“I want to be a part of something greater than myself,” says 24-year-old Ron Nahshon of Washington Heights, who is preparing to move to Israel this summer with his wife Sara.
Born in Israel, Nahshon’s parents (who made aliyah themselves) left Israel when he was only 1. Raised in the Conservative movement, he describes his upbringing as “Zionist” and says his parents infused “a love of the land” into their home. Later, Nahshon became Orthodox and attended Yeshiva University. Over the past several years, he has been investing and saving to prepare for aliyah.
“I grew up learning how my grandfather trekked to [Mandatory] Palestine on a camel.,” Nahshon says. He is among more than 1,200 people who attended the Nefesh B’Nefesh aliyah agency’s mega event in New York last month. He says the event turned his vision of aliyah into a reality.
About one-fifth of all the participants in last year’s mega events made aliyah within one year of their attendance, NBN reports.
Nearly 4,000 people made aliyah from North America last year. Marc Rosenberg, director of pre-aliyah for NBN, says aliyah is “trending.”
Many people who make aliyah are refugees fleeing to the Jewish state to escape persecution or other challenges in their native countries. But North American Jews “have a choice,” says Rosenberg, “so we have to treat them differently.” This was the catalyst behind the founding of NBN by philanthropist Tony Gelbart and Executive Director Rabbi Yehoshua Fass.
According to Rosenberg, whereas initially the average immigrants to Israel via NBN were entire Orthodox families, today the organization is seeing a steep rise in single young adults and boomers.
Boomers tend to be retirees or empty nesters, people who sold their businesses or are consulting and want to live in Israel. Some of them have children—and therefore grandchildren—living in the Jewish state, and they want to be close to them.