August 16, 2007 / 2 Elul 5767
When Asher Seyum escaped from Ethiopia to Israel he dreamed of a better life. He aspired to help others so that they would not have to struggle the way that he struggled in Ethiopia. With the support of the Jewish Agency and its donors throughout the world, Asher began his mission by traveling to the former Soviet Union and helping to help break down the racial barriers between Jews throughout the world. Since then, Asher has drawn on his experiences and has worked with the Jewish Agency to help hundreds of immigrant families of all races find their place in Israeli society. He has built his life and his career at the Jewish Agency around the goal of making it easier for immigrants to adjust to life in Israel and to become happy, productive members of Israeli society.
Throughout his family’s long journey from the Gondar region in Ethiopia to Israel, Asher’s family faced numerous challenges and tragedies, including the imprisonment of Asher’s brother and their separation from him for the next 7 years. Arriving at the Netanya Absorption Center in 1984, Asher and his family found themselves in the midst of demonstrations revolving around the religious establishment’s recognition of the Ethiopian Jewish community. Children were not sent to school, but Asher snuck out and was the only boy in his class. “I received private lessons and learned Hebrew before anyone else,” he recalls.
With his grasp of Hebrew, Asher, like his father in Ethiopia, became a leader. People turned to him for assistance, and many times he was the voice of the community. “I understood that in order for the community to move forward we needed to learn and to understand the society.”
Although he faced some difficult times, Asher says that every crisis made him stronger and more determined to succeed. He was accepted to the Israel Defense Forces Academic Reserve program and earned his B.Ed. in physical education from the Wingate Institute, Israel’s National Center for Physical Education and Sport.
Asher went to Russia through the Jewish Agency to meet with Jews from the FSU. “Everyone thought I was crazy going to Russia. But we live in an integrated society and I felt it was important for everyone to get to know each other. I broke down a lot of barriers and connected to the people. The bottom line is we are all Jews.”
For the first eight years of his professional career, Asher worked as a counselor at the Ben Yakir Youth Aliyah Village, where many Ethiopian youngsters reside. He then went on to serve as the director of the Merom Absorption Center in Safed, where he narrowly escaped death when a Katyusha rocket landed in his office.
Married, with two young children, Asher, 37, is currently the director of the Ashdod Absorption Center. He interacts daily with new immigrants from South America, France and the FSU. “I am proving something very important to Israel society and breaking down many stereotypes through my work,” says Asher.
With the help of talented staff members like Asher, the Jewish Agency is able to help hundreds of immigrant families build stable lives in Israel. With your help, the Jewish Agency can continue to support the absorption centers that provide critical services to immigrants during their first months in Israel. We can also continue to fund initiatives that help to eradicate racial stereotyping in Israel and to make Israel a comfortable home for Jews of all races. To learn more about how you can help, click here.
For more information about absorption centers, click here.