Throughout Israel70, the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia is hosting a yearlong speaker series called Israeli Change Makers, in which social innovators from Israel will share their insights on topics at the heart of contemporary cultural conversations. Join us in Stokes Auditorium at Haverford College on Tuesday, January 30th at 6:30 p.m. to hear Deputy Mayor of Tel Aviv Mehereta Baruch-Ron.

Born in Seramle, Ethiopia, Mehereta Baruch-Ron was just a child when she embarked on a difficult journey to make aliyah: It began with her escaping on foot across the dangerous Ethiopian border into Sudan, and ended with her and her sisters being airlifted to Israel six weeks before their father and brothers. The girls had been sent ahead of the rest of the family through Operation Moses because her elder sister needed medical attention. And yet after that near-impossible trip, challenges still lay ahead. Among them, “when I landed in Israel I had no education; I was illiterate,” Mehereta recalls. “At the age of ten, I started learning everything from scratch.” And learn she did. Mehereta went on to earn a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology and Human Services as well as a Master of Arts in Organizational Psychology from Haifa University.

Mehereta describes her experience at Haifa University as “the turning point” when she began to consider a future political career. “As someone who had received a lot, that was the first time that I felt like I could give back,” she explains. She began volunteering but felt compelled to be even more active. First, she co-founded the NGOs Hiyot and Olim B’yachad, both designed to help support and integrate the Ethiopian-Israeli communities.

Today, Mehereta is the first woman of Ethiopian descent to serve as Deputy Mayor of Tel Aviv, a role in which she continues to prioritize giving back, using her personal history as an uneducated refugee to inform her goals as Deputy Mayor. “I’m trying to give equal opportunities to all citizens,” she says, which, for her, starts with education. As she describes it, her job overseeing the city council’s social services and welfare programs is to guarantee that students from all backgrounds have access to equal educational opportunities.

But it is not only her past that inspires Mehereta to take on such vital work in Israel. It is also her future: “Being active in our society is a way of ensuring that my children will live in a better place,” she says. To that end, she also works tirelessly to reduce cost of living in Tel Aviv, worried that if current economically unviable conditions continue, the city will lose one of its greatest assets: its diversity. Diversity “makes our city vivid and energetic and interesting,” Mehereta praises, but just as important to her, it teaches our children “to become good people who can see other people, who can understand other people.”

RSVP here to join us to hear Mehereta Baruch-Ron discuss her amazing personal journey and her continuing work to shape a Tel Aviv that respects, values and is accessible to all.