NEFESH B’NEFESH

HOW ANGLO IMMIGRANTS ARE SHAPING ISRAEL

In a country as small as Israel, the impact of each immigrant – whether new or veteran – is profound. Their contribution to the State of Israel begins the moment they make Aliyah

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Shahar Azran

Defined as the “act of ascending,” making Aliyah by moving to Israel is one of the most basic and fundamental tenets of Zionism. When the State of Israel was established in 1948, the country served as a haven for Jews worldwide fleeing oppression and anti-Semitism.

In Israel’s short 70-year history, a tremendous shift has occurred: Jews from North America and Canada are making Aliyah not because they are forced to, but out of a desire to actively participate in writing the next chapter of Jewish history.

57,000. That is the number of immigrants who have come to Israel since 2002 thanks to Nefesh B’Nefesh, in cooperation with the Ministry of Aliyah and Integration, the Jewish Agency, Keren Kayemeth Le’Israel and the Jewish National Fund USA. The mission of the organization is to facilitate Aliyah for Jews from North America, Canada and the UK.

Recognizing significant contributions

Five years ago, in 2013, Nefesh B’Nefesh decided it was time to formally recognize the significant contributions of English-speaking immigrants to the State of Israel in the form of the Bonei Zion Prize. This award is an expression of support for Olim whose contributions have helped better Israel in a meaningful way, and an acknowledgement of those who encapsulate the spirit of modern-day Zionism by contributing toward developing the State of Israel.

Thanks to the generosity of Sylvan Adams, each year Anglo Olim who are building, developing and advancing their respective fields, are chosen to be recipients of the Sylvan Adams Nefesh B’Nefesh Bonei Zion Prize (www.boneizion.org.il).
“In my role as ‘ambassador,’” says Sylvan, “I am promoting Israel both locally and internationally, showing off what I like to call ‘normal Israel,’ that is, a small country disproportionately succeeding and leading in a world-beating, exemplary fashion for the betterment of our earthly community. Showcasing and celebrating the impact of Anglo Olim within Israel and beyond is an integral piece of this mission.”

In describing the importance of the Sylvan Adams Nefesh B’Nefesh Bonei Zion awards, Co-Founder and Executive Director of Nefesh B’Nefesh Rabbi Yehoshua Fass referred to the prize recipients as “everyday heroes who are the foundation of the Jewish State and the lifeblood of our people.”

This year’s winners

This year, seven outstanding immigrants are being celebrated for their role in improving Israel through science and medicine; education; young leadership; community and non-profit; Israel advocacy; culture, sports, and arts.
In the science and medicine category, Dr. Marcia Javitt, MD, FACR, FSAR, FSRU, made Aliyah from Maryland in 2013 and joined the faculties of both Rambam and the Technion in 2014. She was recruited to Israel as chairman of Radiology at Rambam to transform diagnostic imaging for northern Israel’s two million citizens who rely on Rambam as their primary medical center.
In only three years, Dr. Javitt initiated collaborative innovative research in prostate cancer focal therapy and began development of a new breast cancer screening modality without ionizing radiation.

In the Israel advocacy field, Arsen Ostrovsky is no stranger to the fight for Israel and the fight against the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement. Ostrovsky, originally from Australia, made Aliyah from New York in 2012. An international human-rights lawyer and executive director of the Israeli-Jewish Congress, he has testified and spoken in support of Israel before the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, the United Nations in New York and the European Parliament.

Linda Streit, who made Aliyah from London in 1978, received the prize for culture, art and sport. In 2003, she founded what would become Israel’s leading facility for rowing, sailing, kayaking and dragon boats; the Daniel Amichai Center for Rowing and Nautical Studies was named in memory of her son, Daniel Amichai Marcus, who, at the time of his death, was a promising athlete. The center also serves as the home of the national Olympic and Paralympic team.

Maj. Keren Hajioff received this year’s Young Leadership award. Born and raised in the UK, Haijoff made Aliyah soon after high school in 2009. A month after moving to Israel, she joined the IDF, serving as an instructor in the Artillery Corps. She moved quickly through the ranks and graduated from officers’ school. She currently serves as the head of public diplomacy in the IDF Spokesperson’s Unit and was recently promoted to the rank of Major.

Kalman Samuels was awarded the prize for his nonprofit work in the community. After making Aliyah from Vancouver in 1983, Samuels, together with his wife Malki, established Shalva, the Israel Association for the Care and Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities. Throughout the last 28 years, he has made an everlasting impact on Israel’s social services structure and beyond.

The recipient in the education category, Rabbi Dr. Shlomo Riskin, has dedicated his entire life to serving the Jewish people. He made Aliyah from New York in 1983 and his visionary contributions have redefined Modern Orthodox leadership, reshaping the face of contemporary Jewish education. Riskin also played a massive role in empowering women to partake in the highest levels of Jewish learning, spiritual leadership and meaningful service in the IDF.

The Lifetime Achievement award went to Morris Kahn. After making Aliyah in 1956 at age 26 with his wife and two children, Kahn realized that foresight and business acumen were key to achieving his first large-scale success in the business world with the establishment of Israel’s Golden (Yellow) Pages in 1968. Recently, Kahn has increasingly focused his attention on philanthropy and venture philanthropy. He supports, among other things, cutting-edge stem-cell research, including the establishment of a laboratory for fertility preservation among cancer patients at Sheba Hospital; and a biomedical research laboratory focusing on genetics and genetic mapping. His philanthropic endeavors have also made cataract and trachoma surgery available to Ethiopian villagers. He is a major donor to the NGO Save a Child’s Heart.

The goal of the Nefesh B’Nefesh Bonei Zion Prize has been to highlight to Jews worldwide that one can succeed in Israel even as a newcomer. The prize recipients exemplify how Anglo Olim are making historic advancements and contributing, each in their own field, to the success of the country and the Jewish nation.

For more information about the Bonei Zion Prize, go to www.boneizion.org. For more information about Nefesh B’Nefesh, go to www.nbn.org.il