The Russell Berrie Foundation is working with Nefesh B’Nefesh to encourage aliyah to Israel’s northern region. This would shore up the area’s Jewish presence and stimulate economic growth, said Angelica Berrie, president of the Berrie Foundation.
The $10 million project, called “Go North,” is specifically geared toward Anglo olim and offers incentives to move to the region. Organizers hope to bring more than 1,000 new immigrants to the North within the next few years. “The North is such a beautiful place,” said Berrie in a telephone interview with The Jewish Standard. “It has a lot of potential to become something in terms of culture, art, nature – delivering a [high] quality of life for Israelis.” But, she added, “the economic reality does not allow people who want to make it real to make the move.”
Go North will provide substantial financial grants and other economic incentives to olim who choose to move to the North, Berrie said.
The program has two options. The first, called the “garin” or seed group, offers immigrants seven pre-selected communities with cores of English-speaking residents. In addition, the track provides onsite support from Nefesh B’Nefesh, schools with Hebrew-teaching support, employment assistance, financial incentives, social programming throughout the year, and “buddy” families.
The second option provides opportunities for olim looking to integrate directly into a community. The support offered is not as extensive but it does include regional workshops, social programs, and employment assistance, among other benefits. The cities in this track include Nahariya, UJA Federation of Northern New Jersey’s sister city, which Berrie has visited several times.
She is hopeful that the program will attract people who can create new economic opportunities, which will then encourage others to move to the area.
“If they can help generate business or opportunities that will create employment, we felt that’s the most payback,” she said.
The partnership with Nefesh B’Nefesh is especially important to the program’s success because of the organization’s experience with new immigrants, Berrie said.
“They know how to not just bring them but keep them,” she said. “The retention rate is important. The initiative in the North needs a partnership like ours to lead it.”
“Nefesh B’Nefesh is honored to be partnering with the Russell Berrie Foundation on this essential program, which will infuse a vibrancy and energy into the North – socially, demographically, and economically,” said Rabbi Yehoshua Fass, executive director of Nefesh B’Nefesh, in a statement. “We are excited to be a part of the first concerted effort in Israel’s history to bring Anglo olim to the North and thereby build a stronger Israel.”
Many look toward Israel’s Negev region as the area most in need of development, while the northern areas have been associated with the cosmopolitan region of Tel Aviv. But, Berrie pointed out, some of the towns in the region her program is targeting don’t even have movie theaters. While the foundation does fund projects in the Negev, including improvement and education projects within unrecognized Bedouin villages, it has limited resources, and developing the North is critical, Berrie said.
“It’s just been neglected in the whole basket of priorities,” she said. “This is a country where every need is urgent.”
The program has been well received by those in charge of Israel’s aliyah agenda. Yaakov Edery, minister of the Development of the Negev and Galilee, called absorbing olim from Western countries into Israel’s North “a top priority.”
“The ministry will do all that is in its power to ensure these pioneer olim will integrate and acclimate in the best possible way,” he said in a statement.
For more information on the program, visit www.nbn.org.il/gonorth.