“Hashem will guide you always; He will slake your thirst in parched places And give strength to your bones. You shall be like a watered garden, Like a spring whose waters do not fail.” Isaiah 58:11 (The Israel Bible™)
The International Fellowship of Christians and Jews (The Fellowship) on Tuesday renewed its promise to help bring Venezuela’s Jews to Israel as economic and political conditions in the Latin American nation rapidly deteriorate.
“For Venezuela’s Jews, the future seems bleak, with the unstable economic and political situation worsening daily. People are even afraid to go out of their homes because of rampant kidnappings,” said The Fellowship’s founder and president, Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein. “We pledge to do everything in our power to help the Jews of Venezuela come to Israel and build new lives in the Jewish State.”
Rabbi Eckstein’s reaffirmation of help comes after weeks of intensifying, deadly protests against the Maduro government, and a reported failed military coup over the weekend. The growing instability over many months has led to the breakdown of civic order and the collapse of the economy, producing widespread shortages of basic goods and medicine.
The Fellowship is the only organization bringing Venezuela’s Jews, estimated at 10,000 members, to Israel. In the past 18 months The Fellowship has rescued more than 138 Venezuelan Jews, and expects to bring an additional 100 more to Israel by the end of this year, as part of its continuing global campaign to bring distressed Jews from 26 countries to Israel.
The Venezuelan-Jewish community has not escaped the impact of the country’s volatile conditions. Some 700 Jewish families in the capital of Caracas receive communal charitable assistance, while The Fellowship has been supplying requested medicine to the Jewish community in Venezuela as well.
The Fellowship’s latest flights to Israel in late July carried 26 Venezuelan Jews, and Rabbi Eckstein said many of the new arrivals were so hungry they wanted immediately to visit McDonald’s at Ben-Gurion Airport.
The Fellowship pays for each family’s transportation to Israel, and provides each adult with $800 and each child with $400, on top of the Israeli government’s support for all new immigrants. The Fellowship also provides a variety of other support services for new immigrants immediately upon their arrival, including in-home visits to review their needs and provide aid for such needs as food, appliances, furniture, day-care, vocational training, and even dental care, to help them start their new lives.
Rabbi Eckstein today also lauded Israel’s Ministry of Immigration and Absorption for heeding The Fellowship’s requests to increase aid for these new immigrants, most of who are poor and arrive with little money and few possessions. The ministry has increased its aid every six months to Venezuelan-Jewish immigrants by an additional $4,170 per family and $1,668 per single person.
With this additional aid, the benefits now amounts to approximately $9,700 for couples; $8,200 for single-parent families; $5,100 for singles; $3,000 for children up to age four; $2,200 for children ages four to 18; and $2,600 for children 18-21. Families with more than five members also receives $1,400 extra. The increased government aid plus The Fellowship’s support means that a Venezuelan family of four will now receive about 50 percent more assistance to get started in Israel.
“We are profoundly grateful to Minister of Aliyah and Absorption Sofa Landver for agreeing to increase this critical support for these new olim (immigrants),” said Rabbi Eckstein. “This additional aid will go a long way toward helping the Jews of Venezuela as they begin new lives in Israel and incentivize others to come on aliyah (immigrate) as well.”