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May 8, 2009

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PAGE 16A HERITAGE FLORIDA JEWISH NEWS, MAY 8, 2009 Econon lc crisis prompts Israeli expats to l"eturn home Brian Hendler Oded Salomy, sitting in the rest area of the company he works for, says returning to Israel "was the right move for me as a person and as a family." By Dina Kraft TEL AYIV (JTA)--When Oded Salomy and his family first left Israel for the United States, they planned to move back after a few years of career building. But life was good, and itquickly became easy to delay the return home. Then the economic crisis hit, giving them an extra nudge to go back to Israel. Now celebrating his first Independence Day in Israel in five years, Salomy marvels at the relative ease of the transition from suburban New Jersey to suburban Tel Aviv. "I feelgreat here,"he said."I definitely feel it was the right move both for me as person and as a family. "The most surprising as- pect of the series of Holocaust Remembrance Day, Memorial Day and Independence Day is my children's reaction to it. I hear them talking about Herzl and Hitler, learning about it at school and hear their con- versations about it as 4- and 7-year-olds." The 8alomy family is among a growing number of Israeli families living abroad who, motivated by new economic realities and ties to family, friends and country, are mak- ing the journey back home. As many as 1 million Israelis live overseas, according to varying estimates, but the Israeli government over the years exerted little official ef- fort to.woo them back. That changed recently when the Absorption Ministry adopted a new campaign to offer re- turning Israelis tax and other financial incentives, as well as assistance finding jobs. Last year, the number of returning Israelis rose to 11,000 from a recent annual average of 4,500, according to the ministry. In the past six months, as the global economic situation has dete- riorated, interest in moving to Israel has skyrocketed, officials say--not just among Israelis abroad but potential immigrants, too. Among those returning are highly educated [sraelis who have gainedvaluable work and academic experience abroad. "I hope because of the campaign tens of thousands of Israelis will find their way back to Israel." Erez Halfon. director general of the Ab- sorption Ministry, told JTA. "I think it's important to them, and the government needs to encourage it because I'm sure in 10 years we will see their importance, how the economy and security situa- tion will be improved because of their return." Before launching its campaign, the ministry re- searched some of the main reasons Israelis abroad hesi- tate to return. Among the major stum- bling blocks the ministry removed were penalties for failing to pay National Insur- ancepayments (akintoSociai Security payments in the United States) while abroad. The ministry also provides extra Hebrew education for the children of returning Israelis, offers business loans and provides a tax exemption for. two years on all income earned abroad. While Israel has been af- fected by the economic crisis, it has felt the blow less severely than the United States. Salomy, 41, had founded a transportation technology start-up while in America-- an interactive touch-screen system for the backseats of taxi cabs in New York City. Despite finding initial success, it became clear the company would have to raise tens of millions of additional dollars to stay competitive. "Then the markets started falling apart and commit- ments crumbled, andwith the pinch it became clear people were tightening up and the company was not going to be able to support me and my family any longer." he said. A lawyer by training, Sa- lomy had to take temporary consulting jobs to stay afloat. His and his wife's thoughts soon focused on their deferred plan to return to Israel. "The deteriorating econo- my was not as bad then as it is now, but it was still pretty bad, and it pushed us to make a pivotal life decision." he said. "We told ourselves that if we want to move, we should move now." There were also "pull" fac- tors: Salomy's children were getting older, and he wanted them to grow up in Israel a sentiment many returning Israelis echo. "The decision was not for a better life, butwanting to come back as the kids got bigger," said Ruti Efroni, who returned to Israel last summer after five "years in Washington. "They had even stopped speaking Hebrew to each other, and we wanted to come back to our families." When it comes to finding work, recruiters suggest that those who intend to return should move back first and then seek employment. Oth- erwise, the recruiters warn, the job seekers are not taken as seriously by prospective employers. That's what Salomy did after two "scouting" trips to Israel. where he had dozens of interviews and meetings. Soon after returning last sum- mer. he found a job as a direc- tor of corporate development for Modu, a manufacturer of light mobile phones. Nefesh B'Nefesh. the orga- nization that oversees North American aliyah, attributes the 100 percent jump in the number of inquiries to their call center in recent months to the economic crisis. "Israel has been on their agenda," said Danny Ober- man. executive vice president of Israel operations for the group. "They are looking towards summer camps and paying for next year's educa- tion for their kids, saying, 'OK, the bonuses I got two years ago are not going to happen; it's a new landscape.'" Ronan Hillel, a 37-year-old father of six from Long Island, N.Y., has moved up his aliyah plans to June because of the economy. Until recently he was a mortgage banker, work- ing in a field that has dried up in the United States and doesn't exist in Israel. But Hillel, the son of Is- raelis, is optimistic. He's planning to switch careers in Israel to the food industry. "We'll do anything we can in the beginning," he said, "and we'll see where life takes us." Rare ph()1 )s s low hidden life of partisans wtlo fought Nazis Faye Schulman strikes a pose in 1943. By Stacey Palevsky j. the Jewish weekly of northern california in March at Berkeley Hillel. "Pictures of Resistance: The Photography of Jewish Partisan Faye Schulman" is presented by the S.F.-based Jewish Partisans Educa- tional Foundation. "That these photos ex- ist is amazing to me.!' said Mitch Braff, director of JPEF. "I'm so honored to be the keepers of this exhibit. because it really is one of a kind." Schulman is the only known Jewish partisan photographer to capture life in the forest, Braff said. Most photographs of World War II resistance fighters were taken after liberation. Schulman is now 89 years old. But in the 65-year-old black and white photos, she is radiant, her round face and high cheekbones a striking mug indeed. She is young and optimistic, her smile sin- cere. Posing for the camera, she has a twinkle in her eye. SAN FRANCISCO--Faye Schulman always carried two things with her in the forests of Poland. A medi- cal kit to care for her fellow partisans, and a camera. When she wasn't tend- ing to others' wounds, she would set up her Doppel Anastigmat on a tripod and capture life in the woods. Click: Faye, in profile, wear- ing a leopard-print fur coat and pointing a rifle. Click: Faye with her parti- san group, the only woman ina cluster of men. Click: Faye cleaning the wounds of a partisan who lay on a makeshift operating table made from thick tree branches. These scenes are among the 33 black and white pho- tographs that were on display One wonders how she Stayed so upbeat in the throes of war. "I would never complain. because that would mean I wasn't a good .partisan. So I always had to have a smile." she said during a recent phone interview from her home in Toronto. The story behind the photos is as remarkable as the images themselves. Born in 1925 in Lenin, Poland. Schulman grew up in a small town in what is now Belarus. In 1939. Russia and Germany divided Poland. and Lenin fell under Russian jurisdiction. Schulman's brother, a photographer, taught her how to take pictures, process negatives and develop prints. She worked as his assistant. She also knew a little about medicine, as her brother-in- law was a doctor. When the Nazis invaded in 1941. they forced the town' 1.800 Jews into a ghetto-- except for six "useful Jews." Among them: a tailor, a car- penter and a photographer. Schulmanwas recruited to take pictures for the Nazis (her brother had already fled town). She would snap headshots of Nazi officials and portraits of their mistresses. One day, she developed a photograph that was clearly a mass grave of Jews who had been killed. Peering closely at the print, she recognized her own family. She hid the nega- tive in a box of photo paper to assure it would remain safe and unseen. She vowed vengeance and sought justice in the forest with a group of Russians-- mostly men and overwhelm- ingly non-Jews she'd met up with when they raided Lenin for supplies. She begged them to take her along. They were doubtful of her worth: what good was a woman? But she promised she could serve as a doctor's assistant, and they accepted her into the group. She recovered her pho- tography equipment during a subsequent raid on Lenin. Schulman hid her Jewish identity. During Passover, she ate only potatoes, never explaining why. She made sure her fellow partisans remained healthy through the harshness of winter, and tended to their periodic battle wounds. She made her own stop bath and fixer, and buried bottles of the solutions in holes in the ground, retrieving them when needed. For two years, she lived in the forest and documented life there. She would make "'sun prints" by putting the negative next to photographic paper and holding it toward the sun. She'd then give them to fellow resistance fighters. "They treasured their pic- tures and respected me for it,'i she said. The traveling photo exhibit at Berkeley Hillel represents only a fraction of the pictures and negatives Schulman created. She married after the war. She and her husband, Morris, could take very little with them to the displacedpersons camp in Germany. Though she had very few belongings after two years in the forest, Schulman possessed many, many photos and negatives. She selected only her favorite prints and negatives to take photos courtesy of jpef Schulman joins fellow partisans by their makeshift operat- ing table in the woods near Pinsk in 1943. with her to the DP camp, where she spent three years. She brought those with her to Canada. In tle exhibit, each photo is paired with a lengthy expla- nation of the image. The text is in Schulman's own words. recorded during an interview Braff conducted with her in her Toronto horqe in 2005. She also wrote a book chronicling her story. "A Partisan's Memoir: Woman of the Holocaust" was published in 1995. "] want people to know there was resistance." Faye said during that interview. the text of which is displayed with the photo exhibit. "Jewish people didn't go like sheep to the slaughter... ! was a photographer. I have pictures. I have proof." Dave Glass, a freelance documentary photographer in San Francisco, viewed the exhibit during the opening reception March 3. The son of Holocaust survivors, he was astounded the photos existed. "She couldn't just go to a store to buy film to take pic- tures-she had extraordinary circumstances that made photographing her experience an unbelievable challenge. But I understand why she did it," Glass said. "If you're a photographer, it's just in your blood, in your soul. You have to record and document it." Glass was so enamored by Schulman's photos that he plans to go back and view the exhibit again. "Her stories really made the photographs come alive," he said. "The stories just made the photographs rich. That's what I really enjoyed." Reprinted with permission from j. the Jewish weekly of northern california, www.