Spring 2010

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MERCAZ USA Newsletter — Spring 2010

An Aliyah in Aliyah

Perhaps it's the accumulative effects of 10 years of Birthright trips, which have brought in its first decade of existence over 200,000 young people from 52 countries to Israel, or the large investment in publicity for aliyah that Nefesh B'Nefesh has made since its founding in 2002.

Debby and Glenn Tamir and their children -- MERCAZ USA
Meet Our Olim: Debby and Glenn Tamir and family

Perhaps it's the intense focus of late on Israel within the Jewish community either because of its recent wars – Second Lebanon in 2006 and Gaza 2009 – or its milestone celebrations – the 60th anniversary of the state in 2008 or the 100th anniversary of Tel Aviv last year.

Perhaps it's the general state of the world economy today with its higher levels of unemployment or the increase in the Diaspora of anti-semitism and Islamic terrorism – all at the same time that Israel's economy has been on the rise and its internal security calm since the end of the Second Intifada.

Whatever the cause, and there are probably many more to mention, there has been a steady "aliyah" in aliyah, an increase in immigration to Israel over the past decade. Last year, in fact, saw the largest North American aliyah since 1983, with nearly 4,000 Americans and Canadians making the move.

They, together with others from around the world, made 2009 the first year in a decade with an increase in the total number of immigrants to Israel, with 16,244 olim – a 17% jump over last year's 13,659.

Paralleling this increase in aliyah from North America is an increase in the number of new olim from the Conservative Movement. As reported by Naomi Freedman, Aliyah Shlicha to the Conservative Movement in North America, 536 Conservative Jews – both children and adults – made aliyah in 2009.

While the majority of North American olim continue to be Orthodox, last year's figure for Conservative new immigrants represents an increase of 27% from the previous year and more than doubles the number from 2003. Additionally, the number of Conservative olim has maintained a consistent 15% proportion of all North American olim coming from Conservative backgrounds.

The Gershman boys -- MERCAZ USA
Meet Our Olim: Ariel & Jonah Gershman

Who are the new Conservative immigrants? They include singles and families such as:

  • David Bolden, a PhD in Education-Applied Behavior Analysis and former member of West End synagogue in Nashville, TN, who has settled in Ashkelon and joined the Masorti Congregation Netzach Israel;
  • Debby and Glenn Tamir, alumni of Camp Ramah (Debby continues to serve as the director of aquatics at Camp Ramah in Nyack) and former members of the Westchester Jewish Center in Mamaroneck, NY, who, with their three children, have settled at Shorashim, a Masorti-affiliated community in the Galilee near Carmiel;
  • Aviva and Andy Gershman, formerly of Temple Beth-El in Richmond, VA. Andy now works as the Advertising Sales Manager and sportscaster with his own radio show on

Andy Gershman and his son -- MERCAZ USA
Andy Gershman and his son

A key improvement in the support services being provided to Conservative olim is the creation in Israel of a Masorti Movement Committee of Aliyah and Klitah (Absorption), headed by Rabbi Paul Freedman, that oversees the work of a professional Jewish Agency Klitah Coordinator for the Masorti Movement, Zvia Shelley.

Now, the moment that potential new immigrants indicate on their paperwork that they are Conservative Jews, the information is forwarded immediately to the movement's Aliyah Shlicha Naomi Freedman. She then works out a plan with the Klitah Coordinator and the lay Masorti Movement committee to connect the new olim with one of the more than 50 Masorti communities in Israel.

For more information about the five steps to follow if you are thinking about aliyah, go to For more information about our olim whose stories appear in our "profiles in aliyah", go to


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