Mizrachi and Young Israel Launch Exciting New Initiative
BY RABBI YOSSI GOLDIN
One of the most exciting stories in Medinat Yisrael today is the phenomenon of kibbutz galuyot – as more and more Jews choose to make the move to Eretz Yisrael. Through the help of Nefesh B’Nefesh and other wonderful organizations, it is easier than ever to make Aliyah – and each year, more families heed the “call of the generation” and return home. Statistics show that in the years 2021 and 2022, there was a significant increase of olim from the USA and Canada, with 2021 almost doubling the numbers from the previous year.
As more and more Anglo families make Aliyah, existing olim communities continue to grow exponentially – and new olim communities are being established across the country. With the exceptional rise in these numbers, the needs of these communities continue to grow as well.
In order to assist these communities, World Mizrachi and Young Israel in Israel are partnering together to establish the Mizrachi-Young Israel Shuls Network. Launched at World Mizrachi’s World Orthodox Israel Congress in April 2023, this network brings together olim communities from across Israel, enabling the communities to connect and support each other through the sharing of experiences, programs, and ideas. Dedicated WhatsApp/email groups for rabbis, rebbetzins, and shul lay leaders have been created to enable conversation and provide crucial support regarding common areas of challenge and achievement. These platforms also serve as vehicles for Mizrachi and Young Israel to develop and share programs and initiatives for the benefit of these communities. Planned future programs include yemei iyun and training programs for religious and lay leadership of the communities, as well as joint community programming aimed at connecting communities with each other. Additionally, the network allows for the creation of a large, united, communal front to better address the needs of olim.
Rabbi Aharon Herskovitz, Rav of a growing community in the Kiryat HaSharon region of Netanya, Kehillat Shevet Achim, is excited by the creation of this shul network:
“One of the hardest challenges for olim is the feeling of being different, which can overlap with a sense of being alone: here without extended family, in an unfamiliar culture and social framework. Community helps provide a lot of framework that people are missing, but it can sometimes feel like these communities exist as an island unto themselves. A connection with other communities would greatly strengthen the feeling of belonging among our community members.”
These sentiments are shared by Rabbi Yehoshua Felberg, Rav of another rapidly growing community in Harish:
“Together, we can do more, by giving olim a collective voice and support structure and by ensuring those who come up to the Land have a successful Aliyah, spiritually and physically. The network will help olim to strike deep roots and realize their goal – building a secure future for them and their families in the homeland of the Jewish people, Israel.”
One of the first initiatives undertaken by the Shuls Network is an exciting partnership with Habayta, an organization founded in 2009 whose goal is to support the building of successful olim communities in Israel. Their “Kehilot Mechabrot” program currently works with over 30 olim communities across the country – consisting of olim mostly from France, South America, Russia, and Ukraine – providing guidance, support, programming, and financial assistance to enable these communities to have a smooth and successful integration into Israeli society.
Through their partnership with the Mizrachi-Young Israel Shuls Network, Habayta will welcome four Anglo olim communities to their program – Kehillat Hashiveinu in Ramot, Kehillat Ahavat Shalom in Caesarea, Kehillat Mishkan Shilo in Ramat Beit Shemesh, and Kehillat Carmei Tzion in Carmei Gat – beginning September 2023. This pilot program will provide these communities with much needed guidance and support, while also offering crucial funding that will enable the shuls to increase the programming and services provided to their members. Following this initial phase, the plan is to then expand this wonderful opportunity to many more Anglo olim communities in 2024 and beyond.
“We are thrilled that Kehillat Ahavat Shalom has been selected to join the exciting Mizrachi-Young Israel Habayta initiative to engage and support olim in our region,” exclaims Dvora Corn, a founding member of Kehillat Ahavat Shalom. “We believe that our relationship with Mizrachi-Young Israel and Habayta will strengthen Ahavat Shalom to enable us to reach out beyond our kehillah, and also strengthen the cohesion of the growing Ahavat Shalom community.”
Rabbi Yossi Goldin is Director of Young Israel in Israel, Branch Coordinator for NCYI, and heads the Shuls Department at World Mizrachi. He is also Israel Immersion Coordinator and Placement Advisor for YU/RIETS in Israel.