Megemeria is a unique social enterprise that combines jewelry making training with job security and creates a shared future for Israelis of all ethinicities.
There is no doubt that the story of Israel's Ethiopian community is another important chapter in the Zionist movement. Nevertheless, to the despair of many Ethiopian Israelis, they are often forced to deal with difficult absorption processes. Like other olim, the Ethiopian Israeli community is struggling to break down entrenched social barriers.
Nevertheless, there is hope. There is a buzz of activity happening within civil society and within the business sector; there are people who are truly committed to absorbing Ethiopian Israelis, young and old, into society.
Such is the case with Megemeria, a unique social enterprise that combines jewelry making training (a skill not unknown by the Ethiopian community in Israel) together with job security and creates a shared future for Israelis of all ethinicities.
It all started when Orna and Itzik Levy, the owners and directors of YVEL, an international jewelry company, wanted to make a difference in their community. Their first thought was to establish a school that would teach Ethiopian Israelis jewelry making, and then employ the graduates at the YVEL factory. The school provides much more than a profession - it's a real gateway to Israeli society. As part of the program, the students also receive Ulpan lessons, and support from a social worker. When they graduate, many of the students are hired to work at YVEL, alongside jewelry makers from all over the world.
After a year with seven graduates employed at YVEL, the Levys decided to further develop the program, and invited YEDID - an organization that works to promote the employment of low-income populations - to join them as partners in running the school and to turn it into a social enterprise.
Thus, a new company, "Megemeria," ("Beginning" in Amharic) was born. Megemeria is a social enterprise, the entire profits of which are reinvested into the school, and which creates new jobs for Ethiopian immigrants from the greater Jerusalem area.
In a couple of weeks, the second cohort of Megemeria will receive their diplomas. 21 olim Ethiopian Israelis will celebrate the fact that they successfully learned not only jewelry-making skills, but core subjects such as Hebrew, social studies, Jewish history, and more. All of this was made possible by the generosity of our terrific supporters: IFCJ, World Ort, the Ministry of Economy, The Jewish Community Federation of San Francisco, the Jerusalem municipality, the Absorption Ministry, the Baron de Hirsch Fund, and more.
Megemeria jewelry is in high demand throughout the world: In 2014, Megemeria sales revenues surpassed $65,000, and in 2015, we expect sales to bring over $260,000 back into Megemeria.
Orna Levy, CEO of YVEL: I'm so thrilled that we kept to our promise, and that we were able to give dozens of Ethiopian families the opportunity to be proud that they are a part of Israeli society. I hope that other companies will follow in our footsteps and open additional social enterprises for the sectors of society that desperately need it.
Sari Revkin, Executive Director of YEDID, who has been working with Ethiopian Israelis and the Aliyot from Ethiopia since the 80s: It's not simple to make a real connection between a thriving business and a project that creates job security for workers while protecting their rights. This is a new model that the government must figure out how to implement in other workplaces, in order to absorb Ethiopian olim and olim from other countries.