Nefesh B'Nefesh Takes Over North America Aliyah Operations

Deal comes after row between private group, Jewish Agency; Agency to still to decide who can immigrate.

The Jewish Agency has ceded its Aliyah operations in North America to the private organization Nefesh B'Nefesh. The Agency will continue to be in charge of the eligibility process of prospective immigrants. The details of the impending deal were revealed in Haaretz a month and a half ago.

The Agency, which has managed Israel's Aliyah campaign from the State's inception, has been at logger-heads with newcomer Nefesh B'Nefesh over the last two years. The Agency accused Nefesh B'Nefesh of selecting the most successful candidates for Aliyah while it continued its commitment to bring every eligible immigrant and for taking credit for a rise in Aliyah from North America and Britain which was not of their creation.

Nefesh B'Nefesh accused the Agency of hindering their efforts, jealousy of their success and not fulfilling its obligation to pay the airfare of every immigrant. Over the last year, cooperation between the organizations broke down completely while Nefesh B'Nefesh gained inroads, by securing official government funding for their operations.

Under pressure by wealthy American donors, the two sides entered a lengthy mediation process and an agreement was finally signed at the end of last week.

The agreement will give Nefesh B'Nefesh full operational control of the Aliyah preparation process in the North America, but despite the organization's lobbying efforts among government ministers to be granted the right to decide on who will be allowed to come on Aliyah, the Agency will continue to be the sole authority deciding on the eligibility of the prospective immigrants.

Both sides expressed satisfaction at the agreement. Nefesh B'Nefesh will now be the sole player bringing immigrants from North America, while the Jewish Agency will retain a degree of overall control on the process.

This fits in with the new vision for the Agency, set out two months ago by Prime Minister Ehud Olmert as being the body tasked with fostering Jewish identity and the connection between Israel and the Diaspora. It will also allow the Agency to drastically scale back its Aliyah operation in North America and cut 3 million Dollars of its budget, which will go some way in fighting the organization's yawning deficit.

?The Jewish Agency is confident that as a result of this cooperation with Nefesh B?Nefesh, Aliyah from North America will grow" said Jewish Agency Chairman Zeev Bielski.

NBN Chairman Tony Gelbart said that, "We are pleased to have formalized a working agreement with the Jewish Agency, and are eager to continue facilitating and promoting North American Aliyah in our new enhanced capacity."