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April 25, 2015 / 6 Iyar, 5775
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘Bnei Akiva’

Kashrut – More Than Just A Symbol On A Box

Monday, September 10th, 2012

When I walk in to the grocery store it is second nature for me to just check to make sure that that bag of chips or that cookie has an OU or other kosher symbol on it. To many Jews, it is just something that they do, and it usually is like that for me. But when this question was asked, I thought deeper. I began to think about how this label gives me a sense of community; and as I made that connection, I thought of our rich heritage, and once that relationship was made I thought about our homeland – Israel.

When I look at the kosher label on a box of cereal or a chocolate bar, it reminds me that this symbol is something bigger than just a letter or a word on the box. It reminds me that I am part of a community – a community bigger than just my shul, or even Denver in general. A community all around the world, a community of Jews. All around the world there are people like me. Someone who won’t eat bacon at his classmate’s birthday party, or who won’t go to that basketball game with his teacher on Saturday. When a terrorist attack happens in India and a rabbi and his wife are killed, we in Denver, Colorado feel the pain and mourn the loss of our fellow brother and sister.

A couple weeks ago I went to a deaf school to learn about the deaf community. One of the teachers asked me what my school’s letters, DAT, stood for, and I told her that they were letters in Hebrew. She pulled out her necklace with the word chai on it and said to me, “I am Jewish, too.” This is what the Jewish community is. It is larger than just me and my friend, larger than just me and everyone in Denver. This is a community all around the world that show and feel a rich connection to a Jewish past; people deaf or hearing, blind or seeing, religious or not.

Our rich history is something that unites us. I often feel that one of the reasons is because in the Torah we see great role models and leaders uniting us. There is Avraham – the original leader; Moshe – who united us and brought us to a great level; and in the future, Mashiach – who will bring us all back to Israel. Unity started when the ‘Father of Judaism’ brought us all together. We know Avraham went around traveling and converting people to Judaism. He showed people there is something greater than just themselves – something bigger than them all in which they can all connect and join together. Moshe brought us out from a time of pain and affliction from the King Pharaoh. He united us, and we all went in togetherness, relying on one another, out of Mitzrayim. We know that in the greatest time of Bnei Yisroel we were all in unity as we heard the Ten Commandments being given. This was what made Hashem so happy, and this is what Moshe brought to Bnei Yisroel. For forty long years he helped us unite when we were in the desert at a hard and rough time. He made sure we were all protected and that we followed the way of Hashem – the ultimate Being that keeps us united.

Finally, I would like to focus on Mashiach. Every day we await and hope for the arrival of Mashiach, who will bring us all back from the galut into Israel. Have you ever thought why this is so important? I think this is so important because all around the world there are people searching for something deep inside with this connection to our history. When Mashiach comes, he will do that. He will bring us all together in oneness underneath the greatness and the awesomeness of Hashem – something that connected us all as one with Avraham.

The third connection that I have to this bottle of apple juice with some letter on it is my homeland Israel and how it came to be. During the Holocaust, six million Jews were killed by terrible people and their entire Jewish identity was threatened. In a sense, to me personally this symbol shows the world ‘we are here; we are here to stay.’ After this tragic event happened, people came together and Israel was formed. When I look at this can, I know that my friend Gali in Israel has the same symbol on her can of soda, too. In Israel today people have come together – Jews everywhere can look at that tiny sliver on the map and say, ‘that is my home.’ Everywhere, people connect to Israel. I am very fortunate to have a community with Bnei Akiva – a youth group centered on Israel – where we learn about Israel and get to experience people with the same fiery passion within for Israel. Israel is our home and on every single kosher symbol we can see that connection to home.

Events In The West

Thursday, September 6th, 2012

Events In The West: On September 12 Rabbi Bernie Fox, principal of Northwest High School, will speak at Congregation Shevat Achim in Mercer Island, Washington. His topic: “Why can’t we all be friends? Repentance and healing relationships”… Bnei Akiva’s western regional leadership Shabbaton takes place on the weekend of September 21 in L.A.

Kashrus Update: Costco at the Hickey Blvd. store in San Francisco is now selling Meal Mart Barbecue Beef Ribs (in addition to other Meal Mart products), some chalav Yisrael cheeses, and Golden refrigerated products.

I wish the readers of The Jewish Press a healthy and happy New Year!


Mazel Tov – Engagements: Jonathan Schrage, son of Alvin and Beverly Schrage and Mara Schrage, to Rachel Udkoff, daughter of Drs. Ranon and Rivka Udkoff of Westlake, Village, CA.


Mazel Tov – Engagement: Megan Marcus, daughter of Brian and Suzanne Marcus, to Jacob Kamaras of Brooklyn, NY.


Mazel Tov – Births: Daniel and Rivka Schimel of Clifton, NJ, a daughter (Grandparents Dr. Harold and Magda Katz)… Tzalo and Rebecca Naor, a son (Grandparents Motti and Ayala Naor and Baruch and Bracha Crayk of San Diego; Great-grandmother Fani Teichman)… Natan and Sarah Leah Fried of Kiryat Sefer, a son (Grandparents Dovid and Tikvah Menter)… Jeff and Ashley Woodall, a son (Grandparents Mark and Rachelle Berger)… Jason and Dena Mason, a son (Grandparents Roger and Shelly Parrell… Dr. Avery and Ellen Schwartz, a daughter (Grandparents Dr. Joseph and Brenda Schwartz)… Yoni and Laura Battat, a daughter… Isaac and Leora Orenbuch, a daughter (Grandparents Walter and Esthie Feinblum)… Fivey and Devorah Helfgott, a daughter (Grandparents Elimelech and Bracha Farber)… Jeremy and Aviva Stern, a daughter (Grandparents Larry and Meryl Stern)… Jonny and Rachie Teller, a son (Grandparents Alan and Lisa Stern)… Moshe and Leora Abady, a daughter.

Mazel Tov – Bar Mitzvah: Moshe Nissanoff, son of Dr. Jonathan and Raizie Nissanoff.

Mazel Tov – Engagements: Adam Gleicher, son of Gary and Carol Gleicher, to Torie Kravis… Alex Schiro to Joell Czech… Naftali Fishman, son of Martin and Miriam Fishman, to Tania Rapp of Melbourne, Australia… Lisa Kurtz, daughter of Ira and Debbie Kurtz, to Seth Timen, son of Dr. Sanford and Beth Timen… Evan Cohen, son of Dr. Hart and Debbie Cohen, to Melissa Factor of Toronto, Canada… Avi Zuman, son of Dr. Betzalel and Devorah Zuman, to Rivka Feder of Lakewood, NJ… Chaya Steinberg, daughter of Rachmiel and Tziporah Steinberg, to Joel Mehrel of Boro Park, NY… Shira Lavian, daughter of Yaakov and Sharona Lavian, to Shlomo Khalili of San Fernando Valley, CA… Chaya Sara Klein, daughter of Rabbi Usher and Rochel Klein, to Eli Morgenstern of Cleveland, OH… Michael Dear, son of Rabbi Moshe and Sara Lea Dear, to Rivka Levy of Philadelphia, PA.

Mazel Tov – Weddings: Yitzi Greenbaum, son of Aryeh and Felice Greenbaum, to Aliza Vishniavsky of Boston, MA… Rachel Schultz, daughter of David and Debbie Schultz, to Daniel Small of Teaneck, NJ… Chaim Katz, son of Dr. Harold and Magda Katz, to Dena Shandalov of Chicago… Miriam Hier, daughter of Rabbi Ari and Sandee Hier, to Yehuda Dubin of Teaneck, NJ… Lawrence Dardick to Juliet Schmidt… Tova Klavan, daughter of Rabbi Yehoshua and Rochel Klavan, to Pinchas Shulman of Baltimore, MD… Tamar Rohatiner, daughter of Marc and Lynn Rohatiner, to Chezki Bendheim of Jerusalem… Uri Okrent, son of Dr. Derek and Batsheva Okrent, to Atara Jacobs of Englewood, NJ… Hillary Barak, daughter of Dr. Mark and Michelle Barak, to Aaron Khodorkovsky.

Congratulations: Barry Simon, IBM Professor of Mathematics and Theoretical Physics at Caltech, upon receiving a 2012 Henri Poincare Prize from the International Association of Mathematical Physics. The prize was awarded at the International Congress of Mathematical Physics in Aalborg, Denmark.

Welcome: Rabbi Avrohom Morgenstern, new rosh chabura of the Link Kollel.


Mazel Tov – Wedding: Yael Friedkin, daughter of Jerry and Miriam Friedkin, to Matt Kovner.


Mazel Tov – Weddings: Sivan Shachar to Shoshi Weiss… Meira Rubin, daughter of Andrew and Morissa Rubin, to Ezra Wolkenfeld of Los Angeles.


Mazel Tov – Birth: Sam and Meryn Ellis, a daughter (Grandparents Joel and Faye Snyder).


Mazel Tov – Weddings: Avigail Goldgraber to Aaron J. Keyak… Joey Eckstein to Michal Cohen… Rabbi Mattaniah Ahron Breezy to Rebecca Katz… Adam Saitowitz to Menucha Howell.

Bnei Akiva World Convention

Wednesday, February 2nd, 2011

Fifty years ago, when I served as the director of Bnei Akiva of New York, I wondered how my relationship with Bnei Akiva would develop. Today, years later, after coming on aliyah to Israel in 1973, I find that I still cherish my Bnei Akiva past and still enjoy the friendships that were developed so many years ago. Not only are some of my grandchildren involved in Bnei Akiva, but I, too, still feel involved. This past year I was involved in the 75th reunion of Bnei Akiva’s Moshava camps of America, and a few years ago, I helped plan the 70th Anniversary of America’s Bnei Akiva in Jerusalem. I owe so much to the socialization and education that I received in Bnei Akiva, to my year of Hachshara (a Bnei Akiva program) in Israel and to the friendships I developed over the years.


I recently attended the World Bnei Akiva Convention in Jerusalem. Delegates from around the world gathered in the Jerusalem Theatre for the Grand Opening. One hundred delegates from 23 countries came to examine the accomplishments of the movement and to decide its future. They came from Europe, the U.S., Mexico, Australia and New Zealand. They toured Israel and were greeted and feted by government ministers and local Israeli leaders.


The major event of the four day convention was the grand opening at the Jerusalem Theatre where thousands came to greet the delegates and to honor the Bnei Akiva shlichim (emissaries) from around the world who attended this event. The program included delightful entertainment by the Yeshiva University “Maccabeats” who were flown in especially for this event. Two of the singers, Noach Jacobson and Nachum Joel, are former Bnei Akiva leaders.


Part of the program included greetings from Bnei Akiva Hachshara and yeshiva students from around the world who were seated in the audience. To the cheers of all of those attending, one young woman declared that she had just arrived in Israel this morning and had come to settle.


Rabbi Chaim Druckman, the director of Yeshivot Bnei Akiva, read the prayer for the State of Israel and the prayer for Israeli soldiers and prisoners.


Professor Rabbi Daniel Hershkowitz, the minister of science and technology and a former director of Bnei Akiva, gave a d’var Torah about carefully choosing emissaries. Zevulun Orlev, a former Bnei Akiva member of Shevet Alumim, reminded the audience that just as the parshah speaks of leaving Egypt, all Jews must leave the Diaspora, even if it is comfortable and rich, and come to Israel. “You must remove the Egypt from every Jew.”


The keynote speaker at the opening was President Shimon Peres, who declared, “There is no Israel without Judaism, and there is no Judaism without Israel. You have to believe and those who think otherwise are wrong!” He continued, “You are endangering our identity if you speak Hebrew without knowing the Tanach. You are endangering the future of the Jewish people if you learn Tanach without even knowing how to pray. Hebrew and Jewish tradition go together.”


Zeev Schwartz, the director of World Bnei Akiva, spoke and mentioned that Yoske Shapiro, the first Bnei Akiva director, was among the many guests and former shlichim that evening. Schwartz praised all of the emissaries and spotlighted the contribution of Arye Kroll, the former shaliach to Australia. Kroll spoke and pointed out that, “Bnei Akiva is not just a movement but it also is a way of life!”


Avraham (DuvDuv) Duvdevani, the new chairman of the executive of the World Zionist Organization, the first Orthodox delegate to hold that position, praised those early Bnei Akiva immigrants (like me, I guess) who now have great-grandchildren living in Israel. “Wherever you go today in Israel, you will find former Bnei Akiva members.”


Part of the well-organized evening included film clips of greetings from Chief Rabbi Amar, Prime Minister Netanyahu and Israel Army Chief Rabbi Rafi Peres. Rabbi Peres, a former Bnei Akiva member, explained that he serves today thanks to Bnei Akiva.


An interesting film about the Hashmonaim community, which is one of the many communities that have absorbed the thousands of Bnei Akiva immigrants, was shown. Hopefully, it will soon be available on YouTube.                                              


Comments welcome at dov@gilor.com.

The Value Of Self-Worth

Wednesday, September 23rd, 2009

In my previous column, I wrote that helping to foster a positive self-image in one’s children is the greatest gift parents can give them. Similarly, self-like (not to be confused with narcissistic self-worship) is a key component in having a successful life.


When you feel good about yourself, it causes other people to feel good about you as well. If you perceive yourself to be a “winner” and walk around with confidence and self-assurance, people will gravitate to you – because they subconsciously think that your “winner-ness” will rub off on them by association.


That is why so many people are besotted with sports. When their team wins, fans (which comes from the word “fanatic”) are ecstatic because it makes them feel special. It’s success by proxy. A stranger hitting a home run (and getting very well paid for his efforts) does not make the fan wealthier or important, but a few brief moments of feeling “part of it,” of saying, “We won” and thus feeling better about himself is better than nothing for the average Joe. Like the song says, “When you’re smiling, the whole world smiles with you.” It is human nature to want to associate with people who are on top. In everyday human interactions, like dating or finding potential employees, that sentiment extends to people who exude confidence and self-respect.


Interestingly, while good looks, wealth or yichus might help a person be successful, it is the positive self-esteem that these assets tend to generate that often leads to that success – not the attributes themselves. There are people who lacked money, looks or status but yet were very successful in their personal and/or professional lives. Conversely, others, born with everything going for them were “losers” in every sense of the word. The big, mitigating factor was whether they had a positive or negative sense of who they were.


As I was growing up, there was tremendous pressure on me to be “popular,” to have lots of friends and be invited out. I If I stayed home on a Saturday night or had no plans on a Sunday afternoon, I felt like a “loser.” The harder I tried to make friends, the more difficult it became – because nothing turns people off like desperation. Conversely, nothing attracts people like confidence.


I remember going to a Bnei Akiva function for teenagers that was “mixed” (as was the norm in those days), and seeing a girl who, without any prejudice, can best be described as being a “plain Jane from an average family.” While not attractive in her looks, she attracted attention.  As soon as she walked into the room, many of the guys and girls greeted her.


What did she have, I wondered, that made people want to be with her – when she was so ordinary? And what was I missing? I knew I was better looking and made an effort to be friendly (even going out of my way to ingratiate myself by doing favors), and yet I was usually on the sidelines – never the center of attention.  It was much later that I came to realize that what she had – and what I was lacking – was confidence. It showed in her easygoing manner, her posture, and the way she held her head up. She believed herself to be worth knowing despite her ordinariness. Thus, everyone believed it too.


On the other hand, there are men and women who have money and status, but see themselves as being inadequate or unlikable. This leads to self-doubt, even self-loathing. And in a desperate attempt to escape their emotional pain, or to shore up their low self-esteem, they partake in harmful activities and behaviors that ultimately fail. This only brings them down even further.


What causes an ordinary child to feel self-assured and valuable, enabling him/her to reach for and attain their life goals? And, likewise, what causes those born with so many assets to feel they have little value – and will most likely not live up to their great potential?


I strongly believe that the biggest contributing factor is how parents make their children feel about themselves. Later on, the words, attitudes and actions of siblings, teachers and friends will have a significant impact – but not as big as those of their parents’. Chronically critical or emotionally absent parents and, conversely, mothers and fathers who encourage and praise their children and are respectful of their children’s opinions and feelings – whether they are toddlers or teenagers – can make or break their kids.


Young children see their parents as all-knowing, as parents are their first source of information. So when parents tell their child, “You are stupid, you are hopeless,” the child believes this to be true. It is like Torah to them. Likewise, if a child hears that he/she is special, they will believe it – because Mommy and Totty know everything. If parents are there for them, both physically and emotionally, or if they are not there for them, that will make all the difference as to whether the children become well adjusted, contented human beings.


It isn’t enough to feed their bodies. You must nourish their souls as well.

Fifty Years Of World Bnei Akiva

Wednesday, January 17th, 2007

         I recently joined an overflow crowd of more than 1,000 current or former Bnei Akiva members for a reunion at the Jerusalem Theater. We gathered for the concluding session of the 11th World Bnei Akiva Convention: A Salute to Yoske Shapira.


         Greeting old friends and acquaintances was a true pleasure, especially for the participants of the first Bnei Akiva Hachshara in Israel, held during 1956-1957 in Kibbutz Yavne. It was the 50th anniversary of our year in Hachshara, and we were happy to celebrate it with the delegates to the 50th year of the World Bnei Akiva Organization.


         Bnei Akiva, over 70 years old in many countries, combined its individual branches at its first convention in 1956 to form the world union. Only a few of the original Hachsharaniks were able to show up for the reunion but we were excited to find one or two friends from Hachshara who many of us hadn’t seen in 50 years. Despite the years, it was with a warm feeling of friendship that we reminisced and reacquainted ourselves. In the theater, our group (spouses included) sat in a reserved section and was presented with beautiful roses to mark our golden anniversary.


         We were fortunate to be joined in the theater by the 100 Bnei Akiva delegates present. But due to the huge turnout, a large TV screen carrying the program was set up in the lobby to accommodate the guests who were unable to be seated in the theater.


         The evening’s highlight was the honoring of Yoske Shapira, who served for 20 years as the first director of World Bnei Akiva. In later years, Yoske was the founder of Tehillah, which assisted new immigrants. He also founded Children, which worked with youth in the Diaspora and was in memory of children murdered in the Holocaust, and Oze, which assists young children in poor neighborhoods. Yoske was also a minister in the Israeli government from 1984-1989. He is credited with initiating the Bnei Akiva Hachshara programs in Israel.


         Bnei Akiva played a very important role in my life. Without Hachshara in Israel, my wife, children, grandchildren and I might not be living in Israel today. During my formative years, my religious family was too poor to pay even the minimal tuition in yeshiva and I was forced to attend a public high school. Without Bnei Akiva, I might never have remained religious.


         Later, when I entered the computer profession, jobs often required work on Friday evenings and Shabbat. It was only the influence of my Bnei Akiva friends and the religious strength I had gained in my youth that gave me the ability to refuse to work on Shabbat and to raise my children in a wholesome religious environment.


         Bnei Akiva is the largest Zionist youth movement in the world. The World Bnei Akiva convention is held every five years to review past accomplishments and to plan for the next five years. At this year’s assembly, Zev Schwartz was confirmed as the new director, replacing Gael Greenwald. He succeeded Yitzchak Stiglitz, who assumed responsibility from Yoske Shapira. They were all honored at this 50th anniversary celebration.


         One hundred young delegates from 25 countries of the earth’s four corners were represented, including from the U.S., Canada, South America, Europe, Russia and South Africa. Many plan to settle in Israel in the coming years, while some plan to return to their native countries and serve as future Jewish leaders.


         The central theme of the convention was pioneering (chalutziut). In that spirit, each delegate pledged to do their utmost to encourage both Jewish religious practice and the making of aliyah.


         During the convention, the young delegates visited Sderot, the city under constant rocket attack, along with the northern cities of Israel. They also spent some time participating in mitzvah projects.


         It is very thrilling for the youngsters to gather at a convention with others from around the world who share the same Zionist religious agenda. Please encourage your children to join Bnei Akiva, attend Camp Moshava and come spend a year in Israel on the Bnei Akiva Hachshara.

Lodz Jewish Cemetery

Wednesday, November 15th, 2006

        The cemetery in Lodz is said to be one of the largest Jewish cemeteries in Europe, with about 230,000 graves. It was first opened at the end of the 19th century with a large separate building for the preparation of bodies for internment and funerals. Today there is an exhibit of original pre-war items used by the burial society.


         By the beginning of World War II, in 1939, the cemetery already contained many of the elaborate tombstones and mausoleums for which it has become famous. The grave markers run the full gamut from that of Israel Poznanski, the largest mausoleum in the cemetery, to those of people who were interred during the Shoah, when tombstones were not allowed. Indeed, one finds parts of bed frames embedded in the ground, often twisted in a particular shape, as a means of identification.



Mass grave of Bnei Akiva youth group members.



         There is also the Ghetto Field, a vast, seemingly empty field that is the final resting place of the 45,000 people who died in the Ghetto. During the Shoah, the death rate among Jews living within the ghetto was very high. Dozens of funerals were held each day, with the number going as high as 170 funerals on one terrible day. While these graves remained unmarked, the Jewish community offices kept meticulous records of each grave. Today there is a program through which Israeli soldiers have been coming to Lodz, clearing the field and placing markers denoting dates and the names of the departed.


         The job of caring for the cemetery is a tremendous one and never ending. Groups come from Israel on a regular basis to work clearing the wild growth of trees, bushes and high weeds. Schoolchildren from around Poland also come to do their part. Most of the time they are working among graves that are just names, and in many cases the people clearing the area have no concept of who is buried in these hallowed grounds.



The Ghetto area after being cleared of debris and markers placed by the Israeli soldiers.



         But every now and then there is a famous name – a Rubinstein, Tuwim and Szyk can be found – but there are many tombs of famous rabbis scattered throughout the cemetery. One interesting feature is that the wives of famous rabbis also have elaborate tombstones. Located separately, these are some of the largest grave markers dedicated to women to be found anywhere. There are also numerous mass graves for multiple victims of German terror. There is the grave of nine Bnei Akiva members who were part of the resistance during the Shoah. Their grave is an often-visited site by scouts and other youth groups (during my recent visit I found a Bnei Akiva pennant and many candle stubs at the site).


         During the last days of the Ghetto, when the Russian army was approaching, the Germans sent most of the remaining Jews to Auschwitz, but kept about 800 to clean up the area. As the Russians approached, they were forced to dig pits near the wall of the cemetery, which they suspected would be their own graves. The Russians advanced so quickly that there was no time for the final executions, and the Germans ran away, saving the 800 Jews and leaving the pits empty. These pits have been left open as a reminder of the lives saved and the graves not used.


         The cemetery is still in active use today, but it is the history within that draws thousands of visitors every year.

True Role Models (Part Nineteen)

Wednesday, April 13th, 2005

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 dov@gilor.com.

* * *

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)

* * *

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.

* * *

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!”

* * *

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).”

* * *

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.

* * *

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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Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/columns/true-role-models-part-nineteen/2005/04/13/

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