North American Jews making aliyah
For Jews who live in predominantly wealthy western countries, Israel is at best a holiday destination, not a place to live. Photo by Nir Keidar
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Australia will be the only Western country where the Jewish Agency will retain a fulltime Israel immigration emissary, despite the organization’s recent decision to replace all such employees with officials dealing with a broad spectrum of issues.

“It was decided that in Australia we keep the classic model, because Australia is a little bit different from other countries in the world,” the Agency’s director of English-speaking countries, Yehuda Katz, told Anglo File this week.

“First of all, they had an amazing increase in aliyah of almost 50 percent between 2009 and 2010,” he said in reference to the jump in immigration to Israel. “Secondly, in Australia we have a unique partnership with the Zionist Federation. We work hand in hand in the encouragement of aliyah and [other activities].”

Last month, a Jewish Agency spokesman told Anglo File there no longer would be in Australia a designated immigration emissary, known as an aliyah shaliach. “It doesn’t make sense anymore, from our perspective, that one shaliach offers educational programs and a different shaliach works on aliyah,” he had said, before learning of a special agreement the Australian Zionist Federation had made with the agency.

The venerable institution recently embarked on a new strategic plan that shifts its focus from promoting immigration to strengthening Jewish identity, including replacing aliyah shlichim with “multifunctional” emissaries.

“From many years of experience, we have found that dedicated aliyah shlichim make a big difference in not just making the aliyah preparation much easier, but also in promoting aliyah, establishing aliyah groups in the Zionist youth movements and giving people the confidence to take the very big step of moving to Israel,” AZF President Philip Chester told Anglo File this week. The Agency’s new strategic plan aside, “all of our [Agency] shlichim have plenty to do with their own movements, communities, etc. without also having to be responsible for aliyah,” he said.