November 14, 2007 / 4 Kislev 5768
“Coming to Israel in an organized framework like the Jewish Agency’s Na’aleh program made things so much easier. It’s a wonderful thing to bring young people here when they are at the age of deciding what they want to do with their lives and who they want to be.” -- Ray Kinan
Sometimes life has a way of returning us to our roots and that is just what happened for Ray Kinan, 28. His maternal grandparents, both Holocaust survivors, were traditional in their Jewish observance, but his mother decided not to follow in their path. “Growing up in Kovno, Lithuania, I knew that I was Jewish but we didn’t really talk about it or about Israel. We weren’t part of the Jewish community and didn’t celebrate Shabbat or holidays,” he says.
“If my life hadn’t suddenly changed the way it did, it’s hard to believe that I ever would have come to Israel,” says Ray. He is referring to the loss of his parents – his father when he was just 4 years old, and his mother when he was 12. After their deaths, Ray moved in with his older brother in a different neighborhood. “I had lost touch with my childhood friends and without family, I didn’t really have anything holding me back or tying me to Lithuania. I needed a fresh start,” says Ray.
That fresh start came in the form of the Jewish Agency’s Na’aleh program which facilitates the immigration and successful absorption of high school students from the former Soviet Union. Ray went to Israel when he was 16 and joined a boarding school near the northern city of Netanya where the staff and other immigrants became like a new family to him. He finished his last two years of high school in Israel and was able to quickly acclimate to the new culture and language. “The Jewish
Agency provided for all of our needs, from food to clothing to extra money to go visit friends and family in Israel,” says Ray.
After graduating high school, Ray served in the army’s border police division. Today, he lives in Ramat Gan and has been working for the immigration police for the last six years. He is also pursuing a double major in psychology and management at Ramat Gan College. During the Second Lebanon War in the summer of 2006, Ray and his fellow police officers helped protect the thousands of Israelis who suddenly found themselves on the front lines of the conflict. “We would go into burning buildings to rescue those who were still inside,” remembers Ray. “It’s very scary, but on the other hand, I am happy that I was there to help.”
Like Ray, there are many high school students who join the Jewish Agency Naale program and become productive Israeli citizens, giving back to the country that has already given them so much. A student, who joins Naale, joins a school where each class has an educational team working with it, consisting of the class teacher, housemother and social instructor. In addition, another professional team is available for both social and moral support. To contribute to Naale, click here.