Helping immigrants from India integrate into Israeli society

Jerusalem, Israel

Helping immigrants from India integrate into Israeli society.
Until a few decades ago, there were 30,000 Jews living in India. Today, there are about 5,000. But a rising number of Indian Jews are finding inspiration in their new home, Israel, thanks to the efforts of The Jewish Agency.

© Nathan Roi for The Jewish Agency for Israel

The Jewish Agency works with 3,000 Jews in India. There are four known Indian Jewish communities: the Bene Israel, the Baghdadi Jews, the Bnei Menashe, and the Bene Ephraim.

I want to know the soldiers, those who make a sacrifice and protect the people of Israel so that we can live here and be free.

“I felt that I was Jewish in my soul and was attracted to Israel,” says Grace Galsurkar, 26, one of six Jews immigrating from India who currently live and study at the Canada House - Ulpan Etzion campus in Jerusalem.

Ulpan Etzion, founded in 1949, offers intensive Hebrew study for olim from all over the world who hold college degrees. Campuses are located at the Beit Canada Absorption Center in Jerusalem, in Haifa, in Ra’anana, in Ramle and in Be’er Sheva.

The Canada House is one of The Jewish Agency’s 21 absorption centers, which offer a “soft landing” and transitional housing for new immigrant families and adults at the beginning of their acculturation process in Israel.

Within The Jewish Agency’s absorption centers, ulpanim provide immigrants with five hours of intensive and immersive Hebrew-language instruction five days a week, for five months. The instructors, who are certified by Israel’s Ministry of Education, weave together a variety of techniques to help students improve their command of the language. Classes are taught at several levels and include trips and units on Israeli culture to enhance the learning experience and help with the immigrants’ cultural integration. Ulpanim serve around 10,500 students each year.

“I love Ulpan Etzion,” says Grace’s friend Golda Gadkar, who also made Aliyah from Mumbai, “I chose my Ulpan here when I was in contact with a Jewish Agency emissary in India, who helped me and my friends immigrate to Israel. As they chose Ulpan, my parents objected because they said I could not be here alone, without family. But now that I’m here, I feel I can cope with loneliness and living alone. My parents call every day and are interested in what I’m going through.”

Golda, who is in her 20s, says she made Aliyah because she “wanted to get to know the State of Israel closely, and deepen my acquaintance with Israel.”

“I wanted to see how Israeli society works and how people operate in Israel,” she says. “I want to know the soldiers, those who make a sacrifice and protect the people of Israel so that we can live here and be free.”

Aliyah from India and around the world represents The Jewish Agency’s historic mandate to bring Jews home to Israel. From August 2016 to July 2017, The Jewish Agency facilitated the Aliyah of a total of 27,770 Jews, including 600 from Africa and Asia.