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Triumphant steps for Jewish newcomers to Israel

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Posted on: 
4 Jun 2021
Triumphant steps for Jewish newcomers to Israel

The decision to immigrate to a new country is not always an effortless walk in the park. Much paperwork is required, and permissions need to be granted. Once these hurdles are overcome, the path ahead may not be so simple and straight forward, and each immigrant must discover for themselves the way forward.

*Sophia is a single mother with a 9-year-old daughter, *Rafaela, with special needs. Before her decision to immigrate to Israel, Sophia completed a master’s degree in education and was working as a daycare and kindergarten teacher. However, the desire to return to her Jewish homeland and the hope for a better life were so strong, that with determination she began her small family’s immigration process, booked their flights, and arrived with her daughter in Israel.

Adjusting to life in Israel was extremely challenging. Both Sophia and Raphaela struggled to adapt to a new culture and learn the Hebrew language. Israeli culture was foreign and frustrating, and differed in so many ways from their native South America. In addition, Sophia had the added burden of struggling financially to support her family.

Since Sophia came from a place of much economic and emotional chaos, she needed help understanding financial planning. For example, upon arrival Sophia accepted every credit card offered to her without realizing she would be paying high interest and extra charges for them.

Another setback came when her degrees were not accepted by the Israeli Ministry of Education before arrival. As a result, she could not work in her profession. Striving to support her family, she took odd jobs until she finally found work as a daycare assistant just before the corona crisis began. However, the daycare closed shortly after, leaving her on unpaid leave and ineligible for unemployment which only kicks in after a minimum of six months on the job.

Added to all of these challenges, Sophia urgently needed to find proper care for her daughter. Various challenges in her native country meant that Raphaela had not received any counseling or therapeutic treatment for her special needs for quite some time. Thankfully, unexpected relief was soon on the way!

Entering an integration center for new immigrants, Sophia found help through a mentoring program sponsored by the ICEJ. Having a professional mentor to offer guidance, support and set achievable goals, meant that the sun could start shining a little brighter again on Sophia and Raphaela’s future.

Help from the mentor meant that Raphaela was able to start participating in a therapeutic horse-riding course, and she began receiving hydrotherapy as well. Although Sophia did not initially pursue the goal of obtaining child support from Raphaela’s father, with her mentor’s guidance she has courageously begun the process. In the meantime, preparations are underway for when Sophia and her family need to leave the integration center, with approval already received for a rent reduction.

With her mentor’s help, Sophia successfully received approval by the Israeli Minister of Education for her M.A. and is now able to return to teaching. She also loves to act and to dance and always dreamt of learning to do make-up – interests that she is now able to pursue. Today, Sophia describes herself as “Israeli” and says that she really loves living in Israel. Over the past year, she has come to understand that every country has its unique culture and characteristics.

Nicole Yoder, ICEJ’s Vice President for AID and Aliyah, is thrilled that the mentorship program has made such a positive difference for Sophia and Raphaela.

“The challenges immigrants face are compounded by the fact that they lack everyday knowledge in their new environment and miss the support and advice of friends and family”, said Nicole. “Often, they do not know the right office to turn to, are unable read utility bills or complicated application forms for services, or generally are not aware of discounts or opportunities for assistance. We aim to smooth the way before them and minimize frustrations or obstacles so they can become firmly and confidently established in their homeland.”

Your support helps more Jewish immigrants take triumphant steps as they begin their new lives in Israel. A gift of $2,750 enables a brand-new Israeli immigrant family less than a year in the country to enjoy the supportive care of a mentor. And aiding immigrants who are slightly longer in the country but who have fallen into distress generally requires a larger investment of $5,500.

Thank you for helping the ICEJ ensure that there are professional mentors available to help newcomers like Sophia and Raphaela.

[*Real names and photos are withheld at request.]


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