Why Aliyah Speaks to Millennials


Screen Shot 2016-09-12 at 4.49.05 PMby Sarah Kantor

Millennials, defined by Nefesh B’Nefesh as the cohort born between 1983 and 2000, make up a significant percentage of Anglo olim—66 percent in 2014 and 68 percent in 2015. The vast majority of Nefesh B’Nefesh’s 2015 millennial olim were single, but few were alone. Whether they joined the IDF, studied in Ulpan, took advantage of the free higher education opportunities provided by the Israeli government or found jobs upon arrival, most young olim come to Israel with a network of family and friends who have already made Israel their home.

Amongst Modern Orthodox millennials, aliyah is becoming increasingly common. Many have years of Religious Zionist education under their belts as well as significant Israel education and exposure; additionally, they face an economic climate that makes their generation unlikely to surpass the success of their parents.

Among millennials, aliyah makes sense when one considers the characteristics most associated with this population: innovative, optimistic and engaged. Millennials are known for their entrepreneurial spirit, and as Israel’s economy is fueled by innovation—it is the start-up nation after all—opportunities abound for a population willing to take a calculated risk. For Modern Orthodox millennials, living in Israel makes sense spiritually, ideologically and financially.

But for all the benefits of living in Israel (and there are many), Orthodox millennials also face unique challenges. Rewriting a CV for the Israeli market, finding retraining opportunities, or trying to leverage English-language skills in a Hebrew work environment can be daunting. For a generation known for being connected at all times, loneliness in a new country is common. And when these young olim marry and start building families, they are acutely aware of the distance from their extended families in North America.

For Rachel and Michael Porcelain, a millennial couple from North America who now live in Modi’in with their two children, it has been hard to grow accustomed to Israeli culture. There is always that small thought in the back of their heads that maybe things would be easier back in Toronto. But easier isn’t necessarily better, and every time they discuss moving back, the conversation quickly ends because they know they can’t lead the lives they want anywhere but in Israel.

Sarah Kantor is the content manager for Nefesh B’Nefesh.

This article was featured in the Fall 2016 issue of Jewish Action.
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