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Monday, September 26, 2022
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You could call it the flight from which dreams are made.

To truly appreciate the significance of the recent Nefesh B’Nefesh charter flight to the organization and to the state of Israel, it helps to look at the statistics, the spirit of the departing reception and the stories of a few of the olim.

Charter Flight #63 left JFK airport on Aug. 16, bringing 225 olim to Israel, including 31 families, 99 children, 48 singles, eight doctors and 19 medical professionals, and 40 future lone soldiers. The oldest oleh was 75 and the youngest 2 months. Olim came from 19 states in the United States and Ontario.

Most notably, due to COVID, it was the first charter flight held in over two years. It also brought to Israel the 75,000th oleh assisted by Nefesh B’Nefesh over its 20-year history. The organization estimates that the olim it has brought to Israel have contributed over $4 billion (or 10 billion NIS) to the state in the last 10 years.

Rabbi Josh Fass, co-founder and executive director of Nefesh B’Nefesh, spoke at the departure ceremony at JFK airport and noted that the organization sorely “missed this sight over the past two years.” He noted that 8,000 olim made aliyah during the height of the COVID pandemic and said: “you, like them, are the best of our nation. Many talk about making aliyah, you are living the dream.”

Israel Consul General to New York Ambassador Asaf Zamir greeted all of the departing olim and stated that the experience of addressing this group is “the cherry on top” of all his regular job duties. He wished them a hearty “yasher koach” on beginning life as Israeli citizens.

Other speakers at the departure ceremony were Tony Gelbart, co-founder and chairman of Nefesh B’Nefesh; Rebecca Caspi, senior vice-president, global operations and director general, Jewish Federations of North America-Israel office; and Keren Victor, deputy general manager of sales and marketing of EL AL North America.

At the conclusion of the departure ceremony, the 40 young lone olim who were making aliyah to join the Israeli army were invited to the stage to lead “Hatikvah.” That emotional moment inspired quite a few cell phone photos and a bunch of tears from olim and their families.

It was the stories of individual olim families on the flight, however, that this reporter found particularly moving.

Sara and Dani Resnick lived with their three children (ages 7, 5, and 2) in New Milford. Dani worked as a lawyer and Sara as a science teacher at Na’aleh High School in Teaneck; both plan to work remotely in Israel.
Sara told The Jewish Link: “Aliyah is something we always wanted to do; COVID showed us that we could work remotely so we can do this.” Sara praised Nefesh B’Nefesh for streamlining the documents process of making aliyah and guiding them along the way. “I don’t know how I would’ve done all this without their help.” The Resnicks will be living in Ramat Beit Shemesh. All of their parents—Dena and Saul Kaszovitz of Teaneck and Micky Morgenstern and Jeff Resnick of Woodmere—were there to say goodbye.

Basya and Jonathan Teitelbaum lived in Fair Lawn with their four children. Jonathan was an investment banker and Basya was a speech therapist who worked as a teacher in the Ma’ayanot Learning Center; he will be working in finance and she has a position in Tifereth Seminary in Beit Shemesh.

Asked by The Jewish Link to share what prompted their aliyah, Basya pointed to her experiences on an NCSY Michlelet program in 11th grade, where she heard inspiring Shabbat talks by Rabbi Aryeh Winter about the beauty of Israel; and Jonathan’s passion for making aliyah reignited her interest. Jonathan spoke of his two years at Yeshivat Sha’alvim followed by then working in NCSY’s TJJ Ambassadors Program and touring the land. When he and Basya dated, they identified aliyah as a priority and after they got married, “every single decision we made was through the prism of how it would affect aliyah.”

The couple praised Nefesh B’Nefesh for all of its guidance in the aliyah process. Basya stated: “They were incredibly helpful, especially with a lot of the paperwork and the logistics. We felt supported the whole way. There was always someone to email, Zoom meetings for information and more. They really helped us get things done in the most orderly way.” Basya, Jonathan and their family are moving to Neve Shamir, a neighborhood in Ramat Beit Shemesh.

Zehava and Daniel Stemp and their five young kids were living in Fair Lawn for four years before making aliyah on the NBN charter flight. She told The Jewish Link that she was a sixth-grade Judaic studies teacher at RYNJ and Daniel, a lawyer will continue his job in Israel, while she will help resettle the family, “for now.”

She said that she and Daniel “‘both always had aliyah in our hearts’ but life got busy and the aliyah plan took a backseat; but then a combination of the remote working (due to COVID) and our oldest turning nine really kicked the process into high gear! We felt like if we wanted to try to make this work, now is the time!” She said, “We are both so excited to be the rule, instead of the exception to the rule. Being a Jewish person is the norm there! Our holidays are the norm! Our values will be understood, without having to explain or defend them. We’re excited for every chag there and being fully immersed and surrounded by that holiday.” They are moving to the Neve Shamir neighborhood of Ramat Beit Shemesh Hey.

Others can realize their dreams and start planning their aliyah. To do so with the least stress and best chances for success, contact Nefesh B’Nefesh at www.nbn.org.il.

In a statement to The Jewish Link, Nefesh B’Nefesh added: “Dr. Susan and Robert Grossman from West Orange generously supported Nefesh B’Nefesh through its strategic efforts to develop the Negev and Gali, by sponsoring pioneering olim to Israel’s remote communities and through sponsorship of physician olim to these regions in need. In 2019 Robert chose to partake in the NBN charter aliyah flight farewell ceremony to show support. He was so moved by the experience that he and his wife decided to co-sponsor the most recent charter aliyah flight that brought 225 new olim to build Israel and traveled with the olim on this momentous journey.”


Harry Glazer invites suggestions of other noteworthy developments worth covering. He can be reached at [email protected]

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