Knapp First-Generation Student Award Recipient: Lia Abuhsira



July 12, 2023

Lia and her safta together in Jerusalem

Throughout my gap year in Israel, I took the train weekly to Jerusalem for Hebrew lessons with my Safta, my grandmother.  

Safta’s family emigrated from Morocco to Israel during World War II, as antisemitic propaganda plagued northern Africa. The political and financial instability of that time meant that university wasn’t an option for my Safta. 

Although Safta’s education happened outside of the classroom, she innately understood the importance of formal education, and always encouraged me to pursue my academic ambitions. Throughout the years,  we would dream together of what I’ll be able to accomplish with a college education, while she tells her neighbors all about how I will conquer New York City in a dark blue blazer and a fresh manicure. Her endless support of my lifelong passion for learning and education have inspired me to give back to her in a similar way: by studying Hebrew together. 

Every week when we sit at her kitchen table to study Hebrew together, my admiration for her grows. With each new word, letter, and step forward, I’ve come to appreciate that life is truly a gift. Each day is an opportunity to learn, to grow, and to honor our freedom. 

In our most recent lesson, I told Safta that I would be attending Fordham University in the fall. She began to cry as she realized that our dreams over the years are becoming reality. We spoke about how I am the first woman from my father’s family to graduate high school, and will now be the first to attend a four-year college. Safta’s journey from Morocco to Israel gave me the opportunity to forge this new path for my family. 

This relationship with my Safta anchors my desire to pursue a college education – not just for myself, but for my Safta, my family, and for the women who will come after me.

Lia is an incoming first-year student at Fordham University.