Academic journal article Journal of Comparative Family Studies

Ethiopean and Israeli Students' Adjustment to College: The Effect of Family, Social Support and Individual Coping Styles

Academic journal article Journal of Comparative Family Studies

Ethiopean and Israeli Students' Adjustment to College: The Effect of Family, Social Support and Individual Coping Styles

Article excerpt

AMITH BEN-DAVID* and RONIT LEICHTENTRIT**

Ethiopian refugees have been a growing ethnic group in Israel during the past few decades, and children who entered Israel as a part of this immigration pattern are now in the college system. These students are considered to be at risk because of the trauma they endured during their turbulent migration, and their individual and collective experience of many types of loss: family, family roles, friends, language, self sufficiency, employment, property and sense of identity (Ben Porath, 1987; Lerner, Mirsky and Barasch, 1994). In addition, these refugees have had to adapt to a new country with little preparation and, often, with limited education to assist them. These losses and the transition between cultures are associated with adjustment problems, including psychological complaints (Arieli, 1993; Ben-Porath, 1987; Ratzoni, Apter, Blumenshon, and Tiano, 1988, 1991), family conflict (Ben-David, 1993; Weill, 1989) and difficulties in adapting to the educational system and coping with academic demands (Yungman, 1994).

Considerable research has been conducted on adjustment to college, and a few models have emerged (Allen, Epps, and Haniff,1991; Aspinwall and Taylor,1992; Bean and Metzner, 1985; Chartrand, 1992). Student adjustment and persistence have focused on factors that include individual differences, family and social support, and academic variables. In addition, recent comparative ethnographic studies among immigrant minorities suggest that there may be different patterns of adaptation to scholastic performance and different adaptive responses depending on the cultural model that guides them, that is, in the type of understanding they have of the workings of the larger society and of their place as minorities in that working order (Ogbu, 1991).

THE ETHIOPIAN IMMIGRANTS

The ingathering of black Jews to Israel is a unique immigration phenomenon of modern day black history for two reasons: first, Ethiopian Jews are the only group of black Africans who practice Judaism, and second, they are the only group of black Africans to have emigrated as a group to a predominantly white society during this century (Ojanuga, 1993).

Fifty-three thousand Ethiopian immigrants currently live in Israel. They constitute about 1% of Israel's population, thereby representing a significant minority in the country. In May 1991, in a special airlift termed Operation Solomon, 14,2000 Ethiopian Jews were rescued from poverty and civil war in Ethiopia and brought to Israel. The previous wave of immigration of their Ethiopian brethren to Israel had started in 1977 and peaked in 1984, following widespread hunger in Ethiopia. Ethiopian Jews are black and are racially distinct from other Israelis. Culturally, the vast majority of these immigrants are inexperienced with modern technology.

The Ethiopians comprised a unique Jewish community in Ethiopia in that they were isolated from the rest of the Jewish world for more than 2000 years (Ashkenazi and Weingrod, 1987). They lived in small villages and made their living though primitive agriculture and craftsmanship. Most of the older generation were illiterate. The community was a cohesive one with traditions that had survived uninterrupted through centuries of insular living. They were devoutly religious, but were not familiar with Jewish religious laws as practiced by Jews in other parts of the world. The Ethiopian Jews were closely attached to the ancestral land, which was their primary source of subsistence. Political and economic changes pushed forward with the advent of the Marxist regime in Ethiopia posed a threat to the small farmers who faced famine as the small plots of land they owned were being annexed to make way for large-scale farming. The Marxist government also threatened the religious traditions that had been jealously guarded for centuries. The culmination of religious, economic and political pressures were decisive factors in the exodus of the Ethiopian Jews from their isolated mountains to the Promised Land in the 1980s. …

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