84 Jews from seven countries across South America realized their dreams this week and made Aliyah (immigrated) to Israel with the help of the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews (IFCJ).
The new arrivals came from Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Mexico, Paraguay, and Peru.
For 21-year-old Pedro Guinzberg, who grew up in a small Jewish community in the Argentinian city of Bahía Blanca, the decision to make Israel his home came out of a love for his people and country.
“I made the decision because I feel that as a Jew, I have to live in Israel,” he said, reflecting on the connection with the country he made during his time on a Zionist program in 2020. “I am not looking for better economic conditions or because I want to find a better job, but because I feel a connection to the country that I have never felt in Argentina.”
For others, like Ariel Kessler, 40, and his wife Barbra Bernstein, 39, who lived in Asunción, Paraguay, the motivation came out of the belief that life in Israel would offer them and their four children opportunities for Judaism that they could never have in South America.
“We made the decision a little over a month ago because we want our children to experience a full Jewish life. It is not possible for us in Paraguay to keep kosher, observe Shabbat in a community, or ensure that they get to meet a Jewish partner in the future to start a family. In Israel, they will be able to grow up proud of their Judaism,” Barbara said. The family will begin their time in Israel in the small coastal town of Or Akiva where a program is being set up to welcome new Orthodox families from Latin American countries.
Among the immigrants are also people who have chosen Israel as the place to finish their working years and ease into retirement. Graciela Serrano and her husband Gustavo Gimenez are both professionals who will be seeking continued employment in the healthcare sector and chose to move to the northern town of Karmiel, known for its open green spaces.
“We’re looking forward to starting a new chapter in Israel where we know we can have a better quality of life. We want to spend our last years of working age and our retirement away from the financial crisis and rising crime of Argentina,” they said. They moved together with Gustavo’s 93-year-old mother and the family’s two cats.
Yael Eckstein, President of the IFCJ, stated that “particularly with the many challenges that our world faces today, including financial and logistical obstacles that can make Aliyah to Israel much more difficult, it is very meaningful to be able to witness people from all over the world make this life-changing move.”
“We feel privileged to be able to play our part in facilitating the growth of Aliyah from Latin America and look forward to helping even more people come home to Israel and wish them all a quick, successful and meaningful acclimation,” she added.