Opinion: Why some American Jews are not welcome to immigrate to Israel

A recent article in The Jerusalem Post by Rabbi Yehoshua Fass, the co-founder and executive director of Nefesh B’Nefesh, a non-profit organization that facilitates aliyah from North America and the UK, urged “hundreds of thousands” of American Jews to immigrate to Israel. He argued that aliyah is “the most important and impactful thing” that American Jews can do for themselves, for Israel, and for the Jewish people.

However, a closer look at his article reveals that his call for aliyah is only directed towards a certain category of American Jews, namely those who are Orthodox, Zionist, and wealthy. He explicitly stated that he was not addressing those who are “happy and content” in America, or those who are “disconnected” from Israel and Judaism. He also implied that he was not interested in those who are Reform, Conservative, or non-denominational, or those who are critical of Israel’s policies and actions.

He also made it clear that he was not concerned about the practical and financial challenges that many American Jews face when considering aliyah, such as finding a job, learning Hebrew, adapting to a new culture, and leaving behind family and friends. He dismissed these issues as “excuses” and “obstacles” that can be overcome with the help of Nefesh B’Nefesh and other organizations. He also suggested that American Jews who make aliyah would enjoy a higher standard of living and a better quality of life in Israel.

The article reflects a narrow and elitist vision of aliyah that alienates many American Jews

The article by Rabbi Fass reflects a narrow and elitist vision of aliyah that alienates many American Jews who do not fit his criteria or share his worldview. It also ignores the diversity and complexity of the American Jewish community, which is not monolithic or homogeneous, but rather composed of different streams, backgrounds, identities, and opinions. It also disregards the reality and challenges of living in Israel, which is not a utopia or a paradise, but rather a country with its own problems and conflicts.

The article also contradicts the spirit and purpose of aliyah, which is supposed to be a personal and voluntary decision, based on one’s connection and commitment to Israel and the Jewish people, not on one’s religious affiliation, political orientation, or economic status. Aliyah should not be a selective or exclusive process, but rather an inclusive and welcoming one, that embraces and respects the diversity and pluralism of the Jewish people.

The article also undermines the role and contribution of the American Jewish community, which is not a passive or dispensable partner, but rather an active and vital one, that supports and strengthens Israel and the Jewish people in many ways. American Jews do not have to immigrate to Israel to express their solidarity and involvement, but rather they can do so through various forms of engagement, such as education, advocacy, philanthropy, and tourism.

A more realistic and respectful approach to aliyah is needed to appeal to American Jews

A more realistic and respectful approach to aliyah is needed to appeal to American Jews who are interested in immigrating to Israel, or at least exploring the possibility. Such an approach should acknowledge and address the real and legitimate concerns and questions that many American Jews have about aliyah, such as:

  • How will I find a suitable and sustainable job in Israel, especially if I do not speak Hebrew fluently or have a professional network?
  • How will I cope with the cultural and social differences between Israel and America, such as the bureaucracy, the security situation, the politics, and the mentality?
  • How will I maintain and nurture my relationships with my family and friends in America, especially if they are not supportive or understanding of my decision to make aliyah?
  • How will I fit in and belong to the Israeli society, especially if I do not identify with the dominant religious or political groups, or if I face discrimination or prejudice because of my background or identity?

Such an approach should also recognize and appreciate the diversity and richness of the American Jewish community, and the potential and value that it can bring to Israel and the Jewish people, such as:

  • How can I use my skills and talents to contribute to the development and improvement of Israel, in various fields and sectors, such as technology, education, health, arts, and social justice?
  • How can I share my perspectives and experiences with the Israeli society, and learn from theirs, in order to foster dialogue and understanding, and to bridge the gaps and differences between Israel and the Diaspora?
  • How can I enrich and enhance my Jewish identity and practice in Israel, and explore the various expressions and manifestations of Judaism, in a pluralistic and democratic environment?
  • How can I fulfill my dreams and aspirations in Israel, and enjoy the opportunities and benefits that it offers, such as the history, the culture, the nature, and the people?

Such an approach should also respect and support the choices and paths of the American Jews who decide not to make aliyah, or who are not ready or able to do so, and who still want to remain connected and involved with Israel and the Jewish people, such as:

  • How can I continue to learn and educate myself and others about Israel, its history, society, politics, and culture, and to stay informed and updated about the current events and issues that affect it?
  • How can I advocate and speak up for Israel, and defend it against the attacks and accusations that it faces, in the media, on campus, and in the public sphere, and to promote its positive and constructive image and role?
  • How can I donate and invest in Israel, and support the causes and organizations that work for its welfare and prosperity, and that address the needs and challenges of its diverse and vulnerable populations?
  • How can I visit and travel to Israel, and experience its beauty and vibrancy, and to meet and interact with its people, and to create and strengthen my bonds and ties with them?

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