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20 Lone Soldiers Make Aliyah Today, Fulfilling a Modern-Day Story of Hanukkah

72 Olim landed at Ben Gurion Airport this morning aboard a Nefesh B’Nefesh group Aliyah flight. Amongst the Olim were 20 future Lone Soldiers - ‘present-day Maccabees’

Lod, Israel, 72 new immigrants (Olim) from North America, including 20 soon-to-be IDF Lone Soldiers, landed this morning, December 28, in Israel on a Nefesh B’Nefesh group Aliyah flight, in cooperation with Israel’s Ministry of Aliyah & Immigrant Absorption, the Jewish Agency, Keren Kayemeth Le’Israel, JNF-USA. These young men and women are drafting with the Tzofim-Garin Tzabar program and will serve in the IDF as part of the Nefesh B’Nefesh Lone Soldiers Program. The Nefesh B’Nefesh Lone Soldiers Program, in cooperation with Friends of the IDF (FIDF), cares for all Lone Soldier immigrants during each stage of their service: pre-immigration, pre-recruitment, during active military service, after release from the army, and during adjustment to civilian life.

“During the holiday of Hanukkah we commemorate the miracles and wonders experienced by the Jewish people thousands of years ago during the days of the Maccabees. Today as we welcome these 73 new Olim to Israel, we celebrate our own modern day miracle, Aliyah,” said Rabbi Yehoshua Fass, Co-Founder and Executive Director of Nefesh B’Nefesh. “Tonight, as they go home to light the 5th candle of Hanukkah, the flame of their candles won’t only be symbolizing the victory of light over darkness, it will be symbolizing the light of hope, faith and a promising future that they represent for all of us.”

In addition to the Lone Soldiers, the flight also includes 17 Olim as part of Nefesh B’Nefesh’s Go North and Go South programs, initiatives to invigorate Israel’s periphery communities with idealistic Olim from North America.

“When I chose to leave my privileged life in Brooklyn and to help my country, it seemed like it was perfect timing during Hanukkah. Someone tries and takes away our self-determination, so what do we do? We fight! We're fighters...My heritage has made me proud and stronger, it has taught me to never ever give up,” said Joy Cohen, a 20-year-old Lone Solider from Brooklyn, NY on today’s flight.


Amid Rising Tensions in Ukraine More Jews Seeking to Move to Israel

The Fellowship, which has brought more than 3,200 Jews to Israel, has received 1,700 new inquiries the past month from Ukraine Jews about making aliyah, expects demand to grow if strife continues

KIEV, Ukraine – The International Fellowship of Christians and Jews (The Fellowship), which has helped thousands of Ukraine Jews immigrate to Israel, was flooded with hundreds of phone calls and emails in the past two weeks from Ukraine Jews seeking to immigrate to Israel and expects the demand to grow amid escalating tensions with Russia over Crimea and the eastern Donbass province.

In total, The Fellowship has received more than 1,700 inquiries about aliyah (immigration to Israel) in the past month in Ukraine, where The Fellowship also provides one of the world's poorest Jewish communities with life-saving assistance such as food and medicine.

With the Ukraine situation increasingly unstable, The Fellowship’s office in Kiev has opened six phone lines that are constantly busy, fielding 720 calls in the past month, while staff has received more than 1,000 emails about aliyah. There are an estimated 260,000 Jews still living in Ukraine, and The Fellowship says there are about 5,000 Jews in the disputed Donbass region who are eligible to make aliyah.

Since December 2014, The Fellowship has led a major immigration effort that has brought more than 3,280 Jews on 27 flights from Ukraine to Israel. Ukrainian-Jewish aliyah has become a major part of the Fellowship’s global aliyah initiative enabling Jews facing economic and security threats to move to Israel. In recent months, The Fellowship has helped nearly 4,000 Jews make aliyah, not only from Ukraine but from other countries where Jews face economic and security challenges including Bolivia, Brazil, France, Uruguay, Venezuela and Turkey and other countries.

Because of military checkpoints and attacks, many poor Ukraine Jews in the cities of Donestk and Lunhansk in the Donbass region remain unable to reach Ukraine to collect their already meager monthly state pension of some $40. Tensions have been rising between Ukraine forces and pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine and Crimea since July, and the Jewish community is caught in the middle.

The Fellowship reports that pro-Russian forces have been shelling the disputed eastern province of Donbass, with scores of attacks over the past several days. The Fellowship says local authorities in Donbass detained and jailed a Jewish communal official who also helped The Fellowship administer its local humanitarian programs, before sending the Jewish official west to the Ukraine capital of Kiev.

The rising interest in aliyah among Ukraine’s Jews comes as Ukraine says its forces last week were put on high alert as Russia massed 40,000 troops along the Crimea-Ukraine border, with both sides accusing one another of raising tensions ahead of the 25th anniversary of Ukraine’s independence. Pro-Russian forces annexed Crimea in 2014, in a violent conflict that has cost thousands casualties.

“The plight of the Jewish people in Ukraine is deteriorating,” said Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein, founder and president of The Fellowship. “Our support for them will mean the difference between life and death, whether we’re providing critical aid such as food and medicine or helping those who wish to immigrate to Israel.”


233 North Americans, 75 Lone Soldiers set to move to Israel

233 North Americans will board an El Al Boeing 777 chartered by Nefesh B’Nefesh and immigrate to Israel together from JFK Airport on August 16. The flight is being facilitated in cooperation with Israel’s Ministry of Aliyah & Immigrant Absorption, the Jewish Agency for Israel, Keren Kayemeth Le’Israel (KKL), JNF-USA and Tzofim-Garin Tzabar.

The passengers include 75 young men and women who will become Israeli citizens and volunteer in the Israel Defense Forces (IDF). They are moving to Israel as ‘Lone Soldiers’, youngsters who left their families in the US and Canada to move to Israel and volunteer for the Israeli Army. They will join the over 900 Lone Soldiers from the US, and the 3,000 Lone Soldiers from around the world who are currently serving in the IDF.

The flight’s other passengers include a diverse mix of people from 22 US states and one Canadian province, including 24 families, 78 children and 10 medical professionals. Ages of immigrants range from 3.5 weeks to 85 years old.

With this flight, NBN will celebrate its 50,000th immigrant brought to Israel with the organization, which was founded in 2002.


NY Natives Make Aliyah Today and Will Volunteer for Israeli Army

NEW YORK, An El Al Boeing 777 chartered by Nefesh B’Nefesh departed New York’s JFK International Airport today carrying 232 Olim (new immigrants) from the U.S. and Canada who will begin new lives in the Jewish State. The flight was facilitated in cooperation with Israel’s Ministry of Aliyah & Immigrant Absorption, the Jewish Agency for Israel, Keren Kayemeth Le’Israel, JNF-USA, and Tzofim-Garin Tzabar.

Fifty-nine of the inspiring young men and women on board will volunteer for the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) as ‘lone soldiers’ — young people who left behind their homes, families and friends – in the coming months. They will join the 850 lone soldiers from the U.S., and the 2,800 lone soldiers from around the world, who are currently serving in the IDF. Nefesh B’Nefesh, in cooperation with Friends of the IDF (FIDF), cares for thousands of lone soldiers serving in the IDF through the Lone Soldiers Program, which offers guidance, and support, for all lone soldier immigrants during each stage of their service: pre-immigration, pre-recruitment, during active military service, after release from the army, and during adjustment to civilian life.

The passengers on this special flight included 29 families with their 75 children as well as 9 couples and 86 singles.

Among the Olim who will be making Aliyah today and later volunteering for the IDF are Maya Allon, 17, and Matan Bocarsly, 22, from Yonkers; Samuel Cohen, 19, from Woodmere; Ella Dahan, 19, from Long Beach; Ron Pesahovitz, 21, from Oceanside; Adina Fadis, 21, from Swam Lake; Yuval Hadari, 17, from Harrison; Noa Heller, 18, from Chestnut Ridge; Menachem Friedman, 19, from Suffern; Zoe Vatash, 18, from Sag Harbor; Elizabeth Kantarowitz, 18, from Brooklyn; and Kevin Schechter, 23, Sheina Tolmas, 23, Aron Wander, 22, and Yonatan Broome, 20, from New York City.

Today’s planeload of Olim is the second of two charters, which, along with six group Aliyah flights and Olim arriving independently on a daily basis, will bring over 2,000 Olim making Aliyah through Nefesh B’Nefesh this summer. An estimated 4,000 newcomers from North America are expected in 2015. Since 2002, Nefesh B’Nefesh, together with its partners, has brought 45,000 Olim to Israel from the U.S., Canada and England.

“These brave young men and women who chose to leave the comfort of their homes, and join the thousands of soldiers already serving in the army, are a tremendous source of pride for us and for the people of Israel,” said Nefesh B’Nefesh Co-Founder and Executive Director Rabbi Yehoshua Fass. “It is truly inspiring to see that Jews everywhere, young and old, and from all denominations, are determined to fulfill the dream of building the Jewish State and strengthening the Jewish nation.”

Friends and family saw the Olim off at a departure ceremony at JFK Airport. Notable guests included Spokesperson and Consul for Media Affairs at the Consulate General of Israel in N.Y. Shimon Mercer Wood; Vice President and General Manager of El Al in North and Central America Shmuel Kuzi; Israel Scouts Chairman Eli Ben-Yosef; Jewish Agency for Israel Director of the Eligibility Approval Unit for New Immigrants Jack Corcos; and Nefesh B’Nefesh Co-Founders Rabbi Yehoshua Fass and Tony Gelbart.


1,200 Pack Nefesh B'Nefesh Aliyah Mega Event in NYC

1,200 Pack Nefesh B'Nefesh Aliyah Mega Event in NYC

NEW YORK, Seeking to help potential Olim to Israel make informed choices, Nefesh B’Nefesh (NBN) hosted an Aliyah mega event yesterday in New York City together with The Jewish Agency for Israel, Israel’s Ministry of Aliyah & Immigrant Absorption Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael and JNF-USA.

More than 1,200 people attended the Aliyah Mega Event at the Crowne Plaza Times Square to participate in Aliyah-related seminars and workshops and visit an Israeli vendor marketplace. Israeli professionals from a variety of Aliyah related fields, including shippers, accountants, financial planners, insurance, healthcare, real estate, universities and more, helped prospective Olim advance their Aliyah plans. Real estate developers and agents, Tzofim Garin Tzabar, and The Jewish Agency for Israel also attended the event.

Participants benefited from workshops and seminars on topics such as careers in Israel, financial planning, taxes & budgeting, Israeli healthcare and Aliyah rights and benefits. Representatives of The Jewish Agency for Israel also discussed the process for verifying Aliyah eligibility and the Agency’s programs that help immigrants transition to Israeli life. Nefesh B'Nefesh’s ‘Go North’ and ‘Go South’ programs were specially highlighted.

The New York mega event also featured Israeli Ministry of Health officials, who helped immigrants speed up the medical licensing process by submitting applications for those who plan to move to Israel soon. These officials also offered seminars on licensing procedures in medicine, dentistry, physical therapy, speech therapy, occupational therapy, nursing, nutrition, pharmacology, and more – and provided personal information sessions.

“In addition to the hundreds of students, professionals and retirees attending today’s event, it is impressive seeing so many medical professionals coming from all over North America expressing interest in making Aliyah, said Nefesh B’Nefesh Co-Founder and Executive Director Rabbi Yehoshua Fass. “Our Aliyah Fairs are a beneficial way for those contemplating moving to Israel to hear firsthand from an array of professionals, through tailored employment, social and educational sessions on how to build a plan for creating a successful Aliyah."

To date, more than 50,000 North American and British Jews have attended Nefesh B'Nefesh pre-Aliyah informational seminars throughout the U.S., Canada and the U.K., including tailored programs, events and individual counseling sessions.


The number of French Jews making aliyah could top 7,000 this year

WJC, Despite a rise of 7 % of the immigration to Israel from North America, aliyah from France to Israel this year will be more than double that from the United States, according to figures revealed by the Jewish Agency for Israel in Jerusalem.

Based on the current pace, the number of French Jews moving to Israel could top 7,000 this year, writes the European Jewish Press. So far this year 6,655 Jews arrived from France to Israel, an all-time record, compared with only 3,225 from North America (US and Canada).

France also set a record in 2013, with 3,293 French newcomers. Immigration in the first 11 months of 2014 from France, which has a Jewish community of 500,000-600,000 was more than double the 3,191 people who came to Israel during the whole of 2013 from North America, where over 6 million Jews live. The figure from North America for this year so far is 3,225.

Immigration from France also surpassed by a large margin the 5,105 migrants who came to Israel from Ukraine, a number attributed mostly to the ongoing and deadly fighting between government troops and pro-Russian rebels. Immigration to Israel from France is driven by growing anti-Semitism in the country and economic considerations, but also by French Jewry’s deep attachment to Israel, Zionism and Judaism, writes the European Jewish Press.

France is not the only western European country to see the aliyah numbers increase this year. An increase also was observed in Britain, where the first 11 months of 2014 yielded 573 immigrants compared to 523 during the whole of 2013. Immigration from Italy, which totaled 151 last year, doubled this year, with the economic crisis being seen as the main reason for the growing numbers. Aliyah from South Africa and Australia, which this year totaled 158 and 171 respectively, dropped by 23% and 36% from the 2013 totals.

First sufgania in Israel

Modi’in,  Young new Olim from ages 3-10, who made Aliyah to Israel from the U.S. this past summer with the help of Nefesh B’Nefesh, the Ministry of Aliyah and Immigrant Absorption, The Jewish Agency for Israel and Keren Kayemet L'Israel, celebrated Chanukah at a special Nefesh B’Nefesh gathering in Modi’in. At the event, these young Olim tasted their first Israeli sufgania (jelly donut), played for the first time with ‘Made in Israel’ dreidels that display the words "a great miracle happened here" and not "a great miracle happened there" as it says outside Israel, and enjoyed endless chocolate gelt (coins).

Nefesh B’Nefesh Vice Chairman Erez Halfon said: "Chanukah is a family holiday that spreads its light to Jewish communities around the world. With that said, it is a great joy to celebrate with these new young immigrants as they experience their first Chanukah in Israel, here and not there, as the dreidel says, and to see their impressive and smooth integration into Israeli society."


Israeli President Rivlin Greets Full Jumbo Flight of 338 New Olim from N. America

Among the Olim are 108 young men and women planning to serve in the IDF

Tel Aviv, Despite tensions surrounding the war in Gaza, 338 new Olim (immigrants) from the United States and Canada arrived in Israel this morning on an Aliyah charter flight to Israel. The special Nefesh B’Nefesh flight was organized in cooperation with the Ministry of Aliyah and Immigrant Absorption and Keren Kayemeth Le’Israel, The Jewish Agency for Israel, JNF - USA and Tzofim Garin Tzabar.

Included in the group of Olim were 108 inspiring young men and women who made Aliyah and will be serving in the Israel Defense Forces.

The large group of Olim included 37 families with 107 children. The passenger list was also comprised of 65 Olim moving to Israel’s periphery as part of the Nefesh B’Nefesh and Keren Kayemeth L’Israel Go North and Go South programs. Altogether, the Olim will be settling in every part of Israel, from Ma’alot in the North to Eilat in the South.

The Olim hail from 27 states and three Canadian provinces, from Arizona to Quebec, and range in age from a six-week-old baby to a 93-year-old great-grandparent in a family of four generations making Aliyah together.

As the new immigrants made their first steps on Israeli soil upon arrival, KKL-JNF presented each of them with a personalized certificate announcing that KKL-JNF will plant a “first tree in the homeland of Israel” in their honor, encouraging the development of the Southern communities (attached please find a sample of these certificates).

Said KKL-JNF World Chairman Efi Stenzler: “The fighting spirit which has enabled the Jewish people to survive for thousands of years is not only found among IDF soldiers, but also among the immigrants who chose to come to Israel alone, without their families, at this particular period of time, and join the elite combatant units of the Israel Defense Forces.”

Stenzler added: “As a central partner in this important project, KKL-JNF is proud of the new immigrants and assures them with its support and promise to accompany them throughout their absorption in the Negev and Galilee, in favor of strengthening the Israeli society.”

Minister of Aliyah and Immigrant Absorption, Sofa Landver said “it is heartwarming to see young men and women, who despite these challenging times, are leaving their comfortable lives in the Diaspora to make Aliyah and serve and defend the State of Israel." She added that “the Olim who are continuing to move to Israel are strengthening us all, especially these determined young people who will be joining the IDF in combative and significant roles. You are the symbol of Zionism and the future of the State of Israel.”

“I find it profoundly inspiring that we have a 747 jumbo jet filled to capacity with people from the North American Jewish community making Aliyah, especially at such a challenging time,” said Co-Founder and Executive Director of Nefesh B’Nefesh Yehoshua Fass. “To see that Jews everywhere, young and old, religious and secular, are determined to fulfill the dream of helping to build the Jewish State is truly amazing.” he said.

Chair of The Jewish Agency for Israel, Natan Sharansky said: “That so many Jews from the West are joining us of their own free will is the best answer to those who still try to destroy us. This flight is yet another step in the ingathering of the exiles, and we look forward to welcoming these new Israelis home.”

Among those present at the festive arrival ceremony at Ben Gurion Airport, were: President of Israel, Reuven (Rubi) Rivlin; Minister of Interior, Gideon Saar; Director-General of the Ministry of Aliyah and Immigration Absorption, Mr. Oded Feuer; Chairman of the Executive of The Jewish Agency for Israel, Natan Sharansky; Chairman of the Board of Directors of KKL-JNF, Effie Stenzler; CEO, Jewish National Fund, Russell Robinson; Chairman of the Israel Scouts Tzofim, Mr. Eli Ben-Yosef and Co-Founders of Nefesh B'Nefesh, Rabbi Yehoshua Fass & Tony Gelbart.


World Orthodox Leadership Forum Honors Rabbi Yehoshua Fass for His Achievements in Promoting Aliyah to Israel

Jerusalem, Israel, The World Orthodox Leadership Forum honored Rabbi Yehoshua Fass, co-founder of Nefesh B’Nefesh, yesterday at its annual dinner, which took place at the Hotel Leonardo in Jerusalem. Rabbi Fass was honored for his contributions and commitment to promoting Aliyah to Israel (moving to Israel), and for his efforts in facilitating the absorption of new immigrants to the country. 

Additional honorees at the dinner included, Mr. Zevulun Orlev, former Minister of Welfare and Social Services in Israel, with a lifetime achievement award; and Rabbi Haim Sabato in recognition of his contribution to Jewish Literature.

Also in attendance were former Sephardi Chief Rabbi of Israel Shlomo Amar and Minister of Construction and Housing, Uri Ariel.


NBN’s First Ever “Children’s Aliyah Flight” Arrives With a Record 106 Children Aboard

Gilad Shalit accompanied the 231 North American Olim aboard this summer’s first charter Aliyah flight including the organization’s 35,000th Oleh

Ben Gurion Airport, ElAl flight LY3004 landed this morning at Ben Gurion Airport with 231 new Israeli citizens aboard. Even before they took off, the passengers knew not to expect getting any sleep, as close to 50% of the occupants were children. This is a new record of children arriving on a Nefesh B’Nefesh flight in cooperation with The Jewish Agency for Israel. The 106 young Olim are joining a whopping 989 children who will be making Aliyah throughout 2013 with Nefesh B’Nefesh in cooperation with the Ministry of Immigrant Absorption, The Jewish Agency for Israel, Keren Kayemeth L’Israel and JNF. This is an increase of 20%, compared to 822 children that made Aliyah in 2012.

In anticipation of the arrival, Nefesh B’Nefesh prepared reinforcements to help the parents watch over their children and keep them occupied during the long flight and at the arrival ceremony. Amongst the activities that awaited the children were Aliyah coloring books, games and custom-made t-shirts. Former Israeli IDF captive, Gilad Shalit, also joined the flight as a show of support and appreciation for the thousands of North American Olim who are fulfilling their dream to return to Israel and their contribution to the State of Israel.

Also on board were 41 families, including the 106 children as well as 54 singles - 13 of whom will be joining the IDF. Also of note were the 41 Olim moving to Israel’s periphery as part of the Nefesh B’Nefesh and Keren Kayemeth L’Israel Go North and Go South programs.

“As we welcome our 35,000th Oleh, it is exciting to see so many children amongst the Zionistic modern day pioneers who are helping to build and secure the future of the State of Israel”, said Co-Founder and Chairman of Nefesh B’Nefesh, Tony Gelbart. “This new generation is joining young adults volunteering for the IDF and Olim moving to Israel’s North and South to help strengthen the periphery, to infuse the country with renewed passion and idealism.”

“I am happy to welcome over 100 children who are making Aliyah today through Nefesh B’Nefesh and joining us here in Israel,” said Minister of Immigrant Absorption Sofa Landver. “Aliyah from North America is extremely important and makes us stronger as a nation.”

The Chairman of The Jewish Agency for Israel, Natan Sharansky said: “The Jewish Agency, which brings tens of thousands of Olim from across the globe sees Nefesh B’Nefesh as a dedicated partner in this important work. The children and their parents who are arriving on this Olim flight from North America represent the future of Israel and every one of them strengthens Israeli society.”

Hundreds of families and friends as well as Israeli dignitaries gathered at Ben Gurion Airport to welcome the country’s newest citizens at the arrival ceremony. Those present included: Minister of Immigrant Absorption Sofa Landver; Member of the House Committee and the Committee for Immigration, Absorption and Diaspora Affairs MK Dov Lipman; Chairman of the Jewish Agency Natan Sharansky; World Chairman of KKL-JNF, Effie Stenzler; Vice President Global Sales of El Al, Offer Gat; Vice Chairman of Nefesh B’Nefesh Erez Halfon and Co-Founders of Nefesh B’Nefesh Rabbi Yehoshua Fass and Tony Gelbart.

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