My shul, Congregation Sons of Israel in Allentown, Pennsylvania, has seen quite a few families, as well as individuals, make aliyah over the past several years. Certainly, the number of olim per capita is higher here than in many larger communities.
There are various reasons for this phenomenon, but today I am interested in finding ways to build on this success – to promote Aliyah to Israel as an achievable goal for members of our Jewish community.
Our Jewish Day School already helps, bringing in Israelis to teach and hosting girls from the “Bat Ami” program. And, of course, our shul offers both regular and special Israel-related events, and Israel is at the top of everyone’s radar screen. But I’d like to do more.
So I had a new idea just this morning, and I expect to implement it this year: A Shabbat Aliyah, juxtaposed with Yom ha’Atzmaut, in which we honor our Allentown Olim.
• I’m thinking of asking our olim to send family photographs, which we could post on the walls of the shul.
• I would ask a few of them, including a former rabbi of our shul, to send divrei torah for Friday night, Shabbat morning and Seudah Shlishit.
• I want to put up a wall mural of the map of Israel, highlighting the places where our Olim now live.
Building on that, I’d like to have an “Allentown Oleh” column in our special HaModia bulletins, which we publish six times per year. Not necessarily a political, even aliyah-oriented column; I'm thinking more of a blog post talking about life, updating us on lifecycle events, that sort of thing.
The overall idea is to make people more aware of their peers who have made aliyah, to provide insights into the process of aliyah, to help people understand כי יכול נוכל לה, that, yes, we can do this.
I find that one of the major obstacles to aliyah is simply the sense that this is a major, years-long, arduous task. In truth, it is. But Nefesh b’Nefesh has done a lot to smooth the way – and, perhaps, seeing how others have succeeded will help people to envision doing it themselves.
So I'll ask you: What ideas do you have? In particular, I’d like to hear from the Olim who read this blog – what else could we do, to promote aliyah from our shul?
We don’t have the funds to run pilot trips or start building a development, but I am a firm believer in the idea that small steps count, too - so let’s hear your advice.