In a joint effort to increase immigration from the United States and Canada, the Jewish Agency has developed a strategic partnership with Nefesh B'Nefesh, a three-year-old nonprofit organization which provides financial grants and social services to new immigrants from North America.
"The Jewish Agency gives Nefesh B'Nefesh a lot of credit for increasing aliyah [from North America] between 2002 and 2003," said Jewish Agency spokesman Michael Jankelowitz. "The proof of the pudding is in the eating. They proved that the way they work increases aliyah from North America, so the next step is a strategic partnership with them."
Jankelowitz explained that the Jewish Agency will allocate funds and services toward the administrative costs of Nefesh B'Nefesh "so that they can do more of what they have been doing, and help more and more immigrants."
The Jewish Agency declined to specify the amounts to be transferred, but sources there indicated that it will be in the low millions of dollars and depend on the number of immigrants successfully wooed by Nefesh B'Nefesh. The financial grants which Nefesh B'Nefesh provides will continue to be provided by private philanthropists, said Mike Rosenberg, Director General for the Jewish Agency's Department of Immigration and Absorption.
While the Jewish Agency will still provide potential immigrants with help in obtaining visas and will continue to pay for immigrants' one-way tickets to Israel, Nefesh B'Nefesh will bear more responsibility for recruiting new immigrants, sources at the Jewish Agency said. "Nefesh B'Nefesh manages to go out into the field, have parlor meetings, and wake up people's latent feelings - people who want to make aliyah but don't feel they have the strength to do it," Jankelowitz explained. "Nefesh B'Nefesh breaks into a group of people who otherwise may not have made the change."
A spokesperson for Nefesh B'Nefesh did not wish to comment on the partnership until all details have been finalized.
The new partnership is part of a wider initiative by the Jewish Agency to cooperate with other organizations which share its goals. Rosenberg said that the Jewish Agency is beginning to develop additional partnerships with the American Jewish Federation system and the representative bodies of Conservative, Orthodox, and Reform Judaism in the U.S.
In the past, the Jewish Agency has also cooperated with, among other groups, the Association of Americans and Canadians in Israel and Tehilla, which promotes immigration among American Orthodox Jews.
Before Passover, the Jewish Agency and Nefesh B'Nefesh co-sponsored an advertisement in American Jewish media to promote aliyah. In a rare display of unity, the ad was co-signed by the United Jewish Communities, the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America, the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, and the Union for Reform Judaism.
"We don't want to be in this alone," Rosenberg said of the Jewish Agency's efforts to increase immigration to Israel from North America. "We do not have to do it all ourselves, we just have to make sure that it is getting done."
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