By Rabbi Yair Hoffman –
It is bound to happen, the question is when. Rabbi Fass, co-founder of Nefesh b’Nefesh, will win the much coveted Israel Prize.
And no one has any doubt as to why he will win it.
Rabbi Fass and his co-founder Tony Gelbart have found innovative ways to increase Aliyah. They have made it easier, smoother, and significantly more popular. And, of late, they have attracted families with young children.
As the latest Nefesh b’Nefesh flight of new olim will attest, this organization creates facts on the ground in Israel.
On the July 22nd flight, dubbed “The Children’s Flight”, 225 olim were on board. One hundred and six of them, however, were children under the age of 17. That is over 47% youth.
Rabbi Fass and Nefesh B’Nefesh have succeeded in removing the impediments — easing any “pain in the neck” associated with Aliyah to Israel. From processing all the paperwork in revolutionary new ways, to providing certain types of grants, airplane fare, transportation and housing and job assistance — Nefesh B’Nefesh does it all to make Aliyah an easier decision.
The upshot? It works.
Sharon Millendorf, an employee of Nefesh b’Nefesh for 6 years and originally from Riverdale, New York. She says that there are two reasons why he should win the prize. “The first is the obvious reason. He has effected the lives of Jews around the world, he has facilitated and for years to come. He has changed the way the world views aliyah. In the past if you were interested in Aliyah, you kind of had to talk about it quietly. Now that’s no longer the case. That’s the obvious reason.” She continues, “the less obvious reason is the things he does on a quiet level. The amount of people who connect with him, who email him, his humility. The respect that they all have for him is incredible – He is a true ben adam.”
This summer alone Nefesh B’Nefesh assisted in the Aliyah of over 3000 Jews to Israel. In the past ten years NBN was responsible for assisting over 35,000 people in making Aliyah.
At the arrival ceremony with thousands of people present, Knesset Members, business leaders and family members. Both founders were on the flight. Rabbi Fass could easily have been confused with one of the new Olim, as he was schlepping a baby down the aisle of the airplane. He appeared as the consummate new Oleh — with bags, baby and car seat in tow. The observation can easily be made – “Here is a CEO who has no qualms of picking up the broom and mop himself to ensure that everything goes well.”
NBN is innovative. Not a week or month goes by where some improvement isn’t thought of, discussed, and or implemented. There are webinars, new programs to populate the Galil, the North or even the Negev are constantly being developed. This flight had fomer POW Gilad Schalit accompany the new olim and all of them were touched and inspired. Nefesh B’Nefesh is a team player that works with the the Jewish Agency, Keren Kayemet, El Al, and the Knesset. Together, they make a well-oiled machine.
New Olim came from across the spectrum and from many of our local schools too. There were former students of HALB, TAG, Sh’or Yashiv and Bruria too.
Upon arrival the new Olim were greeted by soldiers, fellow citizens, CNN television crews and a remarkable reception including inspiring words from former Oleh and current MK Dov Lipman and Anatoly Sharansky as well. The new Olim were treated to a marriage proposal from an oleh that just arrived last year and became a soldier.
Nefesh B’Nefesh can be contacted at www.nbn.org.il