AMIT student makes history with election as student council president
AMIT high school senior Reuben Tagenia made history this week, becoming the first student of Ethiopian descent elected president of the municipal student council in Petach Tikva.
Tagenia, who attends Yeshivat AMIT Eliraz in that city, made aliyah with his family from Addis Ababa in 2002. He has been an active student leader both as a member of the AMIT network’s student leadership council as well as on the municipal student council.
In this recent election, he won 60 percent of the votes, something that he said reflects the student body’s faith in his leadership. “They chose me because they see in me someone who is worthy of representing them,” he told a local Petach Tikva newspaper recently. “They see a leading social activist, and [they elected me] without preconceived notions about my ethnicity. I cannot change or deny my skin color, but when people know me and recognize my abilities and talents, I’m just like everyone else.”
Tagenia ran for council president last year as well but lost by only a few votes.
Among the initiatives he has launched with his friends are a project called “Talking Even When We Disagree,” in which students gathered in a “dialogue tent” to discuss different subjects, as well as a project to raise awareness about the struggles facing communities along the Gaza border.
As council president, he hopes to advance students’ rights and to continue bridging the divide between different communities in Israel, including secular and religious Israelis.
Tagenia also said he is proud to serve as an example for other youth, especially in the Ethiopian community, to succeed. “Several years ago, there were protests about discrimination against students of Ethiopian descent in Petach Tikva,” he said, “but people from our community are succeeding and advancing because of their talent and that is encouraging.”
He cited another recent achievement, the first Ethiopian to become a navigator in the air force, as well as Knesset member Pnina Tamano-Shata—both of whom are from Petach Tikva—as two other examples of leaders for Ethiopian youth to emulate.