Not even the stabbing attacks or the boycott on Israeli influenced the American Jews who arrived Sunday for Nefesh B’Nefesh’s aliyah event. The clear message that came from conversations with them was identical: we are not afraid.
The huge event held in Manhattan is the biggest aliyah event that Nefesh B'Nefesh conducts every year, usually drawing over a thousand people from all age groups. This year a record number of attendees was seen, with more than 1,300 people, an increase of 30 percent from last year,
“I am not afraid to come to Israel because of the stabbing," said Ari Bornstein, 24. "Things also happen in New York, and the distance from my family and the security situation do not scare me. I just want to be in Israel."
The Manhattan event is the opening salvo in a series of aliyah fairs in North America: in Los Angeles, Florida, Toronto, Montreal, Chicago, Baltimore, and Washington DC. The event was planned with the aid of the Ministry of Immigrant Absorption, the Jewish National Fund, the Jewish Agency, and JNF-USA.
Stalls were dedicated to a number of different elements to help begin the process of immigration to Israel from the United States. The stalls covered topics such as finding a job, settling in the Negev and the Galilee, IDF recruitment, employment, insurance, mortgages and more.
And if you are wondering why a young man with a high-tech dream job wants to make aliyah just to continue working in the Israeli branch of his company, here's what Bornstein says: “Israel is my home and it is important for me to be there and to contribute.
"True, my career here is amazing, but I am sure that I will have an amazing career ahead of me in Israel. I'm going to work with start-ups in Israel, and help them break onto the global stage. One of the reasons I am coming to Israel is so that I can influence that field.”
The most important thing: Employment
This year, Sigal Shaltiel-Halevy, the director general of the Ministry of the Development of the Negev and Galilee, arrived at the event where she announced special benefit plans for those who immigrate to those areas, complementing the programs “Go North "and “Go South" operated by Nefesh B’Nefesh. These benefits include aid for apartment retals and help in finding employment.
Visitors were divided into three tracks: Healthcare professionals, retirees, and young people, who received legal advice and and were introduced to an employment agency. This year the organization brought young immigrants as examples of successful aliyah stories.
Zev Gershinsky, vice president of Nefesh B’Nefesh, said "the most important aspect of the conference was to give potential immigrants the confidence that he or she can make the move. One of the innovations is that half of the staff of Nefesh B’Nefesh is here to meet visitors one-on-one, particularly regarding employment .
"Our motto is to take one step towards aliyah. You do not have to change your life with a bang. If you ever thought about Israel as a destination, we ask that you come and hear what we have to say."
5,000 lone soldiers a year
Rabbi Yehoshua Fass, founder and CEO of Nefesh B’Nefesh, said "the fair in New York, and the conferences that we will hold allnext week throughout North America, indicate the great, still-hidden potential for aliyah to Israel from North America.
"Every year during this time, we get to meet thousands of American Jews wishing to take a major step and rebuild their lives in the country. We received the opportunity to help each and every one of them find their way to make their Zionist dream into reality and translate that into personal, professional and familial milestones, at the end of which we will get to see them setting up a home in Israel."
Nefesh B’Nefesh was established in 2002. It has been involved in bringing over 45,000 immigrants to Israel from North America. About 5,000 immigrants enlisted in the IDF as a result of its efforts, and about 3,800 immigrants settled in Israel's "periphery".