The Conservative Movement will launch a campaign to encourage immigration to Israel from North and South America during the movement’s annual Rabbinical Assembly convention this week in Jerusalem.
"In the next two to three years we want to at least double aliya to Israel from North America," said Tzvi Graetz, executive director of Mercaz Olami, the Conservative Movement’s international political arm.
In 2008 there were 399 Conservative immigrants from North America, which represents 15% of the total, according to Jewish Agency statistics provided by Graetz.
"Our rabbis will be talking more about aliya in the synagogue. Rabbis will also be made aware of the tools available to potential olim, such as the Conservative Movement’s special shaliah aliya Naomi Freedman."
Freedman was appointed as the movement’s special liaison for immigration to Israel in December. She is based in New York.
Rabbi Andy Sacks, director of the Masorti [Conservative] Movement’s Rabbinical Assembly in Israel, said the timing of the new campaign was the result of an internal decision-making process.
"There are a few people in the movement’s leadership, such as Rabbi Graetz and Rabbi Paul Freedman, chair of the Aliya Committee, who see aliya as very important," he said. "Although the Conservative Movement has always been Zionist, this campaign is a little bit radical."
Sacks doubted that the current economic crisis would significantly increase immigration to Israel from North America. But he estimated it might have an impact on aliya from South America.
Graetz said the decision to launch the campaign was also connected to the success of Nefesh B’nefesh.
"We saw what they were doing and we reached the conclusion in the movement that we are not doing enough to encourage aliya," he said.