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Many Jews in America are feeling nervous about their personal safety, due to the rising antisemitism. Samantha (Klein) and Ben Kramer saw the handwriting on the wall two years ago and it was one of the main reasons that led them to leave their families and close community to come to Israel.

Sam is from Cherry Hill, NJ and Ben is from Lawrence, NY. 11 years ago, they came to Israel on a pilot trip, where Ben interviewed at an Israeli company and was offered a salary that was a fraction of what he was making in America. With young kids and no family in Israel, the Kramer’s didn’t think they could make it work, so they moved to West Hempstead, a community that was close to Ben’s parents.

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During Covid and the Black Lives Matter riots that followed, their sense of security was shattered. All of a sudden, New York City, where Ben worked, felt like a frightening place to be. Sam worried about Ben going to the city for meetings and Ben’s father, who works on 47th Street reported that there had been attacks on Jews there. In May of 2021, Ben called her and said, “It’s time” and Sam agreed. They’d actually discussed aliyah a few times over the course of the pandemic. When Israel was closed to visitors during Covid, it was very hard for them and even when the country was reopened, their youngest children couldn’t go to Israel for a while due to the requirement of vaccinations to enter the country. Israel felt so far away and inaccessible and they hated that feeling.

They planned to move in the summer of 2022, hoping that Ben’s boss would let him work remotely but as they couldn’t have that discussion until March, they worked on the other details and just prayed that the job would work out. They knew that moving with older kids would come with some challenges so in the meantime, Sam spent a lot of time doing research to know what to anticipate and to preemptively smooth some of the bumps that they and their five kids might experience upon arrival.

Sam laughs that she was on every WhatsApp group, watched every NBN video and asked questions to everyone she knew. One piece of advice she received was how to handle the situation with their daughter who would be moving to Israel at the beginning of 8th grade and was sad about not graduating with her grade. It was suggested she speak to the school about including her daughter in the yearbook and flying back for graduation, which eventually proved to be very helpful.

On March 17, Ben entered his boss’s office to request permission to work remotely, knowing the answer could easily go in either direction. Sam waited to hear while saying Tehillim, the fact that it was Taanit Esther and the meaning that came with that date and auspicious meetings, not lost on her. Two hours later, Ben called her and said, “I have no idea what just happened.” He had presented the idea to his boss and the boss responded that, unbeknownst to Ben, he had been considering opening an office in the Philippines but Israel actually made more sense to him and he would actually feel much better about Ben, a known employee, managing this office. When Sam later thanked the boss, he couldn’t understand why she was thanking him, thinking that it was to the company’s benefit. Ben now employs five other olim in their Israel office, in accounting and finance.

But not everything went as smoothly. Their family and close friends were very upset that they were leaving. While the Kramer’s understood that it was coming from a place of love and wanting to remain close, it made it more difficult to leave. They had to be strong to continue on their journey. Sam armed herself with quotes and podcasts to bolster her resolve, including Rabbi Penner’s message in April, 2020, one she returned to often, in which he said that all of the reasons “why we haven’t made aliyah yet” – family, jobs, etc. – just went out the window because the doors to Israel are now closed and we can’t get in. He said he hoped that when the doors would reopen, people would come home. Many did come home afterward but many didn’t and Sam was emboldened to think they would be one of those families making it happen.

Since their aliyah in 2022, Sam speaks to many families in the process and shares the following: “Life is like a train. Standing at the platform, you can either hop on when the train stops and opens its doors or you’re left on the platform. Do you want to live life standing on the platform, too afraid and the train leaves without you? Jewish history comes with a timeline and all galuyot come to an end. America feels like a long galus but if you think West Hempstead is forever, you’re not really learning from our past.” With that said, Sam adds, “aliyah is not for the faint of heart. You are going to have to deal with acclimating your kids while you yourself are acclimating. There is a lot of paperwork – it requires energy and money but after a few months, it does get easier and then you’re in Israel. Be kind to yourself and remind yourself that it took years to get acclimated in your current community and it will take time until you feel as comfortable in Israel.”

Sam’s moment of finding her place, ironically, came the day after the war. On October 8, Sam knew that it was important for kids to see videos other than the ones of horror that were making their way around the Internet and that day, she started a WhatsApp group called “Israel Good News Only.” This group now has 14k subscribers and has lifted up so many people across the world by sharing videos of the inspiring events of unity and love of Israel.

Sam’s sister who hasn’t been to Israel in 22 years now has a renewed interest since the beginning of the war and plans to come visit this summer and Sam’s parents who were so upset about them coming, just signed a lease on an apartment in Netanya, where they hope to spend half the year. “Whenever there were terrorist attacks in Israel, I always felt so removed. Here, I feel close, I feel part of it, my kids are part of it, we are connected to the land and to the people. I’ve been down South a ton and have met so many amazing people. All of my family and friends who have come to visit in the past five months tell me they feel so much safer here, even with the rockets. We are definitely in the right place and so grateful to be here.

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Ariela Davis is a passionate Jewish educator/writer and also served as a Rebbetzin before her aliyah in 2020. She is the Menahelet of Ulpanat Orly in Bet Shemesh.