This is the 19th and final part of this series on Aliyah and Klita (absorption) stories of American Jews who came to Israel for ideological and religious reasons in the past years. The purpose of the series is to emphasize the quality of the early Olim to Israel from America and to disprove the thesis that Olim in the early years of the state were unsuccessful shnorrers. A new series is planned for the near future to tell the stories of the modern day Olim especially those who came via Nefesh B’Nefesh. Those who are in the process of making Aliyah are invited to send their stories to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Renana and Jay (Yaakov) Wolff made Aliyah in 1993 from Oak Park, Michigan, where they were serving as the Bnei Akiva internal emissaries (young couples who, prior to leaving to live in Israel, serve in towns that do not have a large Jewish college presence). These emissaries run the Bnei Akiva and help it grow. Renana was raised in the Young Israel of Far Rockaway, NY, and received her BA in Accounting from Queens College. Jay was involved with Bnei Akiva in Spring Valley, NY, and received his BBA in Marketing Management from Baruch College. He pursued Graduate Studies in International Business at Pace University and Wayne State University. In the USA, Renana worked for Ambassador Steel in Detroit as the comptroller and Jay worked for Morris Kosher, one of Empire Foods’ master distributors, in Hazel Park, Michigan. They were also very involved in the plight of Soviet Jewry.
When they came to Israel they decided that they did not want to hear the usual large amount of a foreign language spoken in an absorption center, so they settled in Kibbutz Merav, a religious kibbutz located on the Gilboa, overlooking the Shomron on one side and the Beit She’an valley on the other side. It was simply beautiful. They quickly excelled in the use of the Hebrew language, thanks to the great yeshivot they had attended in America. There was, however, very little work on a Kibbutz for an American marketing manager, so after making the rounds of all the odd jobs on kibbutz, they moved in 1997 to the town of Beit Shemesh. Yaakov took a job working for a Shomer Shabbat advertising and public relations firm. Renana is now starting her own catering/retail food business.
The deteriorating health of Renana’s father forced the Wolffs to put everything in storage and to return to the USA, again as emissaries. This time they worked for the Young Israel in West Hempstead. Renana was the youth director and Jay became the Director of Advertising at Net2phone. In 2002, after the death of Renana’s father and the end of Renana’s contract in 2001, they moved back to Beit Shemesh where they still live today. Yaakov works in Jerusalem as the Director of Partner Relations for Net2phone where he works with partners in Europe, Africa, the Middle East, and Asia. Their most important treasures are: Gavriella Orit, 8; Tehilla Esther, 5; Ayelet Moriah, 5; Hodaya Ilanit, 3; and Chaim Avraham, 1. They invite anyone to contact them for any help in making this dream of the Jewish people a reality. (See family picture on this page)
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Lila and Jack Perry have lived in Israel for 23 years with their three sons and seven grandchildren. They came on Aliyah from their beautiful home, complete with a very large swimming pool, in Atlanta, Georgia, where they lived a good life. They left behind many good friends and a wonderful community. They came because they and their children felt a powerful force pulling them towards the land of Israel. They did not have marital or other problems, but were a very happy successful family. Jack was a successful salesman with a good company. In Israel, Jack is working with the largest commercial laundry in Israel and is very successful, but is making a small percentage of his previous salary in America.
They, however, are very happy in Israel and do not miss the life in America. They are pleased that many of their good friends – and even their rabbi – have followed them to Israel. They invite anyone who needs convincing to visit them in their home to see what they have accomplished here. They apologize that they can no longer invite you to swim in their pool, as they no longer have one, but they would be happy to serve you a good meal and introduce you to some of their friends who had made Aliyah long before they did, to show you how they exist in this wonderful country of theirs.
Lila adds that her husband is a Holocaust survivor who came to America and went to night school. He worked as a salesman for a well known textile company and was doing very well in America before they decided to live in Israel. Their oldest son is a senior technical writer and after studying computers, he worked as a systems analyst-developer. Their middle son owns an insurance company and their youngest son is a comptroller for a large furniture company. Two of their boys received their education in Israel after finishing high school in America and the other son received his education in America. All of their boys are self sufficient and making a living, maybe not as much as they would have made in America, but they wouldn’t think of returning to America to make more money.
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Reuven and Judy (Klipper) Rosenstark came on Aliyah from Washington Heights in 1991. Reuven is originally from Canarsie, Brooklyn, and Judy is originally from Monsey, NY. Judy graduated from Stern College, and worked as a computer programmer for the Federal Reserve Bank of NY. Reuven graduated from YU, received Semicha, and worked as a teacher in ASHAR and Yeshiva of Flatbush.
Both of them were raised on the ideology of Bnei Akiva and knew that their goal was to make Aliyah. As soon as it became realistic they made Aliyah to Alon Shvut with their oldest two children. Reuven learned in Yeshivat Har Etzion for several years. Now they live, with their six children, in Efrat, where Judy is a dental assistant and Reuven is the Rav Beit HaSefer in Orot Etzion and a rebbi in Yeshiva Tichonit Orot Yehuda.
Their thoughts on Aliyah are simple, “It’s definitely the thing to do”. Israel is the ONLY place to raise Jewish children and they thank G-d every day that their children, even the teenagers, agree. Whenever they have visited the United States, the children express the feeling that they are so happy that they live in Israel. The family feels that they have totally acclimated to society in Israel. It obviously helps that they are in a very mixed area with many Anglo-Saxons. They work, however, in an Israeli environment and are thankful to feel totally at home in Israel. The only advice they can think to offer you is, “COME NOW, the longer you wait, the older the children get and the harder it is, but it is never too late!”
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Ruth (Jaffe) and M’Chaim Lieberman both made Aliyah separately in the early 80’s. They met here in Israel while hiking with common friends and were married in Jerusalem in 1994. They continue to hike the country as a family hobby with their five children – Merav, 9; Avital, 8; Yitzie, 6; Yair, 4; and Adiel, 1. They live in Alon Shvut, in Gush Etzion, just south of Jerusalem.
M’Chaim, a lawyer by profession, spent the last six years as the department head in Rasham Haamutot, the government’s registrar of non-profit organizations, a division of the Justice Department. He has just reentered the army as a full-time judge in the military court near Jerusalem, trading civilian life for the bench.
Ruth is involved in Israel’s political world, having worked as an aide to Beni Begin and later as an advisor to government minister Benny Elon. She is involved in local politics as an elected member of the Gush Etzion Regional Council. She also works closely with the press, including foreign reporters, and with the U.S. Congress.
“Being a part of Israeli society came naturally to us,” says Ruth. “Our language improved with time, and we just jumped right into our government positions. Of course you get laughed at as an Oleh, for using an idiom in the wrong way or for not having a full grasp of the culture, but the advantages largely outweigh any disadvantages. The fact that we moved to Israel from the United States is often appreciated by the Israelis we deal with,” she adds.
M’Chaim adds: “We enjoy being on the cutting edge of Israeli society with an awareness of the news and of what’s going on around us, rather than positioning ourselves outside mainstream Israel. Of course we do enjoy living here in the Gush, among both veteran Israelis and ex-Americans (whose mentality is closer to ours in many ways).”
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When Reuven Artzi was about 11 years of age and attending “Hebrew School,” a very old teacher explained to him the map that was on the back cover of his Hebrew workbook. “This is the Land of Israel; this is the homeland of the Jewish people,” he explained. Reuven Artzi was perplexed and asked, “If this is our Land, what are we doing here in America?”
Eager to be in “our Land”, Reuven Artzi at the age of 14 became an active member of the religious Zionist youth movement, Hashomer Hadati, in Boston, Massachusetts. The movement was based on the ideas of modern Jewish religious socialism, focused on Kibbutz life. When Reuven studied the Hebrew language and culture, contemporary and classic Hebrew literature together with Talmud and the books of the Prophets, all in Hebrew, at the “Hebrew Teachers College” (H.T.C.), it brought Eretz Yisrael as near as possible in the Diaspora.
Reuven Artzi came on Aliyah in 1951 and since that date he has been a member of Kibbutz Shluchot, in the Bet Shean Valley. His three children and their offspring live in various parts of the country. Despite the hardships which all Olim have gone through, Reuven believes that Israel should be in every Jewish heart and, if possible, “Aliyah” to Israel should be on everyone’s minds. He is living in Israel today because of the map on the back cover of a Hebrew School workbook of many years ago.
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Esther Margolis (nee Shizgal) grew up in Montreal where she was very active in Bnei Akiva. She relates that she cannot remember a time that she didn’t want to live in Israel, although she had never visited because the family could not afford the cost of a trip. At one time she even entered the world-wide “Chidon Hatanach” (Bible Quiz) because the first place prize was a trip to Israel, but she finished third.
She eventually came to Israel on a one-year program after high school (in 1979) and spent the year at Michlala, in Jerusalem. She then served in Sherut Leumi, in Tzfat. After Sherut Leumi she studied special education at Bar Ilan University. Her family came on Aliya four years later, in 1983. Soon after finishing university, she met and married her husband, Marcel, who had also come on Aliyah in 1983, from London. They were married in 1985 and, in 1991, moved to Efrat after the birth of their third child. Marcel works as a real estate appraiser, and Esther works as a secretary at the local child development center. Their oldest daughter is now in Sherut Leumi (in Kibbutz Yavneh) and their son is finishing high school and will be entering the Israel Army Hesder program in Ma’aleh Adumim. Her only claim to fame, she says, is that she has never been back to Montreal since leaving, and she and her husband have not left the country since 1988, when they visited her husband’s family in England. Esther refuses to go abroad to “stam” travel. Her daughter was in Canada for a visit as a high school graduation gift from her grandparents, and fortunately was not impressed by what she saw. As she put it when she came back, “How can they stand to live there? They don’t have any life; all they have is money.” Esther’s parents live in Jerusalem, and her three siblings with their spouses and children live in Beit Shemesh.
Esther believes that the best thing she ever did was to come to Israel at a young age, before she became used to doing things “the American way.” That may be why she does not miss anything, and she believes that she has the best possible life (although she sometimes wishes that she lived in the Golan Heights…)
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