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Moving Young Russian Immigrants toward Social Change -

Immigrants from the former Soviet Union (FSU) in Israel are not widely known for their involvement in the progressive social change agenda of NIF/SHATIL.  While SHATIL has made efforts in the past to expose young immigrants from the FSU to the world of social change, none has succeeded like our recently completed intensive course: Leadership and Activism Training for Young Immigrants from the Former Soviet Union held in Tel Aviv this fall.

"The course opened a new world to me – something I was never before exposed to," said Yasha Fishman, a 25-year-old management and economy student at Tel Aviv University.  "I define myself as someone with a social orientation, but I had no idea how I could contribute – not just contribute but make change.  Now I know.  Now I'm also working at it.  I'm in a new place."

Fishman along with a group of course graduates organized to present at a national conference on policies relating to the needs and rights of young people this month.  They will also lead a roundtable about employment from a multicultural perspective, highlighting ways to facilitate young immigrants' incorporation into the labor market.    

Through the course, SHATIL aims to educate FSU students about the role of civil society in spurring social change, and enable them to develop professional skills in advocacy and media relations.  This will nurture their leadership capacities, encouraging them to cultivate a career impacting their communities and the country at large.

Offered for the first time, the course attracted 60 applicants which allowed the organizers to choose 20 of the most promising.  The innovative curriculum exposed participants to civil society, social issues and social change work with a particular focus on advocacy and media relations.  Participants will intern in social change organizations, both those dealing with immigrants and those with other concerns, so that they can put their new knowledge and skills to work.

Says Inda Kriksunov, director of SHATIL's Assistance to Immigrants from the FSU project: "This is a large population with great potential strength.  For the first time, we see that if we run several more programs like this, we will be able to build a cadre of young immigrants from the FSU who can be agents for change – and not just on issues affecting immigrants.  They have stepped out of the Russian ghetto and want to have an influence on issues affecting society at large."

In other courses this fall:

  • SHATIL trained a cadre of Amharic-speaking group facilitators in couples relations and family violence prevention;
  • An online tool that enables the public to examine and monitor municipal budgets and hence to influence them, was developed as a result of a course on participating in municipal budgets;
  • Social Change organizations in the south learned how to plan a public fundraising event – especially relevant in this time of financial crisis;
  • Young peoples' organizations learned to build collaborations in order to maximize impact;
  • Social change organization learned how to organize effective campaigns;
  • Students and people with disabilities learned to become agents for change;
  • And much more!

$250 million to Israeli social change groups since 1979.