Program allows Jews to give immigration a chance

The Jewish Agency will introduce a “trial immigration” program to Jews from abroad, as part of a broader strategy to make the move less intimidating for potential immigrants from the West.

“And he shall set up an ensign for the nations, and shall assemble the outcasts of Israel, and gather together the dispersed of Judah from the four corners of the earth.”
—Isa 11:12

s part of the new flexible immigration program, participants will become “trial residents” – a status that will make them eligible for financial benefits that ordinary tourists are not. JAFI officials say they are working with the Ministry of Interior and plan to introduce the program within the next six months.

The plan is part of a larger restructuring of the Jewish Agency’s immigration and absorption department, as well as an indication of JAFI’s decision to broaden their definition of immigration to meet the changing needs and realities of Western Jews.

“With immigration by choice, people need to be willing to close a chapter and say goodbye to their family, their culture, their job and their friends,” said Oded Salomon, director general of the immigration and absorption department. “Not everyone is ready for that.”

The program, which will not obligate participants to immigrate, aims to provide a supportive framework for job searches, as well as expose potential immigrants to various living options if they were to move here. Jewish Agency officials say they are hoping to create living quarters for young Jews in Tel Aviv and Haifa. Participants in the program will also be assisted with travel and living expenses.

“Afterward, they can decide if they want to change their status (to become Israeli citizens) or go home,” said Salomon “We believe that exposing people to life here will increase their chances of immigrating.”

As part of the program, Jewish Agency officials will now also be encouraging what they call “partial immigration” so that Diaspora Jews can work and spend several months a year here, without necessarily taking on Israeli citizenship.

“We see partial immigration and immigration in stages as very positive things,” said Moshe Vigdor, director general of JAFI. “People are buying apartments, bringing their children for the summer and spending a few months a year in Israel. This encourages people to think about immigration and it makes it less threatening.”

The program will also be designed to provide support for people who come to Israel for a sabbatical year.

The changes will also include what JAFI officials describe as a greater focus on customer service and immigrant absorption. The Jewish Agency also plans to maintain closer ties with graduates of MASA and Taglit-birthright Israel, increase partnerships with various religious movements in the Diaspora and streamline their emissary system.

Vigdor said restructuring was not part of the larger downsizing trend. The changes and upgrades, he said, will be enabled by growing partnerships with the International Fellowship for Christians and Jews – which last week pledged some $45 million to the Jewish Agency over three years.

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