A spike in young professionals interested in making aliyah

The many participants in Nefesh B’Nefesh webinars augur well for an increase in college and young-professional aliyah.

THE PANEL at NBN’s NEXT: Israel Networking Event, this past December in New York. (photo credit: AVISHAI SHACHAR)
THE PANEL at NBN’s NEXT: Israel Networking Event, this past December in New York.
(photo credit: AVISHAI SHACHAR)
‘I’m really excited,” says the voice at the other end of the line, speaking from the East Coast of the United States.
Naomi Javitt from Elizabeth, New Jersey, has a good reason to feel enthusiastic. Javitt, 22, a freshly minted graduate from Cooper Union, is packing for her Nefesh B’Nefesh aliyah flight, which will depart less than 24 hours after our interview.
Javitt received her degree in mechanical engineering in May, and already holds a US patent for a device that she invented which uses multisensory biofeedback to improve the stability of those with peripheral neuropathy.
She typifies the latest wave of professional, highly trained olim headed for Israel’s shores.
“I grew up in a Zionistic home, visited Israel many times, and by the time I graduated high school, I was dead set on making aliyah. It was just a matter of when,” she says, matter-of-factly.
Javitt says that Nefesh B’Nefesh has been extremely helpful in the entire process, from her early preparation two years ago – “I attended a mega event a year or two ago which helped get me ready” – to organizing her flight and staying in touch beforehand.
After arriving in Israel, Javitt will enter the mandatory corona isolation period, but shrugs off the inconvenience, saying that “it’s just another price to pay.” She is optimistic about her future and, with her entrepreneurial bent, is confident that she will soon find employment.
While Javitt began her aliyah process long before corona left its mark, and was able to physically attend pre-aliyah events, Nefesh B’Nefesh, during this time of social distancing, has successfully stayed in contact with prospective olim via an extensive series of webinars offered on Zoom.
In May, the organization produced 10 webinars on a variety of topics, with virtual attendance ranging from 400 to 1,000 registrants. Almost 600 individuals who had never been in contact with the organization joined the webinars. In total, registrants hailed from more than 40 states and provinces.
On June 14, Nefesh B’Nefesh will offer two webinars suitable for young professionals.
The first, titled “Tech Opportunities in Israel,” will be offered at 11 a.m. eastern time, and is organized in partnership with Gvahim, geared toward individuals looking for career opportunities in Israel.
It will feature three prominent figures in Israel’s hi-tech world – Roy Munin, a community entrepreneur in Jerusalem and the CEO and co-founder of Made in JLM, a community that helped increase Jerusalem’s tech start-ups per year and brought billions of dollars in tech investment to the city; Ari Bornstein, the founder of Olim In Tech, a nonprofit dedicated to building and strengthening the network between olim with software development backgrounds and the Israeli tech ecosystem; and Jonni Nieman, program manager at Gvahim Tech Heights, which works with immigrant software engineers and connects them to Israeli companies.
The second webinar that day, which begins at 1 p.m. eastern time, will focus on medical licensing for paramedical professionals, including optometry, pharmacy, laboratory technician, physiotherapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy, audiology, nutrition, chiropractic and podiatry.
On June 17, at 2 p.m. eastern time, Nefesh B’Nefesh will offer a third Zoom webinar, titled “Get Back to Israel.”
ALY ROBINSON, campus engagement manager for Nefesh B’ Nefesh, explains that even though people can’t travel to Israel now, “we want Israel to be on their minds, and once things get back to normal, we want Israel to be their first trip.”
Robinson explains that many students are considering coming to Israel to study or work, due to the unsettled situation in the US.
The webinar will include representatives from Nefesh B’Nefesh, Jewish National Fund, Masa Israel, Onward Israel, IDF/Garin Tzabar, Nachshon project and the Bar-Ilan Experience.
“We know that some people, especially college students and young professionals, aren’t necessarily going to jump into the deep end, without any structure,” says Robinson. There are great ‘soft landing’ opportunities in Israel, she explains, that will allow them to work when they arrive, such as Masa, and become gradually acclimated to life in Israel.
Finally, on June 21, Nefesh B’Nefesh will hold a webinar on master’s programs in Israel for English-speakers. The program begins at 10 a.m. eastern time and is divided into seven different tracks.
Representatives from leading Israeli institutions, such as Tel Aviv University, the Hebrew University, Bar-Ilan, Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya, and Ben-Gurion University will present different options available for master’s degree programs for English-speakers, including business management and economics, humanities, environment and sustainability, diplomacy, public policy and conflict resolution, computers and cyber-tech and materials, chemistry and biology.
Robinson explains that the virtual nature of the webinar, where representatives from each school can speak to participants and answer questions, is more efficient than a physical tour of universities, which would take much more time and effort.
Participants in the Zoom webinars can submit questions during the program to the panelists, All the Zoom webinars will be recorded and will be available for playback on YouTube and the Nefesh B’Nefesh website.
THE LARGE numbers of virtual participants in Nefesh B’Nefesh aliyah webinars augur well for an increase in college and young professional aliyah in the coming months.
Marc Rosenberg, vice president of Diaspora partnerships for Nefesh B’Nefesh, is optimistic about the number of young professionals that will be making aliyah this year. In 2019, 1,523 olim between the ages of 17 and 29 made aliyah, and in April and May of 2019, there were 400 olim in that age group who applied for aliyah. This year, there were over 700 prospective olim who applied in the same two-month time period.
Rosenberg says that the corona crisis in the United States and its aftereffects may lead to greater numbers of college age students and young professionals arriving in Israel this coming year.
“Many people thought that they would work before starting graduate school, and all of a sudden the whole job market and applications for schools both have stopped,” he says. “It’s a dangerous mix for Americans who are very rigid about their degrees and very calculated about their activities and what they do.”
The pandemic has caused major disruptions to people’s planning. As a result, many college students are exploring the possibility of continuing their studies in Israel in the coming academic year.
Israel, he explains, has always been a positive option for young professionals. “The quality of life here is very good, especially for young people, the cost of tuition is reasonable, and the cost of living here is comparable.”
Rosenberg foresees that if college costs in the US do not decrease, and the recovery is slowed, many students will find Israel to be an appealing educational alternative.
Young professionals and college students, he explains, are flexible, and view the disruptions happening in the United States as an opportunity do something different with their lives.
He adds that social media posts emphasize the less restricted lifestyle that Israelis are living today, as opposed to their US counterparts. “When you see that people are out and about in Israel, a different kind of FOMO – ‘fear of missing out’ – kicks in. There is a wondering that ‘perhaps I could be there, with the country’ws great health system.’”
“We are receiving many Zoom calls from people asking about their options in Israel,” says Rosenberg.
Nefesh B’Nefesh’s virtual aliyah webinars provide answers for today’s young professionals interested in learning about their options for work, study, and living in Israel, to ensure that their move to Israel will be more than just virtual.
This article was written in cooperation with Nefesh B’Nefesh and its partners, the Aliyah and Integration Ministry, the Jewish Agency, Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael and JNF-USA.