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“The women in our community are brilliant,” says Rebecca Harary, co-founder and Executive Director of Propel Network, a not-for-profit business serving Sephardic Jewish women looking to become certified in a field and begin careers.  “I personally think they can run the world!”

Rebecca’s long-held belief in the earning potential of our community women dates back to the example set by her mother. “My mother never let the fact that she never attended college prevent her from becoming a professional,” Rebecca says. Joyce Salame, once a reputable income tax specialist and real estate agent, now holds two masters degrees and is the Director of Curriculum for the Yeshivah of Flatbush Lower Division. During her time as Executive Director with the Moise Safra Community Center, Rebecca noted countless women struggling in this regard. “I started to get phone calls from women in our community asking for a job,” Rebecca recalls. “It started to gnaw at me. Here were all these women looking for work, wanting to help their families – but they didn’t have experience. They didn’t have a marketable skill.”

Perhaps this is because our community women were traditionally raised to be homemakers. Many of them went into marriage intending to focus on raising their families, never expecting that there would be a need for another income.  Alas, times have changed and the Career Candidates at Propel Network represent life’s ever-vacillating tide. The clientele ranges from single moms and those recently widowed to empty nesters who have essentially raised their children, and are now entering the next stage of their lives. There are also women whose husbands are either out of work or not earning enough money to support the growing needs of their families.

Some women know they can do more to help their families, and some have simply come to realize they want to do more. “Propel is now serving this need,” says Life and Career Coach Alice Chera. “We give women the opportunity to expand their knowledge and develop new skills. This in turn allows them to discover a new dimension of themselves.”

Prospective clients meet in confidence with either Alice Chera or Ellen Ades, They’re asked to reflect on their past accomplishments in their day-to-day lives.  They work with their Coach to gauge how their abilities might translate into assets in the professional world. The coaches point out that community women are accustomed to hard work both inside and out of the home, as evidenced by their great involvement in charitable work.

Propel Coaches collaborate with their clients to construct a plan of action. They partner with universities, women-only programs and vocational schools that offer certification programs with an end career goal in sight.  The Coach helps the client keep the end in mind and provides support along the way.

Once clients graduate, job placement is not guaranteed but the Coaches and administration do everything possible to make that happen through community networking. Although Propel is a stand-alone organization, they enjoy a symbiotic relationship with organizations like Exceed, which guides women looking to start their own business, and SBH’s Career Services Network, which is instrumental in setting up job interviews.

 Propel Network attempts to place candidates in growing industries – fields that have greater needs than people to fill them. It is a strategic move that increases clients’ odds of landing a job. Propel Coaches continue to support their candidates, up to three months after establishing employment. “Women often say the coaching process, together with learning something new, empowers them,” Ellen says. “These women have drive. Initially, they might not know what steps to take. Once they have a road map and receive the requisite support, they can move forward.”

Propel Network, barely a year old, has already placed its first graduates on career paths, and is witnessing an incredible return on investment. The ratio is at least 6:1. This means that if Propel invests $5,000 on a woman’s education, her first year of employment has the potential to bring in at least $30,000; six times the value of the original investment. Career Candidates are enrolled in vocational schools as well as institutions like Kingsborough Community College, Borough of Manhattan Community College, FIT, and COPE. They are studying to become certified alcohol and substance abuse counselors, culinary arts chefs, paralegals, editors, grant writers, graphic designers, interior designers, social media and marketing experts, sales professionals, medical assistants, junior accountants, cosmetologists, event planners and more. By this time next year, an astonishing 50 women will have graduated from their programs or be enrolled in school. “I’m most proud of our staff, volunteers, and Board Members, who will have helped us place 50 women in the pipeline in such a short time,” says Co-Founder and President Ezra S. Ashkenazi. “Our goal is to have at least 700 women in the workforce within 10 years, producing at least three million dollars annually in salaries, to help offset their family’s expenses. We have to catch up with America and create more dual income families.” 

Because of Propel Network, women are doing what they love with the necessary professional guidance and education supporting them. By extension, they shoulder some of their family’s financial burden. Propel knows that a husband’s support, as well as extended family support, is essential to a woman’s success.

Propel Network is not a charity; it’s a not-for-profit organization that routinely makes investments of time, energy, and money in those they believe have the potential to better their lives. Often the clients in question are driven and self-motivated, passionate with a thirst for knowledge. Such was the case with the following four women, all of whom found success through Propel Network.

Ellen tells the story of Mira Mokae, a divorced single mother of three. She had an eyebrow business and had cultivated a loyal following, but she wanted to develop her business’s potential. “Mira was persistent,” says Ellen. “I could tell she has what it takes to go the whole distance. She enrolled in school and earned her certificate in a cutting edge technology. She took that training and is running with it.” Mira is now a licensed micro-blading 3D technician. Her craft involves a new Japanese technique for shaping and filling in eyebrows with a semi-permanent pigment that lasts for up to two years. She’s the only one in the vicinity familiar with this art form and enjoys a steady clientele while working out of Raffi’s Hair Salon on Avenue U in Brooklyn. This new level of success has empowered her to do more for her children and for herself.

Norma Amkie, another of Ellen’s clients, had an unfulfilled dream to work in a particular field. As a student at F.I.T. earning an Associate’s Degree in Display and Exhibit Design, Norma took an event planning class taught by Propel’s own Rebecca Harary and fell in love with the subject. She knew that was what she wanted to do for a living but, as so often happens, she got married, began having children, and found that her time was taken up completely. She put this dream on hold for many years, but never forgot it. This summer, after going to Propel’s Summer Symposium, her dream was reignited by all the motivational speakers. She thought to herself, maybe this is my time.

It was Ellen who helped Norma find the necessary certification course and encouraged her to complete the work on a schedule. Of course, Norma had another champion, her former teacher, Rebecca, who was all the while watching from the sidelines. “Norma is a natural in the field of event planning,” says Rebecca, “and I am so proud of her!” After 270 hours of study, Norma has earned a Certificate in Event Planning from the New York Institute of Art and Design. Soon, she will begin working and realize her long-cherished dream of planning celebratory occasions!

Kim Stavrach, a third Propel client, also had a dream – to attend college. A longtime volunteer for Sephardic Bikur Holim, she hoped to become a social worker. But after spending fifteen years as a real estate agent and raising four children, she just could not see herself enduring a four-year program. Inspired by the work SAFE has been doing for our community, especially the youth, she entered the field of alcohol and substance abuse counseling. Through Propel Network, she enrolled in a twelve-month certification program offered by Kingsborough College and became a Career Candidate.

Occasionally, Kim thought of quitting, as she struggled to balance the demanding coursework with the needs of her family – but two people ensured that she did not. “Ellen would say, when I thought about pushing a class or two off toward the fall, ‘Think about the outcome! Think of how proud you’re going to be of yourself and how proud your family is going to be of you! Kim, you can do this!” Her other supporter is a fellow Propel client named Betty Penias, who is pursuing the very same program. The two formed an invaluable friendship, commiserating together and pulling each other toward the finish line.

Kim is currently doing an internship at Coney Island Hospital’s outpatient substance abuse clinic. Come summer, she will graduate and take her New York State licensing exam. She hopes that by becoming a public speaker educated in the ills of various addictions, she can have a positive effect on the community’s youth.

“I very much believe that women are strong, that we can do anything and that we can make things happen,” says Kim. “I think Propel is a great organization. In today’s economy, we all need to pitch in financially.” Many husbands, groomed to be breadwinners, can use a helping hand. There are amenities for our children that need to be purchased, credit card debt that needs to be eliminated, and who can forget those insurmountable tuition statements? Giving a woman the power to be part of a dual income household eases so much of that stress, as her earnings serve as a financial salve where they are most badly needed. 

Additionally, an indelible example is set for children – living proof that men and women alike can go out at any age and achieve their potential. Kim says, “I may have had the motivation, but I for sure would not have finished without Propel and a Coach like Ellen encouraging me. “

Esther Anzaroot, coached by Alice Chera, is another client who is grateful to Propel. Esther had a gluten-free mazza business already underway. She had a customer base but felt something was missing – she was not formally trained as a cook. For Esther, it was not enough to be a self-proclaimed foodie, or to have a passion to serve people with food sensitivities. She wanted to be able to cook knowledgably, while implementing expertise and strategy. She wanted to go to culinary arts school, so that she could take that insight back into her kitchen and use it for her customers’ benefit. She wanted to achieve credibility.

“Esther is sharp; she’s a doer,” says her Coach, Alice, “but she knew her chances of success would increase if she had certification. She loves to learn and believes in the educational process. She’s creating her own success and taking a hand in carving her path.” Esther’s career journey epitomizes Propel’s “empowerment through education” model. She now has two certificates, one in Culinary Arts and one in ServSafe. This last certificate is especially important to her, because safety is such a concern for her customers, many of whom have Celiac Disease. “If it wasn’t for Propel, I would’ve never gotten to do this,” says Esther.  I didn’t just gain knowledge – I met like-minded people.”

With these stories as inspiration, Propel Network puts out the call to the rest of our community women. “Propel Network is here to make you the best you can be,” says President Ezra S. Ashkenazi.Coach Ellen Ades adds, “We’re looking for women who are willing to work hard, women who are looking to seize some measure of control in their own ability to earn.” Alice chimes in, “We’re here to invest in and collaborate with women who are ready to make a change in their lives, who are ready to go out and become earners.” That one word, “earners,” has such forward momentum, such intrinsic power. Indeed, it may be just the word to “propel” our women into a new future, one in which they enhance their lives for the better. It is Propel Network’s hope that the stories of these four career women, coupled with an understanding of their own carefully thought out vision, will encourage others to seek out their services and earn a living.

To inquire about The Propel Network in detail, email info@thepropelnetwork.org or call the office at 646-494-0822 and make an appointment to visit with one of their life coaches.