The Steps We Took Toward Making Aliyah:
1. Fill out the Nefesh B’Nefesh Online Application:
The application had many questions about our family and Jewish background. It took me a while to go through the questions and answer as best as I could. One of the questions asked us to describe our aliyah plan. I did not have an answer for that. There were still so many unknowns. Where were planning to live? How were we going to make a living in Israel? So, I left that question blank.
2. Upload Documentation to Online Application:
Simcha scanned our birth certificates, marriage certificates, health forms, passports and a form regarding our visits to Israel over the past 7 years. I sat by the computer and named each document and uploaded it to our application. We payed the small fee to apply and then we smiled at each other. We were just one step closer to making our dreams a reality.
We received an email from NBN requesting Apostilles for Simcha’s birth certificate and marriage certificate. Around 9 years ago, my husband legally changed his name to use his Hebrew name, Simcha, instead of an English name given at birth. Therefore, his birth certificate and marriage certificate required a special Apostille attached. This was a whole day affair. (Nefesh B’Nefesh may offer some reimbursement for using a third party vendor to complete the necessary paperwork, but Simcha decided to do it on his own.) Simcha spent the day driving to the places he was born and we were married to get a certification from each office. He then drove to the New York Department of State in Manhattan to get the Apostilles attached to each document. When he got home he uploaded those documents to our application.
4. Interview with the Jewish Agency:
Simcha and I went to New York City with all our documents in hand. We were interviewed about our Jewish background, financial status and careers and our plans for making aliyah. At this point we were more prepared with answers about cities we want to look into, career options and financial plans. The whole interview was about a half hour. We were asked to get new passports for ourselves as well as one daughter as our passports would be expiring within a year of our planned aliyah. The next step is to apply for our visas when we get closer to the aliyah. However, once you receive your visa, you cannot visit the country as a tourist.
We had our Jewish Agency interview on November 15, 2017, we submitted our final document on December 7, 2017, and we were approved for aliyah on December 12, 2017.
5. Plan and go on a Pilot Trip:
Now the fun begins. Start by researching communities you may be interested in visiting on your pilot trip. Nefesh B’Nefesh has a community resource page with contact information of residents of each community. We emailed many people with a list of questions that were important for us. Here is a list of questions we used for our preliminary community search.
1. How long ago did you move to Israel and was this community your first stop?
2. How did you choose this community and what other communities did you look into?
3. How many Anglo families live near you?
4. Did the community have sufficient resources to help you and your family transition into Israeli society? What are they?
5. Do you feel that your children are integrating well into Israeli society?
6. Where do you and your spouse work? How is the commute?
7. Where do your children go to school and are you happy with it?
8. What type of housing is available in your community and how affordable is it?
9. How would you describe the hashkafa of your shul and specific neighborhood within this community (if it even breaks down neatly)?
With the information we gathered, we were able to narrow our community search to a few options. We focused on visiting those communities on our pilot trip.
Besides communities, make a list of other information you would like to gather on your pilot trip. Since we have school aged children, we planned to visit schools in each community we were considering. We also looked at furniture stores, shopping areas, and housing options in each neighborhood. Check out my daily blogs for the information we gathered on our pilot trip.
If you are able to, set up some meetings with potential employers and people that may be able to help you find a job once you land. The more people you meet, the larger the network you will have when you are ready to start a serious job search. Most importantly, have fun! It is a very stressful and overwhelming trip, so take time to relax and get excited for your move!