The aliyah-facilitating organization Nefesh B’Nefesh inaugurated a new, state-of-the art campus in Jerusalem at a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Tuesday. Among those present included Israeli President Isaac Herzog, Minister of Aliyah and Integration Pnina Tamano-Shata, Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi of Israel David Lau, and Nefesh B’Nefesh co-founders Rabbi Yehoshua Fass and Tony Gelbart.
According to Fass and Gelbart, the new permanent home in Jerusalem “opens endless possibilities of expanding our aliyah services and initiating new projects.”
The campus—opposite the Supreme Court in Israel’s government quarter—includes an office floor, conference hall, meeting rooms, a multimedia presentation center, and multiple outdoor and indoor spaces to be used for aliyah-related programs.
Fass and Gelbart said programming is due to begin next week with joint events with the Jerusalem Municipality, mission visits to the campus, personal meetings for new immigrants and a planned Thanksgiving celebration for lone soldiers in the Israel Defense Forces and for B’not Sherut, women who serve in Israel’s national service.
“Nefesh B’Nefesh has strived for the past 20 years to make olim feel welcome in Israel and help them become an integral part of the Jewish state,” said Fass. “Our aliyah campus is yet another resource that will aid us in making dreams come true.”
The growth of Nefesh B’Nefesh, emphasized Herzog at the inauguration event, “is vital for the story of aliyah from all over the world and the story of aliyah from the United States.”
“We can reach 100,000 olim [‘new immigrants’] a year if only we want to and if we move ahead with a grand plan, whereby we can bring half a million olim to Israel within five years and change the State of Israel, the nation-state of the Jewish people, in a very dramatic way,” he added.
‘Pioneers willing to take a chance’
Laura Ben David, 52, who was on the very first flight sponsored by the organization back in 2002, attended the Nov. 16 inaugural event. “Watching how it has evolved from being something unusual to something cool and exciting that so many people are doing or want to do is incredible,” she told JNS.
“Aliyah was so unusual—and the concept of taking a full plane of American Jews to live in Israel so unique—that we were constantly getting calls from the media asking for interviews. In fact, a team from our local newspaper not only interviewed us, but followed us for days beforehand, came with us on the flight and continued to follow us afterwards,” said the marketing and digital media specialist, photographer and author.
Though Ben David was the first off the plane, she said, “I considered myself part of the whole group—those pioneers willing to take a chance on a new organization that was daring to think big and try and change history.”
According to Fass, the new location of the campus aligns Nefesh B’Nefesh with many national and governmental establishments in the Government Quarter, making it another domestic institution serving the needs of the citizens and the State of Israel.
“The proximity to the government offices with which we work on a daily basis allows us to meet the necessary officials, and hold planning and strategic meetings with ease,” he told JNS. “In addition, the new location centrally located in Jerusalem allows for effortless access from within the city, while the short distance to the train and central station makes the journey from outside of the city to our offices that much simpler.”
The grounds for the campus were generously allocated by the Jerusalem Municipality, according to a Nefesh B’Nefesh press release.
Mayor of Jerusalem Moshe Lion told event attendees in a special video message: “Nefesh B’Nefesh works all year round on behalf of Israel and Jerusalem, and does a wonderful job with the young people of the Diaspora, serving as a link connecting the city to its olim. I believe and hope that in the coming years more and more olim will choose to establish their place of residence here in the capital of Israel.”
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