose Israel over France for his graduate studies. Less than three years later, he calls himself an enthusiastic Zionist and is engaged to marry an Israeli woman he met at school. He is enrolled in the MD/PhD program at Hebrew University and works part-time in one of their laboratories.
"My girlfriend says I'm a Jewish Agency success story," he laughs. "I came here because of the Jewish Agency, and I'm staying because I love Israel. It was the Fund for Lone Immigrant Students that allowed me to hit the ground running. Now, I want to raise my children here."