Healthcare professionals gathered at the Marriott Hotel in Teaneck, New Jersey, recently with their diplomas and specialization certificates and presented them to Health Ministry officials in a significant stride toward aliyah: getting their license converted.
MedEx, a two-day event organized by Nefesh B’Nefesh alongside the Aliyah and Integration Ministry, the Health Ministry, the Jewish Agency for Israel, Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael-Jewish National Fund and the Jewish National Fund-USA hosted 350 healthcare professionals from 15 states who are contemplating aliyah.
The participants had the opportunity to convert their medical license on the spot, interview for work so they can secure a job before landing in Israel and meet with representatives of the health funds and hospitals to gain a better understanding of Israel’s healthcare system.
Noah Zucker, a surgeon at Claxton-Hepburn Medical Center in Ogdensburg, New York, was one of the healthcare professionals laying the groundwork for his new life in Israel.
Zucker, whose wife is Israeli, often visited Israel, and each time he asked himself why he was returning to the US.
“I have such a strong connection to the land, and I feel most comfortable while I’m there,” Zucker told The Jerusalem Post. “It’s really important to me to be able to link up my professional life and desire to live in Israel.”
“I grew up in the Labor-Zionist youth movement,” he said. “Israel was always part of my dream. It really played a very important part in my development as a person. Although a lot of the changes in the country have been away from that kibbutz system and social democracy, it still has a lot of the fundamental aspects of society that tends to care for its population in a way you don’t necessarily see in other places. I really think that’s important.”
Zucker graduated from the Ben-Gurion University of the Negev Medical School and volunteered at the Physicians for Human Rights clinic in Tel Aviv. He became enamored with the Start-Up Nation, its medical innovations and its compassionate attitude toward its population.
At MedEx, he was able to get some valuable face time with hospital representatives who will be critical for the networking process once he arrives in Israel. He hopes to make aliyah this year.
“It’s great to have a one-stop shop all in one place,” Zucker said. “That was very challenging. The most difficult part was doing it without Nefesh B’Nefesh’s help. So when they stepped in, it was extremely helpful.”
MedEx is instrumental in helping olim (new immigrants) cut through red tape and in ensuring that highly skilled medical professionals make their way to Israel – something the Jewish state desperately needs, as it is facing an acute personnel shortage in the healthcare industry.
“The pandemic has highlighted in Israel the need for additional qualified medical professionals in all specialties, and we therefore remain committed to creating opportunities for these potential olim to explore their options and minimize the logistical obstacles of the licensing process,” said Rabbi Yehoshua Fass, co-founder and executive director of Nefesh B’Nefesh. “Our MedEx track has proven to be an indispensable element of their aliyah process, and it was exciting for us to once again host this in-person event, especially as we continue to see an increase in aliyah interest by medical professionals from across North America.”
In addition to Fass, attendees at the MedEx event included Development of the Periphery, Negev and Galilee Minister Oded Forer and the ministry’s director-general, Ilan Shochat, Israeli Consul-General in New York Asaf Zamir, Health Ministry Associate Director-General Sefi Mendlovic and MK Idit Silman, former chairwoman of the Knesset Health Committee.
Since its inception, Nefesh B’Nefesh has assisted more than 770 physicians and 2,800 other medical professionals with their aliyah process. Most are now employed in hospitals, health maintenance organizations and the private sector.