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November 27, 1987 - Image 42

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1987-11-27

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Why Is It So Difficult
For American Olim In Israel?


Staff Writer


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FRIDAY, NOV. 27, 1987


Dennis Langwald

armon Bayer is well
aware how difficult it
to persuade
American Jews to make
aliyah. What most people do
not realize, he says, is that it
is even harder to get them to
stay once they are in Israel.
The 68-year-old retired
engineering consultant is
president of the local branch
of PNAI, Parents of North
American Israelis, a support
group for the parents of olim.
This particular subset of
American Jewry is probably
the most conversant on the
problems of aliyah.
Seventy percent of North
American obm ultimately
return to the U.S. and
Canada, Bayer states. By con-
trast, only 30 percent of olim
from England, Australia,
New Zealand and South
Africa return. Why?
The "backbreakers" for the
oleh are finding a place to live
and a job in his profession, ac-
quiring sufficient Hebrew
language skills and finding a
support system, he says.
Bayer and his wife, Adele,
are familiar with the
monetary stresses placed on
young people who move to
Israel. Their son, Ed, made
aliyah in 1970. Now a bio-
physicist at the Weizmann In-
stitute, he is married with
five children. "They are no
longer hanging on by their
fingernails, but it took a long,
long time," Bayer says.
Ed bought his first apart-
ment for $6,000, Bayer says.
"That would be around
$100,000 today. The trouble
is, there's no such thing as a
mortgage. I don't think many
banks are going to take the
chance that there isn't going
to be rampant inflation. You
have to come up with cash."
The secret to finding work
in Israel involves having a
marketable skill or profes-
sion. This often involves a
good command of Hebrew.
"We do an abysmal job of
language training," Bayer
complains. In other parts of
the English-speaking world,
most Jewish children go to
Jewish day schools where
they attain a much higher
proficiency than American
Jews who attend afternoon
Hebrew school ever do.
American olim face is self-
inflicted, Bayer believes.
"They don't take enough ad-
vantage of a support system."
Olim, he explains, come to

Harmon Bayer of PNAI: Olim should recreate an "old boy" network.

Israel to throw off their
previous Diaspora life and
shun things that smack of
ghettoization. Bayer thinks
this is a mistake.
"Eddie first lived in areas
that were not English speak-
ing. He found it culturally op-
pressive." For the last 15
years his son has lived in
Raanana, a Tel Aviv suburb
with a large English-
speaking population.
North American olim
should recreate an "old-boy
network" in Israel, he argues,
to help them find work and
feel at home. After all, Israel
runs on protectzia, "pull"
from people one knows. Bayer
also recommends that olim
take advantage of the profes-
sional counseling and social
services provided by the
Association of Americans and
Canadians in Israel, a land-
smanshaft for North
As the State of Israel is sup-
ported by U.S. dollars, the
American Jewish community
should expect to financially
support olim for some time
after their immigration,
Bayer argues. "The Russians
who come here — they're sup-
ported by the community.
What's so different? If you go
to a yeshivah [in Israel] you're
completely taken care of, by
your money and my money
filtered through the Jewish
To provide a safety net for
ohm, PNAI has begun a na-
tional solicitation campaign
to raise an emergency loan
fund to provide no-interest
loans for olim with short-term
cash problems. Seven U.S.
Jewish communities have
raised funds ranging from
Chicago's $10,000 to New
York's $100,000. Detroit's
PNAI has raised a small sum
and Bayer says he plans to

submit a proposal to the
Jewish Welfare Federation to
raise a local fund of at least
PNAI has discussed a more
ambitious project — a mor-
tgage fund — for many years,
Bayer says. "It's been no easy
task:' Both programs would
help olim stay in Israel if a
monetary • crunch were to
come. PNAI can raise only so
much money from its limited
membership of 3,200 families
across the U.S. and Canada.
"The only people with
enough money are the United
Jewish Appeal and the
Jewish Welfare Federation?'
Detroit's Jewish Welfare
Federation was the first such
organization to publicly state
its support for aliyah.
Zionism came slowly to the
federations and the local
breakthrough statement of
support "for helping Jews
who have made aliyah" came
only in 1986. How is Federa-
tion prepared to follow up its
"We haven't done anything
specifically," says Jane Sher-
man, chairman of Federa-
tion's Israel and overseas rela-
tionships committee. Specific
plans are going "through the
process," she says, refusing to
For now, Detroit ohm will
have to be satisfied with
Federation-sponsored going
away parties and occasional
mission visits in Israel, and
PNAI will have to rely on its
own funds to finance pro-
grams for ohm.
Like the best of Zionist
organizations, Detroit's PNAI
chapter is losing its leader-
ship through success. Har-
mon and Adele Bayer are
planning to make aliyah in
November 1988. "We want to
be close to our grand-
children," he says.

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