Each year, thousands from the U.S. undertake a lifechanging move to Israel, making aliyah, finding new jobs, places to live and communities many miles away from their original homes. Last month, a local Atlantan, 33-year-old Michael Barnhard, was among them.
Barnhard is making his transition with the help of Nefesh B’Nefesh, the nonprofit that provides support to aliyah-makers — or Olim — during a time that can present plenty of challenges.
He was among 242 new Olim who made the journey in the middle of August on the 60th Nefesh B’Nefesh-chartered El Al flight, with the help of The Jewish Agency for Israel, Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael and Jewish National Fund.
In Atlanta, Barnhard was a marketer and he told the AJT that making aliyah was not a spur-of-the-moment decision.
“With thanks to G-d, making aliyah and moving to Israel is something I’ve thought about doing for a long time, and it feels so great to live in the land of Israel,” he said in an email from his new home.
He also reflected on his experiences with his community back home and said he was thankful for their support.
“The Atlanta Jewish community – especially the Kehilla in Sandy Springs – has been wonderful in helping me on this journey, and I hope to see [them] all here soon,” he said.
Among the other 242 Olim were people from 22 U.S. states and two Canadian provinces. More than 100 were children under 17, and 21 of the new immigrants were medical professionals. Nefesh B’Nefesh also set the record for its youngest-ever Oleh as a 28-day-old also made the trip.
“Each and every Oleh brings a world of their own to Israel – culturally, ideologically and professionally as they strengthen the Jewish nation,” said Rabbi Yehoshua Fass, co-founder and executive director of Nefesh B’Nefesh. “As we celebrate our 60,000th Oleh today, we reflect upon how Nefesh B’Nefesh, as an institution, has been privileged to not only help tens of thousands of Jews fulfill their aliyah dreams, but has also contributed to building and developing the State of Israel through these Olim.”
As for what the future holds for Barnhard, he said, “I am looking forward to experiencing everything Israel has to offer and continuing to grow in Judaism. I’ve lived in many places around the world, and I’m blessed to call Israel my home.”
Nefesh B’Nefesh is dedicated to revitalizing aliyah from North America and the U.K. by removing or minimizing the financial, professional, logistical and social obstacles of aliyah. The support and comprehensive social services provided by Nefesh B’Nefesh to over 60,000 newcomers ensured that 90 percent of its Olim have remained in Israel.