Abraham was born in Russia and immigrated with his parents to Israel when he was 10 years old. Despite not speaking Hebrew when he arrived, Abraham managed to do extremely well at school, excelling not only in his academic studies but also in sports and music.
“It is well-known in Israel that Russian parents push their children very hard, and we are expected to succeed in everything that we do”, says Abraham. “I probably rebelled against that pressure by becoming religious, which was not one of the values with which I was brought up. I chose to abandon all the promising career options that my parents expected me to follow, and to focus exclusively on Jewish studies. At the age of 24 I married a religious girl and joined a community where the men study Jewish texts from morning ’til night.
“In this community, careers and money are not considered important. One learns for the sake of learning, and the most one can hope to achieve is to become a teacher in a religious school, which pays a very basic salary, and to live a very simple life. Consciously or sub-consciously, I was rejecting the ambitions that had driven my parents as first-generation immigrants to hope that their son would become a successful hot-shot lawyer or doctor!”
Nine years after his marriage, things went wrong, and Abraham realized that his religious lifestyle was not as fulfilling as he had hoped. Following his divorce and a period of introspection and soul-searching, he decided that he did want a career, but none of the jobs that he was qualified for were sufficiently rewarding. In order to be able to consider remarrying and supporting two families, he realized that he needed academic qualifications.
At the age of 34, and as a divorced mature student with family obligations and no savings or parental support, Abraham didn’t know where to start. He decided to study Industrial Engineering at Machon Lev – the Jerusalem College of Technology. The admissions team at Machon Lev recognized his potential and brought Abraham’s application to the attention of the Moshal Scholarship Program.
“The fact that the Moshal team had faith in my abilities to make a fresh start gave me faith in my own abilities. My skills were rusty, but they helped me to get back into the right mindset for studying. Meeting the younger Moshal scholars was also inspiring. I have been able to share some of my experience with them, and they have helped me to improve my IT skills and catch up with the many revolutionary changes that have taken places in the world of education since I left school 16 years ago!”
Abraham’s maturity and parenting skills make him an excellent tutor. He is helping to tutor a number of students at Machon Lev who are struggling with their English and math courses. He also talks to them about getting back up again when life knocks you down. His own resilience and his determination to start over at a relatively advanced age are inspiring to others.
“Life doesn’t always turn out the way that you planned, and you sometimes have to be willing to reassess the situation and make new and difficult decisions.
“Whenever I have hit problems or felt overwhelmed, the Moshal team have supported and encouraged me. They have shown me that everything is possible, and we have even discussed the possibility that I may take a second degree in a medical subject, which when combined with my industrial engineering degree would enable me to work in the field of medical technology. This is a dream of mine, because there are so many fantastic new biotechnology inventions being developed in Israel that can really help people. I would love to be a part of that world and share the benefits of my academic studies with many other people, not just in my immediate circle but around the globe!”