Nefesh B'Nefesh: Aliyah during and after COVID 19

Arutz Sheva speaks to Nefesh B'Nefesh's Marc Rosenberg about how the pandemic has changed aliyah.

Yoni Kempinski ,

The Olim are here
The Olim are here
Shachar Azran

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The pandemic has brought with it an “unprecedented” surge in Jews contacting Nefesh B’Nefesh about making aliyah.

Marc Rosenberg, Nefesh B’Nefesh Vice President of Diaspora Partnership, in an exclusive interview with Arutz Sheva, said that when the world began shutting down last March at the start of the pandemic, six weeks later they began to received a flood of phone calls, emails, meeting requests sand applications from interested Jews.

The amazing increase was approximately 200 percent higher than in normal times.

“It was a really big challenge for the organization,” he said.

Up until today, those statistics have remained relatively stable, with the pandemic-era increase fluctuating between 170 and 200 percent compared to pre-pandemic levels.

Rosenberg believes that COVID-19 caused a “recalibration” in people’s lives, where people stop and begin to think of their longterm goals and plans and where immigrating to Israel falls in those plans in the short term, whereas in the past making aliyah might have been a longterm dream.

He called COVID “10 years of change in one (year).”

He said that the pandemic has greatly sped up the process of people deciding it’s time to make aliyah. Especially with the multitude of people whose jobs have moved online, allowing them to relocate to another country relatively easily, without having to disrupt their career or seek new employment.

In the past, he saw a trend where about 10 percent of new olim – “outliers” – would continue to work in their old jobs, working remotely in American hours, flying back to the US or Canada occasionally for important meetings.

Since April 2020, remote work has “opened up horizons for people.”

Interest in making aliyah has been “through the roof” now that many careers have become portable.

While international travel during the pandemic has become difficult, Nefesh B’Nefesh has made sure to arrange for one to several planes each week so olim could still make the journey.

Rosenberg said that they help new arrivals navigate the complex COVID world, whether it be setting up the appropriate PCR tests before journeying to Israel or making sure all the paper work is in order to make the process “as smooth as possible.”

While the process of paperwork can get frustrating – he termed it “very nitty gritty” – they are right alongside people in the pre-aliyah stages for all the help they need.

On the subject of vaccinations, he explained that being vaccinated against COVID helps the process to get out of quarantine. But if someone is not vaccinated, that will not deny their aliyah, they are still eligible under the Law of Return. They would then have to quarantine for 10 days upon arrival in Israel.

Nefesh B’Nefesh has seen the pandemic as an opportunity to improve the way it delivers its pre-aliyah programming. Where once, Rosenberg would travel from North American city to city speaking to groups of 15 or 20 people, he can now speak to niche groups of 200 at a time using streamed live events that are also accessible after the fact.

Now they can speak in online meetings to parents concerned about making aliyah with children with severe allergies or adults worried about how to bring their elderly parents with them.

Their aliyah advisors are always there for discussions and to help individuals build plans and get their questions answered.

“Aliyah is all about expectation,” he said. “Great expectations about Israel but also honest expectations.”

He mentioned that they make sure to help pre-aliyah with all the paperwork and to get a sense of a person’s timeline, which makes a huge difference.

“As people move forward with their aliyah plans, we have a special advisor that’s there to help them through the hurdles.”

Post-aliyah, they also are there to help them as arriving in Israel can be “overwhelming.”

“It’s important to be there to answer their questions,” he said.

A frequent question these days is what is it like getting out of quarantine. They make sure to answer so that olim feel confident in the process.

As pandemic restrictions lift, Nefesh B’Nefesh is looking forward to social programming outside for olim so they can “begin to meet each other.”

They will be having a camp this summer for new olim so kids can be in an English-based environment to help them integrate.

Rosenberg said that there is nothing like seeing a group of Jews making aliyah land in Israel at the airport.

“It’s breathtaking,” he said. “It makes you so appreciative that we are a small part of this…. Speaking on behalf of the employees at Nefesh B’Nefesh, it’s a privilege to be a small part of the new Olim starting their new life in Israel.”

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