84 South American Jews Come Home to Israel

Fear not, for I am with you; I will bring your descendants from the east, and gather you from the west; I will say to the north, ‘Give them up!’ and to the south, ‘Do not keep them back!’ (Isaiah 43:5-6)

By JNS | | Topics: Aliyah
The Kessler family moves from Paraguay to Israel in July 2022 Photo: IFCJ

(JNS) Israel’s diverse immigrant population gained a further boost last week with the arrival of 84 new immigrants from seven different countries across South America.

The flights and arrangements were made possible by the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews (IFCJ) with the new arrivals coming from Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Mexico, Paraguay and Peru.

“Particularly with the many challenges that our world faces, including financial and logistical obstacles that can make aliyah to Israel much more difficult, it is very meaningful to be able to witness people from all over the world make this life-changing move,” said Yael Eckstein, president of IFCJ. “We feel privileged to be able to play our part in facilitating the growth of aliyah from Latin America and look forward to helping even more people come home to Israel and wish them all a quick, successful and meaningful acclimation.”

For Pedro Guinzberg, 21, who grew up in a small Jewish community in the Argentinian city of Bahía Blanca, the choice to make Israel his home came out of a love for his people and country. “I made the decision because I feel that as a Jew, I have to live in Israel,” he says, reflecting on the connection with the country he made during his time on a Zionist program in 2020. “I am not looking for better economic conditions or because I want to find a better job, but because I feel a connection to the country that I have never felt in Argentina.”

For others, like Ariel Kessler, 40, and his wife, Barbra Bernstein, 39, who lived in Asunción, Paraguay, the motivation came out of the belief that life in Israel would offer them and their four children opportunities that they could never have in South America.

“We made the decision a little over a month ago because we want our children to experience a full Jewish life. It is not possible for us in Paraguay to keep kosher, observe Shabbat in the community or ensure that they get to meet a Jewish partner in the future to start a family,” explains Bernstein. “In Israel, they will be able to grow up proud of their Judaism.”

The family will begin their time in Israel in the small coastal town of Or Akiva, where a program is being set up to welcome new Orthodox families from Latin American countries.

Among the group are those who have chosen Israel as the place to finish their working years and ease into retirement in a new setting.

Graciela Serrano and her husband, Gustavo Gimenez, are both professionals who will be seeking continued employment in the health-care sector and specifically chose to move to the northern town of Karmiel known for its green spaces. “We’re looking forward to starting a new chapter in Israel, where we know we can have a better quality of life,” they say. “We want to spend our last years of working age and our retirement away from the financial crisis and rising crime of Argentina.”

The couple is moving together with Gustavo’s 93-year-old mother.

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