UCF students and community welcome Miss Israel 2013
Jewish National Fund and Media Watch International brought former Miss Israel Titi Aynaw to the U.S. for a speaking tour on college campuses in Florida, New England, and Upstate New York. Aynaw, a top Israeli model, television personality, and advocate for Israel, became the first Israeli-Ethiopian to win the Miss Israel title, opening the door for other models of Ethiopian heritage as well as other ethnic and racial backgrounds.
Aynaw spoke to UCF students and community members on Monday, March 20.
"It is inspiring to see Jewish and non-Jewish college students working together to host the former Miss Israel for speaking engagements. As a strong, independent woman, Titi's message is sure to resonate with today's college student. We hope to engage hundreds of diverse students during the two-week campus tour, said JNF's Director of Campus and High School Affairs Nelson France.
"The time has come to show campus communities how Israel makes the world a better place, and it all starts with Titi Aynaw," said France. "We need college students to get the word out, get their communities involved, and get Titi's message heard across the country and around the world."
Prior to participating in Miss Israel 2013, Aynaw had never modeled previously and was unknowingly entered into the beauty competition by a high school friend. The win brought pride to the Ethiopian community and she is considered one of their leading role models and spokespeople.
"Titi Aynaw and her visits to various U.S. campuses highlight the diverse ethnic and cultural makeup of Israel," says Founder and Executive Director of Media Watch International Sharon Tzur. "As an Ethiopian, African, Israeli, and Jewish individual, she is able to use her experience and influence to promote a message of tolerance and coexistence among the many groups that call Israel home, and translates this message to a global audience."
Aynaw has a successful modeling career working on leading campaigns in Israel, Europe, and the United States. In 2013, President Barack Obama personally invited her to attend a state dinner at the late Israeli President Shimon Peres's residence, during his first presidential visit to Israel. Aynaw has traveled extensively to share her extraordinary life story with Jewish, non-Jewish, and African-American audiences.
Born in the Gondar province of Ethiopia, Aynaw always dreamed of immigrating to Israel. Her father passed away when she was a toddler, and she was 12 when she lost her mother to a longtime illness. Aynaw and her brother moved to Israel soon after and lived with their grandparents in Netanya. She served in the Israel Defense Forces as Company Commander with the rank of Lieutenant. After completing her officer's training, Aynaw joined the Military Police and had up to 300 men and women under her command. She recently founded the "Titi Project," which provides extracurricular activities and enrichment to 66 Ethiopian children from disadvantaged backgrounds in Netanya. She hopes to expand the project in order to give more children educational opportunities that she lacked growing-up. She is currently on a leave of absence from the IDC University in Hertzliyah where she studies international relations.
This is the second time Aynaw is participating in a U.S. college campus tour sponsored by JNF and Media Watch International to drive constructive dialogue and discuss the issues affecting Israel, how it is covered in the media, and its unique role as the only democracy in the Middle East. The tour is also part of JNF's Positively Israel campaign, which seeks to promote a positive dialogue about Israel and the ways it makes the world a better place.