Social success: Sonia Manlun becomes third Bnei Menashe social worker in Israel

Social success: Sonia Manlun becomes third Bnei Menashe social worker in Israel

Congratulations to Sonia Manlun Lhungdim who has become the latest Bnei Menashe immigrant to Israel to graduate from social work school. Sonia joins her friends, Itzkhak and Esther Colney, who like her also graduated from the Safed Academic College over the last several years.

“We are so proud of Sonia for completing her B.A. in Social Work with help from Shavei Israel,” said Michael Freund, Chairman of Shavei Israel. “Sonia plans to devote her career to helping others – yet another sign of how Bnei Menashe make Israel better and stronger. Mazel tov, Sonia!”

Sonia arrived in Israel in 1998. She began her studies four years ago, during which time Shavei Israel paid her tuition and provided her a monthly scholarship and tutoring so she could focus on her studies.

Sonia also got married while in school and Shavei Israel has been helping her husband Shalom with professional training, including preparing to take the psychometric exams, Israel’s version of the SAT tests in the United States, which are unknown in rural India. Sonia and Shalom have two small children.

During the years of her degree, the Manluns lived in the nearby town of Ma’alot, where there is a long-standing Bnei Menashe community. Now that Sonia has completed the program, the Manlun family has moved to Kiryat Arba, outside of Jerusalem, where she is looking into options to serve the Bnei Menashe community there.

Sonia’s “best friend” from college, Esther Colney, also moved to Kiryat Arba following graduation. Today Esther has a caseload of some 50 teenagers, including (although not exclusively) Bnei Menashe youngsters. Despite both Sonia and Esther emigrating from India, they didn’t speak the same language – Esther is from Mizoram where Mizo is the native tongue, while Sonia is from Manipur, which uses Kuki – so they used the common language of their ancestors, Hebrew, to communicate. Talk about a successful ulpan!

Esther’s brother Itzkhak lives in Migdal HaEmek where he works for the municipality as a full time social worker handling Bnei Menashe cases.

In 2011, we asked for your assistance to enable Sonia to complete her social work studies. We described her “as one of the most promising young people in the Bnei Menashe community. We quickly saw her skills and motivations.”

We are delighted to say that your financial support has paid off. Sonia is a proud aliyah story – a young Bnei Menashe women who has found work, love and family in the Holy Land.

“I want to thank Shavei Israel a thousand times,” Sonia told us. “It was only with Shavei Israel’s support that I could complete my studies.”

Sonia’s graduation is not the end – in fact, it’s just the beginning of a new wave of Bnei Menashe who, inspired by Sonia, Esther and Itzkhak, have also developed an interest in studying social work in Safed – in order to support themselves with dignity and give back to their community. They will hopefully start school this coming fall.

We’ll be writing more about these students in the coming months and we’ll be sure to share their stories. There is no greater gift than helping a young person advance in a new career in a strange land. We look forward to your continued assistance.

Here are a few more pictures from Sonia’s graduation:

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Brian Blum
Brian Blum
brianblum@gmail.com