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In Conversation with Our Director of Israel Operations

Updated: Sep 29, 2022

We invite you to listen in on our conversation with Mrs. Batsheva Goldman, OHA Director of Israel Operations.

YCS: Thank you for joining us today, Batsheva. I understand you weren’t raised in Eretz Yisrael or even Baltimore from where you made Aliyah. Can you share with us how you got to where you are today?

I was raised in a very secular, but proud, Jewish family near Philadelphia, I had a pull towards spirituality very early on. I remember as a child that I wanted to be a Rabbi when I grew up. I assumed that being a Rabbi (a.k.a. a professional Jew) was a good career option for me.

I never made it to rabbinical school. A stop in Israel at the age of nineteen introduced me to observant Jews and lit a spark within me to investigate further. I’ve developed a lifelong passion for studying Judaism, both in texts and experientially. The most experiential study I’ve made is to marry and raise 5 kids. My husband, Yaakov, and I raised our kids (mostly) in Baltimore and we moved to Israel in 2015.

YCS: So you’ve been in Eretz Yisrael for over 7 years now. What inspired you to make Aliyah?

Our kids came here first. Our oldest was a Lone Soldier in the IDF Paratroopers. Our second to oldest got married and moved to Israel. It was an obvious decision to follow suit. My husband had been longing for Israel ever since we met. It was time to jump before this window of opportunity closed. We arrived here in 2015 with a daughter in her seminary year, a 14-year-old boy and a 7-year-old boy. All 5 children, their spouses and families, continue to live in Israel, bli ayin hara.

YCS: You’ve been involved with Operation Home Again almost since its inception. How and why did you become involved in the organization?

I had heard that Rabbi Shimon Apisdorf was raising the awareness of the importance of Aliyah for North American Jews. After moving to Israel, I realized how important the Land of Israel is to Judaism in a much deeper way. It was exciting to see what Rabbi Shimon could bring to this topic and I raised my hand to join the project.

YCS: OHA deals specifically with community Aliyah. Is there unique potential you see in families making Aliyah as a community?

Stating the obvious, making Aliyah with a family is very difficult. I’ve been there. I truly think that some of the hurdles can be mitigated through community Aliyah. When a family comes on Aliyah, they often decide to move to the larger, established Anglo centers. However, the real estate has become incredibly expensive in these Anglo centers and the schools are filling up as fast as they open. Raising children in an Anglo-center also has its set of challenges since children may find it more difficult to integrate into mainstream Israeli religious society.

Setting up Anglo “hubs” in cities around the country will encourage people to make Aliyah beyond the Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Beit Shemesh triangle. This will allow for less expensive real estate options and still provide for Anglo-olim friendly schools. In addition, once families are established in their Anglo “hub”, they can develop past their own English-speaking community. Since they will be living amongst an Israeli population. they have the opportunity to be integrated into Israeli religious society. Their kids can go anywhere; the sky's the limit!

YCS: Your title for OHA is Director of Israel Operations. What role do you play in facilitating community Aliyah?

My goal is to explore and secure suitable landing places within Israel for various types of North American communities. Once a synagogue rabbi or a community spokesperson decides to explore Aliyah, we present city and community options for them to consider.

I function within a team that connects the potential US community with the Israeli municipality. Depending on the specific needs of the community, I am involved in several arenas. One major one is figuring out schooling options for the community, either joining with existing schools or creating new schooling possibilities. This past year, I focused on getting an incoming community’s feet squarely on the ground here by tending to their diverse needs including researching health care options and connecting them with a landing coordinator to oversee their move-in.

Much of my position is to translate what is possible in Israel for people who are coming with American expectations and figuring out how to get it done. Here at OHA, we lovingly call ourselves Operation Hold Your Hand.

YCS: Aliyah is being mentioned more and more these days in American Jewish communities. What has changed in Eretz Yisrael that Aliyah is now being seen in a new light?

I’d say that the possibility of working remotely has contributed significantly to the opportunity for Aliyah. Having steady income in Israel has traditionally been a very difficult hurdle. Online or hi-tech work options in English is a huge boost to an Anglo oleh.

There is momentum in Aliyah. This past year (2021) has seen 60,000 new olim arrive. Of course, much of this is due to unrest in Europe, but it builds up the capacity for Israel to expect olim and meet their needs. It adds to Israel’s “immigrant culture,” of which North American olim are a significant part.

YCS: I understand that you will be contributing a regular blog post for OHA. What topics are you hoping to cover?

In keeping with my goal of explaining Israel to Americans, I will be exploring the Israeli school system. Chinuch has traditionally been a most imposing impasse to making Aliyah, but Israeli schools are expanding to become more inclusive to the needs of “chutznikim.”

I’ll be writing about how it works - top down - and what to consider when looking at the types of schools available. I will be presenting conversations with educators and administrators of Israeli schools, including English speaking schools here in Israel.

Be on the lookout for Chinuch Begins at HOME.

YCS: Thank you for your time. I am looking forward to your blog posts in the coming weeks.

My pleasure.

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