Since 2002, Nefesh B’Nefesh has been helping streamline the aliyah process for new olim, bringing more than 57,000 new Israeli citizens to the country on over 55 charter and group flights since the organization’s inception. Each summer has seen two full charter flights, one in July and one in August, which together bring approximately 450 new settlers to the Jewish state annually.
This year there were 232 passengers on the July 24 flight and 239 on August 14. The trend has been that New Jerseyans have had greater representation on the August flights. For those who weren’t quite ready for the August 14 flight, there is a group flight leaving on August 22 that will include more than 80 olim, one quarter of those from New Jersey.
The Jewish Link reached out to some of the August 14 charter flight olim prior to their aliyah, to find out what brings New Jerseyans to Israel.
Shalom Azar, 22, from West Orange, graduated from Yeshiva University in May with a degree in computer science and math. He will participate in a data science fellowship program with Israel Tech Challenge, and pursue a data science master’s degree online with the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign. Azar is living in Givat Shmuel where, he said, there are a lot of young Americans.
“I am making aliyah for many reasons,” said Azar. The main reasons are because it’s a mitzvah to move to Israel and I feel a personal obligation to help the Jewish state. Other reasons include the warmer winters, lower tuition costs when I become a parent, the convenience of more kosher food available at restaurants and hotels, and the overall warm feeling of understanding that I am where I’m supposed to be. The only thing making me hesitant about aliyah is making my mother sad that I will be far away, and me personally being far away from my family.”
“The reason why I am making aliyah now is because at this point of my life I will be starting a career and dating. It makes sense for me to build up a network in the location that I intend to be in the long term,” Azar added.
Simcha and Rebecca Davidman of Clifton echoed Azar’s sentiment. The couple made aliyah with their children, Shira, 8; Eliora, 6; Ayelet, 4; and Azarya, under 1. Rebecca, 31, is an occupational therapist with a lot of close family living in Israel. Simcha, 32, is a litigator and will be looking for work either in that field or in the corporate world. They have settled in Ramot B in Yerushalayim.
“When my wife and I got married, we agreed that ideally we’d move to Israel if we could arrange jobs and figure out which community is right for us,” noted Simcha. “Every time we discussed making aliyah, the conversation always ended rather quickly, because even thinking about uprooting our lives seemed like too daunting a task. A year ago, though, we realized that if we waited until everything lined up perfectly we would never move. Our kids were getting older and we had to choose—now or never. We chose now.”
The Davidmans believe Israel is where they belong. “Our plan is to be grateful to live in Israel,” Simcha stated.
Lauren and Zvi Adler made aliyah from Teaneck with their children Kayla, 14; Jonah, 13; and Elan, 9. The family is hoping to “connect more deeply to [our] Yiddishkeit and the Land of Israel,” Lauren said. Zvi, 41, will continue his work as an accountant, and Lauren, 39, will work remotely for The Moriah School. They have settled in the Buchman section of Modiin.
“We are a typical family from Teaneck that has decided it’s time for us to live in our homeland,” Lauren said. “Although we love our life here and are very comfortable, we are seeking to add more meaning to our lives, to give our children a more wholesome experience, to teach our children the true value of giving to society and to connect with our roots on a deeper level.”
She continued, “Why now? Our kids are about to start high school, and when we [thought] about their futures...we realized we wanted something different for them and for their future children. We want to try to provide them with a more rich and meaningful life.”
“While the thought of sending our boys to the IDF is scary, we believe it is our duty to serve medinat Yisrael and, im yirtzeh Hashem, will be so proud when they reach the age to be able to do that,” Lauren concluded.
Shoshana and Ayol Samuels, both 32, are also from Teaneck, and made aliyah with their children Hallel, 3 months; Yair, 2; Ricky, 5; Shlomo, 7; and Yehuda, almost 9. They have been planning aliyah for this summer with Nefesh B’Nefesh since 2008, when Ayol began medical school. Now that Ayol has completed his fellowship they are living in the Galil following their participation in Nefesh B’Nefesh’s Go Beyond Initiative, which assists olim moving to northern and southern Israel and offers them guidance on employment, networking, social life and education.
Aliya Ashfield, 19, of Cherry Hill, has been thinking about joining the IDF since she was 10 years old and will be joining Garin Tzabar.
“Besides being told my entire life that I was destined to make aliyah because of my English name, I always felt that I might end up in Israel,” she said.
Ashfield had applied to colleges as a high school senior, and initially was planning to attend college in the U.S. after her gap year. However, while she was studying in seminary in Israel she decided to pursue her IDF dream first and attend college later.
Danny and Zelda Wildman of Edison have been discussing aliyah since they were married 45 years ago. Danny, 66, recently retired from his position as a senior user experience researcher for Google. Zelda, 63, works in pharmaceuticals.
Caring for their parents and putting their children through yeshiva put off their aliyah dreams, but now that their children are grown and their parents have passed on, they “felt the time had come.” Three of their five children and their spouses, and 13 grandchildren, already live in Israel.
“Since my junior year of college abroad in 1971-72 I have been committed to and dreamed about aliyah,” Danny said. “We missed out on our children growing up as Israelis, but we are watching our grandchildren integrate seamlessly into Israeli society and bring our goals to fruition.”
The Wildmans are currently renting an apartment in the Baka neighborhood of Jerusalem. Once they are acclimated and have completed at least a few months of ulpan they will look to find freelance work.
The couple plans to travel to the U.S. several times a year to spend time with their other two children, and “hope they’ll be able to come see us at least once a year, and maybe eventually they’ll join us,” Danny said.
Talia Balogh, 18, of Fair Lawn, is joining Garin Tzabar and wants to enlist in field intelligence within the army. She will be reuniting with her brother, who already lives in Israel with his wife and two children, as well as a lot of other extended family.
Balogh visited Israel frequently growing up. “By the time I was 9 years old I knew I wanted to live in Israel at some point in my life,” she said. “I loved the warmth, closeness and festivity of the culture. I also felt extremely protective over the nation, its Jewish identity and existence, which is part of what motivated me to enlist in the IDF.”
Mimi and Marvin Schechter of Teaneck are the aunt and uncle of Nefesh B’Nefesh staff member Marc Rosenberg. Their son and his family live in Israel, as well as other close family members. Aliyah has been a lifelong dream for Marvin; however, life circumstances kept the couple from making aliyah until now. Mimi, 64, and Marvin, 68, are recently retired and Marvin would like to work on part-time projects in international business development.
“We’ve been talking about living in Israel since we met 39 years ago but, as they say, life intervenes, and after our most recent ‘five year plan’ (about eight years ago), here we are.
People ask us are we excited, anxious, scared, etc., to which we respond ‘all of the above,’ as we embark on what we hope will be a wonderful adventure and fulfilling new chapter of our lives,” they said. “We are looking forward to drinking in all that Israel has to offer, reconnecting to extended family who live in Israel and contributing to the country professionally or through volunteer opportunities.”
The couple is living in Jerusalem, to be close to their children in Ramat Beit Shemesh, and planning periodic visits to the States to see their other children and grandchildren.
So it seems there is a common theme. Regardless of age, gender or marital status, the consensus seems to be this: Why aliyah? To fulfill a dream of living in Israel. And for all, apparently, the time is now.
This specially chartered flight is being sponsored by Denver, Colorado, local Heidi Rothberg in coordination with Jewish National Fund-USA and facilitated in cooperation with Israel’s Ministry of Aliyah and Integration, The Jewish Agency for Israel, Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael (KKL), JNF-USA and Tzofim-Garin Tzabar.
By Jill Kirsch