Group of scholarship recipients in Israel

Each year, NA’AMAT awards financial assistance to about 200 academically gifted Israeli women enabling them to follow their dreams and pursue bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees in challenging programs of study. Our scholarships include Ruth Bader Ginsburg for Law and Dr. Ruth K. Westheimer Scholarship for Gender Studies.

The criteria for selection ensure that qualifying women from all of Israel’s social circles are fairly represented. Many of the best and brightest of Israel’s most talented young women come from homes which lack the financial resources enabling them to continue their studies at the university level. Many have demonstrated special aptitude in fields traditionally occupied by men – engineering, science and law. By offering scholarship support, NA’AMAT ensures that these women of merit can develop the skills and education they need to realize their dreams and make their contribution to Israeli society.

The annual Scholarship Ceremony takes place in the summer where the scholarships are presented to the recipients with the participation of the President of NA’AMAT Israel, the Scholarship Fund Director and the Committee. Hagit Pe’er, President of NA’AMAT Israel explains, “This vital scholarship program began more than four decades ago thanks to the dedication of NA’AMAT’S original pioneer women, led by Golda Meir. These were visionary women who wanted to assist in advancing higher education among women in Israel.”

Excerpts From This Year’s Scholarship Recipients.

Abu Tanha Basma - Gender Studies

The title of my current study is: “Hearing their voices: The life story of young women whose parents are divorced due to partner violence in the Arab society.”

Supervised by: Prof. Eli Buchbinder – School of Social Work, University of Haifa

Divorce in Arab Muslim society continues to be a social taboo and an unacceptable act, even when the cause is partner violence.

Research on divorced Arab women due to partner violence in Israel is relatively scarce, and especially lacking are studies focusing on their daughters who grew up in the shadow of violence and experienced their parents’ divorce.

The purpose of this study is to describe and analyze the life narratives of young married Arab women who grew up in the shadow of violence, experienced their parents’ divorce during adolescence, and afterwards lived with their mothers. The study will explore the women’s perception of the impact of their narratives on all the domains of their lives, with an emphasis on their self-concept, marital relations, motherhood, and social-cultural implications.

Qualitative narrative methodology will be used to develop a deep understanding of the phenomenon from the informants’ perspective. The study will be based on in-depth semi- structured interviews with 30 Muslim Arab women aged 19 to 35, who are married with between one and three children, and whose parents divorced due to partner violence when they were between 12 and 18 years old.

The aim of the study is to enrich the body of theoretical knowledge about the long-term implications for adolescents living in the shadow of their parents’ violence and divorce in a collectivist society. The study may assist developing intervention programs, including unique prevention programs tailored to Arab society, which may contribute to many young women’s adjustment as wives and mothers.

I was so thrilled to receive this grant. Winning the NA’AMAT research grant was a confirmation
that my research is of value to others in the field and was also great motivation to continue this line of inquiry into the future. I am so thankful to NA’AMAT organization and donors for supporting me. This generous donation is very important to me and meaningful as an Arab researcher.

Helly Buzhish Sasson - Gender Studies

My study seeks to investigate the resistance strategies and the struggles of women who live in a constant state of intense oppression – of ethnicity, of status and of gender, that embodies different and complex forms of opposition to the hegemony and the social power mechanisms, through collective demonstrations that exist alongside daily activities of resistance, whose occurrences move in a hybrid manner between the private and the public sphere. I am referring to women who have decided to stand up, rebel and fight against the cruel and prejudiced results of a policy that led them to destitution, to a life without a home and to situations in which their children had to be raised outside of their homes. They act by employing varied practices of activity simultaneously in the private, public and intermediate spaces opposite the government representatives implementing its policies in their clerical positions in the various institutes – departments for social services, the Repossession office, National Insurance, Ministry of Housing and so on.

These are unique struggles, struggles that are pushed away into the margins and represent the margins of the Israeli society. They are the product of a reality that was forced on the women who take part in them, a reality that left them no choice but to fight – for a roof over their heads, for their children, for life, and from there they expanded and chose to take part in the struggle of other women as well.

Finally, I wish to share my appreciation and gratitude to the generous donors and to NA’AMAT Organization. The struggle of women in our society has many forms, one of them is the struggle to succeed in the academy and succeed in writing and publishing those important researches. Your donation is a critical aid in my effort to bring our voice and the voice of all women to the ears of the world outside. Your generous donation and open hearts is another piece of the puzzle that makes our mission possible.

Hila Fridman - Genetics and Bioinformatics

During my daily work, I have the privilege to provide information and support to women in the clinic facing various stressful situations, in order to help them make the right decisions for them. When I decided to start my Ph.D studies, I knew I wanted to investigate clinical aspects that might contribute to clinical geneticists and benefit their patients.

The last decade has introduced new technologies that allow us to learn more about the human genome and about causes for different genetic disorders. One of the main technologies used today is next-generation sequencing (NGS), which makes it possible to sequence vast regions within the genome, and even all of it, in a single test. Although NGS is used mostly to identify genetic causes for diseases, it enables new testing possibilities for healthy individuals as well. My research topic is “Clinical utility of next-generation sequencing genomic tests in determining risk assessment for healthy individuals”. As a part of my research, I am using bioinformatic tools to analyze Ashkenazi-Jews (AJ) genomes and identify couples at risk for having offspring with genetic diseases, that will not be detected in the regular basic tests. By doing that, I hope to increase the yield of preconception genetic tests.

I’m now staying at Radboud University in Nijmegen (The Netherlands) for half a year, working on my research using local Dutch samples and comparing them to the AJ results, targeting to find differences between inbred and outbred populations.

I strongly believe that my research will provide new insights to the use of genomic tests in healthy individuals, and help both clinicians and patients.

I’m feeling very grateful and appreciate the opportunity to get this scholarship.

Raz Dvir-Szternfeld - Genetics and Bioinformatics

I am doing my PhD in Neuro-Immunology at the Weizmann Institute of Science, under the shared supervision of Prof. Michal Schwartz and Prof. Ido Amit. My research studies the potential role of brain resident immune cells (microglia) in Alzheimer’s disease (AD). Alzheimer’s disease is a devastating neurodegenerative disorder and the most common cause of dementia worldwide. Previous studies at the Schwartz lab offered a novel treatment for AD, based on immune check-point blockade (PD-1/PD-L1 pathway). Instead of affecting brain pathology directly, the administration of anti-PD-1 (aPD-1) or anti-PD-L1 (aPD-L1) is recruiting the immune system to fight the disease (similarly to immunotherapy in cancer). This treatment shown to have an amazing effect on brain pathology and cognitive abilities in AD animal model. Two years ago, thanks to innovative techniques developed in the Amit lab, which allows looking at the gene expression profile of single cells, we discovered and characterize a subpopulation of microglia that seems to be strongly associated with AD pathology – DAM (disease associated microglia). Later, we observed that when giving the aPD-1/aPD-L1 treatment to mice, the number of DAM increase dramatically. Now, we are studying the role of DAM cells in AD pathology in general, and in the healing mechanism of the treatment in particulate. Overall, our goal is to have better understanding on the working mechanism of a treatment that may change the life of millions.

I wish to thank NA’AMAT for the great honor of receiving this award and nevertheless, for the financial support that will allow me to dedicate myself fully to the research.

Regina Proskorovski-Ohayon - Genetics and Bioinformatics

My research in Human Genetics focuses on finding defective genes, which cause neurological disorders and diseases. There is a large array of genetic neurologic diseases that are unique to and prevalent in the local Bedouin population of southern Israel. The clinical scope of these varies from mild non- lethal phenotypes such as nerve palsies, tremors, spasticity etc., to severe neurodegenerative diseases causing mental retardation with movement disabilities and system failures resulting in death at young age. As many of these diseases are specific to the local often-consanguineous population, the molecular basis of these diseases is mostly unknown.

The aim of my PhD project is to identify the causative mutations of neurological disorders in consanguineous families of the Bedouin population. Specifically, I am studying four families with apparently different autosomal recessive neurological phenotype: Global developmental retardation and Epilepsy; Psychomotor retardation (PMR) and convulsive disorder; Peripheral neuropathy; Cerebellar hypoplasia.

For each of the projects I identified a few mutations and suspected disease- associated mutations that identified, we will attempt to unravel for each of the diseases the molecular mechanism by which the disease-causing mutation exerts its effect. Our findings will unravel the molecular pathophysiology underlying the neurological disorders studied, as well as enable carrier testing and early diagnosis.

We all can be better and achieve extraordinary things.

Roni Eyal-Lubling - Gender Studies

The sociological literature focusing on young adulthood has shown that changes occurring within labor markets in western societies have had a tremendous impact on the employment experiences of young adults and on their transition from adolescence to adulthood. The “new” labor market has produced new kinds of high quality jobs on the one hand, and on the other hand, it has simultaneously produced new kinds of precarious jobs which are being filled by the most marginalized groups in society including young women.

Extensive research has been carried out on Intersectionality and the employment experiences of women. Besides that, Girlhood Studies discourse has explored the impact of mother- daughter relations on girls’ (under 18 yrs.) educational success and future aspirations. However, researchers have not yet focused on the contribution of mother-daughter relations to the employment experiences of young women (over 18 yrs.) belonging to marginal social groups in Israeli society. The absence of research on these nuclear social networks in the context of labor market experience has prevented a theoretical examination of their potential to unravel the situations where mothers may be sources of support to their daughters’ labor market integration as opposed to situations where they might unintentionally expose their daughters to intensified precariousness in the labor market.

On this ground, the study seeks to examine the employment experiences of young women (18- 28) belonging to marginalized groups in Israeli society and to explore how mother-daughter relationships existing within marginal social locations are manifested in the work lives of the daughters – the young women.

This study will espouse a feminist qualitative methodology and is based on 20 mother-daughter dyads (40 participants). The study will enrich the theoretical discussion on marginal young women in the labor market which is currently at its initial stages and moreover it will shed light on the contribution of mothers to their daughters’ employment development.

My name is Roni Eyal-Lubling, I am 41 yrs. old, married to Yaniv and mother to Uri and Amalia. I am a social worker-sociologist and for over a decade I have dedicated my professional life to work with and research on marginalized young women. Together with Dr. Michal Komem I founded the Rotem Center at the Sapir Academic College for the advancement of marginalized young women who’ve experienced harsh life situations in their lives including poverty, violence, sexual abuse and social exclusion. I feel I-we are living in a significant social era in terms of women’s issues and rights. I have had privileges my fore mothers did not have, but being a youth-gender-labor market researcher I see myself and my research as having an important role in the struggle to better the lives of marginalized young women in the future. For this reason, I am so grateful to the NA’AMAt Grant Committee for the generous grant I received.

Shahar Shohat Koren - Genetics and Bioinformatics

My research is focused on the genetics of neurodevelopmental disorders (NDDs), including autism spectrum disorder (ASD), intellectual disability (ID) and schizophrenia (SCZ). The three disorders share some behavioral characteristics and cognitive deficits but are diagnosed as distinct entities. NDDs genetics is highly complex, multiple genes are associated with each disorder, and the same gene is often associated with multiple disorder. During my PHD I aim to explore the two major questions in NDDs genetics, which biological properties are common across NDDs and which are disorder specific, and how can mutations in the same gene lead to different NDDs.

To address the question of which biological properties are common across NDDs and which are disorder specific, we have conducted a systematic cross-disorder comparison between genes implicated by rare mutations in ASD , ID and SCZ. Our results suggest that convergence across disorders stems from common pathways which are sensitive to the same type of mutations, and the divergence stems from the location and timing of the gene expression in the brain.

Our analysis sheds some light on the basis for the genetic convergence across different NDDs. However, it does not answer the puzzling question of how mutations in the same gene can lead to different phenotypes. We hypothesize that genetic background accounts for the differences between individuals with a particular mutation. In order to test our hypothesis, we use a CRISPR genome wide pooled library to systematically screen for possible interaction between NDDs risk genes and the genetic background during differentiation of neural progenitor cells. In our preliminary scan, we used the CRISPR pooled knockout library to detect genes which participate in the proliferation and survival of embryonic stem cells (ESCs). We found that genes which are essential in ESCs are enriched for NDDs risk genes. This result suggests that many NDDs risk genes are essential already at the stem cell stage.

Alongside my research I am also a teaching assistant and in the last two years I helped develop new course for teaching computational genetic tools. I am married to Talia, and together we raise our twins Stav and Tomer. During my free time I enjoy hiking, reading and listening to “podcast” (internet radio).

Tsviya Shir - Gender Studies

Sex and gender equality in schools are regulated by various states through different legislative frameworks. Nonetheless, the detailed, encompassing legislative frameworks do not ensure a comprehensive policy of gender equality in education, nor its fulfilment. Furthermore, there are many significant, consistent empirical findings pointing to clear gendered patterns in schools’ everyday practices (e.g., girls’ low level of participation and achievements in sports and mathematics, and boys’ frequent involvement in violence and disciplinary problems). My research explores the prima facie gap between the legal promise to maintain and promote gender equality in education, and the empirical findings, pointing to apparent gendered patterns and sexism in schools. The research analyzes legal frameworks and findings from schools through a theoretical gender-related perspective, and aims at developing a new conceptualization that will enable a better understanding of law’s role in promoting gender equality in education. In this sense, the research will contribute to the exploration of the seam between law and education; the theoretical development of the concept of gender equality in the research of education law; and the development of normative guidelines for more suitable legislative frameworks that may better maintain and promote gender equality in schools.

Anna Rice - Genetics and Bioinformatics

In my research I aim to unravel key evolutionary questions regarding polyploid plants. Polyploids are organisms that have a duplicated genome – instead of having two copies of their genome, they have three or more copies, and the scientific community seeks to find whether this phenomenon gives these organisms an evolutionary advantage. Interestingly, polyploid plants are of major importance since many of the plants we use in our everyday lives are in fact polyploids (for instance, wheat, banana, cotton, coffee, etc.). My main project focused on mapping where polyploid plants reside across the globe and underpin the ecological factors that have driven their distribution. This included building a massive database of millions of plant species observations, together with their localities and environmental characteristics of their habitats. One of my findings showed that apart from the classical hypothesis of temperature being the strongest driving factor of the distribution, it is accompanied, to a higher extent, by the growth form and life cycle of the flora in question. This is the first time that such questions were addressed on a global scale and presented as a whole. This project was published a few months in the prestigious journal Nature Ecology & Evolution and I am proud to say that so far the responses we get about it are very enthusiastic. I also work on other projects that are involved in assembling biological databases and developing some statistical tools for biological analyses.

Performing a PhD research requires a great amount of effort. As a PhD student you usually develop strong feelings about your research – you nurture it, invest most of your time in it, experience its rises and falls, it does not always go the way you hoped it would, and it takes a long time before you see it flourish. In a way, it resembles to bringing up children, and indeed, I often refer to my PhD as my third child. I have two sons – Jonathan is almost four and Ethan is almost one. They are my real achievement and contribution to the world. Combining my research together with trying to raise them to be good people is not an easy task, but it is for sure a very fulfilling one. Jonathan often asks me how my day at work was and I find it difficult to explain a four-year-old the ups and downs of a research. But one thing he knows for sure – I love what I do.

I would like to convey my deepest gratitude to you, the donors of NA’AMAT USA and NA’AMAT Canada. Your support and empowerment are invaluable, especially for us, young women in the beginning of our scientific careers. Although there are some winds of change and we do see more and more senior female scientists in academia, scientific fields and positions are still predominantly occupied by men, which sometimes makes it more difficult for us women to be integrated in this world. Your support helps us to break the glass roof that is sometimes placed over our heads, and for that we thank you.

Recipients of the Ruth Bader Ginsburg Law Scholarship

Zilberman Mor
Learning for her Master degree in administrative and civil law in the University of Haifa.
Born in 1982, living in Haifa, Married + 3. Mor is a licensed lawyer, working in Haifa municipality, at the human resource department as the vice of the head of the industrial relationship section manager. Mor also volunteers in the justice distribution association as part of her law studies. In 2000-2002 Mor served as a military infantry corps guide in the IDF.

Meital Zoe Nativ
In her second year of her BA in Laws and Social work learning in the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. Born in 1990, living in Jerusalem.
Meital Zoe is working in the NA’AMAT Legal office for her pre- apprenticeship. Meital Zoe volunteered in “Alumim” boarding school, working with 5-10 year old kids. She is also a member in the ISEF foundation – working for reducing educational gaps in society.
In 2009-2011 she serves as a non-commissioned welfare officer.

Nofar Bosena Senka
In her second year of her BA Law studies, at the “Ono Academic College”
Nofar was born in 1983 in Ethiopia and came to Israel when she was 2 years old.
She is divorce and lives in Bat Yam. Nofar is a night coordinator at NA’AMAT Glickman shelter; she was highly recommended to be a loyal and devoted worker with a meaningful contribution to the professional work at Glickman. In 2001-2002 Nofar worked in the ministry of health in Abu Kabir, as a part of her national service.

Chen Shoval
In her second year of her BA Law studies, at Netanya Academic College. Chen was born in 1996, and lives in Yokneam Illit. She works as a manager in “Perach tutorial project” in her hometown, in charge of 70 university students and 80 high school students. Chen has been volunteering in many projects that provide learning aid for kids from the Ethiopian community, kids at risk, helping Holocaust survivor and more. Chen served in an electronic division in the IDF intelligence corps.

Tziona Dub
She is inn her second year of her BA Law studies, at the “Ono Academic College”. Tziona was born in 1988 in the U.S and made “Aliya” in 1991, she lives in Jerusalem. Tziona has a BA in communication from the Ariel University. She recently used to work in Ben-Gurion Airport in the passport check counter. In 2006-2008 as part of her national service, Tziona was a guide for youth at risk in a pre-nursery center in Ramot and also in “Mikve Israel”- village for youth at risk in Hulon.

Sigalit Levi Stamker
In her third year of her BA Law studies at “Sapir College,” Sigalit was born in 1974, she is divorce + 3, living in Beer Sheva. She has a BA in social science from the open university
Sigalit is working as a typist in the district court of law in Beer Sheva. In 1992-1994 Sigalit served as a human resource coordinator in the IDF. In 2008 she was given an operational service ribbon for her military reserve duty in the second Lebanon war.

Hear From Three of Our 2019 Scholarship Recipients

Excerpts From 2018 Scholarship Recipients.

Doctorate Student - Odelia Dayan-Gabay

This research seeks to explore how the Israeli media tells the story of prostitution between the years 2007 and 2017. a critical point of view on prostitution requires us to look at the social context of gender inequality. In this study, I examine how the Israeli media chooses to tell the story of prostitution, a phenomenon that is marginalized and considered a social taboo, while emphasizing the manipulative element inherent in the creation of a narrative that influences the perception of prostitution by the public, government and women in general.

Women in prostitution are transparent to society and the state. The importance and uniqueness of this study stems from the desire to remove the transparency of these women in Israeli media, the public and political discourse. I believe that in order to promote women and gender equality we should first address the most disadvantaged women among us; women in prostitution.

This study aims to serve as a means to enrich the social struggle of women’s rights everywhere and to eradicate the phenomenon of prostitution by changing and improving the media coverage. I thank you for the contribution of this scholarship, which is a tailwind for the struggle against prostitution and in favor of women’s basic rights to dignity and equality.

PhD Student - Salome Azoulay-Ginsburg

Your generous scholarship will allow me to focus on my PhD research under the topic: “Design and synthesis of novel targeted chemical chaperones as a basis for Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) treatment”. Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) is a fatal neurodegenerative disease characterized by the selective degeneration of motor neurons in the brain and spinal cord, which leads to progressive paralysis and death. Recent studies provide compelling evidence that aggregates of mutated or misfolded proteins underlie both types of ALS. Chemical chaperones have been shown to reverse the aggregation of proteins associated with many human diseases.

However, using chemical chaperones as drugs is limited by the very high active concentrations required for their efficacy. We propose to overcome this obstacle by coupling known chemical chaperones to organelle-targeted moieties and to increase their concentrations at specific sites, such as lysosomes, ER, Golgi, and mitochondria. Refolding by chemical chaperones has enabled proteolytic enzymes and proteasome systems to cleave misfolded proteins properly. Based on this observation, we hypothesize that refolding of Superoxide Dismutase 1 (SOD1) misfolded proteins by chemical chaperones will allow proteolytic enzymes and proteosome systems to cleave the refolded proteins and prevent SOD1 aggregates and cell death. In previous studies, we have synthesized several ester- and amide- based TMAO chemical chaperones.

The leading compound, has displayed both neuronal and astrocyte-protective effects in vitro in a micromolar concentration range, and in daily doses of 10 mg/kg has dramatically improved the neurological functions and has delayed the body weight loss in ALS mice. Now, we have synthesized a series of novel compounds using FDA-approved chemical chaperone: phenylbutyric acid (PBA) with different intracellular targeting moieties and linkers. These new compounds might serve as drug candidates for ALS disease treatment.

PhD Student - Nofar Torika-Nadiv

My research focuses on modulation of brain inflammation associated with Alzheimer’s disease by Angiotensin related drugs. Over the last four years of my research, weobserved that drugs prescribed nowadays in the clinic for hypertension  have a great potential to serve as neuroprotective agents and to reduce brain inflammation features associated with Alzheimer’s disease.

PhD Student - Hadas

The subject of my PhD thesis is a combination of surface chemistry and the development of new semiconductor devices. One of the biggest challenges in the electronics industry is to precisely control the properties of surfaces and interfaces. In some cases the performance of an entire device will be determined by interface/surface effects. Chemical modification of the surface by organic materials is a versatile tool to influence the surface properties and in this way improve device performance.

I have also been fortunate to be studying a family of 2-dimensional (one-atom thick) materials, relatively “new players” in the field of electronics. This family includes conductors and semiconductors that provide fascinating alternatives to the silicon that dominates today’s microelectronics. Our research in this field will hopefully keep Israel at the forefront of today’s science and technology. Your help is enabling me to be a part of this exciting effort.

Hear From One of Our 2018 Scholarship Recipients.