Half of Israel's new senior lecturers and professors are returning expats. Many hold degrees from Ivy League and Oxbridge universities, which underlines the importance of giving Israel's brightest students the opportunity to study abroad at the world's top universities. Do you want to help support the future Chairman of the Department at Tel Aviv University or The Hebrew University of Jerusalem? Make a donation to RHIF's Illui Scholarships program to fund the degree of an Israeli student studying abroad! 

Half of new senior lecturers, profs are returning ex-pats

More than half of the senior lecturers and professors hired by Israeli universities in the past six years are Israelis who returned from living and working abroad. Half of the senior academics in the country are between the ages of 30 and 40, and one-third of them are women, it was reported at a meeting of the Knesset Science and Technology Committee this week.

Learning On Empty: Combatting Israel's Breakfast Crisis

Rotem Yosef is the Vice President of Strategic Development for Nevet. Yosef has a degree in law and a bachelor's degree in government, diplomacy and strategy from IDC Herzliya. Before joining Nevet, she worked in the Knesset legal department for the labor, welfare and health committee, and founded a volunteer organization called "The Third Generation for the Golden Age," aimed at teaching computer skills to senior citizens.

The Nonprofit Response To The Diversification Of Jewish Life

What does it mean to be ‘Jewish’ in North America? It’s a difficult question to answer because there isn’t one fixed notion of Jewish identity anymore. Rising intermarriage, adoption, conversion, a growing group of people without a Jewish parent or formal conversion self-identifying as Jewish, and Israel’s stipulation on who is Jewish under the Law of Return means distinctions between Jews and Gentiles are no longer as clear as they were a couple of decades ago.

Jewish politics is also undergoing a process of diversification. Once upon a time, we could speak of a consensus in national Jewish politics, in which disagreements were battled out internally. As Democrats and Republicans fight ever more viscerally, so do Jewish Democrats and Republicans. Where US Jewish politics was once a synonym for Zionism, there are now fractures developing in the pro-Israel consensus along partisan and generational lines.

Given the tremendous diversification of Jewish politics and Jewish identity, it is no surprise that the traditional, centralized institutions and pillars of community life, like Jewish federations and synagogues, have lost some of its power. Jewish Millenials are creating countless of local institutions, NGOs, and charities in an effort to better respond to the rapidly changing social and religious needs of the Jewish community.

While many of these new startups are making positive changes and offer points of entries for young Jews to take up leadership positions, they also create a tremendous clutter of niche operations in the Jewish innovation sector and widen the gaps between underfunded startups and existing underutilized infrastructure.

At Robin Hood Israel Foundation (RHIF), we want to help these ambitious new start-ups make more effective use of the scarce available resources and stand out in the overcrowded Jewish innovation sector. To do so, RHIF acts as an umbrella organization and provides smaller NGOs, charities and social welfare organizations with an existing 501(c)(3) nonprofit vehicle. Furthermore, our nonprofit start-up accelerator and incubator HaYoreh provides start-ups with access to funding, advice and management assistance to help them find more sustainable ways to address social problems without compromising on innovation.

Are you a new Jewish startup and do you want to magnify your social impact? HaYoreh's Incubator/Accelerator Program is open to any Jewish charity, NGO or social enterprise in North America. To apply, please fill in this form on HaYoreh’s website and we will get in touch with you as soon as possible!

Bennett appoints new members to Council for Higher Education

Education Minister Naftali Bennett appointed the members of the 13th Council for Higher Education during at a ceremony at the President's Residence on Tuesday. Referring to Mobileye's recent $15 billion sale to Intel, Bennett said the Israeli company had pioneered a complete transformation of driving, and in the future, driving would be autonomous, allowing people behind the wheel to play with their cellphones or send messages.

Israel's Math and Science Education: A State of Emergency

At the end of last year, Israel’s Education Minister Naftali Bennett urged Israel to invest more in math and science education.

Bennett’s call is in response to the latest Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) results, which shows that Israeli students dropped nine places in math, from the 7th place to 16th place in 2015. Similarly, Israel dropped six places in science, from the 13th place to the 19th place. Israel also had the biggest gap of all participating countries between the percentage of students who are excelled in mathematics and sciences and those who have difficulties. 13% of students excelled in mathematics in 2015, a rise from 12% in 2011, while 16% of students struggled with math in 2015, compared to 13% in 2011. In science, 12% excelled, up from 11% in 2011, while 16% struggled, compared to 12% four years prior. The TIMSS is conducted every four years and assesses the mathematics and science knowledge of students across the world.

Commenting on the results of the study, Bennett wrote on his official Facebook page: “Remember how everybody attacked me over my obsession with mathematics? Now you see why. When it comes to the study of math, we are facing a state of emergency. (…) For the future of our country and (to educate our) potential future Nobel Prize winners, we will continue to push our students to study math at the highest levels even in the face of criticism."

Critics such as Einat Wilf, the former head of the Knesset’s Education Committee, were quick to point out that Israel’s performance on a global level is still relatively strong and that the test is not a true reflection of the students’ actual level of knowledge.

But Bennett’s concern is not unfounded. Years of budget cuts have severely damaged the quality of math and science education in Israel and cause more damage to Israel’s scientific endeavors and reputation as a ‘start-up nation’ than any BDS boycott can ever hope to achieve. The teacher-student ratio at most of Israel’s major research institutions has more than doubled (from 12.6 students per professor to 26.1). [1] Furthermore, Israeli universities are no longer able to compete for the most qualified professors. The emigration rate of Israeli academics is among the highest of Western countries, with over 21,000 Israeli teachers and researchers working overseas. [2]
As a result of the declining quality of Israeli higher education, an increasing number of students study aboard, particularly in the US. For many students, however, the cost of studying at a US university is prohibitive. Israeli students do not qualify for American Student Aid and many banks are unwilling to lend internationally because they cannot price foreign risk or cannot track borrowers outside Israel. Hence the students who can afford to study abroad are already part of the economic elite, which further exacerbates the already growing disparity between rich and poor in Israel.

In response to this issue, RHIF has set up its Illui Student Scholarships and Loans project. Our Illui Student Loans provides students with a viable option to finance their studies, in the form of American-style student loans that are collectively funded by a community of alumni, institutional investors, and qualified private investors.

These loans represent a mutually beneficial proposition: individual and institutional investors earn social returns by funding the Israeli leaders of tomorrow and competitive financial returns represented by the difference in the interest earned on the loan versus the official interest rate (Treasury Rates or AAA Notes), while students gain access to higher education that would otherwise have been well beyond their reach. In addition to our loans, we also offer scholarships to Israeli prodigies that have been accepted by top universities abroad. To date, RHIF has funded the US postgraduate degrees of seven Israeli students and there are 50 more students on our waiting list due to a lack of funding. 

Of course, sending students abroad is only a short-term solution as Israel tackles its education system but it would be unfair to deny today’s generation of students the quality of education they deserve. Those who are interested in contributing to a scholarship for an Israeli student can make a donation here.

[1] Taub Center, 2013

[2] http://www.timesofisrael.com/israeli-job-fair-looks-to-reverse-academic-brain-drain/