Throughout North America last month, hundreds of Jews flocked to hotels and offices to attend career fairs conducted by Nefesh B’Nefesh and the Jewish Agency. In Toronto, New York, Baltimore, and Miami, they came to learn more about their career options if they choose to make aliyah.
According to Mr. Schuchman, Nefesh B’Nefesh not only helps olim learn about the differences between jobs in Israel versus those in North America, but also teaches them how to network.
“A lot of Israeli employers don’t want to hire unless you’re physically there,” said Mr. Schuchman, adding that while some people come to Israel after having secured a job beforehand, others need six to nine months to find work after they have arrived.
Nefesh B’Nefesh encourages all potential olim to travel to Israel on a pilot trip a number of months before making aliyah so that they can go on “informational interviews.”
These “informational interviews” connect potential olim with “employment buddies” who then pass on their CVs to potential employers in Israel.
Once the aliyah process is complete, the olim can then interview with the same people with whom they met on the pilot trip in hopes of advancing their careers in Israel.
Often the potential employers are themselves former olim who have gone through the experience of finding a job in Israel. Other potential employers are with companies in regular contact with Nefesh B’Nefesh. Sometimes potential employers contact Nefesh B’Nefesh directly because they are impressed with the publicity the organization’s chartered flights receive.
Participants at the recent Toronto fair were offered sessions on a wide variety of topics, ranging from job-search strategies in Israel to information on specific fields such as law, education, and hi-tech industries. Also on hand were financial planners, taxation experts, and even representatives from shipping companies and Israel’s health maintenance organizations.
Israeli cities such as Haifa and Jerusalem were also represented at the fair. According to Mr. Schuchman, Israeli cities now allot budgets for the purpose of reaching out to potential olim. Haifa and Jerusalem regularly send senior representatives to Nefesh B’Nefesh events with the goal of marketing their cities to potential future citizens.
In fact, said Smadar Stoller Porat, the Haifa municipality’s project manager for olim from English-speaking countries, her city offers newly arriving olim assistance in almost everything they first need, including finding temporary housing in the heart of the city, enrolling children in schools, and help in finding employment.
Youthful Social Networking
A unique session at the Toronto fair was entitled “Social Networking in Israel” for singles and young professionals. According to Nefesh B’Nefesh, 25 percent of olim from English-speaking countries are younger than their predecessors were, and the number of young people making aliyah is growing.
“They need something different. They need careers, but they also need the social aspect of things,” said Mr. Schuchman.
The session was led by Tel Aviv resident David Matlin, a regional co-coordinator with Nefesh B’Nefesh. “He’s their age and they can identify with him. That’s what we’re all about, actually being able to forge a relationship,” said Mr. Schuchman.
Since 2002, Nefesh B’Nefesh has helped 25,000 individuals from North America and the UK make aliyah. Thousands of others have moved to Israel on their own. According to Mr. Schuchman, the estimated number of olim in 2010 is 5,000, up from 4,500 in 2009.
“As more North American and British olim make successful lives for themselves in Israel, we are noticing it is having a snowball effect on their friends, family, and peers back home,” said Tony Gelbart, co-founder of Nefesh B’Nefesh.
On one of more than a dozen Nefesh B’Nefesh flights last summer, the youngest new resident was five months old; the oldest, Zelda Weiner, was 95. Of the 232 new immigrants (and four dogs) on that flight, 60 were single adults and 27 men and women said they would be volunteering to serve in the IDF. They came from 21 states.
“The first time you sing ‘Hatikva,’ not as a visitor or because you’re going to a school in America, but finally as my national anthem in my country, it’s amazing,” said Yossi Gove, a popular plumber formerly of Passaic.
He said that when he landed last July, he blessed his children to grow, succeed, and multiply. “Where can you do that more than here?” he said.
Elana Frankel, a recently graduate of the University of Maryland, said she had wanted to make aliyah since she was 15. Asked by her parents to wait until she graduated from college, she nevertheless maintained her enthusiasm. For seven years, she said, her phone message asked caller to “leave a message at the beep, call me back, make aliyah.”
30 Years to Get There
It took another passenger on that flight 30 years to fulfill her dream of aliyah. Varda (Wendy) Derovan said that it is “really hard” to be part of the conversation about maintaining a Jewish country if one remains in the US.
“After 120 years, when you go before Hashem and you have to answer ‘Why didn’t I go?’ I don’t what we’re going to say. Very few people have a good answer,” she said.
Like many others who encourage aliyah, Ms. Derovan said an influx of 100,000 American Jews would drastically change Israel’s political situation for the better.
From Western Europe
The Nefesh B’Nefesh olim were joined this year by thousands of others from France, Britain, South Africa, and various countries in South America. At the end of July, 1,000 such olim came in one week on 23 flights.
Upon arriving in Israel, these new citizens received many initial absorption services—from opening bank accounts to signing up for health insurance—at a mini-expo organized by the Jewish Agency. They also received their new Israeli ID cards at a ceremony held at the Western Wall.
Among the Jews making aliyah this year was French businessman Baron Edouard de Rothschild, 53, who took up residence in his Tel Aviv home while maintaining his businesses in France.
By throwing in their lot with the Jews of Israel, these new olim may have included themselves among the world’s happiest people. According to researchers at the Gallup World Poll, who surveyed thousands of respondents in 155 countries between 2005 and 2009, 62 percent of Israelis consider themselves to be “thriving,” making Israelis the 8th happiest people in the world. They tied with Canada, Australia, and Switzerland, and were bested by Denmark (82 percent), Finland (75 percent), Norway (6 percent), Sweden and Netherlands (68 percent each), and Costa Rica and New Zealand (63 percent each).
The US came in at number 14 with 57 percent of its citizens who said they were “thriving.” The United Kingdom ranked 17th with 54 percent who said they were “thriving.”
The poll was based on a number of questions asking people if, in their daily experiences, they felt well rested, respected, free of pain, and intellectually engaged.
Despite Finland’s high ranking, the country has one of the highest suicide rates in the world, and Denmark’s alcohol consumption is among the ten highest in the world. Israel, on the other hand, has one of the world’s lowest suicide rates as well as a high fertility rate, which, some say, is an indication that Israelis are “happy.”
Nefesh B’Nefesh offers four flight options for people making aliyah: aliyah charter flights which operate during the summer out of New York; group aliyah flights in which olim fly together on a regularly scheduled El Al flight; individual flights; and a USAir flight if there is no El Al flight in the area.
“Your aliyah flight is free as a gift from the State of Israel,” explained Mr. Schuchman.
In the next few months, Nefesh B’Nefesh will be hosting aliyah events in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, and Northern New Jersey.
For more information about Nefesh B’Nefesh or to open an aliyah file, visit the Nefesh B’Nefesh website at www.nbn.org.il.
“At a time when Israel is dealing with de-legitimization around the world, it is important to see that our brothers and sisters throughout the Jewish world not only support us, but even choose to join us and make aliyah to Israel,” said Natan Sharansky, the head of the Jewish Agency.
He said the series of flights with new immigrants especially from North America and the UK “expresses, to my joy, the fruitful partnership that exists between the Jewish Agency for Israel and Nefesh B’Nefesh.”