A Struggling Ethiopian-Israeli Family’s Hopes Renewed

December 26, 2012


“This family has gone from dependency to self-sufficiency—and is now able to help others.” That’s how their mentor described Danny and Tseganesh Bruk of Rishon LeZion, recent graduates of a three-year JDC empowerment program for Ethiopian-Israelis.

Operation Atzmaut (Independence) is helping Ethiopian-Israeli families make lifestyle changes and acquire the skills needed to be a part of Israel’s burgeoning economy. As a result, Danny and Tseganesh are now well on their way to realizing their dreams of a better life for themselves and their two sons, 6 and 3—a huge transformation from a few years back.

Danny, who was six when he immigrated in 1981 in Operation Solomon, completed 12 years of schooling in Israel. But as a 36-year-old bus driver whose career was stalled because he couldn’t communicate effectively with his supervisors, Danny wanted more. He dreamed of establishing a small business on the side to better support his family, but didn’t know how to begin.

Tseganesh was even more frustrated. She was 20 when she came to Israel in 2001. She quickly learned Hebrew, but with no Israeli educational credentials, she found herself stuck in temporary, low-level jobs. Their Atzmaut mentor immediately realized that Tseganesh wanted to get ahead—but that this would require changes in the Bruk household.

Leveraging Atzmaut’s full range of resources, the mentor enrolled Danny and Tseganesh in workshops that strengthened their cooperation as a couple and enhanced their parenting and life skills—teaching them everything from successful child-raising techniques to how to stick to a family budget.

The couple seized every opportunity to advance. For the first time, Danny supported his wife in improving her educational and work status, agreeing to take on more family responsibilities and watch the children so that Tseganesh could attend evening classes. The family also benefited from day care, camp, and enrichment programs for the children.

Tseganesh gave up her day jobs to train as a school cultural liaison and completed her high school equivalency requirements and matriculation exams. With her mentor’s encouragement, Tseganesh pursued her interest in education. She is now in her second year of a B.A. program at the local teachers’ college.

Danny’s transformation has been equally fulfilling. Group coaching sessions helped him advance in the workplace, and JDC’s entrepreneurship training program taught him how to develop a small business. “The Bruks are a family to take pride in,” says their mentor. “Their improved social and economic status makes all our hard work worthwhile.”

Sign Up for JDC Voices Stories