Stella Rockoff was born in 1921 in Jerusalem. Her birth certificate is written in three languages: Hebrew, Arabic, and English, the official languages of the British Mandate in Eretz Israel-Palestine. When she was five, Stella’s family decided to immigrate to the United States, settling in Brooklyn. In 1940, she married Rabbi Herman Rockoff, and the young couple moved to Pennsylvania, where they became leaders of the local Jewish community and had four children: Seymour (passed), and Elaine, Jonah, and Sharon, may they merit a long and healthy life.
Later, the family moved to Manhattan, where Stella was appointed executive secretary of the Rabbinical Council of America. She worked closely with the leading Rabbis of the day and organized conferences throughout the US, including with Israel’s Yeshivat Hadarom in Rehovot and the Eretz Haim cemetery in Beit Shemesh. As the years went by, Stella moved to New Jersey, to become the oldest member of Congregation Shomrei Torah in Fair Lawn.
But she never forgot her birthplace, and 96 years after leaving Israel, she was finally able to make Aliyah, along with her daughter Elaine and her son-in-law Michael.
“All my life I dreamed of returning to my native country,” she said. “This is a day of celebration for me. My family left at a time when the Jewish State was just an idea. Now it’s a strong nation and a leader in innovation, and I am proud to finally call it home again. I can’t wait to be reunited with my many grandchildren, twenty-two great-grandchildren, and two more great-great-grandchildren in my old-new land.”
Last week, with the assistance of Nefesh B’Nefesh and in coordination with the Ministry of Aliyah and Integration, the Jewish Agency for Israel, Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael, and JNF-USA, Stella boarded an El Al plane that landed at Ben Gurion Airport with a group of close to 60 Olim from North America.
“I congratulate Stella and her family for making Aliyah, proving that it is never too late to return home,” said Rabbi Yehoshua Fass, Co-Founder and Executive Director of Nefesh B’Nefesh. “Stella was born at a time when we were fighting to establish a home for the Jewish people, and now she is returning to a country that welcomes thousands of Jews every year who are continuing to build it in every facet of life. This is the essence of what Nefesh B’Nefesh has been striving for these past twenty years.”