INQUIRIES ON ALIYAH in June were up 365 percent from last year, according to Yael Katzman, vice president of PR and communications for Nefesh B’Nefesh. That’s a rise from 5,300 calls to nearly 25,000 calls.
“We’re all kind of exhausted, and we’re trying to figure it all out,” she said. The organization has expanded the call center and added new technology to handle the increase.
While every person who calls the hotline is not necessarily moving to Israel, numbers along the pathway to aliyah are up. Where 532 people started applications in June 2019, this year, nearly 2,000 started them, a 274 percent increase. As for finished applications, close to 1,200 were submitted last month, compared with just under 400 last June, a 218 percent increase.
Overall, 40 percent of those who start applications usually end up finishing the process. This year? The figure is up to about 50 percent, a huge increase in raw numbers.
Katzman chalks it up to the fact that not only have people had more time to think about priorities, but also because obstacles keeping people from moving disappeared. She points to jobs that are now remote, families that now keep in touch over Zoom, and Jewish communities that were always intensely local are now global, with people listening to lectures from Australia or virtually dropping into Jewish events all over the world.
Leaving the states is bittersweet for Patricia and Art Werschulz of Cranford. Although they bought an apartment in Jerusalem 11 years ago and had been planning this move for a while, they said the distance, and pandemic conditions, would make it difficult to see their grandchildren, who range in age from 6 to 10.
“It’s more poignant,” said Patricia, a patent lawyer whose practice has been online since 2009. “We won’t be able to go back and forth to see our grandkids.”
In a stroke of good fortune, Art retired at the end of the academic year as a computer science professor at Fordham University. He wasn’t thrilled with distance learning. “I could not look at my students’ faces to see if people are not getting it,” he said.
And so, there was little stopping the couple from getting on the plane this week, July 7, to realize their dream. “It’s taken a while to get it together,” said Art.
And to their friends who worry about their health, he offered, “Last time I checked, there was pretty good medical care in Israel.”
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