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True Role Models (Part Seven)

This is the seventh 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.

One of the unexpected dividends of our coming on aliya 20 and 30 years ago is the practically 0% rate of intermarriage of our grandchildren. How many of our yeshiva friends who remained in America, especially those who strayed from Orthodoxy or whose children strayed, can boast this percentage? Even if someone who came on aliyah became less religious, his grandchildren, thank G-d, and his great-grandchildren will remain Jewish.

Today, a religious and Jewish Holocaust pervades American life and decimates our numbers as more and more Jewish youth intermarry (some studies report a 60-75% intermarriage rate). It is time for young couples to realize that only in Israel will they be able to guarantee the survival of our people. Please join us in building Israel and in keeping your (great) grandchildren Jewish.

Zev (Milty) Gerstl came on aliya from Brooklyn. He left the USA after receiving his BSc from Cornell University. In Israel, he completed his PhD and had the privilege of serving in the IDF for 20 years (miluim). Zev raised a family, has four children, and worked his way up from a researcher to the head of the Institute of Soil, Water & Environmental Sciences in the ARO (Ministry of Agriculture).

Today, he is a scientist again, having finished his term as director, and is working on problems of soil and water pollution.

* * *

Yogi and Shulamith Rimel made aliyah in 1989 from Chicago with three small children. Currently, they have five children. Yogi came with a B.A. in Business & Management from Northeastern Ill. University and an MBA from the Illinois Institute of Technology. Before he came on aliyah, Yogi was the director of marketing for a major Chicago amusement company. Shulamith has a B.S. degree in Finance from the University of Illinois at Chicago. She served as a Hebrew school teacher prior to aliyah.

In Israel, Yogi is the CEO of a 120 bed long- term care facility and Shulamith is the office manager for a 215 family Yishuv in the Shomron. Yogi and Shulamith came to Israel for ideological reasons. Yogi did not want to reveal the salaries they left behind. ‘Suffice it to say that we don’t make here today what we made 15 years ago in Chicago!’

Yogi and Shulamith’s eldest son is in the IDF (Kravi – Nachal) and their daughter serves in Sherut L’uemi (National Service) working with olim at Tehilla. Their oldest son Ephraim, 20 – studied in Hesder in Gush Etzion and is now in Nachal. Menucha, 18 – is doing Sherut Leumi in Jerusalem at Tehilla. Tziona 16 – is in the 11th grade Ulpanat Ofra. Yigal, 13 (Bar Mitva 3 weeks ago) is in the 7th grade in Talmon, and Dvora, 8 – is in 3rd grade in Neve Tzuf.

What other details would you like about us?

* * *

Judith Berger came on aliyah in 1976 from Toronto, where she had a wonderful job as a nurse in the delivery room of a large hospital. She was young and single, liked her work very much, and was an integral part of the professional team.

The women of the Orthodox community would often request that she attend their births and she was in great demand. She also enjoyed the social life in Toronto. Judith was very active in Bnei Akiva and NCSY and nonetheless decided to join her fate with the settlers of the Jewish homeland. She left her family, left her friends, left a good job with a good income and came to Eretz Yisrael and did not run away from her birthplace.

Avraham and Judith met and married in Israel. Avraham Berger, from Cleveland, was a successful computer programmer with a Masters degree, his own home, and many friends. When he decided to come on aliyah, his life was going very well but he felt that he wanted to move to the Jewish homeland. He made aliyah in 1977.

Avraham and Judith worked hard and today, they own their own home in Yerushalayim. They have children of whom they are very proud and who are contributing to building up the Holy Land. Avraham and Judith are also foster parents of infants prior to their adoption.

Judith has built a wonderful career in professional nursing. She worked for many years first as a nursing instructor in the maternity and medical departments of Shaarei Zedek Medical Center, and then as a team leader for a medical information service. She is very involved in establishing a special project for teenage girls from religious families at risk.

* * *

Chaim and Naava Livne (Lipnick) came on aliya in 1977. Chaim had a BA in Economics from Brooklyn College and an MA in Jewish Education from JTS. Naava had a BA from Brooklyn College in psychology. They came to Kibbutz Maale Gilboa with a group from Bnei Akiva as soon as they finished university. They did not look for professional employment in the USA because they did not want to make any commitments or to get ‘bogged down.’

Before aliya, both Naava and Chaim were very active in Bnei Akiva, holding at one point or another almost every administrative position that there was, from Rosh Moshava to National Secretary to Rosh Seminar, Madrich and Merakez Snif and Mazkir Galil N.Y. In addition, Naava worked as a librarian in the Yeshiva of Flatbush.

After aliyah, each place where they lived was chosen for ideological reasons, and wherever Chaim went, his youth work and administrative skills served him well.

For seven years they remained on kibbutz where Chaim worked in the orchards, became the manager of the turkey coops, and eventually the counselor for the Australian Hachshara (those who spent a year in Israel).

Naava worked in agriculture and gardening. After they left Maaleh Gilboa, they lived in Tekoa for two years where Chaim became the General Secretary (administrator) and Naava took care of the landscaping.

They spent two years in Beit Yatir in the south Hebron Hills where Chaim worked in the vineyards and orchards and eventually became the general secretary. Together with Moshe Hager, Chaim set up the military preparatory school (Mechina) in Yatir and was the administrator of the Mechina for seven years, until it reached economic viability.

Later, as General Secretary (administrator) of Tekoa, he helped establish the yeshiva of Rav Steinzaltz in Tekoa. At present, he runs Amutat Orot Ezion in Efrat which runs kindergartens and boys and girls elementary schools with an enrollment of 1,000 students. For the past few years, he has also worked as the assistant director and emissary in Camp Moshava 1O.

Naava was also very busy during this time. She worked on Beit Yatir doing landscaping and agricultural work, she was in charge of the grocery store, and started the Regional Library in Har Chevron. She oversees and services each Yishuv library, is the initiator of projects and activities, and has established a regional library in Susia with about 20,000 books. Anyone who has books (in any language) in good condition is invited to donate them to the library.

Chaim and Naava have seven children – their oldest daughter did one year of Sherut Leumi in the Midrasha in Beit Shean, then went into the Army and worked with Noar Raful. Today she works as a social worker (Hebrew U.) and as a tour guide. Their second daughter did Sherut Leumi as a branch director for Bnei Akiva in Afula Ilit. She has a degree from Machon Tal in bio-information and computers and services the Moetza Ezorit Har Chevron website. Their oldest son is at present in the army in a special unit called Maglan.

We had a response by a professor who was willing to be a statistic – but not to be featured by name. She and her husband made aliyah in 1969. She had completed her Ph.D. in psychology, as well as a clinical internship, and was teaching at Brooklyn College. Her husband had also received his PhD and was teaching at LIU. They had a lovely Boro Park home of their own, on the best street, and many good friends. In other words, they had it made – and the sky was the limit.

Here in Israel, they both taught at Bar-Ilan University until retirement, getting the inadequate salaries that such occupation provides. They have, B”H, three sons who have succeeded here despite the difficulties. Their eldest is a professor of computer science with an international reputation at Tel Aviv University. Their second son is a clinical/ educational psychologist who works within the system in Jerusalem. Their youngest (much in the news of late) is a fellow at the Shalem Institute, and a political commentator and campaign manager much in demand.

“‘It hasn’t been easy – but oh, how grand!”

(To be continued)

(Comment may be sent to dov@gilor.com)

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