Transcription Company, started by Rich Brownstein 13
years ago, is the largest in the entertainment industry.
Brownstein’s business transcribes TV programs and
radio shows from ABC, NBC, CBS, Paramount, Universal and
Disney. It is a thriving business, and yet Brownstein is
selling it and leaving California in order to fulfill a
It’s his dream of aliyah — moving to Israel.
Despite the terror attacks, the threat of war and the
economic uncertainty of Israel, Rich, his wife, Sara,
and their two children will move there on July 13.
"We have always intended to go to Israel,"
said Rich, an Orthodox Jew from Pico-Robertson.
"And in terms of the perceived danger, I don’t
think it is very different to any other time in Jewish
history. They have always been shooting at us, there
have always been wars and there have always been
The Browsteins' move to Israel is typical of
today’s aliyah reality — the majority of the Jews
who choose to battle the odds and move to Israel are
Since the start of the intifada, Israel’s economic
recession and the fear of terror attacks has kept many
potential immigrants away. In fact, the number of people
making aliyah has declined so sharply — from 377,000
in 1991 (when Russian aliyot was at its peak) to 35,168
in 2002, according to Nefesh B’Nefesh, a private
philanthropic foundation — that last week Tzipi Livni,
the Israeli minister of immigrant absorption told the
Associated Press that immigration to Israel is in a
"tailspin" and that her ministry needs to find
ways to make the country more attractive to potential
immigrants. On June 23, housing grants were reinstated
to immigrants as a first step to keep them coming to the
country, and a government task force was set up to study
the immigrant needs.
But many Orthodox Jews aren’t waiting for the
situation to get better or for the Israeli government to
lure them to Israel. Of the 35,168 immigrants, 80
percent are estimated to be Orthodox. They see aliyah as
an integral part of their Judaism; a halachic necessity
they have aspired to their whole lives, reinforced by
their education and communities. In Los Angeles,
Orthodox Jews have even accounted for aliyah rates
rising slightly over the past few years.
"The people who are going to Israel come from
very committed backgrounds," said Batya Dashefsky,
the Israeli emissary for the Aliyah Center in Los
Angeles. "I think they take the long view. They
realize that things are difficult now, but [aliyah] fits
into the way they see themselves as Jews, and they are
able to see the bigger picture. Something that happens
today or yesterday doesn’t affect what happens to the
tomorrow, because they are going for the rest of their
Dashefsky said that the number of people making
aliyah through her office has risen slightly over the
past few years — 90 in 2001, 107 in 2002 and the
prediction for 2003 is at least 120 — and about 90
percent of the Los Angeles immigrants are Orthodox.
Dashefsky also attributes the slight increase in numbers
to Nefesh B’Nefesh, which started in 2000 to provides
financial assistance in the form of a grant to Jews
making aliyah. The organization gives families making
aliyah average grants of $18,000, and also assists with
social integration and governmental processing. Last
year, the organization sponsored a mass charter flight
of people making aliyah; this year they have two such
flights leaving in July.
Rabbi Yehoshua Fass, the founder and executive
director of Nefesh B’Nefesh said that of the olim
(immigrants to Israel) his organization helps, 78
percent are Orthodox.
"It is a tremendously high proportion," he
said. "You just have to go to the theological
schools of each organization and see where Zionism and
aliyah play a role in its curriculum in order to
Fass said that people making aliyah send a strong
message of support to Israel and create good public
relations for Israel around the world.
"When we did the charter flight in 2001, it was
covered in Russia, China, Japan — all over the world,
and it showed the world that Israel is strong, and that
Israel has individuals who are choosing aliyah," he
said. "It also created a tremendous moral boost for
Israelis, who have been experiencing a very tough time
over the last two years. To have individuals come and
live there is the ultimate expression of
Sarah Brownstein agreed.
"This is the message we want to tell them
[Israelis]: You are not alone," she said. "We
are tired of sending checks to Israel. Now we want to
For more information about Nefesh B’Nefesh, visit www.nefeshbnefesh.org
or call (866) 425-4924.