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Nefesh B’Nefesh launches International Medical Aliyah Program to aid Israel’s physician shortage

The objective is to facilitate the transition of 2,000 doctors, nurses, dentists, dietitians and more in the next five years.

From left: Dr. Osnat Luxenburg from the Israeli Ministry of Health; Nefesh B'Nefesh co-founders Rabbi Yehoshua Fass and Tony Gelbart; Ofir Sofer, Minister of Aliyah and Integration; and Avichai Kahana, director general of the Ministry of Aliyah and Integration sign a multi-year agreement to create an international program to streamline the immigration process for medical professionals. Photo by Shahar Azran.
From left: Dr. Osnat Luxenburg from the Israeli Ministry of Health; Nefesh B'Nefesh co-founders Rabbi Yehoshua Fass and Tony Gelbart; Ofir Sofer, Minister of Aliyah and Integration; and Avichai Kahana, director general of the Ministry of Aliyah and Integration sign a multi-year agreement to create an international program to streamline the immigration process for medical professionals. Photo by Shahar Azran.

After eight successful years of expediting licensing and placements for thousands of North American healthcare professionals interested in making aliyah, Nefesh B’Nefesh is expanding its medical initiative to Jewish communities worldwide. After the annual U.S. MedEx event on March 10, Nefesh B’Nefesh will hold its first European MedEx in Paris on March 31, 2024, as part of the organization’s newly founded International Medical Aliyah Program (IMAP).

Nefesh B’Nefesh signed a multi-year agreement with Israel’s Ministry of Aliyah and Integration, and the Ministry of Health, to create an international program to streamline the immigration process for medical professionals, ensuring their ability to integrate into Israel’s medical workforce upon arrival in Israel. The objective of the program is to facilitate the aliyah of 2,000 physicians in the next five years.

The program offers medical professionals an all-encompassing array of resources, services and personal consultations, and will now be offered around the world in various locations.

This first-of-its-kind program has been made possible thanks in part to the generous sponsorship of the Marcus Foundation, an organization committed to making a difference in the lives of countless individuals and communities, the Jewish Federations of North America (JFNA-UIA), and the Jewish Agency for Israel.

“Confronting the growing challenges of healthcare personnel shortages, especially in times of crisis, remains a critical mission for us at Nefesh B’Nefesh,” said Tony Gelbart, co-founder and chairman of Nefesh B’Nefesh. “The International Medical Aliyah Program is designed to ensure a seamless transition for these committed medical professionals and passionate Zionists, and we are thrilled to now offer this expedited process to professionals from all over the world. We are honored to have been given this role by the Israeli government and extremely grateful to our philanthropic partners in making this possible.”

Nefesh Medical Aliyah Program
Nefesh B’Nefesh co-founders Rabbi Yehoshua Fass and Tony Gelbart; Yossi Amrani, Israel’s Consul General in New York; and Ofir Sofer, Minister of Aliyah and Integration with medical professionals who have volunteered in Israel during the war. Photo by Shahar Azran.

This year’s inaugural event, which took place in Teaneck, N.J., was attended by 230 physicians from 30 states and provinces across the United States and Canada. In addition, it was attended by nearly 500 medical professionals, including nurses, dentists, dental hygienists, podiatrists, psychologists, optometrists, pharmacists, occupational therapists, speech therapists, physiotherapists, audiologists, dietitians and nutritionists.

“At the Ministry of Aliyah and Integration, we recognized the vital contribution of bringing physicians to Israel, and as a result established the Directorate of Doctors within the Ministry of Aliyah and Integration, led by Dr. Efrat Aflalo. This initiative underscores our commitment to fortifying Israel’s healthcare system, economy and national resilience, particularly during this challenging war time,” said Minister of Aliyah and Integration Ofir Sofer.

“Today, I had the privilege of meeting hundreds of physicians at the MedEx conference, some already in the advanced immigration stages and others expressing interest in making aliyah in the future,” he continued. “Through collaborative efforts involving the Directorate of Doctors, the Ministry of Health and Nefesh B’Nefesh, we will facilitate their smooth transition through the bureaucratic procedures, enabling a swift integration into Israel’s healthcare system. We have welcomed 200 doctors from overseas during the ‘Swords of Iron’ war who answered the call to aid our hospitals in treating the influx of wounded. On behalf of the State of Israel, we also express our profound gratitude to these doctors for their invaluable service.”

Nefesh Medical Aliyah Program
Nefesh B’Nefesh co-founders Rabbi Yehoshua Fass and Tony Gelbart; Ofir Sofer, Minister of Aliyah and Integration; Avichai Kahana, director general of the Ministry of Aliyah and Integration; and Knesset Health Committee chairman Yonatan Mashriki with medical professionals at the Nefesh B’Nefesh MedEx event 2024. Photo by Shahar Azran.

As part of the MedEx program participants received expedited processing of their medical licenses, as well as networking opportunities with Israeli medical professionals and employers. Experts from various Israeli ministries and institutions, as well Tekuma—the newly formed government branch focused on rebuilding Israel’s south—were on-site to discuss and assist with license conversions, specialty recognitions and notarization of documentation. Additionally, representatives from Israeli health funds (kupot cholim), hospitals and organizations conducted interviews to ensure that qualified olim can experience a swift and efficient transition into the workforce.

“The Ministry of Health is spearheading major efforts to bolster our healthcare workforce through strategic national programs and congratulates our valuable collaboration with Nefesh B’Nefesh and the Ministry of Aliyah and Integration in this endeavor. Strengthening our health system with skilled professionals and experts in their respective fields is crucial, especially amidst the significant shortage of doctors in Israel,” said Minister of Health Uriel Menachem Buso. “The national program we are advancing is imperative, and we are committed to streamlining bureaucratic procedures and expediting the absorption process into our healthcare system. I am confident that this program will enable us to fulfill our responsibilities and deliver a high-quality and timely medical response to all citizens of Israel.”

Since its inception, Nefesh B’Nefesh has aided more than 940 physicians and 3,000 medical professionals in moving to Israel. Most are employed in hospitals, Israel’s health funds (HMOs) and the private sector.

Following MedEx, the long-standing Nefesh B’Nefesh “Aliyah Fair” will take place the next day, geared for hundreds of potential olim of all backgrounds and occupations. The fair encompasses various vendors and representatives, offering vital assistance and services to those interested in or planning aliyah.  

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Founded in 2002, Nefesh B’Nefesh, in cooperation with Israel’s Ministry of Aliyah and Integration, the Jewish Agency for Israel, Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael and JNF-USA, strives to facilitate and celebrate aliyah, and advocate for olim. By minimizing financial, professional, logistical and social obstacles, new arrivals are able to actualize their dreams and continue building a stronger Israel. The support and comprehensive social services provided by Nefesh B’Nefesh to its 75,000 new immigrants have ensured that 90% have remained in Israel.

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