John Jay College of Criminal Justice hosted the recent Nefesh B’Nefesh Mega Event and Aliyah Fair on Sunday, March 11. This event marked the tenth anniversary of the organization’s flagship aliyah fairs, with three more to be held in March in Los Angeles, Montreal, and Toronto. The event was co-hosted by Israel’s Ministry of Aliyah and Integration, The Jewish Agency for Israel, Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael and JNF-USA. The open and spacious venue added greatly to the “mega” mission of the program, whose oft-repeated mantra is “We are with you all the way!”
For the past 16 years, Nefesh B’Nefesh (NBN) has dedicated itself to facilitating the aliyah of more than 55,000 olim, both singles and families. They work in tandem with the Israeli government before and after actual aliyah to simplify the aliyah process by reducing the often-confusing bureaucracy. NBN staff members guide olim through the planning phase, mandated paperwork, and eventual welcome to their new communities. According to their brochure: “We clear the path and lay the groundwork for olim to find success and fulfillment in Israel and are here for you every step of the way.”
The lobby of the event center welcomed the participants and guided them to the various registration areas for the multiple sessions to be presented. The first floor hosted representatives of communities throughout Israel who shared the communities’ special flavors and housing opportunities. Among the communities represented were the popular Beit Shemesh and Modiin communities, as well as the newly popular northern community of Karmiel and southern community of Beersheva, and also Yakir in the Shomron. Also on hand were representatives of services available to new olim, ranging from movers, real estate and tax specialists, currency exchange specialists, and insurance professionals.
Sessions scheduled throughout the day were held in rooms set around the periphery of the lobby and first-floor areas. Meaningful discussions by knowledgeable NBN staff focused on topics including oleh benefits and the aliyah process, examining the Israeli healthcare system, taxes in Israel for retirees and empty nesters, the Israel education system, buying and/or renting a property in Israel, and joining the IDF.
A popular session repeated throughout the day dealt with finding employment in Israel. One such session, led by Rachel Berger who serves as NBN’s director of employment for aliyah and olim, shared that NBN is now affiliated with 35,000 Israeli companies and places approximately 20 to 30 olim per month. Berger’s presentation focused on how to leverage what you have to offer to the Israeli marketplace. The oft-asked query of “Do I have to know fluent Hebrew to obtain a job in Israel?” was answered by acknowledging that NBN is the largest English-language source for professional employment in Israel today. Berger suggested strongly that in preparation for the job search, olim should familiarize themselves with the global economy through publications such as Globe, The Market, No Camel, and Kalkalit Magazine. They should also create a one-page resume that specifies what skills they can offer to a company. And without a doubt, they should ramp up their Hebrew skills to as close to as fluent and bilingual as possible. She also noted that the ministries of both Absorption and Economy offer training courses as well as stipends toward courses for up to ten years after aliyah.
A session of key importance and relevance to young professional singles or couples was titled “In or Out of the Anglo Bubble? Community Life for Young Professionals.” Three young staffers for NBN presented their personal experiences of making aliyah after spending their gap year in Israel. The conversation focused on the extent to which a new oleh should remain within a familiar Anglo social community, versus trying to create a wider, Israeli social sphere. The three presenters, now married, attested that when living as singles, upon first making aliyah, they needed to surround themselves with a familiar social community, at least for recreational activities after work. They did credit their work experiences with improving their spoken Hebrew skills and expanding their Israeli friendships. Even now, as married couples, they are always seeking a balance between the two cultures, which is an evolving process that changes periodically as they become more entrenched in Israeli society.
A key component of the event was a full-day medical professionals’ seminar that provided medical practitioners the opportunity to meet with top representatives from the Ministry of Health Licensing Division, the Israel Medical Association, and Israeli health funds. Representatives from nearly every major hospital in Israel were present, and the opportunity to initiate the process of transferring professional licenses to Israel was offered on the spot.
Rabbi Yehoshua Fass, visibly pleased with the success of the day, commented, “Our Mega Aliyah Event, and the additional North American fairs, have proven to be an indispensable element of the aliyah process, no matter where you are in your journey.”
Also present at the mega event was MK Sofa Landver, minister of Aliyah and Integration. She commented, “The New York Mega Aliyah Fair is an important and effective step in encouraging aliyah. In the 70th year since the establishment of the State of Israel, the country continues to fulfill the dream of its founding fathers – to bring all the sons and daughters of the Jewish people to the Holy Land. The Ministry of Aliyah and Integration plays a central role in this mission.”
Visit www.nbn.org.il to learn about all of the Nefesh B’Nefesh services offered to potential olim.
By Pearl Markovitz