This week we''ve invited Adina Schwartz, Education and Community Advisor at Nefesh B''Nefesh to answer our questions on preparing for aliya.  She works with parents to find the right schools and neighborhoods for their family and guides young adults through their higher education options.  Adina runs workshops, webinars, and one-on-one meetings in North America, England and Israel with potential and new Olim.

Photo: Courtesy Nefesh B''Nefesh

Here''s what she had to say:

1. Why is now a good time to make Aliya? 

Though I made Aliyah over 16 years ago, I still walk through the streets of Israel marveling at this country. Israel has evolved into a State with one of the strongest economies, an excellent health care system, and a plethora of opportunities to be part of   flourishing and dynamic Jewish society.
Who would have dreamed 60 years ago that Israel would become what it is today?

2. What are the major factors that encourage aliya? What makes aliya less appealing from the perspective of a potential oleh?

The major factor that encourages Aliyah is the awareness that you can find a community where you, as an individual or as part of a family, will feel a sense of belonging in all spheres ranging from social life to religious life to aesthetic surrounding. Knowing that there are good employment opportunities and a vibrant economy are also significant factors.

Aliyah is less appealing for a person who finds it difficult to adapt and be flexible. Certainly, Israel is different in many significant ways from North America and the UK, but it also offers many meaningful venues that are hard to come by anywhere else in the world.

3. How do I know if I''m a good candidate for aliya? 

You are a good candidate for Aliyah if you are longing to lead a meaningful and rich Jewish life, to be part of a unique time in Jewish history, and perhaps most importantly, to challenge yourself to actualize your dreams.

4. What is the single most important thing a prospective Oleh can do to prepare him/herself for a successful Aliya?

Research, networking and pilot trips are the best ways to prepare oneself for a successful Aliyah.

5. Are there any shocks and surprises that they should brace themselves for?

Cultural differences in the workplace, health care system, and education can be unsettling for new Olim and even for veteran ones. Learning about the cultural nuances of Israeli society during visits and through networking can help prepare you for the transition; nevertheless experiencing it firsthand can be jarring.
6. Is there anyone who shouldn''t be making Aliya? Someone you might discourage?

A family with teenage children should exercise caution in making Aliyah. The adolescent years can be difficult for it is a stage of life when teens are struggling to create their own identity. Uprooting them from their familiar social and academic surroundings can be quite unsettling. Families who are considering Aliyah with teens should make sure to include the teens in the Aliyah planning. Bring them to Israel prior to Aliyah to check out schools and become familiar with the social scene for their age group.

7. We all—unfortunately—hear about the number of Anglo olim who return to their home countries within a few years. What has Nefesh B’Nefesh done to combat this problem?
Nefesh B’Nefesh has significantly increased the Aliyah retention rate (which is currently at 97%) by helping Olim properly prepare for their Aliyah. Our staff, who as Olim themselves understand the process, frequently travel to major cities all over North America and the UK for 1-2-1 meetings and general and specialized workshops. Moreover, we host webinars on a variety of relevant topics and are available for ongoing personal consultations. We continue to help the Olim throughout their beginning years when the acclimation process is the most difficult.
8. Do you have any additional recommendations, comments, or tips you would like to add and share with potential new olim?

One of the most difficult components of making Aliyah is leaving behind extended family. Though it may be heart wrenching to make that break, thinking about yourself in the context of Jewish history and in the context of the history of your family can make it easier. Moving to Israel changes the course of both histories – it sets in motion a new trajectory for your family, which is a realization of the aspirations of Jews throughout time, and for many people, of the dreams of their parents, grandparents and beyond. You have a golden opportunity!

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