This is the ninth part of a series on Aliyah and Klita (absorption) stories of American Jews who came to Israel for ideological and religious reasons in the past years.
Few countries in the world have the concern for its citizens that Israel has. During the recent tragedy of death in Southeast Asia, the whole country was concerned about the relatively small number of Israelis missing. Some citizens of Scandinavian countries criticized their own governments for not showing the concern for its citizens that Israel showed. Not only did Israel send aid and rescue teams, but it also sent teams to search for Israeli victims and even Zaka teams for identification of bodies.
The whole country rejoiced when one or another of the supposed victims was found alive, and the Israeli travel insurance companies even sent representatives to help those Israelis in need. It was a national effort. Israel is our real home!
Caryn and Steve Gale and their two daughters made Aliyah 10 years ago from Pittsburgh where, unlike in Israel, they were surrounded by their very supportive family. They left a thriving Jewish community where they were very active members in their synagogue and community, and where they could have purchased a large, beautiful home for about $120,000.
They came to live in Israel, in a fourth floor walkup in a four-room apartment that cost more than $120,000. They did not have the luxury of coming on a Nefesh B’Nefesh flight, nor were they offered any other incentives. There was little group support, because there definitely wasn’t any type of mass Aliyah from Pittsburgh. They did, however, have their good friends, the Jaffes, who also made Aliyah, and they decided to take the plunge together.
Caryn and Steve gave up good, high paying jobs with a lot of opportunity for growth in the USA. Steve had to accept a major pay cut (about 50%) for a job with a company in Israel that ended up closing down after about two years. Caryn at first had no job prospects at all, and was in full-time Hebrew Ulpan. The life decision to make aliyah was not an easy one, and they did not make Aliyah to get away from any problems. They made aliyah because their oldest daughter was entering kindergarten, and they felt that it was the cut-off age for their kids to have a successful Aliyah.
They came because Israel is the homeland of the Jews – and America is not. They came because they are religious Jews, and they felt that they wanted to be comfortable in their every-day life as religious Jews. Thank G-d they have been successful in Israel, and they now live in a beautiful home.
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Rabbi Eliezer Waldman was born in Israel, but when he was three years old, his family moved to the USA so that he, too, can be considered an American Oleh. His family had intended to remain for a short time, but with the outbreak of World War II, the family remained in New York City where Eliezer grew up.
Young Eliezer completed his undergraduate education in the United States in Yeshiva and Mesivta Torah VoDaath, Mesivta Chaim Berlin, Yeshiva University, and Brooklyn College. As an active member of the Bnei Akiva Zionist Youth Organization, he yearned to return home.
In 1956, he came to Israel as part of a Hachshara group sent for a year’s program combining six months of work at Kibbutz Yavne with six months of study at the nearby Yeshiva Kerem B’Yavne. Once there, he was determined to remain in Israel.
Rabbi Eliezer attended and received his ordination from Yeshivat Mercaz HaRav in Jerusalem. In 1964, Rabbi Waldman was appointed to be a senior lecturer in Talmud at the Bnei Akiva Yeshiva Ohr Etzion, a position he held until coming to Kiryat Arba. His IDF military service as a tank corps chaplain and troop carrier driver found him serving on the banks of the Suez Canal, often under heavy enemy fire.
In 1968, Rabbi Waldman was asked to help organize and lead a group of student pioneers who sought to reestablish Jewish learning in the holy city of Hebron. From this early nucleus evolved the present Hesder Yeshiva, the Nir College of Judaic Studies. Rabbi Waldman and the institution he founded became the focal point around which the town of Kiryat Arba, the first urban settlement in the Jewish lands liberated in June 1967, was established.
Today, Kiryat Arba still stands as the example of Jewish settlement in these redeemed Jewish lands. Imbued with the vision, pioneering spirit and religious philosophy of Israel’s first Chief Rabbi, Rav Avraham Yitzchak HaCohen Kook, of blessed memory, the graduates of Kiryat Arba’s Hesder yeshiva fill positions of leadership in education, settlement and defense throughout the Jewish state.
Rabbi Waldman was a founder of the Techiya political party and served in the Israel Knesset. He was the founder and is a Rosh Yeshiva of Yeshivat Nir in Kiryat Arba. He is a much sought after political lecturer in Israel and abroad, and is the author of books and articles on Jewish philosophy, the festivals and current Jewish events. His commentaries are published in The Jewish Press as well as e-mailed to an extensive list. Rabbi and Mrs. Waldman are very proud of their eight children and over 30 grandchildren.
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Pessach Derdiger became a Zionist and religious at the age of 13 while attending Camp Moshava in Wild Rose. Since then, he wanted and planned to live in Israel. In January, 1977, after receiving his BSc in education from Northern Illinois University, Pessach left Lincolnwood, Il. and came directly to Israel with a clear mind and no obligations. He tried it. He liked it. He stayed.
Pessach lived on Kibbutz Beerot Yitzhak for five years. After getting married, he and his wife left kibbutz and he underwent job retraining to computer programming. He has been working in that profession since 1984. Pessach worked at Iscar Metals for three years, then at Liraz Systems for seven years, and since then for 10 years at Aman Computers. He, his wife and their two sons live in Petach Tikvah.
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Sondra and Ed Baras made Aliyah in 1984, from NYC, where they had lived since their wedding in 1979. Sondra is originally from Cleveland, where she was an active member of Bnei Akiva. Ed hailed from Silver Spring, Maryland. They had two babies, a two-year-old and a three-month-old when they came.
Sondra had a BA in History and English and a JD (law degree), both from Columbia University. She had worked in the tax department at Stroock, Stroock & Lavan, a Wall Street law firm, before Aliyah. Ed had a BA in Computer Science from Columbia and an MBA from NYU. He worked at Standard & Poor’s, and had already published two books with McGraw Hill on computer software before making Aliyah.
They came on Aliyah for one reason only – they are religious Zionists. They believed that the State of Israel is the beginning of the Geulah, and the most important event that happened to the Jewish people since the building of the Second Temple. They did not want to miss out on being in Israel. And they wanted to make a difference, which is one of the reasons they moved to a community in Samaria.
Shortly after arriving in Israel, Sondra joined the governing board of Neve Aliza, which planned to build a new neighborhood in Karnei Shomron, where they live to this very day.
Both Ed and Sondra have been active members of their community – serving on the boards of two different shuls, as well as committees within the community. They have five children, ages 14 to 22. The oldest has already finished the Hesder learning/army program, the second one is now in Hesder, and the third, their only daughter, is doing National Service in a school for troubled children in Haifa. The younger two are still in high school.
Ed works in computers for Matrix, customizing software for industrial and commercial outfits. Sondra is the director of the international office (based in Israel) of Christian Friends of Israeli Communities – an organization that connects Christians with the communities in Yesha, involving public relations, tourism and fundraising. (Their family picture can be seen on this page).
(To Be Continued)
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