Tag: scholarships

Social Work Student Sees Light in Unexpected Places

For Glaser Scholar Lea Tamanyo, making positive change starts with helping individuals.

By Melanie Takefman

TAU graduate student Lea Tamanyo isn’t afraid of challenges; she’s had to overcome many herself, both in her personal life and academic career.

For example, as an undergraduate student in social work, she chose to gain practical experience in one of the most difficult and complex subfields at the outset—mental health. “This area is considered hard-core in social work, but when I first started I wanted to explore different fields so I took the plunge.”  

As she enters her second year of a master’s degree at TAU’s Bob Shapell School of Social Work, Tamanyo realizes that this field, despite its complexities, is her calling in life.

Even before becoming a social worker, Tamanyo, a recipient of the Herbert and Sharon Glaser Foundation scholarship, worked at an assisted living facility for men who suffer from mental illnesses. Many of them have had particularly difficult lives. At first, it wasn’t easy, she says, but slowly she became absorbed in their lives. She developed an especially strong relationship with three of her clients. “I quickly understood that their diseases don’t define them. They have so much more to them than that.

“I was drawn by the fact that I could be the one to make a positive change, that I could help them lead their best lives. I felt like I had reached the right place,” she says, the emotion patent in her voice. “The work fulfills me and gratifies me immensely.”

Now, armed with an undergraduate degree in social work, she works part-time at the same facility, alongside pursuing graduate studies at TAU.

Tamanyo’s interest in social work was sparked during her post-high school national service at Schneider Children’s Medical Center of Israel. “The way all the different professionals interacted to help the children captivated me,” she says. She chose social work because she likes the idea of “helping people help themselves.”

Tamanyo herself, the seventh of eight children, is no stranger to adversity. Her parents immigrated to Israel in 1991 from Ethiopia and were sent to live in a caravan compound in northern Israel. Lea says that it was difficult for them to learn Hebrew, acclimate to the Israeli mentality, and earn a living. Her father is fully disabled, and her mother works as a caretaker for the elderly, the only job she could get without an education.

“My siblings and I studied by the skin of our teeth,” said Lea. “Our parents couldn’t help us with schoolwork, and there was no money for private tutors or extra-curricular courses. I learned how to be self-reliant and teach myself.”

Despite her parents’ modest means, they instilled in their children a strong sense of purpose, perseverance, and the value of education. “They want us to succeed professionally, so that we will have what they didn’t.”

Lea says her parents encountered a lot of ignorance, on the part of veteran Israelis, about their culture. “Sometimes, it’s simply a lack of awareness, not something intentional, because when you’re not familiar with something, it can appear strange… At the end of the day, we are all immigrants, and we have to accept the other. Everyone brings with them a different color.”

Although Lea herself hasn’t encountered the difficulties her parents did, it’s clear that their experiences have shaped her identity and professional path. Seeing the best in every person, beyond their background or social identity, is something that guides her.

Herbert and Sharon Glaser

Doron Kochavi and Tammy Glaser Kochavi

“Lea is a very talented, ambitious and forward-looking young woman, who is committed to contributing to the country through her professional skills,” says Doron Kochavi, a TAU Governor, who, with his wife, fellow TAU Governor Tammy Glaser Kochavi, selected Lea as one of the recipients of the Herbert and Sharon Glaser Foundation Scholarship. 

​​“We believe that the way to create positive change in this country is to support individuals, like Lea, who want to strengthen the melting pot in which we live. In this respect, social workers play a vital role because they help the weakest members of society overcome challenges and realize their potential.”

“I am grateful to the Herbert and Sharon Glaser Foundation, and the Kochavi family for my scholarship because it frees me from financial worries and allows me to focus on my studies,” says Tamanyo. “Especially now in the era of Corona, when there is less work, it is truly a blessing.”

featured image: Glaser Scholar Lea Tamanyo. Photo: Moshe Bedarshi. 

From War in Ukraine to Studies at TAU

We welcome PhD researcher Maryana Sytar, who left her war-torn country.

Tel Aviv University welcomed the first Ukrainian researcher who will spend the coming semester at the University after she was forced to leave her home country due to war. On Thursday night, Maryana Sytar arrived safe and sound in Israel from the escalating war in Ukraine. She was the first graduate research student to arrive as part of TAU’s emergency scholarship program that was launched in response to the ongoing humanitarian crisis.

Maryana was working hard toward her PhD at the Koretsky Institute of State and Law of Ukraine before the war broke out. Over the next six months, she will continue her research at TAU’s Buchmann Faculty of Law. She is expected to be joined at TAU by additional Ukrainian scholars this week.

 

WATCH: Interview with Maryana Sytar on Ynet, March 20, 2022:

 

Tuition and Living Expenses Covered

The University established the Emergency Fellowship Fund for Ukrainian Graduate Students alongside a fundraising drive to support dozens of Ukrainian students and researchers with immediate refuge and assistance that will enable them to continue their academic studies and research, which have been halted due to the unfolding crisis. 

The Fund will enable Ukrainian students at the graduate and post-doctoral levels to spend a full semester at TAU. Eligible applicants must hold Ukrainian citizenship. Application is open to students currently enrolled at a Ukrainian university, in any discipline. Successful applicants will be awarded full tuition alongside a living stipend and will be welcome to remain on campus for up to six months. TAU will invite them to campus shortly after notification of acceptance, and match the students with a TAU faculty member who will serve as a mentor while at TAU. 

Furthermore, TAU is already in contact with the Ukrainian Embassy in Israel and the Israeli Embassy in Ukraine, as well as with their academic counterparts, to facilitate the process and ensure successful applicants are able to reach Israel as soon as possible. Applications will be considered on a rolling basis effective immediately and until further notice.  

TAU views the Russian invasion of Ukraine as a red flag requiring all of us to make an all-out effort to help the Ukrainian people, many of whom have lost their homes and become refugees overnight. “The steps we are taking are admittedly modest. However, we hope that other academic institutions, both in Israel and worldwide, will follow our example, and lend a helping hand to the Ukrainian people in this dire situation,” said TAU President Prof. Ariel Porat. 

Application for Scholarship

To apply, please send the following materials to: intlprojects@tauex.tau.ac.il

  • 1-page (up to 500 words) statement describing research 
  • Letter of recommendation from advisor 
  • Document showing active status at home university in Ukraine 
     

For more information: https://international.tau.ac.il/scholarship_programs

Featured image: Maryana Sytar photographed with Prof. Ronen Avraham from Tel Aviv University’s Buchmann Faculty of Law

“A True Chance to Follow My Dream”

TAU medical student Batya Sonnenfeld follows in the footsteps of late Prof. Dina Lev, as the inaugural recipient of memorial scholarship.

Since high school, TAU medical student Batya Sonnenfeld knew she wanted to pursue a medical career. Having grown up in the Chabad ultra-Orthodox education system in the southern Israeli city of Kiryat Malachi, though, her choices seemed limited.  

“I felt there weren’t many options when I finished high school,” she says. While most ultra-Orthodox institutions do not include a curriculum of core subjects such as math and science needed for academic studies, the Chabad system does and Batya excelled at them. Still, at that point, she was only comfortable with gender-segregated institutions.  

A short time later, she enrolled in an undergraduate optometry program at Hadassah Medical Center in Jerusalem for ultra-Orthodox women. “Before I even finished my optometry studies, I knew I wanted to learn more about medicine.”    

However, she wasn’t sure she would be able to realize her medical aspirations as academia’s top medical programs seemed extremely challenging to get into and unfamiliar from her upbringing in the ultra-Orthodox education system. 

She followed her heart and forged a journey that eventually led her to Tel Aviv University. Today, she is a second-year medical student and the inaugural recipient of the Dina Lev Scholarship, named for late TAU professor and alumna Prof. Dina Lev, who was a leading breast cancer surgeon and researcher.  

Relentless Pursuit  

Sonnenfeld, the youngest of 12 children, married her husband shortly after earning her optometry degree. “At that point in my life, I felt more stable and mature,” she recalls.  

It was then that she began exploring top university medical programs and came across TAU. The four-year accelerated MD track at one of Israel’s top-ranked medical schools appealed to her. She thought it might be a long shot considering the extremely competitive nature of Israeli medical schools, even among students who aren’t from the ultra-Orthodox education system and come with all the advantages and preparations. Determined, Sonnenfeld decided to apply. 

“Then I became pregnant and thought that was the end of my medical dreams,” she says.  

With encouragement from her husband and parents, she completed the prerequisite courses she needed for enrollment and stayed in the running.  

“The day I was accepted to TAU was one of the happiest days of my life,” she beams. “I still have my acceptance letter hanging on my refrigerator. Every time I walk by, it reminds me of what I’m capable of.” 

By the time she began her studies, Sonnenfeld had her first child and soon thereafter she gave birth to her second son. 

“When I was accepted to TAU, my husband was serving in the IDF with an 800-shekel (approximately $240) salary per month,” she said. Therefore, she continued working to provide for her family and pay for tuition until she received the scholarship. 

Perpetuating a Legacy 

“The Dina Lev Scholarship gave me space to really focus on my studies, otherwise it would have been extremely difficult to raise children alongside demanding studies and a full-time job,” said Sonnenfeld. She had applied for a scholarship through the Office of the Dean of Students. 

Moreover, Sonnenfeld was astonished when she learned she had received the scholarship in Dina Lev’s name.  

“By chance, I had read an article about her just a few days before and was so fascinated and inspired by her,” she explains. Sonnenfeld says she was extremely moved when she discovered a Facebook page dedicated to Lev. There, her former patients write touching testimonials about her impact as a compassionate and skilled doctor. 

“Each one of them felt like they were her only patient,” said Sonnenfeld. “As a Chabad member and religious Jew, I believe everything happens for a reason; there’s no coincidence. I feel I have a special duty to honor her legacy.” 

Lev was a professor at TAU’s Sackler Faculty of Medicine and the Director of the Breast Health Center at Assuta Hospital in Ashdod at the time of her untimely death in 2020 at age 55. She graduated from TAU’s medical program before launching a career that led her to become a top surgeon in Israel. Her father, Reuben Ben-Arie, who lives in US, established the scholarship fund through the American Friends of Tel Aviv University (AFTAU) to honor her memory. He explains that he chose TAU because it was his daughter’s intellectual home. 

“Dina would want a woman to follow in her footsteps,” he says. “It’s not easy to have a family and study medicine. To follow that path shows Batya has a passion for it.” 

Sonnenfeld has yet to choose a medical specialty, but she is interested in gynecology and is eager to begin clinical rotations next year at TAU-affiliated hospitals.   

“My hope for the future is to be the type of doctor that Prof. Dina Lev was, who touches the lives of patients with compassion even during some of the most difficult times in their lives,” she says.   

Win-Win Situation 

With two young kids, Sonnenfeld acknowledges that it was challenging to begin her degree at TAU. However, support from the medical faculty helped her ease into the academic rigors in a way that complemented her personal needs.  

“I got a parking spot, extra time for tests, and a very nice nursing room at the medical faculty that I could use,” she explains. Furthermore, she is particularly grateful for the tight-knit social support and hospital shadowing through the course Medical Education and Communication (“Chibuki” in Hebrew) led by Dr. Mirit Lahav. 

“TAU gave me a true chance to follow my dream,” she enthuses. 

Sonnenfeld sees considerable benefits to the growing access of academia for the ultra-Orthodox community. She is among the over 150 students in Trailblazers: The Program for Integrating the Ultra-Orthodox into Tel Aviv University. “Co-ed studying was a concern going into my studies as I had never experienced it before and thought I might be stereotyped, but I felt very accepted,” she says. “There is consideration and respect for my beliefs.” 

Established in 2016 with two students, Trailblazers combines academic studies with educational, psychological, and social support services to ease student entry into secular academia. 

“I think it’s a win-win situation,” she says. “There are tons of talented potential students, many of whom are women, and a lot of will in the community to go out and learn.” 

featured image: TAU medical student Batya Sonnenfeld

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