Nefesh B’Nefesh flight brings 104 North Americans to Israel
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Nefesh B’Nefesh flight brings 104 North Americans to Israel

New Jersey olim Nicole Zweiter, center, and Kailee Shapiro, right, were among the group who landed in Israel on a Nefesh B’Nefesh aliyah charter flight. (Photos by Shahar Azran)
New Jersey olim Nicole Zweiter, center, and Kailee Shapiro, right, were among the group who landed in Israel on a Nefesh B’Nefesh aliyah charter flight. (Photos by Shahar Azran)

On April 26, a group of 104 new immigrants (olim) from North America landed at Ben Gurion Airport. They were on a specially chartered aliyah flight from New York’s JFK Airport organized by Nefesh B’Nefesh, in cooperation with Israel’s Ministry of Aliyah and Integration, the Jewish Agency for Israel, Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael (KKL), and the Jewish National Fund-USA.

The flight included 28 families, along with 18 singles and 27 retirees. Among them were Arnold and Linda Yagoda, 71, from Englewood, Kailee Shapiro, 22, from Englewood, and Nicole Zweiter, 26, from Teaneck. The new olim came from New Jersey, New York, Ontario, California, Minnesota, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, and Maryland, and have chosen among others, Jerusalem, Tel Aviv-Yafo, Beit Shemesh, Nahariya, Ra’anana, Herzliya, and Natanya as the places to build their new lives in Israel. The oldest oleh is 98 years old, and the youngest is 4 months old. There were 35 people on the flight who are moving to Israel as part of the KKL — Nefesh B’Nefesh Go Beyond program, which provides enhanced aliyah packages and increased services to new olim moving to Israel’s periphery and Jerusalem.

Since last April, more than 3,500 North Americans have made aliyah, 8,100 aliyah applications have been submitted, and more than 17,000 people have gotten in touch with Nefesh B’Nefesh for aliyah information. In addition, since the beginning of the pandemic, Nefesh B’Nefesh expanded its online programming and events in response to the increasing demand for aliyah information and services. Since last March, the organization has hosted a total of 159 online events (in comparison to 27 in 2019) marking a 480 percent increase. About 8,900 unique households attended its online aliyah informational events. In 2019 there were 1,953 participants; that a 350 percent increase. Overall, Nefesh B’Nefesh has recorded a 97 percent increase in aliyah applications submitted to the organization in 2020 versus 2019. It has seen a 30 percent increase of olim in the first quarter of 2021, in comparison to the same period in 2020.

Rabbi Yehoshua Fass, left, Nefesh B’Nefesh’s co-founder and executive director, and MK Pnina Tamano-Shata, Minister of Aliyah and Integration, greet the new olim.

“I am honored and excited to welcome today’s new olim from North America,” the MK, Ms. Tamano-Shata, said. “Despite these challenging times, we are doing our utmost to expedite aliyah from around the world. We will continue to provide the support necessary for new olim in order for them to feel at home from the moment they arrive, in full cooperation with Nefesh B’Nefesh and the Jewish Agency.”

“Since the beginning of the pandemic, despite all the challenges and uncertainty, interest in aliyah has continued to rise,” Rabbi Fass said. “As a result, we have worked harder than ever to overcome the hurdles and prepare for the unexpected as best as we can. Our dedicated staff has been working round the clock to support and help facilitate the aliyah of our olim, who have shown incredible resilience in the face of delayed dreams and continue to inspire us with their commitment to the Zionist dream of living in Israel.”

“I’m excited to welcome our newest Israeli citizens who just arrived from North America,” Isaac Herzog, chairman of the executive of the Jewish Agency, said. “Despite the significant travel restrictions during the pandemic, we’ve succeeded in bringing tens of thousands of Jews home to Israel, proving that nothing can stop aliyah. I wish these latest arrivals every success in building their new lives in Israel.”

This flight was scheduled and planned in full coordination with the Israeli government and in accordance with the guidelines provided by the Ministry of Health. All olim who boarded the flight produced a negative PCR corona virus test and will complete mandatory quarantine in Israel.

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