An Inside Window on AACI

I have been a part of AACI since making aliyah to Israel in 1977. When working full time and raising a family, I didn’t have time to take advantage of many of the programs offered. But a notice in a recent AACI e-report caught my eye. I read that AACI is looking for people interested in writing for its blog. I decided that perhaps this is a way for me to finally give back and contribute to this vital organization.

There is plenty of information available in AACI newsletters, e-reports and on the website about the breadth of activities taking place weekly. My goal in this blog is to go behind the scenes and take a peek at the people who make the organization what it is: members, volunteers, participants and professional staff. I want to find out who and what makes the organization so successful in helping English-speaking immigrants and veterans acclimate to Israeli life.

So where does one begin when the menu of people and activities is so extensive? I chose to start at the very beginning—finding out who is involved in helping those who have just made aliyah or are thinking of doing so. This week I had the pleasure of meeting Sheila Bauman, AACI’s Jerusalem counselor for Aliyah and Klitah.

If I had to describe Sheila in one phrase, I’d say “a live Google aliyah and klitah search engine”. Just ask Sheila a question and she’ll come up with the answer within minutes (if not seconds) using her impressive memory, extensive data base of up-to-date information found in binders on shelves in her office, or by checking her personal telephone book, filled with important names and numbers. Sheila has her “special friends” in the Ministry of Absorption, Ministry of the Interior, US Consulate, Bituach Leumi offices, every health fund organization…you name it! She knows just where to turn to get the precise information needed.

Sheila’s approach is pragmatic and rational. She never tells a client what to do, but instead chooses to guide them by explaining the facts and the consequences of each choice. Sheila runs a daily “Hot Line” where anyone can call and ask a question or seek her guidance. When asked what topics people inquire about the most, I was bombarded with a list that includes everything from US social security clarification, driving in Israel, legal advice, status and citizenship issues, recommended retirement homes, kids at risk programs, loans, mortgage information, finding schools, bringing pets to Israel and has even been asked to recommend a dog walker and to supply names of shadchanim (matchmakers). You can make an appointment to see Sheila during drop-in hours in Jerusalem or by telephone on her “Hot Line”, Sunday to Thursday from 12:15-1:15 pm (tel.: 02-566-1181).

Sheila also organizes AACI’s pre-aliyah and post-aliyah information sessions. Pre-aliyah seminars provide potential olim with information in advance to help make their aliyah a success. Topics include immigrant rights, Israeli health care, education, housing, shipping, job-hunting and more. In Post-Aliyah sessions, Sheila provides both new and seasoned immigrants with up to date information on Bituach Leumi, Israeli tax laws, choosing the most appropriate health fund to fit one’s needs, finding a suitable neighborhood, rental contracts, information on buying homes, employment, banking, etc. I have been told that Sheila possesses the uncanny ability to answer questions that people didn’t even know they needed to ask. (The next Pre-aliyah sessions will take place on Oct. 4 and 11 from 2:00-3:45 pm, a Pre-aliyah session specially for seniors on Oct. 12 from 10:00-11:45 am) and a Post aliyah session on Oct. 27 from 2:00-3:45 pm. Call 02-566-1181 to sign up.)

Sheila works closely with Yanina Musnikow in the AACI Tel Aviv office (tel: 03-6960389) and Miriam Green in the southern branch in Beer Sheva (08-643-3953). Sheila describes Yanina and Miriam as “fantastic colleagues”. The three counselors work as a team and are committed to making the aliyah and klitah process go as smoothly as possible.

Now for an exciting announcement: Beginning October 7, Sheila will be a regular guest on the Netty Feldman “Afternoon Shmooze” show on Rusty Mike Radio, aired every Thursday at 2:30 pm. Sheila’s segment, entitled “Makin’ It”, will discuss a variety of issues relating to aliyah and klitah. I’m sure even seasoned veterans will learn new, helpful information from listening to Sheila. I know I did.

By Judy Dvorak Gray

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