On July 7, 232 North American Jews made aliya on a charter flight sponsored by
Nefesh B’Nefesh and the Jewish Agency. While its safe to assume that all of the
immigrants will be missed back in their hometowns, former New Yorkers Yonit and
Yosef (Joe) Serkin, should be especially missed in Manhattan.
making aliya, Yonit, 27, worked for nine years as an adviser to New York City
Mayor Michael Bloomberg, helping craft municipal politics at the very highest
level in America’s largest city. She started volunteering at the mayor’s office
as a college freshman studying international relations at Johns Hopkins
University, and four years ago began working professionally as deputy chief of
staff for economic development. She developed strategic communication plans for
major redevelopments throughout the city, including the construction of the new
Yankee stadium, the redevelopment of ground zero and the refurbishing of Shea
After Serkin arrived, Bloomberg expressed his regret at losing a
trusted adviser, but expressed confidence that Israel and Sirkin would
from her move.
“Yonit started working in politics and government at the
same time I did,” Bloomberg said. “Back then, I was a firsttime
all of the so-called experts said had no chance of winning, and Yonit
student at my alma mater who thought we could prove them wrong. Luckily,
made a lot fewer mistakes that summer than I did.
Nine years later, she
had become one of my closest economic development advisers at city hall –
charge of reimagining entire swaths of our city and implementing the
make that happen. If she were leaving us for any other reason than
I’d be upset. But Israel, like New York City, is constantly being
innovative and ambitious new arrivals, and I am sure what she can do
in the Five Boroughs will be virtually limitless.”
On the plane, Yonit
said her time in city hall “has given me a good perspective on how
can be and the benefits of bringing a private sector approach to
She added that she is interested in working in strategic communications
Israel, either in the government or private sector.
YOSEF “JOE” Serkin,
28, will be missed by the residents of Harlem, where he spent three and a
years as a police officer in the New York Police Department’s 28th
When he was in college at Brandeis University, Serkin began
working in emergency medical services with the local fire department.
said that after two years in EMS, “the next logical step” was to go into
police department, which he said offers greater training and
Serkin said that in EMS, “there are a limited number of
roles you can play” and that he began looking at the police department,
“I wanted to explore more options and see what else I could do; so I
get more exposure to the police department and see what it’s all
“I always joked that Joe was possibly the only yeshiva and
Brandeis University grad police officer wandering around Harlem,” Yonit
Joe worked as a patrol officer initially, before he and his partner
formed a specialized team that focused on narcotics and violence
an at times dicey neighborhood. “We don’t say high-crime neighborhood,
“busy precinct”; it has a high volume of 911 calls.”
Joe said that he
would consider the prospect of working in law enforcement here, but not
“It’s a very writing and reading intensive job, and I
don’t think my Hebrew is there yet. Also I’ve already been a police
I’m looking to expand on that.” Serkin added that it isn’t just a matter
low pay police receive here, but also the fact that with his experience
English, there may be better opportunities out there. He did, however,
he would consider working for an international crimes division of the
Police, which would draw on his English and his experience tracking down
fugitives in New York.
In the meantime, he’ll return to school, starting
studies in counterterrorism and homeland security at the IDC in Herzliya
fall. He said he hopes to continue with his training and mix
Israel with his career.
AHEAD OF their marriage nearly two years ago, the
couple managed to be written up in the weddings and celebrations section
New York Times
, where they described how they were fixed-up by
their parents, a
rare success story for the Jewish mothers dating service.
first 10 minutes of their first date, they told one another that they
making aliya one day, realizing that they had that in common.
new immigrant couples, the Serkins won’t be alone here. Yonit’s family
aliya in 1984 and lived in Haifa until 1991. She still has extended
Joe on the other hand is just the latest Serkin to make aliya.
His father came last summer, and one of his sisters came here in
Another sister is married to an Israeli and lives here as well.
percent of us live here now”, he said, with Yonit adding that the Nefesh
B’Nefesh flight was the fourth such flight for a member of Joe’s
The Serkins said that their decision to make aliya wasn’t spurred
by religion or any sort of reason to leave America, rather they saw a
life for themselves here.
Both Yonit and Joe said they feel this is a
great place for children to grow up, and presents a number of unique
that come along with being a Jewish state.
Following the couple’s
disembarkation, Nefesh B’Nefesh vice president Erez Halfon welcomed the
and the other 230 immigrants to their new home.
“It has been a great
honor for us to assist new olim like Yonit [and Joe] Serkin and the
230 North American Jews who arrived on board this summer’s first
flight organized by Nefesh B’Nefesh and the Jewish Agency,” he said.
olim, together with the 5,000 North American and British Jews we are
move to Israel this year, bring a wealth of talent and experience to
impacting on our economy and culture and infusing renewed Zionistic
energy into Israeli society. ” Said Yonit: “I always wanted to come back
adult and make my life here.
This was always part of a plan, and it was
important to be with somebody who is interested in making aliya.”