Rabbi Yehoshua Fass:
Founding Father of Nefesh B’Nefesh Shepherds Over 30,000 New Olim To The Promised Land
By Ken Stephens
Israel's daily professional, social and spiritual challenges hasn't deterred thousands of single, married and retired North American immigrants from making aliyah to the Promised Land via Nefesh B'Nefesh's (NBN) various Aliyah programs. The remarkable success of NBN's programs continues to inspire Rabbi Yehoshua Fass, one of NBN's 'founding fathers', to fulfill the dreams of every potential oleh.
Question: What are some of the special Aliyah themed initiatives that are in the NBN pipeline for 2012?
Rabbi Fass: As we celebrate Nefesh B’Nefesh’s 10th anniversary this year, we are still constantly striving to improve our efforts to provide the most comprehensive assistance and guidance for people making Aliyah from North America and the UK. In addition to increasing programming in North America and having more specialized/ enhanced seminars like the upcoming "Mega Aliyah Fairs" (which will be featured in 5 cities across North America this month), we are expanding our current flagship programs such as 'Go North', and 'Lone Soldier'.
Question: Aliyah is NOT for everyone. Are there instances when Nefesh B’Nefesh has had to discourage people from making the move?
Rabbi Fass: As a major life choice, Aliyah is not something that people usually take lightly. Most often it is the end result of years of planning, soul-searching and the realization of an idealistic passion. Having said that, some prospective Olim (albeit a small minority) have the tendency to overlook some pragmatic issues, and we try to manage their expectations. For example, we often encourage families with teenage children to seriously evaluate the decision and make sure that their teenagers, who already have a strong identity of their own, be extremely involved in Aliyah planning.
Question: Has Israel's on-going 'medical manpower crisis' impacted NBN?
Rabbi Fass: When the issue of Israel’s impending physician shortage was realized a few years ago, the Israeli government and various concerned organizations approached Nefesh B’Nefesh and asked for assistance to increase the number of doctors making Aliyah from the West. We established a special 'Physician Aliyah Fellowship' which provided an incentive program that helped better integrate physicians into the Israeli medical establishment.
I’m happy to say that we have sponsored and facilitated the Aliyah of more than 220 doctors and 650 medical professionals since 2002. In fact, last year Nefesh B’Nefesh brought over 40 doctors on Aliyah who were eagerly absorbed into the Israeli medical system. This is yet further proof of the tangible and vital impact Western Olim make upon Israel.
Question: Much has been written about the "singles" crisis in the Jewish community and last year hundreds made Aliyah. Is NBN a solution? Can the cultural "gap" be bridged between Israelis and N. American singles?
Rabbi Fass: Israel is a melting pot for Jews from around the world and there is no better place for Jewish singles to network and meet like minded people. Over 1,000 North American singles between the ages of 18-35 made Aliyah in the last year alone. Their motivations are varied, ranging from idealism and the desire to explore their Judaism to career opportunities. Of course, there is a very strong social impetus as well. Israel boasts a very vibrant and active community of young professionals, mostly centralized in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, and we strive to help them expand their social networks by creating specialized programming that allows them to meet other Olim and Israelis.
As the influx of young professionals continues and they become part of the local scene, Western values increasingly filter through to Israeli society, thus reducing the cultural “gap”.
Question: What are the biggest challenges ahead and what has given you the most satisfaction during the past year?
Rabbi Fass: As the organization grows, and we continue to help thousands of Olim from different countries, it is a challenge to maintain the same level of personalized service so that each Oleh feels part of Nefesh B’Nefesh’s extended family. We also find ourselves operating in a very dynamic environment as the social, economic and Jewish organizational spheres are constantly evolving. We are therefore constantly adapting and improving the way we provide our services.
It has been extremely rewarding this year to see our 30,000th new Oleh arrive in Israel and join the thousands of others who are helping build a stronger Jewish State by living successful and productive lives here.
For additional information on Nefesh B' Nefesh go to http://www.nbn.org.il/index.php