*Written by – Ofir Tsimering, Head of Demographic Growth in the Engineering and Settlement Division
When Adam Hopkins, a 31 year-old lawyer and his wife Rachel (also 31), a behavioral diagnostician of children with autism from Framingham, Massachusetts, made contact with representatives of the Ministry of Aliyah and Immigrant Absorption, they must have been filled with apprehension about making Aliya. After all, this was a decision of enormous and significant consequences for them and for their young children Gabi, Tzippi and Rafi.
Where will they live? How will they learn Hebrew? How will they make a living? Will they find work in their professions in Israel? Will they make friends? Will they find a good community to fit into?
Today, a short time later, with a lot of work having been done behind the scenes, many of their concerns have dispelled.
It was run at least like a military operation; zero hour was set for November 19th, 2014.
A few months earlier, contact was made between the Retamim Secretariat and representatives of the “First Home in the Homeland” program. For those who don’t know, this is a unique project for young immigrant families initiated by the Jewish Agency and the Kibbutz Movement. The goal of the program is to take in new olim families in the social framework of a kibbutz (in our case Kfar Retamim), which offers them a warm and supportive communal feeling, helps them make a “soft landing” in Israel and an opportunity to adjust and fit in as smoothly as possible. The program includes learning Hebrew, rapid integration in the educational and social frameworks with an emphasis on high-quality education for the children, activities to strengthen Jewish identity and the connection to the people and State of Israel and assistance in finding employment with the close support of officials and volunteers from the region’s communities. The program has been in existence for several years at Kibbutz Mashabei Sadeh and Kibbutz Revivim, where activities of the regional Hebrew Ulpan take place.
The Retamim Secretariat has put together an action team consisting of the general-secretary, a representative of the secretariat who runs the operation, a representative of the local [elected, governing] community committee, the education coordinator, and the “adoptive” local family.
Together they got well-acquainted with the program and, working with various officials at the regional council, made contact with the family to learn and understand their specific needs. Then the team chose a comfortable, newly-renovated house, furnished (from donations from other families in the community) and replete with brand new electrical appliances purchased by the community-village. They took care of every detail and waited.
Meanwhile, the Retamim community got acquainted with the family overseas. People lined up to prepare meals and to host the newcomers when the time comes, and all loose ends were tied before the approaching arrival.
The Hopkins family was greeted with a large sign at the Retamim entrance gate and by placing a mezuzah on the doorpost of their first home in Israel. The next day the family was accompanied by a personal escort to cut through all the bureaucratic red tape for new citizens.
Tired yet content and happy from the community’s warm embrace, the children were integrated into the school system, and the parents into the Ulpan.
And what about the staff?
The staff continues to accompany and support the family and is already at work on its next project.
The Hopkins are the 100th family in Retamim !