IMMIGRATION AND ABSORPTION Minister Sofa Landver holds up an apron next to Jewish Agency Chairman Natan Sharansky at an event celebrating the initiative’s commencement at the Herods Hotel in Tel Aviv on Tuesday..
(photo credit: JORGE NOVOMINSKI)
When Alexei Plitman arrived in Israel from Russia last November, he at least had one thing guaranteed for him – a job.
Plitman, a 43-year-old native of Chelyabinsk, made aliya just a few months ago, but he’s heading straight for a track that will put him to work in a hotel kitchen within a year.
“I arrived in Israel in November with my wife,” said Plitman. “I had always liked cooking, and I had thought of getting formal education in this field.”
Plitman is part of a new initiative organized by the Jewish Agency, the Immigration and Absorption Ministry, the Economic Ministry and the Tadmor Culinary School in Herzliya. Through the program, 30 recent immigrants from the former Soviet Union will take part in an eight-month program that includes a completely subsidized culinary training course at Tadmor. Upon completion of the course, all the participants will be placed at jobs within the Fattal hotel chain.
The immigrants, who range in age from 25 to their 40s, come from a variety of different professional backgrounds, and most have no prior connection to the culinary world.
The program “embodies the integration and cultural wealth that is so crucial to Israeli society,” Immigration and Absorption Minister Sofa Landver said at the program’s launch at the Herods Hotel in Tel Aviv last week. “Food can bring people together,” she added, “and through food these immigrants can connect to the diverse Israeli culture and bring to Israeli cuisine their own touches from home.”
Jewish Agency Chairman Natan Sharansky said to the participants that “there are a great many cuisines in Israel – Moroccan, Ashkenazi, Persian. I hope that now, with your help, there will also be a Jewish Ukrainian cuisine, which I love most of all because it is what my mother made.”
What makes this program unique is that the participants have a guaranteed job before they arrive in Israel, explained Orly Zuckerman, the Jewish Agency’s director of absorption programs for Western olim.
“Before they even make aliya, we send a team to meet them, interview them and see if they’re suitable for the program,” she said.
“Not everyone is accepted, but for those who are, we guarantee them a job and so they say ‘Okay, I have a job, now I can move to Israel.’” Zuckerman said the Jewish Agency staff look for those who understand the physical demands of the job and are serious about the undertaking.
“They don’t need to have any background in cooking, but we’re checking their abilities to succeed in this framework,” she said.
The program is one of the many under the umbrella of “Project Aliya 2000,” which aims to aid job placement for immigrants to Israel from around the world. There have been past courses for electricians, nurses, teachers and other professions, but this is the first to promise every participant job placement.
“Now the immigrant knows three to four months in advance exactly what his plan is, and that he’ll have a job and around what the size of his paycheck will be,” Zuckerman said. “If they didn’t know they had a job they might not have made aliya.”
Zuckerman added that while the immigrants come from a variety of different fields, many might have skills or experience that don’t transfer well to the Israeli job market.
Before the participants start the culinary training, they take part in an intensive ulpan that prepares them both for the course and for life in an Israeli hotel kitchen.
While Plitman has never worked as a chef before, he had a small company that produced hummus and other prepared dips in Russia.
He isn’t sure of his longterm career goals, but said, “I don’t mean to right now refuse any opportunities. It depends on what kind of education I will get and what kind of experience I will get.”