Ready to hear the truth about life in Israel? Thousands of Aliyah-minded Jews in Canada and the U.S. are gearing up to hear the inside story first hand. From March 3rd through the 10th, Nefesh B’Nefesh, in conjunction with The Jewish Agency for Israel, Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael, JNF-USA and Israel’s Ministry of Immigrant Absorption will be holding Aliyah Mega Events and Fairs in New York, Baltimore, Washington, Miami, Toronto and Montreal. These programs offer seminars, workshops, personal consultations and networking opportunities. With sessions about higher education for students, job hunting for those already in the workforce and golden year tips for retirees, these mega events are for everyone who wants to hear it like it really is.
Curious about the employment scene for new Olim? Interested in what Israel’s socialized health care system can offer? Eager to buy or rent a home the smart way? Wondering how to find the community that’s right for you? Hoping to meet and network with other people who love Israel as much as you do? This is an opportunity to get real answers, from the NBN seminar staff, representatives from Israel government ministries, health fund representatives and even shippers.
Over 50,000 North American and British Jews have already attended Nefesh B’Nefesh pre-Aliyah seminars. In this era of online research, why are thousands of people still coming to get information in person? “One of the great opportunities at the Aliyah fairs is networking with a large, diverse group of people. You can connect with other Aliyah-minded members of your own community in real time and in person” reflects Marc Rosenberg, Director of the Pre-Aliyah Department at Nefesh B’Nefesh. “You need to meet people, bounce ideas off them, ask questions and test out your fears. These events are intended to be the culmination of the research you’ve been doing till now. We have staff who will be able to address your specific questions and help you build a concrete Aliyah plan. We can propel you forward, by raising your confidence in your ability to make Aliyah, ” he added.
What then, is the most crucial type of confidence-building pre-Aliyah preparation? “It’s really about employment and community,” Rosenberg maintains. “When people come to me, they’re not worried about how they’ll manage if they get all the Jewish holidays off from work in Israel, and they’re not asking how’s the weather. They’re already into the idea of Aliyah and they’ve already visited Israel. What they really want to find out now, is can they make a living here and will they like the schools and the neighbors. These fairs help people develop realistic expectations.” The synthesis of realism and idealism, what these mega events offer is clearly a successful recipe; 97% of all Nefesh B’Nefesh Olim remain in Israel. They knew what to expect and were able to make a smooth homecoming.
“For me personally, coming as a single person with only a few suitcases, the job search information was what I needed most,” new Olah Miriam Anne Gold recalls. A Manhattan native, Gold attended the New York Aliyah mega event last winter and made a quick decision. Nine weeks ago she made Jerusalem her new home. Originally a recruiter for a non-profit, who did professional organizing on the side, Gold is now in the process of making her sideline her main focus, as she launches her own professional organizing business. Has Gold been able to navigate the system and find her way so far? “You know you always hear about Israeli bureaucracy, but I’ve had a great experience with the Ministry of Immigrant Absorption. They’re so warm and positive towards new olim, and they have extensive knowledge.”
So is gathering accurate information the key to making a smooth adjustment to life in Israel? Or is it mostly a matter of who you know? Does it depend on having the right attitude? According to Rosenberg, successful Olim have three vital skills: Networking abilities, Hebrew and flexibility. But what does having flexibility mean? Do all Olim reinvent themselves? “You can reinvent yourself, but not your skills,” Rosenberg clarifies, “so you may need to be flexible and use your same skills in a different setting.” Rosenberg himself has done just that, by applying the skills he acquired from his Master of Education degree to the educational initiatives he now runs, not in a school, but at a non-profit.
Was any aspect of Aliyah tough for this pre-Aliyah educator? “The two hardest parts are being away from family, and not having Sundays. My family would call on a Sunday and I’d be at work.” Maybe this year they’ll all attend the Aliyah mega in their area and then he won’t have to miss them much longer.