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Welcoming a Special Visitor

From left to right: Former Telfed Director Sid Shapiro  CEO Dorron Kline, COO Nava Lapid, ESP Coordinator Simone Pinkas, Head of ESP Dept Dana Levy Tavor, Dorothy Sank, Chairman of the SASI Committee, Dave Bloom, SASI Commitee member Steve Handler and Head of Resource Development, Nikki Leviner.

Melinda Gates is credited with the assertion that “women speaking up for themselves and for those around them are the strongest force we have to change the world”. This sentiment was present during the visit to Telfed this week of Dorothy Sank (nee Samson). When we speak about powerful women in philanthropy and forces of change, the Samson family is a quintessential example. From the matriarch of the family (Sheila, who has been by her husband Eric’s side for the past 5 decades), through to their daughters Franki and Dorothy, (and their counterparts Steven and Leonard) together with their brother Jeffrey (and his wife Elana) what is clear is that this family, led by Eric and Sheila, is committed to changing the world for the better.

The main topic of discussion during the visit was the up-and-coming SASI (South Africans Studying in Israel) academic support programme, the very idea of which was conceived by Dorothy and Leonard at a meeting two years ago with former Telfed Director Sid Shapiro. Recognizing the need for additional educational options for Jewish South African students and the changes in the current climate (chaos on SA campuses, reverse preferential treatment, anti-Israel sentiment, and the growth of BDS activity on SA university campuses, inter alia), she envisioned the idea of a support network to be created by Telfed for all SA students wishing to study at premier Israeli institutions in English, including needs-based accommodation grants. The SASI programme, whose existence is largely credited to The Eric and Sheila Samson Foundation, is yet another example of the family’s commitment to accessible education for all, and how powerful this tool can be in strengthening society.

Dorothy spoke of the concerns in Cape Town (including the ongoing water challenges, the ANC call to downgrade the SA embassy in Tel Aviv, and the SA political climate) and how the SASI programme could also connect young Jewish students to Zionism by exposing them to study opportunities in Israel.

Chairman of the Telfed SASI committee Dave Bloom gave an overview of the objectives of the programme, the 2018 work-plan and the goals for the coming year, including the introduction of a broader social project for all Southern African students in Israel, increasing the number of universities and colleges participating in the programme and offering tuition discounts to SA students, and improving and streamlining the procedures to assess and process applications.

Dorothy shared her hope that SASI could strengthen the ties between Israel and South Africa, developing the sense of community responsibility in Cape Town, Johannesburg and other centres for the younger generation, to be imbued in a culture of giving back and embracing leadership roles, especially in Jewish communal associations. Her passion and positive energy shone through – “I think Telfed is an incredible organization and we are here for you. This is what we should be doing, helping each other!”, she said.

In closing, Telfed’s leadership expressed strong appreciation to Dorothy and the wider family for enabling SASI to come to fruition. Sharing a strong relationship with her parents Eric and Sheila over the years, it was wonderful to see how the second generation is equally compassionate, involved and committed to philanthropy, endorsing the notion that a family legacy is not something you leave for the next generation, but something you leave in them.

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