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February 12, 2016 / 3 Adar I, 5776

Posts Tagged ‘aliyah’

African-American Converts Make Aliyah to Israel

Sunday, July 19th, 2015

“We will be a part of something so big—it is unthinkable to me,” Tracie Beavers said three-quarters of the way through a nearly 12-hour flight last week.

The Columbus, Ohio, mother of three was on her way to Israel, making aliyah with the support of the Nefesh B’Nefesh (NBN) agency.

Tracie’s journey is an unlikely one that began about a decade ago, peaking in 2013 and triumphing when she boarded the plane to Israel. Tracie and her husband Aaron are both African-American converts to Judaism. Their long-winding path to the Jewish homeland began a generation ago with Aaron Beavers’ father, who “changed his lifestyle” when he discovered Torah, said Tracie.

Aaron’s father infused in him a love of yiddishkeit, though he never converted his wife or children. Aaron Beavers was raised Christian, but nearly two decades later, he came to the same conclusion as his father—that Torah is truth.

In 2009, Aaron and Tracie decided they wanted to be Jewish. In 2013, they completed their conversion. They pro-ceeded converted their oldest children—Anayah, 8, and Gabrielle, 6. Chanan, 2, was born into the Jewish faith.

About a year ago, the family decided the next step was moving to Israel.

“If you believe something, you should do it as much as you possibly can. You should be as close to it as you can,” Aaron Beavers told JNS.org.

The family has moved to Bat Hefer, a community in the Sharon plain, east of the central Israeli city of Netanya. Aaron said he plans to be a plumber. Tracie will continue to stay at home with the children. A former member of the U.S. National Guard, she said she now hopes to volunteer for the Israel Defense Forces.

The members of the Beavers family were just a handful of the 221 diverse faces—all newly minted immigrants in the Jewish state—aboard the NBN charter flight on the El Al airline that took off from New York City’s John F. Ken-nedy International Airport on July 12. It was the 53rd charter flight in NBN’s history. Other organizational partners behind the flight included Israel’s Ministry of Aliyah and Immigrant Absorption, the Jewish Agency for Israel, Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael, and JNF-USA.

NBN’s co-founder, Rabbi Joshua Fass, told the group prior to takeoff, “Returning to Zion is like dreaming. … It is a diverse group of Jews coming together for a common dream.” The other co-founder, Tony Gelbart, said each aliyah flight is as exciting as the next.

“For these olim (immigrants to Israel), it is their first time,” he said.

Aboard the plane were a four-month-old baby and a 90-year-old bubbie, as well as two sets of three-generation families. In total, there were 32 families and 95 children. NBN has helped more than 45,000 olim get to Israel since its founding in 2001.

The 90-year-old bubbie was Sue Friedman, grandmother of Rachel Azaria, a member of the Israeli Knesset for the Kulanu party. Friedman said she has wanted to move to Israel since she left Germany at the age of 13, years before the Nazis annihilated 6 million Jews during the Holocaust. She spent many years raising a family in Riverdale, N.Y., but infused in all of her children a love of the Jewish state. She is being embraced in Israel by 27 great-grandchildren.

“I am ready,” she told JNS.org. Friedman is now residing in an independent living facility in Ra’anana.

While there were mixed emotions in the air as families boarded the flight in New York, leaving loved ones behind in America and feeling unsure of what exactly the future holds in Israel, there was nothing but joy upon landing.

Charter ‘Aliyah’ Flight to Land in Israel Tuesday with 221 New ‘Olim’

Sunday, July 12th, 2015

Minister Ze’ev Elkin will welcome 221 new immigrants from the United States and Canada at Ben Gurion Airport on Tuesday., one year after Operation Protective Edge.

The flight, organized by Nefesh B’Nefesh in cooperation with the Ministry of Aliyah and Immigrant Absorption, the Jewish Agency and JNF-USA, will carry 32 families and 53 singles from 14 states, the District of Columbia and four Canadian provinces.

Among the Olim are 95 children – 49 girls and 46 boys – who are immigrating with their parents. About one-fourth of the Olim arriving on the flight have decided to settle in Israel’s periphery as part of the “Go North and Go South” programs.

During 2015, more than 4,000 new immigrants are expected to make Aliyah from North America, and half of them will arrive ii the summer.

Jewish Agency for Israel Calls for Special Diaspora Conversion Courts

Wednesday, June 24th, 2015

The Board of Governors of The Jewish Agency for Israel is calling for the establishment of special religious courts in the Diaspora to handle conversions outside the State of Israel.

A resolution adopted by an overwhelming majority of the board at its meeting Wednesday (June 24) said that in the absence of such courts, the Agency would send rabbis to assist local communal rabbis in the endeavor.

“In light of The Jewish Agency’s responsibility to help ensure the unity of the Jewish people and in recognition of the existence of many interfaith families in various Jewish communities, The Jewish Agency wishes to facilitate these families’ full integration into the Jewish people via conversion, as well as through the possibility of Aliyah. In the absence of conversion courts able to serve those who wish to convert in many Jewish communities, The Jewish Agency will cooperate with the special conversion courts established for this purpose by sending rabbis to assist local communal rabbis.

“The Jewish Agency will accompany the converts through their process of preparing for Aliyah, for those who choose that option.”

“The Jewish Agency serves the needs of Jewish communities around the world,” said Natan Sharansky, chairman of the Agency.

“This is one of the very real needs voiced by various Jewish communities. The time has come to respond.”

The issue of Jewish conversion both in Israel and abroad is one that is complex, controversial and fiercely debated between individuals as well as communities.

Recently the community leadership position of a major Anglo-Israeli rabbinic figure came under question, it was believed, in part due to the controversy generated over this topic.

Two Communities, One Celebration: Bat Mitzvah Girl Adopts Bnei Menashe Immigrants

Wednesday, June 24th, 2015

Becky Melamed knows how tough it is to be a new immigrant. She arrived in Israel from New York with her family in 2009 when she was just six years old. So, as she was turning 12 and planning her bat mitzvah, she knew she wanted to give something back to other new immigrants who might have it even harder than she did.

Becky’s mother Lisa was friends with Shavei Israel’s director of marketing Laura Ben-David, who had helped the Melamed family with their own aliyah when Laura was working for the aliyah organization Nefesh b’Nefesh. In her new position at Shavei Israel, Laura had posted pictures of her trip to India when she went to assist with last November’s Bnei Menashe aliyah.

Lisa showed the pictures to Becky. “I wonder if there are any Bnei Menashe girls my age?” Becky asked her mother. “Maybe we could share my bat mitzvah with them?”

There were ten Bnei Menahse girls from India who fit the description and who had arrived in Israel at the end of 2014. Becky and Lisa drove up the Kfar Hasidim absorption center to meet the new immigrants.

From that very first meeting, Becky developed a close bond with her peers from so far away. “We brought games – jump rope and Chamesh Avenim,” a popular Israeli pastime played by throwing and picking up five small stones, Lisa recalls. “And we did an art project – we created a tile with their names and a mirror that you can hang on a wall or a door.”

While Becky was tossing stones with some of the Bnei Menashe girls, her mother was interviewing the others so that Becky could give a presentation to her classmates back home about her new Bnei Menashe friends.

Over the course of the next few months, Becky stayed in touch the Bnei Menashe girls in Kfar Hasidim and then as they moved out of the absorption center to their permanent homes in Safed. When the holiday of Purim came, the girls in Becky’s class prepared a Purim kit to deliver to her friends in the north, complete with costumes, groggers (noise makers used during the reading of the Scroll of Esther), candies and brachot (blessings) for each of the girls.

“We drove back up before Purim and gave them mishlochei manot (Purim gifts) and did another art project,” Lisa says.

The two groups also got together in Jerusalem when the Bnei Menashe came to visit the Kotel (the Western Wall) for the first time. “It was wonderful and heartwarming,” Lisa says, “not just for Becky and the girls, but for anyone who was at the Kotel that night. To see 250 Bnei Menashe, singing passionately about Jerusalem in their native language of Kuki – it was incredibly moving.”

Finally, the big day arrived. The Bnei Menashe girls came down from Safed by mini-bus and went straight to Becky’s school where they got to know Becky’s classmates, ate snacks and did another art project together. Then it was off to Becky’s house where the Bnei Menashe girls got all dolled up for the bat mitzvah – with fancy hair do’s and professional makeup.

The bat mitzvah party was held at a nearby restaurant, with dancing and food. Of the 100 guests, 70 were other 12-year-old girls, including the 10 Bnei Menashe. Becky was hoisted up above the crowd on a chair and tossed into the air with a large tablecloth. Had the Bnei Menashe girls ever seen such traditions? Apparently yes, Lisa says. “After the Bnei Menashe get to Israel, many of the couples go through a new chuppah (wedding ceremony) and there’s lots of dancing and fun there. Let’s just say that the Bnei Menashe girls were not timid on the dance floor!”

There was something the girls had not encountered before: American simcha “shtick” – all kinds of wild and crazy paraphernalia meant to enhance the festivities. Pompoms, oversized sunglasses and Hawaiian necklaces are apparently not part of Bnei Menashe celebrations back in India!

The Bnei Menashe girls brought their own modest gifts for Becky. One in particular stood out: a beautiful Indian necklace. A Bnei Menashe girl named Elisheva had brought three such necklaces from India but she’d lost two of them along the way. This was her last one and she gave it to Becky.

The Bnei Menashe girls enjoyed themselves tremendously, but Becky and her mother also received a lot from the experience. “Becky was very sensitive to the fact that the Bnei Menashe girls may not have a lot,” Lisa explains. As a result, “she gained an appreciation for what it’s like to make aliyah without things. We came with a lift and all our furniture and moved into a big house. The Bnei Menashe went straight to an absorption center with just a suitcase. It changed Becky’s idea about what aliyah is. Israel is not just another ‘destination.’ It’s a place people dream of coming to with all of their hearts. Immigrants like the Bnei Menashe identify so much with the Jewish nation; they are part of us. That really strengthened Becky. She admired their courage.”

And yet the girls also had a lot in common. “They both came to a place where they didn’t understand the language and culture,” Lisa says. “It was hard for Becky, going into first grade and not being able to read Hebrew yet.” As a result, although “they came from a very different starting place, we’re all here together.”

At the bat mitzvah party, Becky spoke about the mitzvah (commandment) of living in Israel and how lucky she was to be here. She congratulated the Bnei Menashe girls on their aliyah and called them up individually to give them presents – necklaces with their names on them.

Exhausted, the girls all piled back into the Melamed’s home for a post-party sleepover. In the morning, the Bnei Menashe girls were in for a final surprise: sushi – something none had ever eaten before. But they liked it – especially the spicy green wasabi sauce. “I remember that when we visited them at Kfar Hasidim, we were eating together in the dining room and some of the girls ran back to their rooms to get extra hot sauce to put on their food,” Lisa says. “They really like their spicy food!”

Most of the communication with the Bnei Menashe was done, surprisingly, in English, which is widely taught in India. The Bnei Menashe girls are still at the beginning part of the Hebrew acclimatization.

Lisa Melamed had been dreaming about aliyah ever since she and her husband honeymooned in Israel 17 years ago. Four children later, they finally made aliyah and their family has since grown to include two Sabras (children who were born in Israel).

It is traditional for a bat mitzvah girl to give a portion of any cash gifts she receives to charity and Becky found the perfect recipient – the Bnei Menashe. But not her new friends. Becky participated in a new campaign Shavei Israel launched earlier this month on the website Jewcer to raise money for the next Bnei Menashe aliyah, The first 80 Bnei Menashe in this group arrived in Israel last week, with another 170 due by the end of July.

Shuvu International Friends Raising $1.6 Million in 24 Hours [video]

Monday, June 22nd, 2015

In celebration of Shuvu’s 25th anniversary, three generous donors have pledged to match every dollar donated today, quadrupling every single donation made online

Every donation counts in touching the lives of more and more Israelis, instilling within thousands of families a high level of secular and religious education.

Shuvu has been giving the gold standard of Jewish education in Israel for 25 years. With a network of 67 schools, kindergartens, after-school programs and parent outreach programs, Shuvu provides a dynamic educational and welfare network that reaches thousands of Jewish families each year through high-level academic and Torah study.

Initially founded to provide a much-needed education to children who emigrated from the former Soviet Union, Shuvu’s student population now includes many native Israeli children, new French immigrants and other students from diverse backgrounds.

The success of Shuvu’s programs is immense, with more than 22,000 alumni who have gone on to learn at Israel’s top yeshivas, serve in elite army units and land jobs at many distinguished companies. Shuvu has been lauded for its superior educational offerings, its remarkable Chessed programs, and its impact on Israeli society.

This year alone, Shuvu expanded its outreach and opened 29 new first grade classes in existing schools. Over 1,000 new students joined the Shuvu community.

As Shuvu’s founder Rabbi Avrohom Pam zt’l would always say, “It is beyadeinu – in our own hands!” The future of Jewish education calls upon you to help support Shuvu’s tremendous work. And for one day only, each dollar will quadruple! Today’s the day to begin building the future.

DONATE TODAY and help Shuvu pave the way for a brighter future!

Something UNBELIEVABLE is happening on Monday!

Sunday, June 21st, 2015

In honor of its 25th anniversary, the Shuvu Network of Schools in Israel has announced its largest fundraising campaign ever, to take place IY”H on Monday, June 22 – over a 24-hour period in 4 countries simultaneously!

The Shuvu Network was founded by Rabbi Avraham Pam zt”l in 1990, when the wave of Aliya from the former Soviet Union was at its peak. Rabbi Pam, together with other Jewish leaders, was concerned of the physical and spiritual welfare of these Russian Olim – and their children. They were in need of schools familiar with Russian culture and its high standards of education, and able to provide a basic Jewish education as well. After Russia’s 70 years of communism, many Russian Olim arrived in Israel with absolutely no knowledge of what it means to be a Jew. They had no sense of Jewish identity or Jewish pride. Shuvu aimed to fill this void.

From a mere 2 caravans, Shuvu has since developed into a major educational empire in Israel today, including 67 schools, kindergarten and outreach programs spread out across the country – from Akko up north to Be’er Sheva down south. Shuvu’s thousands of students receive a very high level of general education coupled with Limudei Kodesh, with an emphasis on Middos and Derech Eretz, and many exciting and educational activities throughout the year.

Seeing the unique Chinuch in Shuvu, many native Israelis over the years begged to have their children join the network as well. Today Shuvu can certainly be viewed as a “Kibbutz Galuyot” with children from Russia, America, Ethiopia, Israel – and recently many from Ukraine and France as well. Shuvu also operates many programs for the parents of the students, in order to connect them as well to the beauty of Judaism.

Shuvu is always doing more. This year alone, Shuvu has opened 29 new first grade classes, welcomed over 1,000 new students, and added programs in three of its campuses. With more support, Shuvu can continue inspiring the lives of more Jewish families. Sign up for our newsletter and stay tuned for Monday’s unbelievable news.

Bnei Menashe Olim from India Settle in Golan Heights

Thursday, June 18th, 2015

The Shavei Israel organization brought a group of 78 Bnei Menashe immigrants on Aliyah Thursday from the northeastern Indian state of Manipur, which borders Burma and Bangladesh.

Absorption Minister Zev Elkin greeted the immigrants upon arrival.

The new Olim will settle in Katzrin on the Golan Heights, which was the tribal patrimony of Manasseh in Biblical times.

This is the first time that Shavei Israel is settling a group of Bnei Menashe on the Golan, approximately 2,700 years after their ancestors were exiled from the land.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/breaking-news/bnei-menashe-olim-from-india-settle-in-golan-heights/2015/06/18/

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