This is the 14th 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. The purpose of the series is to emphasize the quality of the early Olim to Israel and to tell the stories of these true role models for American Jewry.
Unfortunately, the question as to where to raise your children and where you and they should live is not a hot topic in the American Jewish community. There is a great deal of inertia despite the open signs that Hashem wants you to go to live in Israel today. All of the standard excuses of money, job, family and convenience are important, but the need of your souls to live in the Holy land should not be ignored.
Eric Zimmerman was raised on the values of Bnei Akiva. He and his wife, Sharon, made aliyah in 1988, with their four-month old daughter, Dafna. Prior to their aliyah, Eric worked at the World Zionist Organization, assisting others to make Aliyah, and his wife was on the VP-track at Chemical Bank.
Their first stop in Israel was Kibbutz Ein Zurim, where they spent five great years, Eric as a farmer and Sharon in a variety of jobs, while bringing three more beautiful children into the world. They left kibbutz in 1993 and settled in Oranit – by all accounts a beautiful bedroom community of the Sharon region. Since then, Eric has served as the research grants coordinator at Bar-Ilan University and Sharon worked in the medical and R&D worlds. Sharon now works for a Europe-oriented technology-transfer company affiliated with the Ministry of Industry and Trade, as well as for a non-profit educational organization.
Eric and Sharon came to Israel in order to make a difference; to contribute in words and action to the building and strengthening of the Jewish People in the Land of Israel. Both are convinced that they are realizing that dream. Though it certainly has not always been easy, they have no serious regrets. They live in a vibrant mixed community of mostly single-family homes (villas) where they have many friends and many of the services found in bigger cities. Actually, come to think of it, they are living the American Dream, but in Israel. (see family picture)
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Esther Rechtschafner, after her senior year in high school, attended the Bnei Akiva Hachshara in 1962. She came from a very Zionistic family and had always planned on coming on Aliyah. She wanted to stay after Hachshara, but went back to America, because her parents wanted her to. She was determined, however, to come on Aliyah as soon as possible. After having her back in America for exactly a year, her parents agreed that America was no longer for Esther, and she succeeded in coming on Aliyah.
Her parents had also been planning Aliyah for many years, and they joined Esther a few months later. Esther married Mordechai Rechtschafner, from Bnei Akiva, Australia, on Lag BaOmer 1965 and decided to settle in Ein-Zurim, one of the youngest Religious Kibbutzim, for they thought that Kibbutz was the best way to contribute to the welfare of the country. When the 1967 war broke out, Esther’s husband served in the unit that liberated Jerusalem.
Esther received a BA in Israeli and Jewish History from the Israeli Open University and a degree in Library Science from the Hebrew University. She has received much acclaim for her articles about the places in Eastern Europe that her grandparents came from:
1. “Reezekne, The City of My Roots” (The Latvian city that her paternal grandmother (z”l) came from)
2. “The Connection Between Rezekne and Ein Zaitim” (The Jews of Rezekne bought land near Safed over 100 years ago)
3. “Research on Cherkassy” (The Ukraine city that her maternal grandmother (z”l) came from)
4. “Sveksna” (The Lithuanian town that her paternal grandfather came from)
Esther and her husband have three daughters, all of whom served in the army. Idit is married to Koby, whose parents are also American, and they have six children. Idit works as a special education teacher in Bet Shemesh. Ayelet, the mother of two children, is the head nurse in Betar Elite and is married to Zachary, a Russian doctor, who works as a nurse in Hadassah and is finishing his Masters Degree in Judaism. They live in Zur Hadassah. Doria is a student in the Hebrew University.
Esther has been working for the past 20 years as the “house-mother” in Yeshivat HaKibbutz HaDati, Ein Zurim, and enjoys her work very much. Many of the students are children of former Anglo-Saxons.
Esther feels that it is important to add that they have never received financial help from their parents. They just never needed or wanted it. Her parents were never actually “well off”. Her father’s wealth was in his knowledge, and in his love for Israel. (Her father was a descendant of the family of the Vilna Gaon).
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Chani Lior came from Brooklyn right after she completed high school. She left behind her family and friends but came because this is where she wanted to spend her life. In Israel, she studied Education and worked as a teacher for eight years. For the past 12 years, she has been working together with her husband to build up their family business. They were part of the founding Garin of Yishuv Beit Haggai where they and their family have lived for the past 18 years.
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Barbara Blum and her husband Alex came on Aliyah from New York in 1968 for Zionistic reasons. Like many other Olim, they left behind their parents, brothers, sisters, uncles, aunts, cousins and friends, and gave up much of their financial security. Alex received his PhD in philosophy from N.Y.U., and was an assistant professor of philosophy on his way up. Barbara was a tenured teacher.
In Israel, Alex taught philosophy at Bar Ilan University. During his years of teaching, he was also the Head of the Department and Dean of Humanities. He co-founded Philosophia, the first international philosophical journal in Israel.
Barbara studied art at the Avni Art Institute and received a scholarship from the Israeli Ministry of Education and was accepted as a member of the Tel Aviv branch of the Israeli Artist Association. She has participated in numerous group exhibitions and three one person shows. She has also been writing, and has published a cookbook.
Alex and Barbara made their greatest sacrifice to Israel – the life of their first-born son, Moshe. He was injured in the Israeli Air Force in April, 1990. He received a spinal cord and brain injury and was left paralyzed from below the shoulders. He is in need of support from a breathing machine for at least several hours daily. They cared for him at home for 13 1/2 years as he fought valiantly to have a ‘normal’ life. He attended classes in university, painted with a brush in his mouth, had an exhibition of his works, and gave them and those working with him the strength to continue. He succumbed to complications stemming from his injury in August of last year. May his memory be blessed.
Posts Tagged ‘Bnei Akiva’
This is the 14th 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. The purpose of the series is to emphasize the quality of the early Olim to Israel and to tell the stories of these true role models for American Jewry.
This is the 13th 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. The purpose of the series is to emphasize the quality of the early olim to Israel and to tell the stories of these true role models for American Jewry.
I once thought that my study of logic would prepare me to understand how the world behaves. Living in Israel these past months has cured me of this assumption.
The logic of freeing 500 terrorists escapes me. For a majority of the right wing Likud party to vote to give away hard-fought-for territory and to transfer their own citizens from their property and homes in order to get nothing in return from their sworn enemy but “promises” – which these right-wing leaders themselves understand to be empty promises – is beyond understanding.
To continue the process, knowing that no matter how much you give away, the enemy will not be satisfied, as we have already heard on the news this morning, is beyond comprehension. Yet, we endure and pray and know that a day will come when a majority of reasoning and believing Jews will come from the Diaspora to Israel in order to out-vote those who no longer have any faith or self-respect. We are here, and here we will remain!
Shalom Cohen grew up in Kew Gardens Hills, Queens and Fruma (Faith Elfenbein) grew up in Woodmere. Shalom spent many summers in Bnei Akiva’s Camp Moshava and grew up knowing that Israel is the Jewish homeland. Faith joined Bnei Akiva in high school and quickly internalized its teachings and ideology. The year after graduating high school, Shalom and Fruma took part in Bnei Akiva’s year long Hachshara program working and living on a kibbutz in Israel.
When the Hachshara year ended, they returned to Queens College. After they married in 1982, they continued living in Queens where they were Bnei Akiva youth leaders. Meanwhile, Faith earned her Master’s degree in teaching English as a Second Language.
Two years later, Shalom and Faith became Bnei Akiva emissaries to South Florida. For two years, they lived in North Miami Beach and while Shalom worked during the day as a computer programmer, Faith stayed home with their newborn baby and ran the Bnei Akiva office and planned its activities from their home.
In 1986, Shalom and Fruma made aliya to Kibbutz Ein Hanatziv in Emek Beit Shean. For 11 years, they lived a happy and fulfilling life on the Kibbutz with their growing family. Ein Hanatziv has a very Israeli atmosphere, and Shalom and Fruma integrated into Israeli culture and language.
Shalom worked in the dairy barn (with its 400 cows) and Fruma worked in the children’s houses and then went to teach English in the regional school.
In 1997, with mixed emotions, the Cohens left Kibbutz and moved to a Yishuv, Hashmonaim. There they found many warm and caring friends and neighbors. Their children totally adjusted to the independent life style. Today, Shalom works as a Network Administrator for the Central Bureau of Statistics of the Israeli government and Fruma teaches English in junior high school.
The Cohen’s daughter, Mazalit, 20, finished two years of Sherut Leumi (national service), one year working for Bnei Akiva in Ginot Shomron and the second year as a counselor for the American girls’ program in Midreshet Harova in the Old City.
Zamir, 18, is completing 12th grade and is busy exploring his different options for army service beginning next year. He has been an active member of the volunteer police for two years.
Yonit, 17, is finishing 11th grade and is busy with her matriculation tests. Ayal is in 8th grade and Achva is in 5th grade. All the children take an active part in the youth activities in the Yishuv and are socially welcoming to the many children of new families that come to live in Hashmonaim every year.
The Cohens are a family that believes that living in Israel is a Mitzvah that cannot be distinguished from any other Mitzvah. It is no less important than keeping Kosher or observing Shabbat. Raising children in Israel without the benefit of close by grandparents is a big disadvantage, but this is the land of the Jews, and this is where they belong!!
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Benjy Weiss came on Aliyah in 1967, after many years as a Bnei Akiva member and leader. Before coming to Israel, Benjy was a staff member at the IBM, T.J. Watson Research Center in Yorktown Heights.
In Israel, Benjy joined the faculty at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and he became a full professor in 1974. In 1973, Benjy married Bracha Shkolnik and they have six children, all of whom live in Israel. Their three eldest children are married and have produced several grandchildren. Benjy and Bracha’s youngest child is in her second year of army service.
In 2000, Benjy received a rare honor when was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences as a Foreign Honorary Member. Like many of his fellow American olim, Benjy left behind his family, a great career and an excellent salary in order to tie his destiny in with the Jews of Israel.
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Steve and Mindy Frankel made aliyah as part of Garin Matityahu to Kibbutz Be’erot Yitzchak in May of 1976. Steve and Mindy were active for many years in Bnei Akiva. Steve is a Brooklyn College graduate who studied political science, and Mindy has a BS in education, also from Brooklyn College. Steve went to Israel with a volunteer mission during the Yom Kippur War with 100 other Bnei Akiva members from the USA and Canada. In 1971, Mindy attended the Bnei Akiva Hachshara in Kibbutz Yavne.
After coming to Israel, Steve was asked to be the Madrich of the Hachshara in Israel from 1981 to 1984. In 1985, Steve and Mindy and their family left kibbutz and moved to Neve Tzuf. Three years later, they moved to the Hashmonaim settlement as the 35th family. Steve is presently the Israel program director for the United States and Canadian Bnei Akiva and the director of the American program “Mach Hach” in Israel. Mindy teaches English in the Ulpana in the new city of Modiin. They have four children, two of whom are married. One is a soldier in Hesder and their youngest will become a soldier in March. They have one grandson.
They feel that they gave up absolutely nothing to live in Israel, but rather have gained by living here far more than anything they could have had in the Diaspora. There is nothing more natural for them and for all Jews than to live at home.
This is the 10th 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.
It is often hard to understand the attitude of American Orthodox Jews to Israel. How is it possible that they do not live in Israel? Every experience in Israel is a religious experience for a religious Jew. When we walk the streets of Beersheva, we may be traversing the same space where Avraham Avinu and Sarah Imeinu walked, or where Yitzchak or Rivka walked.
The Kotel (Western Wall) is less than one or two hours away from nearly any point in Israel. We can pray where King David or King Solomon prayed, and we sometimes can feel the presence of the prophets of old.
With airfares so low and entrance into Israel open to every Jew, why are there still so many Jewish religious communities all over the world?
Laibel and Debby Lipnick came to Israel in 1966 as part of a garin, a nucleus of friends who came to Israel to settle on a kibbutz. The garin acted as a support framework to ensure that all the members would remain in Israel, and they did all remain. The group came from New York, Baltimore, and Chicago, eleven couples and three singles, and they all settled in Kibbutz Lavi. All the men have served in the army, and so have many of their children. All are productive in various fields.
Laibel, Debby and their fellow garin members came to Israel to do what was needed to build up the country. None of them was running away from anything, and none of them was a burden, living off their parents. They were all college graduates with a wide spectrum of careers.
In Israel, many had to be retrained to fit the jobs that were needed. They were not like many modern olim who continue to work overseas and live in Israel because “they cannot make a sufficient living here.” These early pioneers lived within their means. Laibel feels that after some forty years in Israel, he is definitely successful. He, his wife and his garin have been instrumental in creating a vibrant and flourishing kibbutz that has grown from about 250 to 650 people.
Laibel and Debby have seven married children, and one who is as yet unmarried. They have eighteen grandchildren with IY”H more on the way. They feel that not only doctors, lawyers and business people should be considered role models, but also people with positive attributes (midot) and people who set aside time each day for studying Torah or spending stormy winter nights in young settlements doing guard duty.
Laibel and Debby also remind us that Americans were already coming to Israel in the early thirties both from Bnei Akiva and from other Zionist organizations.
In the late 1930′s, Eliezer Goldman, for example, came on aliya after finishing Yeshiva University. He went to Kibbutz Sde Eliyahu, becoming the economic director of the kibbutz, strengthening it and laying the foundation for the development and solidity of the kibbutz and Kibbutz HaDati in general. From the establishment of the State of Israel until the end of the 20th century, Bnei Akiva garinim have come to Israel to be part of the process of building of the state.
Another example is that of Debby’s cousin and her husband, Sylvia and Meyer Kaplan, who came on aliya in 1948. They stopped on the way in France to work to rehabilitate young children who had survived the Holocaust. Meyer established the Criminal Investigation Department of the Israel Police, founded the police labs, and was Israel’s representative to Interpol.
In his free time, he also was one of the founders and first president of the AACI. Laibel believes that the early olim enabled those who came later to establish themselves and to have a much easier absorption than that experienced by the earlier olim. (See the Lipnick family picture – attached)
Celia and Zvi Ofer live in Kiryat Arba, a community full of olim who, like them, are college graduates and professionals, and who made a deliberate decision back in the sixties and seventies to raise their families in the Jewish state. They never “schnorred” off anybody and were a source of pride and joy to the loved ones who, with a heavy heart, they left behind.
They miss their parents and sadly, to their six children, grandparents mean a telephone receiver. Celia, like many Jewish mothers, often does not sleep well at night worrying about her son, Avi, a member of a crack Nahal unit who is stationed in the heart of Jenin, and her son, Uri (a former Golani fighter), who lives with his small growing family in downtown Hebron, a minute’s walk from Ma’arat Hamachpela (the Cave of the Patriarchs).
Another son is a ten-year veteran of Mishmar Hagvul (Border Police), doing his part on a daily basis to keep Israel safe. Their daughter, who is married to the son of American olim who came to Israel in the 1970s, lives in the settlement of Eli, and another daughter studies at Hadassah Nursing School. Their youngest daughter just began Sherut Leumi in a kindergarten in Har Choma. Their hearts burst with thanks to the Almighty that He has been a partner in making their fateful decision of 30 years ago a success.
The Ofers are contributing to making Israel a viable state so that you may come soon to a built- up, safe homeland. While they may feel that they have not done anything special, they are typical of thousands of educated American families who have made aliyah.
Adriana Derry has been in Israel 23 years, one month and three weeks. She came from Southern California, more specifically from West Hollywood and Beverly Hills. She had just completed her post- graduate studies in law and decided to come to Israel. The only thing of real importance that she left behind was her entire family. (She came with a new husband, who is now an ex-husband).
Adriana has been a free-lance graphic designer and website developer for many years. Her greatest accomplishment is being the proud mother of 5 children and being able to care for them in a way that she always wanted to. She also has her own community website for Modiin and the surrounding communities, which is a great success for her personally. It gives her great satisfaction to be able to provide a service to the communities.
Adriana feels that the very best thing she did in her entire life was moving to Israel so many years ago. She has been back to Southern California twice, for two and a half years each time, and it was always very, very easy to come back HOME to Israel!
Her entire story is very complex. She was born and raised as a Protestant Christian and converted to Judaism at the age of 18, because she always believed that some kind of strange mistake had been made at her birth. At the age of 15, she had set her heart on coming to Israel, not knowing one single word of Hebrew, never even having even been in a beit knesset, or even knowing any Jews because her community was completely Seventh Day Adventist.
Asher Scharf and his wife were married for two years when they made aliyah to Kibbutz Ma’ale Gilboa in 1978. Asher had finished his BA in psychology, his MA in Jewish Education, and his Semicha for the Rabbinate, all at Yeshiva University. His wife finished her MA in Speech and Language Pathology at Queens College. When they made aliya, they left a loving family (on both sides) who were sorry to see them go, but who realized that they were achieving their life’s dream. Asher is today a technical writer working for a start-up company in southern Israel, and his wife works as a speech teacher and early childhood counselor in many schools and cities.
(To be continued)
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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.
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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?
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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.
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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)
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This is the sixth 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.
There seems to be a whole group of people who have little or no knowledge of early aliyah from America, but who insist on making ridiculous statements about us. A recent news item which appeared in Ha’aretz, the Jerusalem Post and other newspapers this past month was again misinformed about the aliyah of the past 50 years.
This article lauded the great work of Nefesh B’Nefesh (which is correct). Unfortunately, it went on to mention a so-called scientific survey of immigrants over the past two years, and explained how extremely valuable a resource they are to the Israeli economy (which is true). The survey, reportedly prepared by I-Biz Israel Business Information Services, stated that “this aliyah is the group with the greatest potential economic contribution in the history of Israeli aliya.”
This survey found that more than half of the immigrants associated with the organization have a first university degree, and one-quarter have completed a second degree as well. “We’re talking about the crème de la crème of the most advanced society in the world,” said Pinchas Landau, an economic analyst who prepared and presented the report results this week. “We’ve never seen olim like these.”
The readers of this series know by now, however, that these “scientific studies” reported in the news are nonsense. They are insulting to previous olim and very inaccurate. Highly educated Americans were already coming to Israel in the early 30s both from Bnei Akiva and from other Zionist organizations, with one or two degrees to their names.
Over the past 60 years, the true “crème de la crème” have come and contributed to build Israel. If it wasn’t for the early American olim, the recent immigrants would not have a highly industrial nation to come to.
Just look at what these “less educated” olim of the past have accomplished. Early American olim included people like Prime Minister Golda Meir; Dov Joseph, government minister; Henrietta Szold, founder of Hadassah; Rabbi Shlomo Riskin; Al Schwimmer, founder of Israel Aircraft; Jonathan Kolber, CEO of Koor Industries; Naomi Ragen, author; Rabbi Chaim Brovender; Prof. David Hartman; Defense Minister Moshe Arens; Judah Magnes, founder of Hebrew University; and many others. Just look in the 70th Anniversary Journal of Bnei Akiva of North America and Canada to find hundreds of additional names.
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David Goldfarb grew up in New York City. He attended the Bnei Akiva Hachshara in 1979. He received his BS degree in Computer Science from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). At MIT, David worked with an MIT group to develop the Internet TCP/IP protocols and has been an avid user of the net ever since. He worked at Symbolics – a startup that grew to 1,000 employees and was known as the foremost Artificial Intelligence (AI) company in the 1980s. At Symbolics, David helped to install the first AI work stations in Israel, at the Weizmann Institute, in January, 1985.
In October 1985, David and his family made aliyah. They decided that they could lead at least as good a life in Israel as in Boston. In Israel, David was involved in numerous startups, and created a wealth of technology here. In the early 90s, David championed and spearheaded a rewrite of software for HBOC Pegasus, an Israeli software company developing a Windows application for the medical market. He designed and wrote major portions of the application, guided in-house developers, and advised management regarding the latest advances in Windows. Later, he co-founded 2AM Development Ltd., and served as VP of Technology, heading its software development and design, patent coordination, and technical strategy practices.
In 1988, David created Degel, a consulting company offering software management, technical direction, programming services, graphical user interfaces, image processing, and internet information retrieval.
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Mitchell D. Mittman and his wife arrived in Israel with their two small children 13 years ago. He and his wife, Helene, lived in Flatbush and had been married eight years before they made aliyah.
Prior to his aliyah, Mitchell had worked as a financial strategist for seven years at Goldman, Sachs and Co, reporting to the currency and commodity options desks. Before that, he was a senior consultant in the international auditing department with Price Waterhouse. While he enjoyed the work tremendously, his youth leaders in Bnei Akiva had done their jobs so well that he and his wife knew that the only place for them was in Israel.
Many of their friends from Bnei Akiva had already moved to Israel, and they knew that they would have a warm support group waiting for them to arrive. Some of their friends were on kibbutz and some of them were in the cities, but all were happy that they had made the move.
When they arrived in Israel, Mitchell spent a year at Contahal, a software development company. There he led the team that was responsible for localizing some of HP’s software products, as well as interfacing with a number of companies in Silicon Valley that were interested in exporting their software tools to Israel.
After that, he joined a small hedge fund that specialized in trading foreign exchange options. While the firm did well, Mitchell decided to return to his original love of creating software and he started a company to focus on the software requirements of traders, specifically in foreign exchange. He started out as a company of three people; now they have grown to more than 40 staff members, and Mitchell is the Chief Technology Officer.
The research and development group is based in Ra’anana, and the firm’s main sales office is in NYC. The company client list represents some of the largest financial institutions in the world.
Mitchell and Helene live with their four children in Tzur Yigal, a suburb of Kochav Yair. Their eldest, Eliyahu, currently in Mechina Peduel, is enjoying his time there and is eagerly awaiting his draft into the Israel Defence Forces. Their second child, Elisheva, is a madricha (counselor) in the local Bnei Akiva snif (branch) Nitzana, their other daughter and first Tzabarit, is in seventh grade, and their youngest, Gilad, is happily ensconced in kindergarten.
Neither Mitchell or Helene ever “shnorred” from their parents and neither of them was running away from anything. Rather, they were running towards their dream of living in Israel.
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Shalom Lampert made Aliya one month after finishing his Master’s degree in Chemical Engineering at MIT (Boston) in 1983. He left behind his wonderful family – parents and siblings – and came. His wife, Chaya, also an MIT grad, left her warm and loving family in Brookline, MA to move to Israel (two days after their wedding).
In Israel, Shalom worked for 12 years in Research and Development for Israel Chemicals.
He worked for five years in Patent Law for a large Israeli IP Law firm and as a consultant in the Chemical Processing Industry. He started two IP companies to manage the chemical technologies that he developed (related to the fields of salts processing, recovery of salts from sea brine, crystallization, and waste treatment).
In Maalot, he teaches Torah to Olim from the former Soviet Union. He also gives a class to English-speaking Olim in Karmiel. Both are sponsored by “El-Ami BaTzafon”. He, his wife Chaya and their nine children live in the “development town” of Maalot. Chaya, also an MIT graduate, teaches computer science at Maalot’s Ulpana. They belong to a people with great ideals, and they made aliya “for the right reasons”.
(To Be Continued)
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Chaverim came from every city, town, religious Kibbutz and settlement in Israel. They came from all over the USA and Canada. They came to Jerusalem to celebrate and to reestablish ties with friends who will never be forgotten. They came to Jerusalem’s International Convention Center (Binyanei HaUma) to honor the contributions of former members of Bnei
Akiva to Israel’s growth. They came to reminisce and to remember.
Bnei Akiva, for most of us, was not just a youth organization. It was a way of life. It was what kept us focused on religion. It was what encouraged us to settle in Israel. It was our second home and often our first home. It was what kept us sane in our teenage years and it channeled our energies into positive and constructive directions. It was Camp Moshava, which filled our summers with fantastic activity. It was lessons in leadership as we grew into the role of
managing the organization. For many years it was our whole life.
There is no other way to explain the phenomenon of some 2,500 Israeli parents “abandoning” their children and grandchildren during the most intensive week of Bnei Akiva activity (the end of Chodesh Irgun) to come to Jerusalem for the reunion. There is no other way to explain the phenomenon of some 300 Chaverim who flew to Israel for the weekend from North America for the reunion. There is no other way to explain the happiness and tremendous feelings of
joy that were expressed and that stayed with us for many days after the event. We were on a high, and no foreign substances were involved. The feelings were so intense and the demands that we not wait another 10 years for the next reunion were expressed so often, that the reunion co-chairman, Nasan Friedman, announced on Shabbat that we are planning already
for the 75th and will not wait until the 80th anniversary.
Over the years, Bnei Akiva has encouraged thousands of its members to “go up” and to settle in Israel. The men and women, former Chaverim and Chaverot, have contributed to many fields, including: industry, the health system, political parties, the economy, law, education, Gemilut Chassadim and religious institutions, and the defense establishment. These contributions were honored at the reunion.
The evening began with a display of hundreds of pictures, documents, pamphlets, shirts, pins and other memorabilia saved with loving care by Chaverim over the past 70 years and carefully mounted by Chana Spiegelman and her volunteers into a beautiful display. Shanen Werber arranged for photography, news coverage and hotel reservations and Ilan Roth
arranged for many vendors to sell their goods.
Nasan Friedman and Itchie Fuchs were the co-chairmen of the event and Steve Frankel was the heart and soul behind the scenes, working hundreds of hours to coordinate all of the activities and volunteers. Kadish and Batzion Goldberg, Ruchie Avital and Moish Goldberg were the stars of the show that was very professionally produced by Nati Malchi. The show also included the Bnei Akiva singers, a chorus of old-timers and a video presentation of scenes from the past gleamed from old 8mm movies and some more modern video tapes of Camp Moshava, Hachshara and videotaped interviews with several Chaverim. I prepared the journal (with the editing help of my wife, Barbara) and kept everyone updated via the Internet.
Yoske Shapiro, one of only three speakers, spoke of the importance of Aliyah and asked that you urge your children to come and then follow them. Marc Belzberg, chairman of Board of Governors of World Bnei Akiva, spoke of the scope and depth of the wonderful work that Bnei Akiva does. Rabbi Chaim Druckman, a former Shaliach, read the prayer for the
State of Israel. Rabbi Yisroel Weiss, the Chief Rabbi of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), read the prayer for the welfare of Israeli soldiers and spoke of how in the IDF they work to develop the entire person, to accept every Jew and forge one Jewish nation.
A highlight of the show was a very touching duet by the Goldbergs praising their children in the IDF, accompanied by a beautiful video presentation of the various branches of the Defense Forces. The most poignant moment was when some 3,000 people stood up and sang the Bnei Akiva anthem “Yad Achim,” followed by Hatikvah.
For Friday morning, Moish Goldberg had organized a series of Shiurim featuring former Bnei
Akiva Chaverim, including: Rabbi Eliezer Waldman, Rabbi Chaim Brovender, Rabbi Aharon Rakefet, Rabbi Aryeh Weiss, Rabbi Ari Chwat, Rabbi David Bigmen, Avraham Stein, Rochel Levemore and Leah Abramowitz.
In many hotels in Jerusalem there were groups of Bnei Akivaniks spending Shabbat together. Ninety members of Shevet Moriah, for example, gathered in the Ariel Hotel and, according to Mindy Frankel, had the most exciting and uplifting Shabbat ever. From all of the hotels, we walked to the Kotel for Friday night Tefilla and gathered at Heichal Shlomo for Shabbat
morning. On Saturday night we gathered for a solidarity Melave Malka at the recently bombed Cafe Hillel to declare that terror will not deter us. Rabbi Benny Elon, Minister of Tourism, joined us and mentioned that his mother-in-law was a former Hashomer Hadati Chavera and he spoke of the wonderful influence that Bnei Akiva has on youngsters around the world. It was a weekend not to be forgotten.
Bnei Akiva of North America (and Hashomer Hadati) will be 70 years young this year. A reunion of all former members (Chaverim) is being planned for Thanksgiving weekend (November 27-30, 2003) in Jerusalem. More than 2,000 former Chaverim from Israel and about 800 from the U.S.A. and Canada are expected to attend. It should be a great experience for bogrim of all ages from Bnei Akiva, Camp Moshava, and the various Hachsharot. Nosan Friedman, Itchie Fuchs and Steve Frankel are coordinating the event.
The main event, an evening of nostalgia and reunion, is scheduled to be held in the Jerusalem Convention Center (Binyaney HaUmah) on Thursday evening, November 27, between 6:00 p.m. and 11:00 p.m. Much of the evening will be spent viewing the exhibits of old photos and mementos, socializing with Chaverim, and visiting the booths of the exhibitors planning to display their products at the convention. A special short program saluting the contribution of North American Bnei Akiva Chaverim to Israel is being produced. Those willing to lend pictures, videos and other paraphernalia from the past should contact Steve Frankel c/o Bnei Akiva, Suite 205, 7 Penn Plaza, NY 10001, or Frannie Abell, Harimon 23, Yishuv Hashmonaim, 73127, Israel (08) 976-6539.
A journal, to include greetings from both advertisers and Chaverim will be published. Greetings from Chaverim by Snif, Mosh, Hach and/or Shevet and a special set of pages for those who want to include their “jewels” (children or grandchildren), will be included. A list of all of those who pre-register will be included at no extra charge. Former Chaverim from the USA who cannot come but would like to be listed in the Journal for a small fee, should contact me via email or via the BA office. Email updates and the placement of your name on the list of Chaverim may be requested by sending me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The group coming from North America will be able to purchase flights and hotels at special rates (Contact Stuart Katz at (516) 825-0966 x102). Each participant from abroad travelling via Bnei Akiva will receive free admission to the event in Binyanei Hauma. An optional program of side trips, a full Shabbat program and a Melava Malka on Saturday night are also being planned. Those living in Israel are invited to participate in any or all of the events of the weekend.
There are two web sites where additional information may be found: www.bneiakiva.net has old photos and other information and www.bneiakiva.org allows North Americans to register. Those living in North America may also contact their nearest Bnei Akiva office for more information. Please pass this information to your friends who were former Chaverim and come join the fun!