We had the pleasure of introducing you to Orna and Isaac Levy in our column last week. We shared the fascinating story of how this exemplary couple founded Yvel almost forty years ago and grew the business from just the two of them and their original $2,000 investment into a multimillion dollar internationally celebrated, award-winning luxury jewelry brand. Further, we noted their unique mission of chesed, and that at the core of the company is Yvel’s commitment to social responsibility. Indeed, 90% of the company’s over 100 employees are immigrants from 23 countries.

Nestled within the environs of the spacious, state-of-the-art Yvel Design Center in Jerusalem like a precious gem stands Megemeria School of Jewelry and Art. Megemeria is a philanthropic endeavor established by the Levys with the objective of empowering Ethiopian immigrants by equipping them with the professional and life skills needed to achieve financial independence as jewelry designers and artisans.

Inspired by the challenges Isaac faced as a young immigrant, he and Orna sought ways to help other new immigrants to integrate into Israeli society with facile and become successful, contributing citizens. Meaning “genesis” in Amharic (the native language of Ethiopia), Megemeria offers its students—and their families—the opportunity for a bright and beautiful new beginning in life—from Isaac Levy, who never forgot his past and is grateful for the success and bouquets of berachot with which he has been gifted.

Proud bearers of a rich history, the Ethiopian Jews are one of the oldest sects of Jews. Throughout 2,000 years, they kept Jewish tradition alive with the dream of returning to Israel. On the wings of eagles, their dream was brought to fruition. Facing persecution in their native land, the majority of the Ethiopian Jewish population was rescued in the 1980s and early 1990s through a series of Israeli government operations, and brought to settle in Israel under the Law of Return, which states that any Jew has a right to return to Israeli citizenship.

Integrating into Israeli society proved challenging, as did finding a dignified source of livelihood. Deeply impacted, Isaac and Orna decided to open a school to teach them the art of jewelry making. In 2011, they established Megemeria School of Jewelry & Art, with 21 students participating in the inaugural program.

Establishing Megemeria proved to be a judicious decision, for the Levys as well as the students. Duly impressed with the unique jewelry designed and crafted by the students during the course, Orna and Isaac took the endeavor to the next level by establishing the Megemeria Social Enterprise as a platform for the students to market their jewelry, thereby securing continuous employment. Since its inception, the endeavor has been so successful that both the school and the social platform are now fully sustainable and have been transforming the lives of many more Ethiopian immigrants.

“Taking the course enriched me with invaluable knowledge,” shared Warakat Hil. “It not only provided me with a profession and a livelihood but also a reason to wake up every morning with a smile. My children are proud of my accomplishments, and that fills my heart with joy,”

Ayehu Melas concurs, “I began the course with no grasp of Hebrew. The course empowered me with language, greatly enhancing my communication skills. Beyond that, I acquired a respectable profession and formed bonds with peers who eventually became like family. The mutual support in this community is heartwarming and invaluable.”

“Upon arriving in Israel, I was uncertain about how to support my family,” said Desalen Asres. “Through Megemeria, I not only gained a respectable profession, but also found a surge of confidence in my capabilities, leading me to pursue additional studies. This place truly feels like home, and the community here is like an extended family to me.”

Unique in concept, Megemeria has become an independent business, the first of its kind in Israel.

In Megemeria, Ethiopian immigrants learn skills that will enable them to become an integral part of both Israeli society and the workforce. Graduates of the school are employed to design and create a jewelry collection inspired by their own personal journeys of longing and renewal. The compelling Megemeria Collection fuses tradition with modernity and meaning with beauty. Featuring 925 sterling silver and 24k gold plating over sterling silver, the exquisite designs are derived from the time-honored heritage of Ethiopian Jewry.

All proceeds from sales benefit the school and social business, ensuring that Megemeria continues to cultivate social change. The school offers one-year training programs subsidized by contributions from donors. Students are selected from immigrant absorption centers and learn jewelry crafting, sketching, and drawing, as well as Hebrew lessons and Israeli history and culture. Graduates receive a certificate as licensed jewelry crafters from the Israeli Ministry of Industry, Trade and Labor, and have the option of joining Yvel full time or seeking work as goldsmiths, pearl sorters, or diamond setters elsewhere.

To be accepted, students undergo a rigorous application process. Because most of Megemeria’s students have families and some are single parents, once they are accepted, they are paid a monthly stipend to replace income they would have had as cleaning staff or security guards, typical of the work most Ethiopians are able to find in Israel. Additionally, a social worker helps with any personal, family, or social problems they may incur.

Cultivating beauty through their exquisite jewelry creations and heartfelt chesed, Isaac and Orna Levy regard each Megemeria success story as a source of great nachat.

“More than just acquiring a profession, I’ve learned invaluable lessons here,” Fentanesh Yaleo declared. “Isaac and Orna stand out as genuinely kindhearted people, extending their warmth and assistance to all employees. I’m truly grateful to work in such a nurturing environment, where I eagerly start each day with joy and contentment. This means the world to me.”

True to its noble name and mission, Megemeria is a bright and beautiful new beginning—empowering immigrants and their families with a better life and a better tomorrow.


Rochelle Maruch Miller is a contributing editor for the Five Towns Jewish Times. She is a journalist, creative media consultant, lecturer, and educator, and writes for magazines, newspapers, websites, and private clients. She welcomes your comments at Rochellemiller04@aol.com. Read more of Rochelle Miller’s articles at 5TJT.com.


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