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True Role Models (Part Twelve)

This is the twelfth part of a series on aliyah and klita (absorption) stories of American Jews who were successful in America and 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.

Purim, which is not too far away, reminds us that people often can wear masks to hide their true identity. It is important for Jews to show a love for Israel by coming to live in Israel, by sending their children to Israel and by supporting Israel. It is also important to come visit regularly if you do not come to live.

Many Jews question the decisions of Israeli government leaders but refuse to come to Israel, become citizens, and vote their opinions in order to influence the country’s leaders. Many forget that only on Purim are we permitted to mask our true identity. During the rest of the year, we should express our love for Israel by planning our aliyah and increasing our support for those who have already gone to live in Israel. Plan at least to come spend holidays in Israel with the true pioneers.

Shimshon Rubin and his wife made aliyah from Chicago in the fall of 1980. Prior to his aliyah, Shimshon studied at Yeshivat Kerem B’Yavne and his wife was on the Bnei Akiva Hachshara in Kibbutz Yavne. Shimshon’s BA is from Yeshiva University and his MA and PhD in clinical psychology are from Boston University. His wife’s BA is from Wellesley College and her MD is from Loyola Medical School. She did her residency in pediatrics at the University of Chicago. Their professional trajectories in the U.S. were quite promising when they made aliyah, as they had planned to do many years earlier. Their families in the U.S.A were not surprised about the move, but they were not very happy about it.

When they arrived in Israel, their Israeli secular colleagues did not understand why they had left the U.S.A and eventually attributed the move to their religious life style. Shimshon became a tenured full professor at the University of Haifa, and he maintains an active practice in clinical psychology. His wife is the Deputy District Health Officer for the Ministry of Health. They live in a Hebrew-speaking environment in Haifa, deal internationally with colleagues in their areas of expertise, and both Shimshon and his wife have solid careers and a happy home life.

They came to Israel to take an active part in the writing of the evolving history of the Jewish people. They were able to have their professional lives take on an added dimension of being part of the fabric of a multi-cultural society in Israel.

Shimshon’s interests in the study of loss and bereavement, bioethics, and training in psychotherapy began in the U.S. and continued in Israel. In his work in the area of bereavement, Shimshon is active in furthering the understanding of the life-long impact of child death upon the family and the help needed by a family to deal with the loss. He becomes involved with families who have lost children in the U.S. and in Israel due to illness, families who lost soldiers in Israel’s wars, and families who have lost children in terror bombings. This is important work no matter where it is done. And yet he takes particular satisfaction in knowing that some of what he is doing is within a Jewish society in Israel, and part of it transcends the boundaries of that society and has implications for the scientific understanding of loss far beyond Israel’s borders.

Shimshon writes the following about his life in Israel. “My own observations on aliyah from the U.S. include the following: There are folks who come to live here, and there are folks who manage to stay. People who come have a reason to do so. The reasons can be positive and moving towards something (for example, actualizing parts of their commitment to Judaism, preferring the more communitarian nature of Israeli society, or a sense of idealism). The reasons can be more mundane (to get away from something, to try something new, to see what it is all about).

“Those Americans in the professions whom I know and who manage to stay generally have a fair amount of adjustment to make in order to settle in. For those who make it, there are benefits to life over here. It is a rich, textured life and more so than many might live elsewhere. And thankfully, when one is settled in, (and with apologies to Robert Frost) it is not only the “road taken”, but also the destiny chosen.” (See Rubin family picture)

* * *

Honey (Hannah) and Lewis (Yehuda) Berenson lived in Far Rockaway, NY, and went on aliyah in 1971. Yehuda was an instructor of mathematics at Hofstra University until he and his family moved to West Hempstead, Long Island, where his main position was at Nassau Community College. Lewis became a full professor (today, such a post bears a salary of over $90,000 a year). He also did part-time teaching in mathematics education at NYU Graduate School of Education, and taught graduate courses at the University of the City of NY and the Belfer Graduate School of Science. Along the way, He spent 15 months as a Nat. Science Foundation Science Faculty Fellow at the Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences of NYU.

Hannah taught first-grade briefly in the NYC public school system, and later taught Sunday school on Long Island. She also did some part-time teaching in the area of music and creative movement.

In Israel, Yehuda spent 30 years as an Associate Professor at Tel-Aviv University (engineering mathematics) and was a visiting fellow at the O.I.S.E. of the University of Toronto and the University of Melbourne. He also worked on the Nuffield Mathematics Project during a sabbatical spent at Kings College of the University of London. Since living in Israel, he has served on many committees organized by the Israel Ministry of Education. Among the concerns addressed by these committees were mathematics education in teachers colleges, elementary mathematics education, mathematics for disadvantaged youth, provision for culturally deprived youth in higher education, and the high failure rates in mathematics matriculation examinations.

He was also a visiting lecturer at Bar-Ilan University and at the Hebrew University Center for the teaching of sciences. He also recently wrote an article for the OU publication, Jewish Action, dealing with an interesting connection between Megillat Ruth and Yaakov’s taking of Esau’s bracha, which was discovered by the Bach in the early 17th century.

Hannah, since making aliyah has, for 22 years, taught music and rhythmic activities in Rechovot for the Ministry of Education. She also gave a series of lectures/demonstrations for teachers in Jewish schools in London dealing with music and dance activities related to the various Jewish holidays (held at Jews College between 1990 and 1991).

* * *

Niki Weiss and her husband both came from North Miami Beach to Israel twenty-two years ago. Niki has a Master’s degree in social work and worked at Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami and her husband has a Master’s degree in hotel management and he worked at the Omni International Hotel in Miami. They both left good jobs to come to live in Israel.

They left their own house in Miami to come to Israel to live on a Kibbutz for ideological reasons, not to escape any problems (that they did not have). They have been on Kibbutz Shluhot for 21 years; Niki manages the Guest House operation on the kibbutz and her husband is the manager of the turkey coops.

* * *

Avi and Clair Ruder made aliyah from Dayton Ohio in 1977, leaving behind their closest relatives (mothers, fathers, brothers and sister, etc.). In Dayton they owned a private house with a yard and Avi left very interesting work in the USAF.

In Israel, Avi joined the Israel Air Force and worked for 11 years in various jobs starting out as a captain and finishing as a major. After retirement from the Israel Air Force, Avi started working at Israel Aircraft Industries and is currently a Contract Manager, buying goods for one of the divisions.

Claire went to University and cross trained in Social Work. She worked over 20 years in the Bet Holim Holei Nefesh in Nes Ziona in the Children’s Ward. They raised their daughters and are now watching their grandchildren grow.

(To be continued)

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

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