Industrialist, entrepreneur and founder of ISCAR Stef Wertheimer visited the Megemeria School of Jewelry and Art this week in order to investigate the feasibility of using this unique social-business model to create employment in the north of Israel.
The Megemeria School of Jewelry and Art is the first social business enterprise of its kind in Israel, offering professional training and employment opportunities to Ethiopian immigrants.
The school, which opened in 2010, is the initiative of Yvel founders Orna and Isaac Levy and is operated by YEDID – The Association for Community Empowerment.
Wertheimer was very moved to see the Ethiopian students designing and creating their own line of Ethiopian-inspired jewelry in the purpose-built school within the Yvel Design Center near Jerusalem.
He was particularly interested in their personal stories – how they were selected from hundreds of applicants for the 21 student course, where they live, how this opportunity has changed their lives, etc.
Wertheimer, known for his keen sense of social responsibility, was so impressed with the initiative that he is planning to investigate ways of incorporating it into his own activities to promote employment in the north of the country.
In addition to speaking with the Megemeria students and their teacher, Wertheimer also received a comprehensive briefing on the school from Yvel co-founder Orna Levy and Yedid Director Sara Rivkin.
The students at the Megemeria School, who arrive in Israel with little education, receive not only professional training in the art of jewelry design, setting and manufacture, but also enrichment classes in Hebrew and math and a monthly stipend.
At the end of the year-long course, they receive a professional diploma from the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Labor and guaranteed employment either in Yvel or in Megemeria. They are also able to work at jewelry companies around the country.
Remembering his own difficult immigration experience to Israel as a young boy from Argentina, Yvel designer and co-founder Isaac Levy had a strong desire to create a better way of embracing immigrants into Israeli life and culture.
In addition to offering employment in the Yvel factory to immigrants from over 20 different countries, Levy concentrates his efforts on the Ethiopian community of immigrants, whose integration into Israeli society has proved to be one of the most challenging in recent decades.
One year after the school opened, with seven graduates already working in the Yvel factory, Orna and Isaac Levy invited the non-profit association Yedid, which works extensively with the immigrant communities in Israel, to operate the school.
As a result, a social business named Megemeria has been established in which all profits generated by sales of the Megemeria collection are put back into the company to help fund employee salaries and running costs of the school.
Megemeria means Genesis or beginnings in the Ethiopian language of Amharic.
The contemporary Megemeria collection, inspired by the immigrants’ personal and collective journey to Israel, features pendants, earrings, bracelets and rings made of 24K gold plated brass, priced from US$40 to US$400.
Many designs incorporate inscriptions in the students’ native Amharic with personalized messages such as initials or single words like “forever,” “love” and “friendship” in Amharic lettering. The collection is sold through Yvel distribution channels and at the Yvel Design Center.