In response to the impressive numbers of olim from the Northern New Jersey area, Nefesh B’Nefesh selected a local venue for its March 10 Mega Event. The familiar corridors of the Glenpointe Marriott Hotel were transformed for a day into the portals of Israel. Even the revolving doors at the entrance were covered top to bottom with huge posters displaying scenes of bustling Israeli cities. Along the periphery of the main ballroom, tables with colorful brochures and often sweet treats offered prospective olim virtually all of the information needed for their aliyah process, including shippers, lawyers and accountants, money-transfer companies and wealth-management organizations. Information abounded about educational opportunities including specifically focused ulpanim, specialized high schools for the children of olim, higher education opportunities throughout the country and even professional schools. In addition, numerous stations offered housing information from rentals to ownership, from new constructions to second-hand units. New communities such as Kiryat Gat and Asael seemed to attract much attention by the attendees.
The left-hand area of the corridor was designated as “Medex.” Within this area, seminars and personal meetings were arranged for medical professionals looking to continue their specialties in Israel. Significant pre-aliyah processing took place such as reviewing licenses and diplomas and even filling out preliminary requisite forms.
Within the hallway to the right of the main corridor was a series of ballrooms named for well-known streets in Israel including Allenby, Dizengoff, Hayarkon, Jaffa and King George.
These areas served as classrooms for the ongoing seminars that began at 10 a.m. and continued until 4 p.m. These well-presented seminars included oleh rights and benefits, choosing a community, buying or renting a home, landing a job in Israel, exploring education preschool through grade eight, navigating higher education, and understanding the IDF service, among others. Specific seminars targeting the increasing population of retirees included short- and long-term healthcare, taxes, banking and pensions. The presenters were available to the attendees after the seminars for personal inquiries and specific information.
At one point during the afternoon, a plenary session took place in the center of the ballroom. The first to address the crowd was Rabbi Yehoshua Fass, co-Founder and executive director of Nefesh B’Nefesh, a face well-recognized by a majority of the attendees. He enthusiastically shared, “Nefesh B’Nefesh is constantly striving to create accessible ways for potential olim to explore their options and take those additional steps toward fulfilling their aliyah dreams. By bringing the Mega Event to New Jersey we were excited to have reached even more local aliyah-minded individuals.’”
Danny Altar, world chairman of Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael (KKL), which partners with Nefesh B’Nefesh in revitalizing aliyah from North America, spoke to the crowd about the synergy between aliyah and the Israeli population in creating a more balanced demographic that will strengthen the fabric of Israeli society. He was excited to unveil KKL’s new “Project Israel 2040,” which is aimed at bringing one million new citizens to Israel’s south and a half million new residents to the north. He shared, “In the coming 20 years, KKL plans to transform the Negev and Galilee into high-tech centers at an international level, attracting a strong and varied population from a wide range of professions. The presence of the incredible young men and women at this aliyah event attests to their desire to be part of the State of Israel and take part in realizing the great challenge of Zionism in the coming decades.”
Other dignitaries in attendance at the Mega Event included Consul General Dani Dayan, who remembers vividly his aliyah from what he thought was the busiest metropolis of Buenos Aires to what has truly become one of the world’s greatest meccas of innovation, Tel Aviv. Amnon Ben-Ami, director-general of KKL; Russell Robinson, CEO of JNF; and Ariel Mishal, director general of the Negev and Galilee Development Ministry, were in attendance.as well.
Hearing from three of the hundreds of local Teaneckers at the event was a testimony to the day. Judi Resnick, who serves as the office manager at Congregation Beth Aaron and provides administrative services for Congregation Shaare Tefillah, is well on her way to aliyah, which she projected will take place in December. She looks forward to being close to her son and his family in Ginot Shomron and to continue freelancing in communications for nonprofits. She credits Nefesh B’Nefesh with assisting her in the approval process, documentation and for providing a great deal of useful information about taxes, social security and budgeting. Two very valuable Facebook groups to which Nefesh B’Nefesh directed her have provided practical information that was shared by people like herself who are in the process. She highly recommended “Living Financially Smarter” and “Making Aliyah this Year.” At the event itself, Resnick connected with old and new friends and picked up lots of brochures about movers.
Leah Herzog, co-director of Israel Guidance and Instructor of Tanach at Ma’ayanot High School, will be making aliyah along with husband, Rabbi Avi Herzog, this coming June. They will be joining their daughter, who has just completed her service as a lone soldier. For Leah, this aliyah is the culmination of a dream that began during her first trip to Israel in 1981. “Life happened,” but hopefully they are headed to close friends in Givat Ze’ev and hope to re-invent themselves upon arrival. Leah shared that she found Nefesh B’Nefesh very helpful in helping her and her husband parley their professional skills to new fields of employment. The specific information about healthcare was especially appreciated, as were recommendations of accountants specializing in American olim.
Among the myriad of young couples in attendance were the Ausublels, Elana and Yoni, parents of four ranging in age from 10 to 18 months. Upon aliyah, they will be re-connecting with siblings and even a grandfather who has lived in Israel for the past 20 years. They have chosen to live in Ramat Shiloh, a suburb of Beit Shemesh, where their children are already registered for school. They are hoping to continue working in their professions, Elana as a social worker and Yoni as a psychologist. They were very grateful for the opportunity they were given at the Mega Event through the MedEx sessions and personnel to begin the process of their licensing and to learn about the offerings in their fields through the Nefesh B’Nefesh job board. They have also joined a WhatsApp group with residents of Ramat Shiloh that has resulted in their making many new friends prior to their arrival this summer.
Nefesh B’Nefesh co-founder Fass told the audience that the New Jersey event attracted over 3,000 registrants, the largest for any Mega Event so far. From the palpable excitement in the air, it was certainly one of the most successful.
By Pearl Markovitz