(photo credit: Nefesh B'Nefesh)
A senior Jewish Agency for Israel (JAFI) official said Sunday that the agency needed to put more emphasis on absorption programs for new immigrants and to provide them with a "soft landing" after making aliya.
Speaking at one of the opening sessions of JAFI's Board of Governors meeting in Jerusalem, Oded Salomon, director general of the Aliya and Absorption Department, told a joint meeting of the Mobilizing Israeli Society Subcommittee and the Olim Associations Subcommittee that "if we bring someone here from another country we have to do more to allow for them to have a soft landing when they arrive."
Salomon said the best way at the moment to ease the transition into their new homeland was via JAFI's current At Home Together (Babayit Beyahad) program, which matches new olim with veteran and native families throughout the country.
Despite a less than successful year for the program, Salomon and JAFI professional Tsipi Pinkus told the two committees that they felt confident 2007 would see a big improvement even with its limited financial resources.
Pinkus, who presented a review of the previous year and a forecast for 2007, said the At Home Together program was the "best product we have in the field of absorption."
According to the program's promotional material, it offers new immigrants a support system during their initial time in the country and for veteran Israelis or former immigrants it is an opportunity to "assist in the national priority of absorbing new immigrants to become involved in an important community project."
Pinkus said that while 7,000 connections between new and veteran families had been established in the program in the year 2006, the number of connections maintained had fallen compared to 2005, mostly due to JAFI's focus on other projects such as providing employment for Ethiopian immigrants and mobilization efforts during the second Lebanon war.
Several committee members questioned the success of the program if participants did not stay in touch with each other and if the Israeli public was not aware of efforts to involve them in the resettlement of new immigrants.
Caryn Rosen Adelman, chairperson of the joint committee, said analysis of At Home Together had still not made clear whether every new immigrant actually benefitted from such a twinning program and that some new immigrants might need connections to veteran families only at certain times of their absorption process. She said the program, which has a budget of $1 million, should move forward but needed more research.
The program was established in 2003 as a joint project of the Jewish Agency for Israel, the Union of Local Authorities and the Ministry of Immigrant Absorption.