Helping medical professionals make aliyah

Helping medical professionals make aliyah

MedEx in Teaneck simplifies Israel’s complex licensing process

Nefesh b’Nefesh and Israeli goverment officials are surrounded by medical officials (and one ringer) in Teaneck. (All photos courtesy of Nir Arieli)
Nefesh b’Nefesh and Israeli goverment officials are surrounded by medical officials (and one ringer) in Teaneck. (All photos courtesy of Nir Arieli)

Dr. Eli Miller is planning to move to Israel this summer with his wife and three children. Originally from Chicago, Dr. Miller, an endocrinologist, completed a residency and fellowship in Philadelphia and has been practicing there for about three years since finishing his training.

Moving to Israel, he said, “has been a dream for many years.” The dream was on “the back burner” for a long time but, about a year ago, Dr. Miller and his wife decided to make it a reality and started planning. The family intends to move to Rechovot, a city about 12 miles south of Tel Aviv.

Dr. Miller heard that transferring an American medical license could be a “bureaucratic nightmare” but that an event called MedEx provided a way to make the process easier. So last month, he went to the Teaneck Marriott at Glenpointe to check it out.

MedEx was established by Nefesh B’Nefesh, an organization created to help North American Jews with the process of making aliyah — the Hebrew term for moving to Israel. When it was held in Teaneck in mid-March this year, it attracted about 400 medical professionals.

The goal, said Ronen Fuxman, head of government advocacy and the employment division at Nefesh B’Nefesh, is to streamline the process of transferring a license in a medical field to Israel and to help with networking and interviewing for jobs.

In order to get licensed in Israel, a medical professional has to be a citizen, Mr. Fuxman said. A few years ago, an oleh — the Hebrew term for a man or boy moving to Israel; a woman or girl is an olah — “could not even start the process without a teudat zehut,” an Israeli identification document. Since it can take a few months to get all the paperwork reviewed and approved, Nefesh B’Nefesh worked with Israel’s Ministry of Health to enable olim — the plural of oleh — to submit the required documents before aliyah and create a “pending approval” file that can be finalized quickly once a teudat zehut is received.

Attendees had the opportunity to open files with representatives of the Ministry of Health and to have necessary documents authenticated by an Israeli notary. Participating physicians also were able to meet with members of the Israeli Medical Association to start the board certification process for a specific specialty.

Participants meet with Israeli hospital and licensing representatives at the Nefesh B’Nefesh MedEx fair.

“So instead of waiting three to six months after making aliyah to get their American documents approved, everything can now be done in advance,” Mr. Fuxman said. That way, when applicants make aliyah and receive a teudat zehut at the airport, they can send the identification number to Nefesh B’Nefesh, which forwards it to the Ministry of Health. North American professionals, including doctors, usually are not required to take a separate licensing exam in Israel, so the license generally is issued within a week or two.

“My goal is that by the time they unpack their last suitcase, they have their Israeli license in hand,” Mr. Fuxman said.

Dr. Miller expressed his thanks to Nefesh B’Nefesh for running MedEx. “It was very well done and made the licensing process very easy,” he said. “Now I should be able to start working when I get to Israel, and I’m very excited about that opportunity.”

MedEx also serves as a networking and recruiting event. “Kupot cholim” — health service organizations — “and hospitals asked us to help them recruit,” Mr. Fuxman said. “There is an acute shortage of doctors and other medical professionals in the periphery areas. There’s even a shortage in the center of the country — in Tel Aviv, in Jerusalem, in Ranana. So representatives of all four kupot” — state mandated health funds — “and of 16 hospitals or hospital chains felt the need to be there.”

Representatives of the Ministry for the Development of the Negev and Galilee also were at MedEx to encourage medical professionals, particularly doctors, to consider moving to those underserved areas.

Mr. Fuxman now lives in Jerusalem, but he grew up in the Golan, in Israel’s north. He still has relatives there, and he also has family and friends who live in the Negev, in the south of the country, so he can attest to the real need in both those areas. “When something major happens, my relatives ask me to help them get an appointment with a specialist in Jerusalem, either because they can’t find a local specialist or because doctors in those areas are sometimes underqualified,” he said.

So he’s pleased that a significant number of medical professionals are interested in aliyah now. “For some, their interest stems from wanting to be part of the Israeli medical system because they see that it’s innovative,” he explained. “Others just want to be in Israel for a variety of different reasons.”

Future olim from north Jersey talk to representatives of an Israeli health service organization.

Mr. Fuxman was a little surprised that the current situation in Israel — the proposed judicial overhaul and major protests against it — did not seem to be a major worry for MedEx attendees. “I was prepared for concerns but I didn’t hear a lot of conversation about it,” he said. “But a small group of Israelis living in the local area came to protest against the participation of the Ministry for the Development of the Negev and Galilee.”

Dr. Miller appreciated the opportunity to connect with representatives of the hospitals and kupot. “It was a great networking opportunity,” he said. “Now I have a place I can send my résumé when I arrive in Israel. Hopefully, the connections I made will lead to something down the road.”

Michal Schechter of East Brunswick, a nursing student at the University of Pennsylvania, also attended MedEx. Ms. Schechter is scheduled to graduate in May and then take the nursing boards and get her nursing license. She hopes to move to Israel at the end of the summer and wanted to find out more about the process of obtaining an Israeli nursing license and practicing there.

Ms. Schechter has “probably been considering aliyah my whole life,” she said. About two years ago, she was a counselor on a teen summer tour in Israel, and she decided that the easiest time to make the move would be right after she graduated from college. She plans to live in Jerusalem next year where she will be a dorm counselor at the gap-year seminary program called Amudim, where she had been a student during her own gap year.

Ms. Schechter is thinking about moving to Tel Aviv, so she spoke to representatives from hospitals in that area. “I was told it was a little premature to apply for a job, but everyone was very nice and asked me to reach out after I received my Israeli license,” she said. She also appreciated the opportunity to get practical information about how to submit the required paperwork, including her diploma, final transcript, and American license, so she can be eligible to take the exam in Israel.

That’s the kind of practical help that the event was designed to provide, Mr. Fuxman explained. “MedEx is a pure, hands-on medical conference. It’s very practical — bring your documents, get them verified, get them notarized, get them approved. Then start talking to potential employers. If you have an idea of where you want to live, we’ll help you map out the hospitals and health services in the vicinity.”

And it sounds like the event was successful. “Medical professionals came from all over North America — some from as far away as Florida, Denver, Chicago, California, and Canada — and 198 people opened files with the Ministry of Health,” Mr. Fuxman said. “And dozens of participants gave us feedback that the conference was productive and that they felt more comfortable with their aliyah planning after the event than they had beforehand.”

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