Just three weeks after Yad L'Achim invited potential immigrants from France to contact it for assistance in making a successful Aliyah to Israel, the organization's French department has been inundated with calls.
A special campaign was launched in France, following the recent wave of terrorism there, that includes advertisements – in French and Hebrew – in local newspapers and billboards in major Jewish centers in France. Similar ads appeared in Israel, in communities with large French-immigrant populations.
The campaign – under the slogan, "Aliyah to Israel? Aliya to Torah!" – calls on immigrants and potential immigrants to contact Yad L'Achim for assistance in areas that are vital to life in Israel.
Most of the requests for help have come from major Jewish centers in France: Paris and its suburbs, Marseilles, Nice and Lyons. Some have come from French Jews who already immigrated but who need help in navigating their way through the bureaucracy. Poignantly, some requests have come from the La Vincennes quarter in Paris, where the terror attack occurred in January in the Hyper Cacher market.
Yad L'Achim officials revealed that most of the requests for assistance relate to finding appropriate Torah schools for their children, locating housing in suitable religious neighborhoods and guidance relating to spiritual absorption.
One of the more moving calls came from a relative of a family in France that is planning on moving to Israel. She said that she herself had descended from a family of Yemenite immigrants who arrived in Israel in the early years of the state. She and her brothers were saved by the first Yad L'Achim activists who infiltrated her transit camp in Ein Shemer and succeeded in registering them in religious institutions.
An older brother who didn't agree to leave the transit camp and attend a religious school is the only family member who is not Torah observant.
"I know from personal experience how important it is to cooperate with Yad L'Achim because you are the only guarantor for the successful spiritual absorption of immigrants, of the education of their children in the ways of Yisrael Saba."
This testimony comes on the heels of pronouncements by French-immigrant rabbis warning that many of the second-generation immigrants in Israel leave the fold because they aren't registered in schools that suit them socially, academically and spiritually.
Staffers of Yad L'Achim's French department, assisted by volunteers, divide their work into two tracts: They meet new immigrants from France in Yerushalayim, Bnei Brak, Ashkelon, Chadera, Ashdod and Netanya to assess their spiritual and socio-economic needs and direct them to an appropriate community; at the same time, they work with potential immigrants in France, preparing the groundwork so that their adjustment will be smooth from the moment they arrive in Israel.
Yad L'Achim officials note that it is astonishing to see how the requests for assistance come from all segments of French Jewry: religious, secular, chareidi and traditional.