This is the eighth 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. This week is “Hashmonaim Community Week,” and all of these stories concern Hashmonaim residents.

Israel is center of the universe. What scientific evidence is there of this fact? Consider that Israel has a population of only a few million people and is smaller than almost every state in the Union. If you open any newspaper in the world, however, you will find two, three or four stories about Israel.

Few newspapers have daily stories of France or Italy or China. The media often ignores these huge, economically powerful countries. People are murdered, shops are burglarized, politicians are elected, governments fall, children are abducted, starvation is rampant, disease decimates populations, economic strains increase or recede in hundreds of nations around the world – but few newspapers cover these stories.

Yet, let one person be murdered, one politician be elected, one problem occur in Israel, and every newspaper in the world will report the event!! Unconsciously, everyone realizes the centrality of Israel. Read the papers, watch the news reports, and realize the importance of Israel to the world.

Judy and Ely Simon came on aliyah in 1996. Judy has a BA from Columbia University and a Masters degree in Computer Systems Engineering. She worked in New York and Maryland while Ely did his residency and research. Ely received his BA from Columbia in electrical engineering, his Masters in Biomedical Engineering and his MD, and did his residency in Neurology at Einstein. He received a fellowship from the National Institute of Health in basic neurophysiology [spinal cord] research.

When Ely arrived in Israel, he went to work for Ichilov Hospital in the Movement Disorder clinic and eventually began his own company, which develops computerized neurological testing. He is the CEO of NeuroTrax and sees patients both privately and in the Kupat Cholim Meuchedet clinic.

Ely’s company, NeuroTrax, provides physicians and allied healthcare professionals with real-time, objective measurements of patients’ cognitive function to aid diagnosis and treatment decisions. The Company’s Mindstreams(r) product line tests for the full range of cognitive domains and it provides physicians with a significant, breakthrough advantage in the diagnosis and treatment of dementia, including Alzheimers, in the elderly and others suffering from cognitive dysfunction due to a host of medical reasons. With the leading edge of the US baby boom generation about to enter its 60s, the need for such testing will continue to grow at a dramatic pace.

The current product line can be expanded to include cognitive testing for numerous applications such as driving safety assessment, pharmaceutical early detection trials, and school assessments. Each of these additional applications constitutes a very significant market unto itself.

Since 2003, NeuroTrax has installed Mindstreams in numerous U.S. and Israeli sites, including physician practices, US Navy diving centers, health funds, psychiatric departments, diagnostic centers, and mental health centers. Response has been so good that the company has already started generating revenues and demand for the product.

Judy was the webmaster for Neot Kedumim archeological park and now works for NeuroTrax and as a freelance consultant in computer graphics. Judy says, “My kids love it here and we only go back to the U.S. to visit family once every few years. When we visit, we can’t wait to get back to Israel where we have many friends, a nice home and a great community. Why would we ever want to give any of this up?”

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Bryna Hartman lived in Baltimore, but the year before she came to Israel she was studying in Stern College and having a great time in NYC. In July 1974, at the age of 18, she took a leave of absence to go on an ulpan program in Kibbutz Be’erot Yitzchak for 6 months. This was after the Yom Kippur War, and the six-month plan turned into a year.

Bryna went back to the USA in the summer of 1975, but did not plan to remain. She left college, worked for 6 months, and then packed up all her worldly belongings and went back to volunteer on a kibbutz. Bryna eventually became an olah, met another oleh from the USA, Ira Hartman, and married him on kibbutz in July, 1977.

Bryna left behind her family, including a mother who was very upset at her leaving college. Both Ira and Bryna had no close family in Israel, and the kibbutz became their home and family. They were willing to settle for a very simple life at the time, without all the luxuries they had enjoyed back in America. They worked hard but thought that the most important thing in the world for a Jew to do was to live in Israel.

Bryna and Ira lived on Kibbutz until 1986, where Bryna studied early childhood education in Seminar Hakibbutzim and then worked as a teacher. Ira was in charge of the kibbutz cow barn. When they moved to Moshav Nechalim with their three children, they had practically no savings and it was not easy. Ira started a successful business importing laboratory equipment. In Jan. 1991, they moved to Hashmonaim.

They didn’t have the backing of Nefesh B’Nefesh when they came, and they did not fly back and forth to the States in those days to make a living as do many olim today. Ira served for a year and a half in the Israeli army, most of it during the first year they were married. He also was required to do many weeks of reserve duty each year, and he served during the Lebanon War.

In Hashmonaim, aside from his business, Ira became a volunteer ambulance driver and volunteers regularly with Magen David Adom whenever there is an emergency. Bryna works as the director of community activities and is very successful. They both feel that their biggest accomplishment in Israel was raising five children, who are good, observant Jews with good values, who serve in the army and Sherut Leumi, and contribute the building of the country.

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Leiah and Elliot Jaffe made aliyah in 1994 from Pittsburgh, PA. Elliot had a BSc and Leiah had a Masters in Organic Chemistry, both of them from Carnegie Mellon. Elliot had worked for the previous five years in a high tech software company, which is now IBM Pittsburgh Labs. Leiah had started a Ph.D. program but stopped in order to raise their three boys.

When considering aliyah options, all of the official organizations told them that they would never find a well paying job in Israel, and that their standard of living would be significantly lower than what they were used to in Pittsburgh. Elliot, however, was offered a job with an Israeli company before he even left for his pilot trip.

Leiah and Elliot chose to live in Hashmonaim near relatives, and when they landed in Israel, they came directly into a duplex home that was 50% larger than the one they had in Pittsburgh.

Their first sabra son was born five months after their aliyah. Over the next five years, they added two more boys to their family, giving them enough sons to field a hockey team. One year after making aliyah, Elliot and two partners began a new start-up, which employed 50 people in Israel and was sold to Kodak in 2000. Since then, he has helped found a number of new startups and finished a Masters degree from Hebrew University.

Elliot is an elected member of the local council and a gabbai at the local synagogue. Leiah was a leader candidate in the Israel branch of the La Leche League and has studied for a number of years at the Machon Torani L’Nashim (Matan). The Jaffe family picture appears on this page.

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Chana Koren, originally lived in a small town in Ohio, came to Israel from Chicago in 1979. After having been in Israel for a year of study, she fell in love with the country and decided to make it her home. In Israel, Chana found her husband and was married a year later. They were two of the twenty-eight founding members of Kibbutz Beit Rimon. The founding of a kibbutz was exciting and something that she would highly recommend for everyone to experience. She has become fully integrated into Israeli society and has never once been sorry that she came on aliyah, even during the toughest times.

Chana raised a large family, studied in the university, and held many jobs. The reasons for her aliyah were specifically ideological. Her ideology has not weakened, but rather has become stronger over the years. She has children who have no desire of ever leaving Israel, and she sees this as a completion of the cycle she started when she came on aliyah.

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Judy and Bezalel Nachman made aliya in 1982 with three small children. They each have a BA from Brooklyn College; Bezalel in computers and Judy in Education. They lived on the Lower East Side of Manhattan near Bezalel’s parents. Bezalel worked for five years in computers before coming to Israel.

As soon as Bezalel arrived in Israel, he found that he had a choice of jobs. He worked for Tadiran before starting at NDS Computer Company about 15 years ago. Today, Bezalel is a line manager with a very good salary and a company van. He travels worldwide to various NDS offices and customers and he enjoys his work tremendously.

Judy worked as a 1st grade teacher at MTJ on the East Side. She has been teaching English in Hashmonaim for the past 16 years. Judy and Bezalel have had four more children in Israel. Three of their children are married and they have five grandchildren. They built a beautiful home in a wonderful community and are very proud of their accomplishments and are proud to be living in Israel.

(To Be Continued)

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