Finding moving to Israel tough? Get an aliyah coach
A new service offering coaching for immigrants to Israel just signed its first group of customers. The help, however, doesn't come cheap.
'Olim' (new immigrants) to Israel from North America step off the plane for the first time. Photo by Nir Keidar
First there was athletics coaching. Then came life coaching, executive coaching, career coaching, couples coaching, health coaching and other forms of niche coaching.
Now there’s aliyah coaching.
A South-African-born Israeli who founded and runs an online directory for English-speaking new immigrants recently teamed up with a leading Israeli coaching firm to provide this new service, and they’ve just signed their first group of customers.
The idea, says Haifa resident Suzanne Suckerman, who launched the Anglo-List.com directory about three years ago, is to reach out to those who need a bit more hand-holding and encouragement getting through the often challenging ordeal of relocation. Relocating to Israel is especially challenging for some, given that it entails moving thousands of miles away, adjusting to a new culture and learning another language.
Anglo-List.com was originally established to serve English-speaking immigrants in Haifa, but over time, it expanded to cover the entire country. Suckerman hopes to leverage her expertise in this community to push forward her new business, which is now advertised on her website.
“The thing that always saddened me was hearing stories about new immigrants who came to Israel and got taken for ride,” says Suckerman, explaining what prompted the initiative. “We’re not trying to take jobs away from the aliyah offices, and we’re not taking it upon ourselves to phone new olim and welcome them when they get here. Our purpose is to help them understand what they’ll experience and provide them with the tools to make the process a success.”
It’s not cheap. Depending on the particular plan chosen, an hour of one-on-one aliyah coaching can cost anywhere from $100 to $300, says Maayan Zweig, a senior coaching consultant at TUT Communications & Results, the personal and business coaching firm established by Israeli celebrity coach Alon Gal. “It depends on whether I need to help out with writing a business plan, whether the customer needs to be escorted to the bank, and on whether there’s a need for couples coaching in addition to business coaching,” she explains. “Some people, though, just need a kick in the butt.”
Aliyah coaching, she says, is no different from any other sort of coaching. “It’s about focusing on your strong habits and using them to achieve your goals, in this case, making a successful go of life in Israel,” says Zweig, who was born in Israel and moved to South Africa as a child, only to move back later on in life to join the army. Today, she lives with her family on a moshav near the Gaza Strip border.
On her way to meeting a new customer, an immigrant from Switzerland who recently set up base in Jerusalem, Zweig explains that in most cases, the coaching process begins before the actual move is made. “We start with conversations on Skype to motivate and guide them before they come,” she notes. “Then we have face-to-face meetings, usually one a month, once they arrive.” Customers, she says, are not required to sign up for a minimum time commitment, “though there probably should be one.”
The coaching, says Suckerman, is meant to help new immigrants get through the hurdles of setting up a new business or finding a job, as well as the inevitable family crises that arise during a transition of this sort.
According to Zweig, each customer receives a tailor-made program designed to suit his or her particular needs and goals. “In our first conversation, the questions I ask that help me design the program are what are the reasons for the move, are they coming alone or with family, what is their connection to Israel, what if any research have they done, and what made them decide to seek coaching,” she notes.
Once customers have begun reaching their goals, which Zweig estimates should take about three months, the next step is group workshops and seminars, which are a bit less costly. “Depending on the number of people we get and the specific venue, the participation charge would be anywhere from NIS 70 to NIS 500,” she says.
About a month ago, TUT won a bid from the Immigration Absorption Ministry to provide business coaching services to all new immigrants residing in the south of the country (the area encompassing Ashdod to Eilat). This particular element of aliyah coaching will, therefore, be free of charge to all new customers there.
Neil Gillman, the aliyah counselor responsible for English-speaking countries at the Jewish Agency, said he welcomed the initiative. “In the last few years, we’ve seen a wide number of services catering to olim in a number of different fields,” he noted. “Anything which assists in the process, I think, is a positive thing. The more official organizations are able to help in a certain way, but if people are prepared to pay for help beyond that, and that help is forthcoming, I don’t think it’s a problem at all.”
But another veteran in the field of aliyah counseling said he would recommend that new immigrants take advice from the experts before investing in services that they might not need.
“The idea of helping olim over and beyond what the aliyah organizations do is not something new,” said Dorron Kline, the deputy director of Telfed, the Israeli arm of the South African Zionist Federation. “I would recommend that before paying for something like coaching, it’s a good idea to consult with your aliyah counselor at whatever organization that may be to see if this is the right thing for you and the right time to do it. The counselors are the people who know best what’s out there and what you need.”