For new immigrants to Israel, Israel Returns is there to lend a helping hand. Israel Returns is in close contact with new immigrants, offering both material and spiritual assistance such as loans, financial aid, employment counseling and various group activities.
The Need: The Jewish people are currently facing a demographic and spiritual crisis of unprecedented proportions. Our numbers are shrinking, Jewish commitment is waning, and more and more young people are leaving the fold. And yet, simultaneously, an extraordinary awakening is taking place. From northeastern India to southern Spain, from the coast of Portugal to the shores of Brazil, countless numbers of people are trying to make sense of their Jewish ancestry, wrestling with profound questions of history, identity and self. Many are literally knocking on our collective door, looking for a way to enter. Israel Returns is the only Jewish organization today that is actively reaching out to “lost Jews” in an effort to facilitate their return. We approach each case on a human level, lending guidance and understanding in tracing Jewish roots, exploring Jewish history and evaluating options for returning to the Jewish people.
Israel Returns’ activities include:
- Dispatch of Representatives: Israel Returns sponsors rabbis and teachers to work with various groups of “lost Jews” in places as far afield as India and the Iberian peninsula. Israel Returns rabbis are currently posted in Spain, Portugal, Brazil, Russia and Poland.
- Jewish Education: For those seeking to undergo formal conversion to Judaism, Israel Returns offers various educational options in Israel, including Machon Miriam, the only Spanish-language conversion and return institute in Jerusalem. Dozens of Spanish and Portuguese crypto-Jews graduate from Machon Miriam each year, and proceed to undergo formal conversion by Israel’s Chief Rabbinate.
- Social Support: Israel Returns runs a social and cultural club for new immigrants located near Jerusalem. We offer a variety of courses such as computers, English, Hebrew and Judaism. During vacation periods, there are day camps for the children and throughout the entire year, there are special activities for teenagers.
- Publications: Israel Returns has published newsletters, magazine and books in English, Hebrew, Spanish, Polish, Yiddish, Mizo Kuki and Portuguese.
- Traveling Seminars: Israel Returns runs a series of roving seminars aimed at reaching out the lost Jews and helping them to return to Judaism. Seminars have been held in Spain, Portugal, Poland and India.
- Aliyah: Israel Returns provides social and financial support to new immigrants to the Land of Israel.
- Online Resources: Israel Returns has created virtual communities where those seeking to return to the Jewish people can find educational material, newsletters, lessons on YouTube and Facebook, as well as live “virtual chats” with rabbis, scholars and historians.