American olim came here to help build this country, and we are doing so more than any other sector.
By ZE'EV STUB
In an angry article entitled "Why I'm heading back to the US" gracing the pages of The Jerusalem Post last week, David Teich, clearly frustrated after six years of subpar work experience here, places the blame for his failures fully on the Israeli system. Citing several cultural obstacles he faced, he boldly concludes that its time to leave because "the nation said it doesn't want me" as an immigrant.
Whether his charges were legitimate or not, I'd like to respond with a very different picture of the Anglo oleh experience.
Before I made aliya in June 2000, I heard an observation that would later shape my career path: While we new olim may not have the old-boys network or the strong army ties that many Israelis seem to enjoy, our own immigrant community can be an incredibly powerful source of strength and assistance. Nearly nine years after arriving for good, I am still frequently amazed at how friendly, helpful, and close-knit our "Anglo mafia" can be.
About a year after making aliya, I noted that society here is much more interdependent than in the US, and I started a small on-line group called Janglo to help connect English-speakers seeking jobs, apartments or anything else. Since then, Janglo.net has grown into a full-service on-line community with thousands of users checking in every day. What's made it so successful is not our technology, but the way we've maintained the feeling of an intimate and supportive community even as we connect tens of thousands of people around the country.
Its not only because we feel like "we're all in this together," as some suggest. In large part, American olim came here to help build this country, and we are doing so more than any other sector of society. Whether its volunteering in Sderot and other southern towns when rockets fall, creating support groups for disadvantaged minorities or helping a tourist learn about local job openings in his field, no other ethnic or national group can compare to our zeal for bettering our surroundings. And we haven't even mentioned Nefesh B'Nefesh, AACI, ESRA, Mercaz Hamagshimim, Tehilla and countless other organizations and Web communities dedicated to helping immigrants build successful lives here.
Parenthetically, I believe the English-speaking community is poised to break through the new-immigrant ceiling and start bringing about real changes in national matters. Americans seem to know better than native Israelis how to run a society, and there is a rising trend of aliya among successful, mid-career Americans coming with experience, ideology and financial security. Soon, we'll be causing major shifts in the ways Israelis manage municipalities, service their customers and queue up for lines. A friend once said that if 100,000 Americans made aliya, we'd solve all the country's problems. In 2009, regardless of how yesterday's elections turn out, I think we're ready to start pushing the envelope.
BUT TEICH is going back for professional reasons, not social ones. Given the wide range of challenges, can Anglos really make it here?
The ones I know are thriving, although it doesn't always come easy.
The Talmud stated 1,600 years ago that Israel is only acquired through great difficulty. Every new immigrant, no matter his religious beliefs, experiences this truism, whether its through an unscrupulous landlord or the Interior Ministry's bureaucracy. Many people I've spoken with have terrible experiences before they find their dream jobs here - but they always seem to find it eventually. That's how things work here.
Most of the college-educated immigrants I know have built deeply fulfilling careers in finance, hi-tech, journalism, medicine and nonprofit management with lots of upward mobility. Their salary levels are lower than in the US, but more often than not, they've climbed the corporate ranks faster than they could have in their hometown, while preserving much more time for family life and spiritual pursuits. Some have become bona-fide celebrities: Old yeshiva buddies and college friends now star in comedy clubs and televised talk shows that they created themselves.
Those who aren't as fortunate can rarely place the blame on the Israeli system. Few people who run back the the US during challenging periods find that it solves their problems. One friend went back after five frustrating months of job hunting here, and found a great job in New York - after another 10 months of searching there. As the global financial crisis widens and brings down more companies in the States, the cost-benefit ratio of yerida makes even less sense in 2009.
Instead, we'll see more successful and ambitious olim like Scott Tobin. One of the top venture capital fund managers in the world, Tobin made aliya in August so that he could be part of "the next big thing." He's looking at Israeli technology, but dreams are being realized all over Israel by the people with the vision to seek them.
The writer is the founder and managing director of www.janglo.net, the country's largest on-line community for English speakers.
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