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Dec 6, 2019

Tlahun Gete’s eyes sparkle when he talks about his present and future. For now, the 20-year-old student at Boys Town Jerusalem’s College of Applied Engineering (CAE) is hard at work on his highly intensive electronics studies, with an eye towards his upcoming enlistment in an advanced Israel Air Force technological unit after graduation.

When he talks about his past, Tlahun is thoughtful. He recalls the tiny village in central Ethiopia where his family had farmed for generations, as well as their long, difficult journey to immigrate to Israel nine years ago. Today, “home” is a poverty-stricken neighborhood in central Israel where his father works sporadically as a janitor.

“For my parents, the move has been physically and emotionally grueling,” Tlahune admits. “For me and my siblings, living in Israel has opened new worlds. Luckily for me, Boys Town Jerusalem has been an incredible source of help and encouragement to get where I’m aiming. Which is far!”

From his first moment in the CAE program, a double curriculum of high-level engineering studies as well as Jewish studies, Tlahun willed himself to excel. Beyond his electronics major, he also took advantage of the school’s “extras,” including attaining certification in Cisco computer networking, plus becoming a licensed electrician. Yet as painful as it was to admit, Tlahun had to ask for help.

“I desperately needed orthodontics, which my parents could never afford,” he explained. “It wasn’t easy for me, but I approached Rabbi Meir Linchner, the Dean of Students, with my huge plea for help. ‘Just tell me the cost,’ the rabbi answered. ‘We’ll pay everything. We believe in you.’”

When Tlahun began voluntarily tutoring his classmates in both electronics and Jewish studies during his free time, Rabbi Linchner arranged to pay him for his efforts. “Absolutely not,” the young man protested. “Beyond the gift of orthodontics, this school has given me the knowledge and the skills to succeed, plus unconditional trust. Now it’s my great pleasure to give!”

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Rhonda Spivak, Editor

Publisher: Spivak's Jewish Review Ltd.

Opinions expressed in letters to the editor or articles by contributing writers are not necessarily endorsed by Winnipeg Jewish Review.