Yesterday, my wife and I attended the Nefesh B'Nefesh Aliyah Fair in New York (you can read her reaction to the event here). Let me just say that the high that you get from attending an Aliyah event, especially one organized by Nefesh B’Nefesh, is amazing. I was able to remain relatively calm and focused during the session and when we spoke to vendors but I have been borderline A.D.D. over the past 24 hours.
Going into the event I had four specific areas that I wanted to focus on: where are we going to live, employment, healthcare, and shipping. I thought it was a good plan and we stuck to it for about the first half hour before the welcoming ceremony. However, after that, it quickly dissolved into “let’s get as much information before I completely freak out!” This was true particularly at the beginning when I quickly jotted down the tentative charter flight dates before many of the amazing guests spoke.
Being in the company of so many great men and women, people who took time out of their schedules to speak with us, was one of the most moving, motivational, and inspirational experiences that I have had to this point during our Aliyah journey. I have watched many of the videos online of similar moments, but to be in their presence and have them talk to you is beyond anything you can experience by simply looking at a screen.
Knowing that, among others, Rabbi Yehoshua Fass, co-founder of Nefesh B’Nefesh, Consul General Ido Aharoni, and Minister of Immigrant Absorption Sofa Landyer all came to speak to, encourage, and inspire us was enough to move me to tears. I was barely able to hold it together as my wife elbowed me in the ribs every time her emotions got the best of her. It is a feeling that I hope all of you are able to experience at some point.
Once we were able to collect ourselves, we made our way to the first information session of the afternoon. There were three great options to start but, despite not having any children, we chose to learn more about the Israeli school system. We thought it might be nice for my wife if she had some of the basic information about Israeli schools before pursuing her post Aliyah teaching career. We got some great information that we will definitely apply in the future.
Our second session was something I will never forget. We had the privilege to attend a Q & A Session on “How to make YOUR impact on Israel” with Rabbi Fass. There are some people in this world that when you are around them you know you are in the presence of greatness. The impact that Rabbi Fass has had on all of us and the impact that he has had on Israel leaves me with only one way that I feel that can accurately describe him… a great tzadik. And while many of us see him this way, he will never categorize himself as such.
At the conclusion of this incredible dialogue I did something that surprised both my wife and me. While answering questions, Rabbi Fass noted the importance of relationships and networking in Israel and said that we should always have our resumes ready in case an opportunity presents itself. Well, I happened to have my resume on me so in addition to sincerely thanking him for everything that he has done for all of us I said that I wanted to show him I was listening to what he said and I handed him my resume. I saw an opportunity and I would love to work for Nefesh B’Nefesh someday but I still can’t believe I did that.
Fortunately, from there we went back to the main room so we could finish collecting information. I needed to just focus on going from table to table collecting information so I could stay calm and keep myself together. As we filled up our bags and chatted about shipping, tax issues, and health funds I slowly calmed down enough so we could check in with our Shlicha from the Jewish Agency. We updated her on what we had gotten done at the event and about the remaining documents we are still waiting for (so close, just waiting for reprinted letters on letterhead).
We said goodbye and, bags full we headed to the last session of the day, “Budgeting in Israel.” While the information covered was identical to what is on the Nefesh B’Nefesh site and the questions asked were repetitive and, sometimes, off topic it was nice to double check what I had been reading and to get real world examples from the presenter. Overall, it was a good way for us to end the day.
On our way out, I made sure to stop and thank Rabbi Fass again, shook his hand, and tried to convey my gratitude for the work he has done to help us realize our dream of making Aliyah. Of course, by then things were a blur and the Aliyah Fair high was in full effect. I hope I was able to articulate my appreciation clearly. If not, I hope this post makes up for it.
I can’t wait for the day when I can tell everyone who was in that room that we’re going home!