For Chani Newman of Far Rockaway, making aliyah with her husband and children, the answer to the question, “Why now?” was obvious. “We’re Jewish!” she said.
Thirteen-year-old Elishevah Feinberg of Woodmere, joining 201 other olim on board Nefesh B’Nefesh’s July 3rd magic carpet to the promised land, said she’s wanted to do this for a long time. Her love of Israel emerged through family, friends, community, repeated visits to the holy land, and her school, Shulamith in Cedarhurst, she said.
Danit Tayri of Kew Gardens Hills said “we’ve always wanted to go, but now it’s finally time.”
Her parents left Israel “on a 30 year-long trip” and now it’s time, through her family’s journey as olim, to come home. “Hopefully, everyone will follow,” she said.
While the excitement of boarding NBN’s El Al’s charter was palpable for many of the olim, for others the move to Israel was so preordained as to seem just a bit anti-climactic.
“We sometimes lose the enormity of the moment,” NBN co-founder and Executive Director Rabbi Yehoshua Fass told the olim and their families and friends at JFK. “You can’t remain indifferent to this scene, even after 50,000 immigrants and 55 planes. Aliyah empowers Israel.”
“We need to show Israel what unity really is,” said NBN co-founder and Chairman Tony Gelbart. “Religious, nonreligious, right-wing, left-wing — who cares.”
A very enthusiastic oleh, 19-year-old Gabriella Katz of Southfield, Michigan, said that her making aliyah closes a circle.
“Seventy years ago, on the Fourth of July, my grandfather, who was a Holocaust survivor, became an American citizen, and I am immigrating to Israel on the same day,” she said, adding that “my grandfather was running away and I’m running toward [something], I’m coming home.”
Although Katz, an only child, is making aliyah on her own, her parents, Steven and Pia Katz, were beaming with enthusiasm at JFK. They left open the possibility that they might eventually join their daughter in Israel.
“I was excited already,” Katz said. “And when I came here [to JFK], I was overwhelmed in the best way.”
Chani Newman of Far Rockaway said that she wanted to make aliyah during the 10 years she’s been married. “Emotionally and financially — even if everything’s not in place we took a jump.”
“Hashem will help,” she said.
As passengers walked down a ramp and onto the tarmac at Ben Gurion airport, they were greeted by Rabbi Fass and Minister of Aliyah and Integration Sofa Landver.
Rabbi Dov Lipman, himself an oleh from the United States and a former member of the Knesset, greeted Israel’s newest citizens as they entered the cite of a post-flight celebration.
The El Al Boeing 777 was chartered by Nefesh B’Nefesh, in cooperation with the Ministry of Aliyah and Integration, the Jewish Agency for Israel, Keren Kayemeth Le’Israel-Jewish National Fund and JNF-USA. Rabbi Fass said that NBN alumni had raised around $200,000 to cover costs associated with the flight.
Passengers included 34 families, 78 children, five sets of twins, and 51 singles, working in a range of professions. The oldest is 82 years old, and the youngest a month and a half. Forty-seven of the immigrants are moving to Israel’s periphery, as part of Keren Kayemeth Le’Israel-Jewish National Fund’s Go South and Go North programs.
While a second NBN charter lift is scheduled for August, NBN facilitates aliyah throughout the year, with thousands of olim traveling on regular flights. Rabbi Fass said NBN would assist more than 2,000 people making aliyah this summer from North America.
“Immigrants from the United States come with a desire and excitement to take part in the national project of the Jewish people, through which their identity is strengthened,” said Natan Sharansky of the Jewish Agency for Israel, in a statement.
“We must ensure that the state of Israel remains a place in which every Jew may feel at home and in which the immigrants may confidently connect to the history, roots, and national identity of the Jewish people.”
Said Rabbi Fass:
“These modern-day pioneers are not only fulfilling their personal dreams, but the dreams of the Jewish nation as a whole. It has been remarkable, these last 15 years, to have assisted thousands of olim in making an impact on the state of Israel and we hope to continue to do so for today’s olim.”