New immigrant seeks to unite Diaspora Jewish families with Israelis
Abi Bitton, the founder of Our Mishpacha, which unites Israeli and Diaspora Jewish families. Photo: Courtesy

“We may be the smallest nation, but we are the biggest family in the world,” says ‘Our Family’ founder.

By Etgar Lefkovits
June 5, 2024

(JNS) When Abi Bitton came to visit his fiancée in Jerusalem for a quick holiday on Oct. 5, the trajectory of his life’s journey would forever change.

The 35-year-old, who worked in real estate development in New York, had already picked out the flat where they would live in the Big Apple.

The Oct. 7 Hamas massacre changed all that. As it did for so many others, the worst attack on the Jewish people since the Holocaust had a profound impact on the young entrepreneur.

“We can’t leave Israel,” he told his fiancée, Natasha, who had herself moved to Israel two years earlier from Argentina, but had agreed to his request to relocate to New York after their marriage. “This is a defining moment for our nation, and we need to do something about it.”

A ‘global community’ for Jewish people

Bitton, who was born in Argentina but raised in Mexico, Uruguay (his father served as Uruguayan chief rabbi) and New York, with a stint in Israel, sprang in action. He became determined to connect Diaspora Jews with Israelis in real time. He wanted to make a long-term change.

Abandoning his job, he approached a New York financier, Ari Bergmann, with the lofty goal of creating a platform for a global community of Jews, which would connect Jewish families from all over the world with Israeli families.

And so, Our Mishpacha (family) was born.

Launched online in the week after Oct. 7, the organization has since connected 1,000 Jewish families in the United States, United Kingdom, Argentina, Australia and Brazil with an equal number of Israeli families. They are matched by a team of coordinators and then connect via Zoom, and sometimes in person as well. 

The Stein Family from the 5-towns has come to visit their ‘Israeli family’ three times already. Credit: Courtesy.

A total of 5,000 Israeli families have already signed up, many of them with the head of the household currently serving in the army.

“We may be the smallest nation, but we are the biggest family in the world,” Bitton said in an interview with JNS. “Our enemies want to bring us down and divide us. My goal is that we become stronger than ever before.”

The project quickly drew the interest of veteran Jewish organizations such as the Bnei Akiva youth movement, the World Zionist Organization and the Jewish Agency. It took off, with 55 synagogues in the Diaspora signing on, although the number of Israelis signed up in the free-of-charge English and Hebrew online platform has outnumbered the Diaspora applicants by five to one. 

“I need Diaspora Jews,” said Bitton.

While 4,000 Israeli families are on the waiting list to be connected, the biggest beneficiaries of the family connection are Jews in the Diaspora, he said. A small team of nine employees work at the organization, which, Biton hopes, will eventually become self-sufficient.

The Biton family from Israel was brought to New York by the Talanskys from Great Neck. Credit: Courtesy

For those paired, the online interactions have frequently developed into personal friendships as well, with American families visiting their new Israeli families during solidarity trips over the last eight months of war, or alternatively meeting in the United States.

One Israeli mother who joined the platform told organizers that “after Oct. 7 her kids learned of those who hate us for the sole reason that ‘we are Jewish,’” Bitton recounted. Now, the mother added, “We are learning about those who love us for one reason: ‘We are Jewish.’”

For Bitton, there is no turning back. While he always felt that he had to come back to Israel having served as a lone solider in the Paratroopers and then meeting his wife at a Nefesh B’Nefesh Thanksgiving Dinner in Jerusalem, Oct. 7 has proven to be a game-changer for him.

Avi Bitton (fifth from left) and the staff of Our Mishpacha. Credit: Courtesy.

“I couldn’t leave and go back to my regular job showing apartments in New York,” he said, rolling his eyes at the thought of it.

“We are living in a defining moment for the Jewish people and within this period of tumult we have an opportunity to become better, stronger and more united than ever before.”

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