50% rise in aliyah applications from US, and more expected

Nefesh B'Nefesh and Jewish Agency say they saw the greatest increase in immigrant applications from New York and New Jersey.

NEW ‘OLIM’ wave excitedly after arriving in Israel on a Nefesh B’Nefesh charter flight. (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
NEW ‘OLIM’ wave excitedly after arriving in Israel on a Nefesh B’Nefesh charter flight.
(photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
The number of North Americans who filed applications to immigrate to Israel during April rose 50% compared with the same month last year, Nefesh B’Nefesh reported.
The same increase continued during the first four days of May and in the number of people downloading aliyah application forms, said Nefesh B’Nefesh, which organizes aliyah from the United States and Canada.
The increase in the number of people seeking to immigrate to Israel may be in response to the coronavirus pandemic, which has struck particularly hard in the US, especially in New York and New Jersey, which have large Jewish populations.
The percentage growth of applications from New Jersey increased by 46.5% and the percentage in New York increased by 50% in 2020.
The Jewish Agency, which organizes aliyah in most other countries, expects an increase of some 30% in immigration over the next two years because of the pandemic. It is seeking government assistance to prepare for the influx.
Last week, Jewish Agency officials met with Aliyah and Integration Ministry representatives to discuss the necessary steps. A follow-up meeting is expected to take place next week.
The Jewish Agency said a hotline it set up at the outset of the pandemic to provide assistance for new immigrants has been receiving some 1,000 calls a week. It now wants to formulate a plan to tackle the expected increase in olim.
Jewish communities in the UK, France and the US have been hit badly by the COVID-19 pandemic, and there has been a big spike in new cases in Russia over the last few days.
In 2018, some 37% of new immigrants came from Russia.
In the US, some of the anchors keeping Jews from making aliyah, such as employment and community ties, have been disrupted by the pandemic. That may explain in part the rise in aliyah applications there.
A large majority of the aliyah applications received by Nefesh B’Nefesh have been for immigration in 2020, which is a quicker time line than usual.
Ariel Kandel, head of the Qualita organization for assisting French immigrants in Israel, said some 2,000 French Jews have turned to his organization for help in making aliyah over the last two months.
Qualita usually does not get such requests since it deals primarily with immigration absorption in Israel, he said, adding that the very high number of French Jews who have been infected and died from COVID-19 has led to the spike in requests.
The government should allocate money in its budget to bring more Jews on aliyah and facilitate their absorption, Kandel said.
“Many Jews around the world have suffered or been negatively affected by coronavirus and now want to come to Israel,” he said.
“If we still think that there is a national value in aliyah, we need to provide money for an emergency aliyah,” Kandel said. “Either we are one people or not, and the way to prove it right now is through allocating budgets for this purpose.”
Since the beginning of March, some 1,300 immigrants have arrived in Israel. Nefesh B’Nefesh is bringing 18 olim Tuesday night. They will go directly to quarantine hotels.