Even as a child, Nahumi Hay wanted to make a difference in his community. He wanted to go to college so he could work in local government. However, growing up in Israel’s southern periphery, hurdles like generational poverty and education funding inequity made him question whether he could achieve such a future. But thanks to Jewish Federation-supported Atidim, that’s exactly what he did: Bachelor’s degree in hand, Nahumi recently became Netivot’s Deputy Director of Public Works.

Founded in 2000 by Lieutenant General Shaul Mofaz and Israeli industrialist Eitan Wertheimer, Atidim helps close the socioeconomic gap between the periphery (far north or south of the country’s urban center) and center of Israel by putting higher education within reach. Based on the notion that the periphery’s high-performing students among Israel’s greatest resources, Atidim works with students as young as 13 years old, providing them with the tools, experience and opportunities they need to flourish in their schools and communities.

Each year’s 150+ enrollees, called cadets, account for the top 30% of students in peripheral regions and disadvantaged communities. In high school, Atidim cadets participate in advanced studies, self-esteem building activities and experiential introductions to higher education and high-tech industries. Once enrolled in college, students are provided a four-year scholarship, private lessons, job interview preparation, a living stipend and a laptop — allowing them to devote their full attention to their studies. After college, Atidim then works closely with cadets to help them land upwardly mobile jobs in the periphery, where graduates commit to serving in local public service for at least three years. Atidim graduates help to invigorate their home communities both through their work and by serving as role models — like Nahumi Hay, who is currently leading a solar energy project to renovate Netivot’s older neighborhoods. Says Nahumi of the project — and perhaps of his own journey — “Creating change with something that comes from nothing is quite amazing.”

To support the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia’s work, which makes an invaluable impact on vulnerable populations in Israel, click here. And our Jewish Federation communities help Atidim in more ways than one: Our past Men’s Mission alumni were so touched by the program that they recently created the Mark Fishman Atidim Scholarship Fund to a sponsor an Atidim student. The selected student will receive a four-year scholarship, a living stipend, academic support and a laptop if he or she is accepted to the Faculty of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Technion – the Israel Institute of Technology. Kol hakavod, guys!