Correction: This story initially quoted Rabbi Yehoshua Fass as saying "For 11 years, on 29 flights..." in the second paragraph. The correct number is 49 flights.
(JNS.org) NEW YORK—At a pre-departure ceremony on Monday in the El Al Airlines terminal at John F. Kennedy Airport in New York, Rabbi Yehoshua Fass, co-founder and executive director of the Nefesh B’Nefesh aliyah organization, welcomed 331 soon-to-be Israelis, including a record 125 men and women who will enlist in the Israel Defense Forces, to their life-changing flight.
“For 11 years, on 49 flights, I have welcomed thousands as they make their way to Israel,” Fass said. “And, it doesn’t get any less emotional. All of you, from diverse backgrounds, are coming together in a unified dream—to make Israel your home.”
Forty-one families and 88 children were on the aliyah flight chartered by Nefesh B’Nefesh (NBN). Upon arrival in Israel on Tuesday, a formal gathering of some 1,600 people greeted the new immigrants. Government officials, an IDF general, and Jewish organizational professionals welcomed a group of olim that—besides for the record number of future soldiers—included doctors, lawyers, engineers, teachers, and accountants who began their new lives in Israel.
“These are Jews who want to come home,” NBN’s Fass told JNS.org. “They feel viscerally connected to the Jewish people. Their emotional connection to Zionism is palpable.”
The Nefesh B’Nefesh flight was organized in cooperation with the Israeli Ministry of Immigrant Absorption, The Jewish Agency for Israel, Keren Kayemeth Le’Israel, and Tzofim Garin Tzabar.