Jewish Agency mentoring program for olim gets new TA headquarters

'Babait Beyachad' (At Home Together) will house social activities, cultural events, and support meetings for the over 20,000 families in program.

French Olim 224.88 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
French Olim 224.88
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
The Jewish Agency for Israel will celebrate the opening of a new immigrant support center in the heart of Tel Aviv with a ceremony at the new location Tuesday evening. The center, Babait Beyachad (At Home Together), will house social activities, cultural events, and support meetings for the over 20,000 families in the Babait Beyachad program, which brings together new olim with veteran Israeli mentors for friendship and advice in a casual setting. "Usually, the participants would just meet informally," said Jewish Agency spokesman Alex Selsky. "We connect them and they go forward. Now, they can have a place to meet, and a place for all of them together. If tomorrow, we wanted to bring in a professional on how to search for a good apartment or how to search for a job, now we have a place to do it for 50 people." Selsky said Tel Aviv was the best location for the center because it would be easily approachable for a large population of new immigrants who move just outside the city. The central urban location is also conducive to hosting guest lecturers and performing artists, he said. "This is a center for young olim in Tel Aviv," said Selsky. "It will be an active center. We really hope we can bring in some concerts, lectures, and informal activities, as well as meetings with professionals in various fields." Selsky added that the center is for existing Babait Beyachad participants as well as other new immigrants and anyone else interested in the programming. The building, located at 99 Rehov Hashmonaim, formerly served as an information center for the Jewish Agency, and will continue to play that role in a smaller capacity. Babait Beyachad was established to help new olim forge personal connections as they make the transition into Israeli society. The program matches immigrant families with veteran Israeli families who have volunteered to act as friends and mentors to Israel's newest residents. "The relationship is based on real friendship," said Selsky. "The connection is real, on the basis of informal connection. It lets [new immigrants] have someone who can give them knowledge on how to behave in certain situations. It's someone you can call in the evening to tell you how to deal with it if you had a car accident and don't know how your insurance works, or how to handle a job interview. These kinds of relationships are much more efficient than any kind of relationship with a formal organization. It's much more open. People more easily ask questions that they might not ask a clerk in an absorption center." Many of the mentoring Israeli families are themselves former immigrants, Selsky added, though there are many Israel-born volunteers as well. "This country is made up of third or fourth or fifth generation olim," Selsky said. "So in a way you can't say anyone wasn't once an immigrant. But a lot of olim who made aliya 10 years ago or 15 years ago have already applied to be mentors. They are still olim themselves but they now feel stable enough to come help others." The opening ceremony will host the tri-annual meeting of the Board of Governors of the Jewish Agency, which typically meets in Jerusalem. The committee members scheduled to speak at the ceremony represent Jewish communities from around the world. The Immigrant Absorption Minister Sofa Landver will also speak at the event. The ceremony is free and open to the public.