Monday, April 10, 2006

Pesach and the Jewish Agency (UK)

Fellow blogger and settler, "Aliya Blog" has an excellent (though depressing) post about how officials from the Jewish Agency and the United Jewish Israel Appeal of Great Britain (UJIA) feel threatened by the new kid on the block, Nefesh B'Nefesh.

Labeling NBN as an "American" organization instead of a Jewish one, these mainstream organizations are worried about NBN's entrance into Britain's "aliya advocacy" turf.

Till NBN appeared in the USA, aliya figures of American Jewry was rather dismal -- with horizontal aliya far outpacing that of vertical aliya. The financial incentive is just too much a crucial factor that often is the deal maker or breaker for many potential olim.

Yet, these British organizations seem more worried about personal status than the actual good of olim (like giving olim, much needed MONEY!)

Now we can all understand the Hagadda, when it says:
Why did HASHEM personally take the Jews out of Egypt?

אני ולא מלאך
"Ani, vlo Malach" (myself - G-d, and not an Angel)

אני ולא שליח
"Ani, vlo Shaliach" (myself - G-d, and not a [Jewish Agency] Shaliach messenger)

Why did G-d not use a Jewish Agency Shaliach?
Because HE wanted the Jews to ACTUALLY make it out of Egypt.

In fact, the Jews did get lots of financial perks when leaving Egypt, like all the gold from the I guess Nefesh B'Nefesh tactis were being employed even back then.

Wherever I am, my blog turns towards Eretz Yisrael


Avi said...

Two things:

1. NBN's financial perks are overrated. Most NBN olim, according to a survey I conducted, do not use NBN for the financial grants (many also do not receive them) and even more so, most NBN olim find the other services, such as the networking, social and employment services to be far more useful. This is not surprising as North American olim tend to be focused on long-term and are losing money by making aliya, even if they received a financial grant. The sad thing is that the services NBN provides are provided by the Sochnut and the government but are clearly inadequate.

2. NBN has a lot of work to do regarding North American aliya and regarding helping their olim who are here. Many do not have jobs and many that do commute to the US (which is not a long-term viable option for many , though certainly if it works for you, fine). Also, and its not NBN's fault, but they have not done an adequate job of reaching out to non-Orthodox and non-frum potential olim, who may be more Zionist and focused on Medinat Yisrael instead of Eretz Yisrael. Because that is not who is working at NBN or their PR firm, they also really don't know how to reach out to them, despite some failed attempts. These areas, from an organizational perspective, need to be improved upon before expanding to the United Kingdom. They have grown too much without dealing with some fundamental issues and I think this will cause not only NBN but also Western aliya great damage down the road unless these problems are fixed (and I do think they are all fixable).

Jameel @ The Muqata said...


1. The financial perks may not be eseential, but they definitely help (do you know anyone who would refuse them?) The government networking help is pretty useless...and that alone is a great reason for NBNs existance.

2. While NBN may have some issues that need fixing, I'm of the opinion that its better to start and progress a great idea, despite some issues that it may have, rather than sit around and plan it perfectly before starting. It never would have gotten off the ground otherwise.

Criticizing NBN for not reaching out more to potential secular Olim candidates is really not fair. Give them a chance - or volunteer as well. I was actually impressed by the numbers they did have for secular olim (albeit small)...and I think they are in the right direction, even if they are moving that way slowly. Again, where is the Jewish Agency? They get paid LOTS of money and they aren't doing such a great job (at least, not in the US)

NBN is not, and cannot be the exclusive factor for making aliya. They offer support, they offer networking, but they cannot be the exclusive backbone of support for olim.

As much as NBN helps, they can't be held responsible for people finding jobs or not. That's the Israeli government's responsibility -- though they honestly aren't that interested.

Western Aliya has traditionally had to hold its own -- either though groups like AACI, The British Olim Society, Tehilla, and other support groups. The weakest link has always been the sochnut and government agencies.

Avi said...

I don't want to be seen as criticizing NBN but rather pointing out areas of important but also it's important to plan and do things wisely. One of its major reasons for success, however, has been its "corporate" business strategy of pragmatically planning to do miraculous things. I just fear that they are getting too big, with this expansion to the UK, without thinking things through from the important pragmatic perspective and think they need to work on improving some things and doing their NA stuff better prior to expanding in England. If they want to advise another organization on how to do it, that's fine, and, in fact, would be useful in terms of areas in which Nefesh is criticized (can't elaborate on that for confidentiality reasons).

Avi said...

Also, check out my blog and A7 for a breaking story on Jonathan Pollard. If true, please please call and fax Olmert's office and ask for an official and formal request to made to the White House for Pollard's clemency prior to Passover.

Anonymous said...

Jameel - thanks for the link

Amechad - I agree, financial perks is not the only main reason why NBN has had such a positive impact on North American aliyah. However, the oppotunity for financial assistance is something that gets lots of people thinking about aliyah seriously, realizing that it is something that they can actually do. And when they apply to find out more, one thing leads to the next...(and with the help of NBN's other support services)...they find themselves on an airplane to Israel.

As far as reaching out to the secular for aliyah, when I went on my flight last Chanukah, I was very very surprised by (what I considered) the very high percentage of secular Jews on the flight. I had expected everyone to be frum. Not so. It was more like a regular flight to Israel, with people totally across the spectrum. The only diffence between this flight and others was that 1) people were more tired than usual 2) there were people from the misrad ha'pnim on the flight and 3) everyone was making aliyah.

Finding jobs? NBN claims that a very high percentage (98%?) of their olim (who are looking for work) have jobs within the first year. Looks to me like they are doing a pretty good job,

tafka PP said...

Ok- but back to the issue of UK Aliya- The problem which the UJIA have is that NBN have made a unilateral move without consulting them at all, as it were, waltzing in and claiming to be the new black of British Aliya without actually extending a hand of partnership/cooperation to the current (very successful) infrastructure. It is therefore simply unreasonable to call the UJIA "whining babies" or whatever that other blogger slung at them: they have a very valid complaint in this regard.

Don't forget as well that NBN was created for a specific purpose and a specific demographic - American Jews. And as you know, British Olim have a far, far lower "return rate" than their American counterparts. There are plenty more cultural considerations too.

With all that in mind, you might not want to be so quick to judge this situation.

Jameel @ The Muqata said...

TAFKAPP: Thanks for the additional information -- it makes the sitution look slightly different.

(Though the comment about the shaliach and the hagadda has been around for years ;-)

tafka PP said...

Yes, that was funny.

rockofgalilee said...

We used NBN for their money and that was it. We really appreciated the money. It would have been very very hard to come without it.

Where we live there is no other support and I don't really feel like we're missing anything.

The truth is that NBN people have no greater bond with each other then they have with other anglo olim. I think if they strengthened existing groups like AACI, instead of competing with them, it would benefit a greater group of people.

As an example, my understanding is that NBN does not want to help American olim who did not come with them.

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