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April 19, 2014 / 19 Nisan, 5774
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Posts Tagged ‘olim’

Aliyah Up by 14 Percent in First Three Months of 2014

Sunday, April 13th, 2014

Aliyah to Israel increased by 14 percent from January to the end of March, with the most impressive numbers coming from Russia and France, according to the Central Bureau of Statistics.

Russia led the aliyah number list with 899 new immigrants, followed by France with 802.

One veteran French immigrant told The Jewish Press that despite the flight to Israel from France, plagued by violent anti-Semitism, there is a far greater exodus of Jews to the United States and Canada.

The third largest source of new immigrants so far this year is the United States, from where 203 arrived, and another 23 came from Canada.

The total number of new immigrants for the first three months of this year is 3,623.

Americans in Beit Shemesh Present the Better Side of Haredim

Monday, March 10th, 2014

Amid the buzz surrounding issues of religious-secular tension—such as proposed Israeli legislation to mandate Haredi enlistment in the Israel Defense Forces and a recent rally where hundreds of thousands of people protested the bill—Haredi entrepreneurship in the Jewish state doesn’t receive the attention it deserves.

Critics lament the lack of Haredi integration into both the military and the Israeli workforce, but  Beit Shemesh, located 20 miles west of Jerusalem with a population of 100,000 people, is home to innovators like Rabbi Joel Padowitz, whose ventures have a direct relationship with the Haredi community.

Padowitz, 36, is co-creator of what he believes is a “game-changing” product for Israeli tourism and business called the “Israel App.” Originally from San Diego, Padowitz made aliyah in 2009 and lives in Beit Shemesh with his wife and six children. He teaches Mishnah every day at a men’s kollel in Beit Shemesh, is an avid mountain biker, and is the founder of a Manhattan-based investment bank. He has rabbinical ordination and an MBA from Bar-Ilan University, and he now is now pursuing a BA in social science from Harvard University.

The co-founder and manager of the Israel App is equally eclectic 28-year-old Yaakov Lehman, formerly from Tucson, Ariz., who is married with a newborn child. A part-time rabbinic student and part-time social entrepreneur, he has a BA from the University of California, Santa Barbara in global studies, an MA from the London School of Economics in economic history, and an MA from the University of Vienna in world history. He came to Israel in 2008.

“The reason I founded the Israel App is because people come to Israel and do not get a legitimate or even meaningful presentation of this incredible country,” Padowitz tells JNS.org. “We cater to the majority of tourists who don’t hire human tour guides. We want to give them a way to appreciate more deeply all that Israel has to offer.”

The Israel App, which currently has about 6,000 users, contains GPS-guided tours for any tourist who needs to find sites or hotels or restaurants, a virtual concierge for making reservations, coupons, and background content like an “Israepedia,” a glossary covering a wide variety of historical information. Tourists can use the app without roaming charges as they travel around the country.

When Padowitz and Lehman initiated their project, they began looking for a programming team. They happened upon NetSource and its subsidiary, Concept Creative Technology, a service provider of software development. “We liked the service, the price, and their work environment,” says Lehman.

NetSource’s 48-year-old CEO, Mazal Shirem, is a divorced mother of three who grew up as an Orthodox Jew in Jerusalem, where she lived until the age of 20. After 16 years with Intel and a stint in Munich, Germany, she found a business partner for her new venture whose mission “was to get Orthodox people into the employment market and give them the tools they need to learn the work environment.”

NetSource was launched in 2010 and today employs 200 people—90 percent Haredi women and 5 percent Haredi men—almost all living in Beit Shemesh. According to Shirem, the company operates so that the employees “receive the full respect of their lifestyle, including the on-site kosher kitchen, flexible work hours, and even proper subjects on which they work.”

Tamar, a 26-year-old Haredi mother of a two toddlers, is consulting with Shirem in her office. She started work there a year and a half ago as a secretary and worked her way up to an account manager.

“I really like to work here,” she says. “The girls are very nice and it’s convenient for me to work in this company because I find all the conditions which I need in order for me to go out and do my job in an appropriate environment.”

With Olive Oil, Olim Spread the Light of Torah

Monday, February 24th, 2014

Two olim are taking charge to revitalize one of Israel’s oldest agricultural areas. Combining tzedakah and environmentalism, Nili Abrahams and Rabbi Shmuel Veffer, through their new organization, Shemen LaMeor, are harvesting olives that would otherwise be wasted, creating pure oil to raise money for yeshivas, schools, and food programs for needy families in their community, Yavne’el, and throughout the Lower Galilee.

From the Torah, the phrase “shemen lameor” means “oil that illuminates.” “The whole purpose,” says Abrahams, “is to use the oil to spread light… and light is Torah.”

To highlight the importance of trees, the pair, along with local rabbis and other community members, unveiled the organization this past Tu b’Shvat. The organization will use the area’s surplus olives and boutique kosher olive oil to build relationships within and beyond Israel.

They are also raising awareness about the increasingly dire situation in the region. The Lower Galilee, two hours from Jerusalem, had strong agricultural origins, which still attract many olim. “People love the idea of connection with the land,” says Abrahams, “of a safe haven for the children… a very simple lifestyle.” Yet that agricultural way of life is threatened by many forces.

Twenty minutes from Tiberias, Yavne’el, home to 3,000 residents, “had an incredible heyday of agriculture: tobacco, date palms, olives, citrus,” says Abrahams.

But the older generation of farmers can’t maintain their fields. And, she says, “if farmers can’t afford to keep up their farms… there is a significant number of Arabs waiting to buy up the land.”

According to the latest Israeli Census Bureau statistics, for 2011, the Arab population in northern Israel (not including Haifa) is just over 53 per cent, while Jews make up just under 44 per cent.

The Israeli government and organizations like Nefesh b’Nefesh have been battling to rebuild the Jewish presence in the region since the 1980s. In Dec. 2013, the World Zionist Organization’s Settlement Division announced its intention to build two new towns for 100,000 Jewish residents. At the time, MK Hanna Swaid criticized the move as part of a “demographic war” that is meaningless without “infrastructure improvements and a reduction in the… employment gaps.”

Idyllic in some ways, life in the Lower Galilee can be devastating for families. “Most of the men aren’t home for the week, just for Shabbat. Some travel to Jerusalem, some travel to Bnei Brak… to work, and then come home for Shabbat,” says Abrahams, who has run a bed and breakfast with her husband Arnie since making aliyah to the area from Toronto, Canada two and a half years ago.


Shemen LaMeor will create jobs and reinvigorate the region’s agriculture while preserving its unique character. “Kids here know how to plant, herd sheep, ride horses,” Abrahams says. “They really have a very good feel for the land; they know how to lead a simple life.”

Rabbi Veffer, creator of the KosherLamp, which has changed late-night Shabbat reading for religious families around the world, was Associate Rabbi of Toronto’s The Village Shul Aish HaTorah Learning Centre before returning to Israel nearly four years ago.

Abrahams says they both wanted to help out by tapping into local resources that would otherwise be wasted. “A lot of the olive trees are actually abandoned, not picked, nothing’s done with them.”

“The area is blessed with abundance,” she says. “Everyone’s got citrus and passionfruit and everyone’s got olives… We’re reclaiming the land, reclaiming the olives.”

Rich in Jewish history, the area around Yavne’el is where, according to the Book of Judges, the warrior Deborah led her battle against Canaanite general Sisera. It’s also the site of the Golani tree, the oak tree symbolizing the legendary IDF brigade. Nearby Tiberias is considered the fourth-holiest city in Judaism, where the Jerusalem Talmud was written and the great teacher Maimonides buried.

Shemen LaMeor has built relationships with farmers to secure 1500 dunam (1.5 square kilometres) of land to prepare for its first picking season this fall. They will compensate some farmers with a tax receipt, others with a percentage of the oil for personal use or resale.

Abrahams says the organization welcomes volunteers, seminary and yeshiva students, and other willing groups, who will donate their labour for a morning or afternoon and learn how olives are picked and processed into one of Israel’s purest, most ancient bounties. “We’ll press the oil for them on the spot… it’ll be a great part of their visit to the north.”

Together, they hope to extend the Jewish world’s appreciation for Israel in its entirety. “I see this as a way of going beyond Jerusalem,” says Abrahams. “Every single part of Israel is vital… to our existence.”

“The abundance here is God-given. We don’t want to waste that… so we’re using the abundance for ohr, to spread the light of Torah around the world.” For more information about Shemen LaMeor, visit shemenlameor.org.

Aliyah from the US Down13 Percent in 2013

Monday, December 30th, 2013

Only 2,680 Jews moved to Israel from the United States this past year, an 11 percent decrease from the 3.070 who “made aliyah” in 2012, according to information provided by the Jewish Agency and Ministry for Absorption and immigration.

The number of new olim from Canada was virtually unchanged, with 321 moving to Israeli in 2013, two more than in 2012.

The decline of American olim continues the reversal of an upwards trend in Aliyah that peaked in 2008 and raises questions about the future of American Zionism, if it is defined as packing up and leaving “home” to go home. In 2008, 3,300 Jews moved from the United States and Canada to Israel. The number declined slightly to 3,260 in 2009 and then dropped sharply the following two years to 2,801 and 2,575.

No figures were supplied concerning the breakdown of affiliation, but Jews who identify with Orthodoxy have consistently been the largest group, usually between half and two-thirds of new olim.

Aliyah from other countries this past year generally increased, with the most dramatic rise in France, with the arrival of 3,120 immigrants this year, compared to 1,916 in 2012.

The biggest decrease was registered in Ethiopia, which was expected because of the conclusion of Operation Dove’s Wings

“Every immigrant who arrives in order to make his or her home in Israel fills me with joy and I hope Aliyah continues to increase, “said Immigration Minister Sofa Minister Landver.

Chairman Sharansky: “That 19,200 Jews have chosen to establish their lives in Israel is a concrete expression of Israel’s

According to an analysis of the data, Israel experience programs for French Jewish youth and Aliyah encouragement efforts

Jewish Agency Chairman Natan Sharansky stated, “Israel is the beating heart of the Jewish people. That 19,200 Jews have chosen to establish their lives in Israel is a concrete expression of Israel’s centrality to Jewish life and to Jews around the world. This is an era of Aliyah by choice, rather than Aliyah of rescue.”

Given the assimilation rate of approximately 70 percent in the United States, that statement could easily be argued.

IRS Tax Regulations Prompt Olim to Revoke American Citizenship

Thursday, December 19th, 2013

A get-tough IRS policy on Americans living abroad has encouraged some Americans living abroad, including “olim” in Israel, to revoke their American citizenship, the Globes business newspaper reported.

The United States taxes its citizens’ income even if they have been living abroad for years, and agrees with most banks in the world now expose all of their financial accounts to the IRS and make them liable for heavy dual taxation.

One way to get avoid it is to renounce citizenship, which would preclude the IRS from chasing after people to pay taxes on income that does not come from the United States.

Changes in the Israeli tax code also have given big tax breaks to new immigrants as well as Israelis returning to the country.

“Although it is not clear how widespread this phenomenon is, and what relative importance U.S. citizens who immigrate to Israel place on this aspect among the array of considerations that they take into account in deciding to immigrate to Israel, tax residency is certainly a factor,” according to Israeli lawyers Eli Doron and Eyal Peled.

Should Israel Help Save America’s Jewish Community?

Tuesday, December 17th, 2013

On the list of really difficult dilemmas, this has to be in the top 10. Should the State of Israel, fast becoming the biggest—and certainly the most Jewish identified—Jewish center in the world, make an effort to save the second largest Jewish center from disappearing?

According to an AP report Monday, headlined “Israel reaches out to save US Jewish community,” more than 100 Israeli leaders gathered with Jewish-American counterparts in Jerusalem last month to discuss the “daunting mission” of saving Jewish life in North America.

In my opinion, Israel must invest only in one, narrow, even narrow minded effort: bringing Jews from the West to Israel, before it’s too late. Be the immigration country you’re supposed to be. Instead of spending money on strengthening Jewish identity in countries where such an identity is borderline meaningless—create better incentives for Jews to make Aliyah.

The economic crash is not going away any time soon in the U.S. and Western Europe, even as things look less terrible than they did 5 years ago. Israel should make it its business to entice a million Western Jews to make the move, by offering them a better life in the Jewish State.

Having made the move myself, with my family, only two years ago, I can tell you that besides the great weather and spiritual advantages, Israel also has a robust economy, where an educated Jew can make a future for himself or herself, and a fantastic healthcare system, where no one, but no one is left behind. But Israel should invest in making its system easier for newcomers to navigate, and, most crucially, create attractive housing opportunities across the country.

According to AP, Israel has invested more than $125 million trying to bring young Jews to visit, as a way of strengthening their ties with the Jewish homeland. More than 300,000 young Jews from around the world have been brought over by Birthright, with funding from Israel and Jewish philanthropists.

But studies show that the effect of the trips is usually short termed.

It’s no secret that assimilation and intermarriage are shrinking Jewish American communities at an ever faster pace, the notorious Pew study has found that young American Jews are growing increasingly estranged from Judaism.

Moreover, many American Jews, especially the younger ones, who are mostly socially liberal, have serious doubts about Israel’s security policies. Would they accept help from Israel, which they’re often more likely to boycott?

American Jews who are anti-Israel have reached that position over two or three key issues, all of them born by media distortion and outrageous political hypocrisy: the right of Jews to live in the disputed territories; the right of women to pray at the Kotel wearing talit and tefillin; and, maybe, Israel’s African illegal migrants problems.

“An Israel which doesn’t address these issues is an Israel which in the long run endangers the relationship with world Jewry,” Donniel Hartman told AP. He said Jews who don’t believe Israel shares their liberal values may disconnect from it.

It used to be that U.S. Jews saw themselves as Israel’s lifeline, raising millions of dollars and lobbying government on its behalf. At least that was the common perception. But today Israel is an affluent country, with a thriving economy, a stunningly innovative high tech industry, and the strongest army in the Middle East.

It is also the superior intellectual and religious center of the Jewish world, far exceeding the accomplishment of the U.S. Jewish community. And so, despite the fact that many American Jews aren’t happy with it, Israel is the natural choice when it comes to saving their communities from oblivion.

Seventh Hanukkah Candle to Be Lit in Seven Nations Simultaneously

Monday, December 2nd, 2013

Immigrants to Israel from seven countries will light Hanukkah candles Tuesday night simultaneously with Jews in seven other countries in a ceremony organized by the Ministry of Immigration and Absorption and The Jewish Agency for Israel.

The candle lighting in Israel will take place at the Menachem Begin Heritage Center in Jerusalem, where 300 young olim  from France, Ethiopia, the United States, Yemen, Latvia, Latin America, and the Bnei Menashe community of India will be joined by Jews lighting at the same time in Paris, London, Moscow, Kiev, Tashkent and Budapest.

The event will be broadcast live  here at 3:30 p.m. Israel time (8:30 a.m. EST).

Lone Soldiers and Olim Celebrate “Thanksgivukkah” in Tel Aviv

Thursday, November 28th, 2013

Fifty lone soldiers and over 200 young professional Olim celebrated “Thanksgivukkah” at a festive event organized by Nefesh B’Nefesh and White City Shabbat.

Revelers celebrated the once-in-a-lifetime double holiday of Chanukkah and Thanksgiving at the landmark Goren Synagogue in Tel Aviv with a three-course meal replete with traditional holiday foods including latkes and turkey.

After the meal, Tel Aviv’s deputy mayor Asaf Zamir led the Chanukkah candle-lighting ceremony. This event was also sponsored by the Ministry of Aliyah and Immigrant Absorption, The Jewish Agency for Israel, Keren Kayemeth L’Israel, JNF and the FIDF as a part of Nefesh B’Nefesh’s ongoing social events for its Olim and Lone Soldiers.

As a gesture of showing thanks and in order to promote acts of kindness towards those less fortunate, dinner guests were encouraged to donate lightly worn clothes for the event’s clothing drive.

“We are excited to have teamed up with White City Shabbat on this exceptional holiday event. This was a great opportunity for young professionals and lone soldiers to enjoy a traditional festive meal and express their thanks together with fellow Olim from around the country,” said Benji Davis, Events & Programs Coordinator at Nefesh B’Nefesh.

White City Shabbat is a volunteer-run portal for Jewish life in Tel Aviv that hosts a range of intercommunity events, including its hugely successful monthly Shabbat meals.

As a native Brit, Deborah Danan doesn’t feel that Thanksgivukkah is exclusive for Americans. “The theme of Thanksgiving is anyway inherent to the festival of Chanukkah which all Jews celebrate,” said Danan, who co-directs White City Shabbat together with Eytan White, “And of course, as our tagline states, ‘you don’t have to be American to give thanks!’ People from a broad spectrum of nationalities are coming together to show their gratitude for being able to celebrate this unique holiday in Israel.”

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/breaking-news/lone-soldiers-and-olim-celebrate-thanksgivukkah-in-tel-aviv/2013/11/28/

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