Gov't, JAFI look to boost aliya from FSU with NIS 32m. plan
Number of new immigrants from FSU expected to increase by the end of this year due to the economic crisis.
By RUTH EGLASH
Aliya from the former Soviet Union (FSU) should get a boost in the coming months after the Immigrant Absorption Ministry and the Jewish Agency for Israel (JAFI) announced on Sunday a NIS 32 million aid package for immigrants arriving from there.
With the number of new immigrants from the FSU expected to increase by the end of this year due to the economic crisis, the new initiative is aimed at providing them with additional financial aid on top of the standard absorption basket of benefits.
Speaking at a press conference in Jerusalem to announce the launch of the program, Immigrant Absorption Minister Sofa Landver said it was "an emergency response to the changing economic climate.
"We understand that there has to be a change in our approach to the absorption of new immigrants," said the minister. "And we believe that the future of aliya starts with good absorption programs; this in turn will hopefully encourage many more new immigrants to come to Israel."
JAFI Chairman Natan Sharansky, who was also present at Sunday's press conference, said the initiative expressed one of the main aims of the State of Israel and JAFI, which is, "to help Jews and their families come to Israel, especially during times of crisis.
"We hope this will give new immigrants the emotional and economic peace of mind, at least for the first year after their arrival, which is so important to allow them to learn Hebrew and find employment, both of which are keys to a successful aliya," he said.
With half the NIS 32m. coming from the government via the Immigrant Absorption Ministry and the other half being contributed by JAFI, new immigrants from the FSU will receive a financial grant for apartment rental of up to NIS 2,000 per month for a family for the first year, and NIS 1,000 for an individual.
Families will also get a one-time gift of NIS 3,400 per family; the amount for individuals was not specified.
Aimed at immigrants aged 18-55, in its initial phase it will be restricted to a total of 850 families and 200 individuals.
"Of course any monetary assistance being given to new immigrants is very welcome," Marina Zamsky, head of the Forum for Immigrant Families in the North, told The Jerusalem Post on Sunday. "However, this also needs to be accompanied with improved information and personal guidance for new immigrants."
According to Zamsky, the current wave of olim from the FSU fare less well with the direct absorption approach and would be much better off living first in an absorption center or some other communal arrangement.
"Today many of those who are arriving here come from weaker socioeconomic backgrounds," she pointed out. "Giving them additional money will only mean that they are more susceptible to con men and other kinds of cheats. The government needs to look at how to change the system to properly help these people."
A spokesman for JAFI, which runs a wide range of programs for Jewish communities in the FSU, said there has been a slight rise in the number of new immigrants arriving from the region.
The agency expects the new program to encourage even more people to seize the opportunity to make aliya, as the economic situation in their home countries deteriorates even further.
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