• Sarah Bronson, The Jewish Agency for Israel ©
  • Sarah Bronson, The Jewish Agency ©
  • Sarah Bronson, The Jewish Agency for Israel ©
  • Julio Lozano, Ester Garzon and their children.

    Julio Lozano, Ester Garzon and their children.

    Sarah Bronson, The Jewish Agency for Israel ©
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A New Year in a New Homeland

“The students here today come from 35 countries and speak 14 languages,” said the Director of the Absorption Center. “I’m always amazed by you young people who leave your studies, your jobs, your home, your language to make Aliyah. I’m proud of Israel for being a country that absorbs people from all over the world."

At a Rosh Hashana party in Beersheva’s Yeelim Absorption Center for New Immigrants, 100 participants gathered, including both olim and Masa participants from the former Soviet Union studying Hebrew at Yeelim, and also study at a nearby arts institute.

An Absorption Center staff member led the group in song with an accordion, singing songs that have the word “shana” in it, like the classic “B’shana haba’a neshev al hamirpeset . . . “, ‘Next year we shall sit on the balcony and tell stories of old.”

After a short explanation about the Jewish New Year (all replete with Russian interpretation), the staffer explained the symbolism of the shofar and blew it to great applause – some of the participants in the room had never heard the sound before. 

“The students here today come from 35 countries and speak 14 languages,” said the Director of the Absorption Center. “I’m always amazed by you young people who leave your studies, your jobs, your home, your language to make Aliyah. I’m proud of Israel for being a country that absorbs people from all over the world. In the upcoming month, you’ll have a lot of vacation for three important Jewish holidays: Rosh Hashana, Yom Kippur, and Sukkot. Take the opportunity to travel and notice the ways you can feel the holidays here, in ways you can’t feel Jewish holidays outside Israel. All of Israel will be celebrating with you.”

“Israel is a strong country. We are strong militarily. We are strong economically. We are strong with the way we take care of our citizens. This summer, some of you experienced rockets. They cannot overcome us. We are unified and strong, and Aliyah is a blessing to this country. It strengthens us. Many of the soldiers who fought in Gaza are immigrants. We are strong and we are not afraid. I will share with you a saying that has been true during every wave of immigration to Israel: me’oleh l’oleh, kochenu oleh – with each immigrant who comes, our strength grows. Have a good year, a fruitful year, a year of peace, and we wish you success in your studies.”

A group of olim, also from the beginners’ class, gave individual presentations on Rosh Hashana traditions. The group included an oleh from Brazil, an olah from India, and olim from the FSU. It was pretty impressive, their ability to speak in simple Hebrew in public!

Meet Our Olim, Up Close:

Sarah Volcovich, 50, a new olah from Mexico City. Sarah’s daughter made Aliyah 2 years ago to Jerusalem, and her son made Aliyah in January to Beersheva. She came in March with her husband and two dogs. In Mexico she had worked as a nursery school teacher and babysitter. “We always wanted to make Aliyah, since we got married 28 years ago, to be all together in Israel," she tells, "But I needed to stay there to take care of my parents. Now, my children made Aliyah, and I didn’t want to be a grandmother by computer.”

On Yeelim: “I am very happy here at Ye’elim. We feel safe here, which is important when you are coming to another life, an adventure. My wishes for the new year are peace, health, success, and more grandchildren!”

Yindra Alfonso, 39, is a new olah from Cuba, arriving in Israel with her husband and two children, ages 6 and 8.
“It’s been a difficult change, but now we’re OK – we’ve adapted, totally," she says. In Cuba, Yindra was a doctor – a neonatologist – and she plans to continue after a regular ulpan with a 3-month ulpan on medical terminology, and study toward getting Israeli licensure to practice medicine in Israel.
“My wishes for the new year are health and peace,” Yindra says. "And to get my medical license. But really, just peace. It’s very necessary. It was so hard this summer. The sirens – my children couldn’t sleep at night. None of us could. The staff helped us a lot. When I go out into the world, I can’t express myself, and they help me. Hebrew is very different from Spanish.”

Yuri Drabkin, 18, from Dnepropetrovsk, Ukraine, is a Masa participant studying photography. “I came on Masa to avoid going into the Ukrainian army,” Yuri explains. “I’m planning to stay here for good…For Rosh Hashana, I’m going to Ashdod, to friends of my parents.” 

Julia Shashina, 19, hails from Moldova, and came to Israel as a Masa participant studying graphic design. “I’m a graduate of The Jewish Agency!" she exclaims. "I work there as a madricha, in the summer camp. This is my third time in Israel.  This country is my home. I plan to spend Rosh Hashana with friends of mine in Netanya.”

When asked about her wishes for the New Year, Julia laughs. “My wish for the New Year is to learn a LOT. I plan to study all the time! My hope is to register at the institute and make Aliyah, and that my family will come too.”

21 Oct 2014 / 27 Tishrei 5775 0
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Sarah Bronson Sarah Bronson made Aliyah from the United States in 2003. She holds a BA in English from Barnard College and an MA in Journalism from New York University. Before coming on board to The Jewish Agency in 2012 as a Marketing writer, she spent ten years doing freelance journalism for clients including The New York Times, Glamour, The Jewish Week (New York), The Jewish Chronicle (London), Haaretz English Edition, the Jerusalem Report, and MTV Networks. Her professional background also includes teaching stints in the New York City public school system, at Touro College, and at the Ramah Jerusalem High School. She lives (and sometimes emerges from Facebook) in Jerusalem.