The Jerusalem Post
Ex-MK Cotler-Wunsh to lead new institute for aliyah policy
Former MK Michal Cotler-Wunsh will lead Nefesh B’Nefesh’s new Institute for Aliyah Policy and Strategy to help past, present and future immigrants integrate into society.
Cotler-Wunsh, who has dedicated substantial time to aiding olim (new immigrants), will have at her disposal 20 years of data collected about current and potential olim, with an eye toward reevaluating current aliyah policies. This research will inform future projects including implementation of procedures to allow olim to participate in policy development.
On a global scale, the institute will work toward making Jewish Israelis and the Diaspora feel more connected, deepening and enhancing the relationship between them.
According to Tony Gelbart and Rabbi Yehoshua Fass, cofounders of Nefesh B’Nefesh, nonprofit that facilitates aliyah from the US, Canada and the UK, “The founding of our new institution, headed by Michal Cotler-Wunsh, is an investment in the future.”
Cotler-Wunsh, who was born in Jerusalem and moved to Montreal at age eight, has since returned to Israel and served as a member of the 23rd Knesset for the Blue and White Party. She has served as chairwoman of the Subcommittee on Israel-Diaspora Relations and the Aliyah and Absorption Committee, among others.
Cotler-Wunsh’s life experiences have deeply impacted the work that she will be doing to represent, advance and empower olim.
“I feel that I have an extra responsibility toward olim, knowing the challenges and opportunities they face. Whether it be lone soldiers – having been a lone soldier myself – or olim in general as I have brought my own four Canadian children to Israel, I believe that every oleh and olah should have a place around decision-making tables in Israel, for the benefit of all,”
As for where she will begin in her new role, Cotler-Wunsh emphasizes the importance of comprehensive strategy and holistic policy changes.
“Nefesh B’Nefesh has done amazing work in helping 70,000 individuals make aliyah but at 73 [years of Israel independence], it is time to take responsibility, identify hurdles and make proactive, systemic changes rather than assist on a reactive, caseby-case basis,” Cotler-Wunsh said. “This includes addressing issues olim have with academic degrees recognition, professional equivalency, including in the medical field, or double taxation challenges that arise for olim from countries that Israel does not have treaties with.”
She hopes that identifying, prioritizing and leading systemic changes will empower olim to feel like contributing members of society on both a personal level with their families and also on a greater countrywide scale.
“Israel as a sovereign Jewish and democratic state has the responsibility to recognize olim as the incredible social, financial and spiritual growth engines that they are,” said Cotler-Wunsh. “Looking into the future is essential to maximize the impact that olim can have, for the benefit of the entire Israeli public and the Jewish people as a whole.”