It’s a difficult dilemma: An individual wishes to make aliyah, but they are comfortable in their job, at their company and with the people they work with. Moving to a foreign country is daunting as it is, and some people see the employment process in Israel as yet another hurdle to overcome. But now, it might not be.
Before COVID-19, most employees didn’t have the luxury of working from home—then the pandemic hit. Employers and employees alike realized that various job functions can be performed not only from home but from anywhere in the world.
This change in mindset has had significant implications on aliyah today. In my capacity as the vice president of employment at Nefesh B’Nefesh, the nonprofit organization that facilitates aliyah from North America, I’m hearing more prospective olim (new immigrants) say, “Well, if I can work from anywhere, I might as well do it from Israel.”
It’s a win-win situation: New immigrants can keep their American jobs while still living their dream. In fact, remote-working olim are starting to become the rule and not the exception. Major companies like Google, Facebook and Amazon are showing a real shift in how we work, encouraging a home setting and different lifestyle by embracing the change. People are leaving their high-rises and settling into suburban life—after all, they no longer have to worry about their commute—further impacting the lack of importance to our employers of where we actually live.
Industries such as telemedicine, telehealth and teletherapy are all thriving in part because of their ability to offer patients instant access from anywhere. Traditionally, jobs that don’t rely on collaboration among co-workers are prime candidates for remote work. But now, other industries that were previously closed off to the virtual workplace are adapting to the times and meeting the job markets’ demand for remote work options.
I know olim who thought it would never be possible to bring their job with them to Israel, but COVID-19 has changed the game. Rivkah Tauber, for example, is a nonprofit consultant whose clients are all based in the United States and Canada. Tauber wanted to make aliyah since she was 18 and finally took the plunge to move from New York to Jerusalem last October. The main motivating factor was the pandemic, which led her to realize that the world is taking a virtual pivot with online meetings quickly replacing the need to be in the same physical space.
David Gardner, a certified specialist in immigration and nationality law, waited 50 years to move to Israel. The wait finally ended in 2020, and while life in Jerusalem is vastly different from his native California, he says that the coronavirus pandemic has normalized the concept of remote work.
It’s important to remember to focus on keeping your job but still balancing your life—being present in the moment on the ground in Israel even though your head might be in the digital cloud in North America. Keep in mind that tax issues are complex for Americans working abroad, and it’s important to make sure that one’s finances are set up correctly before embarking on this life change. Furthermore, don’t allow yourself to put off learning Hebrew or integrating into Israeli society—enjoy the balancing act this lifestyle allows. You can attend an ulpan or go volunteer in the morning before “beginning your U.S. business day” in the Israeli afternoon.
Those who have figured out the best-of-both-worlds have found creative ways to juggle the time difference. They make sure to have dedicated office space at home so they can work the necessary hours and take a break during dinnertime to be with their families. For those who are single, when it comes to dating and social life, many have opted for daytime outings when they need to work at night.
Ultimately, nobody knows exactly where life will lead. Some new immigrants even find remote work in Europe, helping eradicate the time change and fostering new clientele. The concept of “the world is your oyster” has truly taken on a new meaning.
The aliyah dream is now within reach for more Jews than ever before. In the future, it’s expected that some employers will want to revert to the way they operated before the pandemic. Yet with office culture drastically changing worldwide and remote work becoming the new norm, the prediction—the expectation even—is that many employers will continue to understand that not all work needs to be done in person. I hope that Jews considering aliyah take advantage of this new reality.
Rachel Berger is vice president of employment and recruitment for Nefesh B’Nefesh.