Event helps hundreds of South Florida Jews considering move to Israel
Ron Machol, left , employment advisor for The Aliyah Job Center, chats with Michael Shababo, right, of Hollywood, and Leslie Kajomovitz of Fort Lauderdale about finding jobs in Israel during the Fall in Love with Israel Aliyah Fair at the Michael-Ann Russell Jewish Community Center in North Miami Beach
Israel is far from Broward County, but Yosefa Huber said she'll still feel right at home.
She already has images of the life she wants: seeing a greater selection of kosher restaurants, living in a country where the celebration of Jewish holidays is the norm and not having to explain to colleagues why she can't, for religious reasons, shake a man's hand. And she said she wants to be part of what she thinks is the quintessential Jewish experience: moving from the Diaspora to Israel.
Huber was one of a couple hundred potential immigrants Sunday at the "Fall in Love with Aliyah Fair." The event was sponsored by the Jewish Agency for Israel, and its delegation of experts will continue on to other fairs in Canada, and then New York, Chicago and Philadelphia.
Huber, 23, and her husband Aaron, 26, of Coral Springs, have two small children and want their family to grow.
Aaron Huber said he wants to move for ideology — "to be part of it is to be part of history," he said. His wife wants to move because it's more practical. Kindergarten at Jewish day schools here will cost them about $10,000. In Israel, private schools are a pittance in comparison. "I can have a big family and people don't look at us like we're nuts," she said.
Aliyah is the Hebrew word that means "to go up" and describes the act of moving to Israel. For those considering the move, it is because of a religious mission, cultural ideology — or both.
For the Israeli government, Jewish immigration is essential, especially from Americans and Canadians who "really want to be part of our society," said Rosie Segal, the director of the Aliyah Center of the Southeast office of the Jewish Agency. "They bring the American values that are very important to us. You bring a democratic way of thinking, you understand you need to work to grow in life — it's the Western way of life."
Sunday's delegation included Shana Krakowski, an American from Chicago who made aliyah at age 18. She talked about the government's incentive program that offers free tuition at colleges, provided immigrant students meet admission qualifications. For students age 27 and younger, bachelor's degrees are free. Immigrants under 30 can qualify for a free medical law or master's degree.
There was also Nefesh B'Nefesh, a Boca Raton-based immigrant group, real estate agents pitching luxury apartments in Jerusalem, shipping companies, a Delray Beach-based support group for parents of children who had made aliyah and officials from three cities each hoping to increase their population.
An official from Haifa touted the scenery and advanced medical care, the one from Eilat bragged about immigrants being able to quickly find jobs because of the 45 hotels in this coastal city that are always in need of chefs and housekeepers and an official from Ariel, a city of 18,000 in the West Bank, promoted the vast number of English speakers, cheap housing and the city's personalized effort to help immigrants find jobs..
But the most popular booth was the one led by Ron Machol, who explained how to get a job in Israel and the possibility of telecommuting from jobs in the U.S. He also advised job seekers to expect questions during interviews that are illegal in the U.S., especially about religious observance, how many children they have and marital status. Americans with backgrounds in teaching, the high-tech industry and the medical profession — especially nurses — will have the easiest time finding work.
Rona Grabina, 57, and her husband Mel, 58, of Miami, aren't too worried. She's a first grade teacher and he is a handyman. They've been talking about aliyah for some time, but since his sister moved there a year ago, and their only son moved five months ago — with their three grandchildren — they've decided to go sooner than later.
"I feel at home there," Mel Grabina said of Israel.
But Rabbi Boaz Levy, 43, of Miami, is on the fence. He is married with nine children and said while he wants to move, he worries about finding work, and said he is frustrated with the politics.
Still, "it's the Holy Land, the land promised to the Jewish people."
So far this year, 216 immigrants arrived from North America, more than double from the same time period last year. For the past few years, about 3,000 American Jews annually make aliyah, said Boaz Herman, an event spokesman.
He said government officials hope the numbers are higher this year because of the excitement surrounding Israel's 60th birthday, even though more Americans are having a harder time selling their houses.
"We expect thousands of people for this journey," he said. "It looks good right now. People moving don't feel they are alone."
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