Mon, Oct 09, 2006 - Page 11 News List

Move to another land, keep a job

MOBILITY The modern era allows certain classes of professional the option of holding on to a job via the Internet, and Israel is one place leading the way

AP , JERUSALEM

Orit Wimpfheimer poses for a picture at her home office in the town of Bet Shemesh, near Jerusalem, last Thursday. Wimpfheimer, an Ivy League-trained radiologist, is among a growing number of American Jews who immigrated to Israel because they were able to earn a US paycheck and enjoy a lifestyle few Israelis ever see.

PHOTO: AP

Dr Orit Wimpfheimer rolls out of bed in her home in Israel each morning, walks downstairs and reports to her job -- on the East Coast of the US.

Wimpfheimer, an Ivy League-trained radiologist, analyzes test results from US hospitals over the Internet. She is among a growing number of American Jews who immigrated to Israel because they were able to earn a US paycheck and enjoy a lifestyle few Israelis ever see -- thanks to e-mail, Internet and video-conferencing.

"You get to move to the country of your choice. You get to do what you did before in the comfort of a home office," said Wimpfheimer, who lives in the Jerusalem suburb of Beit Shemesh.

Lack of high-paying jobs has been a major obstacle for potential immigrants to Israel from the US and other wealthy countries. Unemployment in Israel hovers around 9 percent, and Israeli professionals typically earn a fraction of what their counterparts make stateside.

A few thousand Americans immigrate to Israel each year, a tiny percentage of the more than 5 million Jews in the US. But the number has grown in recent years, in part because people can bring well-paying jobs with them, said Daniella Slasky, director of employment at Nefesh B'Nefesh, a nonprofit agency that helps North American Jews move to Israel.

"I wouldn't say this is the reason for increased aliya," said Slasky, using the Hebrew word for Jewish immigration to Israel. "I think this is a tool that helps people move to Israel. It is much easier to make aliya, coming here and knowing you have a job. Also, having the American salary while living here is very significant."

She estimated that 20 percent to 30 percent of the breadwinners among the new arrivals from North America maintain jobs overseas. When Nefesh B'Nefesh began work four years ago, the number was negligible, she said.

Among those keeping US jobs are medical professionals, accountants, lawyers, graphic designers and computer programmers. All do most of their work in Israel, though some periodically commute to offices overseas.

STAYING ON

When Adam Lubov, a database administrator, decided to immigrate in late 2004, the medical software firm where he worked in Savannah, Georgia, asked him to remain on board. Since he already did most of his work from home, the transition was easy.

"I thought this was great. I can continue in my job, then look for something else," he said.

After he saw what he would earn in the local market, however, he decided to stay on.

"Seeing the pay difference, I can't do it," said Lubov, 28, who lives outside Tel Aviv.

Joel Pomerantz, a psychologist at an alternative school for at-risk children in Cleveland, supervises a team of five people from his home in Beit Shemesh. He checks into work about 3pm and works through midnight -- corresponding with the business day in Ohio.

Using the Internet, he can review results of tests administered by colleagues, prepare reports or enter information into a database. He meets regularly with parents and students via video-conference.

Pomerantz said the setup has been a natural fit for his school, called the Virtual Schoolhouse, which uses Internet learning to augment classroom activities. He said his tech-savvy boss suggested the arrangement, and he spent several months preparing before moving with his wife and three children in July.

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