Photo by Eic413 [Public domain], from Wikimedia Commons
Birthright Israel provides trips for Jewish young adults who have never experienced Israel. The program has sent thousands of young men and women to Israel, both to diminish the division between Israel and the Diaspora and to help deepen their personal Jewish identity and connection to the Jewish people. This is a wonderful way to encourage young people to learn about Israel and, perhaps as a result, to consider making Aliyah. But what resources are available to mature adults who decide to make Aliyah? Many of them need financial assistance for the first year or so to supplement their Israeli salary to reestablish themselves after leaving their Canadian home.
NefeshB’Nnefesh provides wonderful services to people considering Aliyah, such as job-searching assistance in Israel, legal advice, and practical pre- and post-Aliyah help with many aspects that affect new olim. But as far as I know, it does not provide any financial assistance to adults who contemplate making Aliyah, such as supplementary income — for the first year or two — in case the job they secure in Israel is insufficient to adequately support them and their family after giving up their life in Canada.
I know from painful personal experience how difficult it can be, financially and otherwise, to make Aliyah. When Keren Kayemeth LeIsreal (the Israeli JNF) learned that, after working for 26 years as CEO with Jewish National Fund in Toronto and Montreal, I was about to make Aliyah, they offered me the post of international fundraising director for worldwide JNF, based in Jerusalem. Which was both good news and bad news. Good news in that I did not have to search for a new job since I had one with an organization I had been working with for many years. B ad news because the salary was a quarter of what I had been earning in Canada. Yes, making Aliyah meant having to take a 75-pecernt reduction in my salary. No typo. My Israel new salary was 25 percent of what I had been earning in Canada.
I hasten to add that I have no regret whatsoever that I moved to Israel at age 52 and lived there for 28 wonderful years. And, it was by no means financial conditions that led me to return to Canada. At 79 and living in Israel alone without a single family member, I decided I could not look forward to my remaining years without any family. Just as I have no regret at having made Aliyah at age 52, so I have no regret in having retuned to Canada at age 79. I never did fully conquer Hebrew, but this very important phrase I did learn:
מה שהיה – היה What was- was!
But what was, doesn’t have to be forever. I suggest that serious consideration be given to an appropriate agency in Canada — perhaps the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs — to undertake to ease the financial implications involved in relocating potential Aliyah candidates from Canada. One idea that occurs me is a 20-year, interest-free loan with a two-year grace period, that is completely forgiven after the olah/oleh has lived in Israel for five years.
Another idea is for CIJA to invite Canadian donors to “Sponsor a Canadian Olah,” providing donors an opportunity to assist Canadians making Aliyah and to develop a personal relationship with new olim, allowing donors to also become supportive is other ways.