Pittsburgh recently sent $242,000 to the Ethiopian National Project to fund education and outreach initiatives for young people in the Israeli Ethiopian community, the United Jewish Federation of Pittsburgh announced this morning.
The Ethiopian National Project is facing a 51 percent budget reduction this year. The United Jewish Communities recently put out a call to federations across North America in an attempt to raise $3.7 million in advance of the upcoming school year.
Without the money, the ENP says it will have to cut 2,500 children between the ages of 13 and 18 from its Scholastic Assistance program — which includes mentoring programs and after school tutoring — and shut down 15 of its 22 Youth Outreach Centers.
Nearly half of the roughly 115,000 Ethiopians living in Israel are unemployed (compared with around 28 percent among the general population), and around 70 percent are defined as "poor," compared with around 16 percent in the general population.
But the ENP believes the younger generation of Ethiopian Israelis is finding it easier to learn Hebrew and integrate into Israeli society, but not without a support structure.
The $242,000 — which came from several donors, including one large anonymous donor — is believed to be the most raised by a local federation so far, according to Brian Eglash with the UJF.
"There's so much potential in these young people. They're very bright. They just need to be given an opportunity, and that's what this project is doing," Eglash said.
The ENP holds special significance in Pittsburgh because the late Karen Shapira was one of the founders and the first volunteer chair of the international initiative.