The original photograph (above) with 13 babies – who are now teenagers – born in Israel in the first year of Nefesh B’Nefesh’s founding and the re-created photo.
(photo credit: JARED BERNSTEIN,SASSON TIRAM)
The first Sabras (native Israeli Jews) born to immigrants who made aliya with Nefesh B’Nefesh (NBN) in 2003 gathered in Jerusalem this month, in tribute to Jewish Agency chairman Natan Sharansky, who is nearing the end of his eight-year term.
NBN, an organization that works in cooperation with the government and is dedicated to revitalizing aliya from North America and the UK, hosted a celebratory breakfast at the David Citadel Hotel, where 14 years ago the group of new immigrants met up, with 13 babies born in Israel in the year following the organization’s first flight, and took a picture with NBN co-founder and executive director Rabbi Yehoshua Fass and Sharansky. They recently re-created that picture, together with the children, who are now teenagers.
Rabbi Fass, who attended the event with his first of four Sabras, said, “It is heartwarming to see how these families have really laid roots and grown since we took the initial group photo back in 2003. It is remarkable to see how each oleh [immigrant] is contributing in their own way to building our country and our nation. Some of the mothers in this group are now grandmothers, their children are learning and working and serving the country and planting roots of their own. The impact and growth of these families is immeasurable.”
Sharansky has been a big supporter of NBN’s work since its founding.
“I was then head of the Yisrael Ba’aliya party at the Knesset,” he said, recalling that the first award handed out by the party was to NBN founders Tony Gelbart and Rabbi Fass. Now to “see their children and grandchildren reminds me that it’s a good investment,” he smiles.
He then stated that the Jewish Agency filled a historic position in the field of aliya and added that it was “so important that private individuals entered the field, and today we see that NBN is an excellent partner.”
He said that private initiatives have the privilege of using a more personal approach and that NBN succeeded in legitimizing aliya in US Jewish communities.
According to Sharansky, there had previously been a negative perception of the Jewish Agency emissaries, visiting US Jewish communities to “take people away” from them.
“But then members of the community themselves started talking about it and today it’s seen as much more legitimate to work both on strengthening the communities and also on aliya – NBN really helped that.”
He also said NBN built communities of immigrants in several areas, such as in the city of Beit Shemesh and the Modi’in area.
Indeed, several of the families at the reunion were from these two locations.
New Jersey native Robin Schreiber and her son Moshe, 13, are residents of Hashmonaim; her second eldest daughter agrees with Sharansky that NBN is a good investment – she is in her second year of national service, working for the organization.
Schreiber says they live in an “Anglo” community and have a half-American, half-Israeli identity. She does volunteer work in her community, as well as for the Jewish Agency.
“I think my family is brave. They had to leave everything to move here – their friends and jobs – it’s pretty hard to move, but after time you gain it all back,” said Moshe.
Moshe is sitting next to Kobe Ben-David, of Neveh Daniel, and the two are clearly fast friends, both enthusiasts of the Minecraft video game, which they play together every day over Skype.
Kobe’s parents, Laura and Lawrence, couldn’t attend the event, but he speaks on their behalf, saying “they made a great decision in making aliya, one which they never regret.”
Rachel Abelow designs digital photo albums and made aliya with her family from Riverdale, New York. She added, “I love living in the land of the Jews and being in my homeland. I moved because this was where I was meant to be.”Published in cooperation iwth Nefesh B'Nefesh