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*** THE ALIYAH REVOLUTION ALBUM ***

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

"Rebbeim told us moving to Israel would be a mistake"



Hi Malkah,

I don't know if you remember me, but I'm X's wife, we met you at Y's house in Z-ville USA for dinner, before your husband spoke at the Shul here.

So, we put our house here up for sale, and we want to make aliyah. We were just there for my sister's wedding, and I miss it so much! For the first time, I came back to the US, and felt truly in my neshama that this is not where we're supposed to be. Yes, it's beautiful here, but it feels, all of a sudden, temporary - like a stop on the way to our real home - Eretz Yisrael!

Anyways, the reason I'm emailing is you is (besides saying hi) to ask you something: Many people (including our Rebbeim) have told us moving to Israel would be a mistake. That we (as charedi) wouldn't fit in with Israeli charedi, but that the other side would be too "modern" for us, and for our kids. My husband is Israeli, so that would definitely be a big plus to fitting in, but there would be many issues with our kids and schools. For example, most likely we would want to send our kids to a charedi school, but we wouldn't fit in, so then we would have to change also, so they'd fit in. And that Israeli kids in schools usually don't want Americans to mingle with them, so they have separate classes. And Israeli charedim don't like how the American charedim come and have barbecues and stuff. (Just superficial stuff, but to illustrate that it might be hard to feel accepted.)

I know your daughter is young, but where do you plan on sending her to school?

It's intimidating hearing our Rabbis tell us this, but I also feel that if G-d wants us (and the entire Jewish people) there, He will make it work.

Any thoughts?

Sincerely,
X



Dear X,

Shalom! I'm so glad to hear from you - of course I remember you! Thank you for contacting me regarding your concerns. I'll try my best to answer them.

First, let me say that you are contacting me just after the most Israel-fear-related parsha in the entire Torah. Moshe sent 12 of our greatest men to Israel for reconnaisance, and 10 of them came back with horrible things to say, sowing fear in the hearts of Israel, and causing the entire nation to sin against G-d. Of course, in the retrospect of history, we learn that the nation of Israel showed a serious lack of faith by rejecting the Land of Israel. But trying to put ourselves in their shoes, we see there was a major propaganda campaign conducted by the "10 spies", all of whom were trusted and honored tribal leaders. Their status was meant to give weight to G-d's word. Instead, they used it to bolster their own opinions, their own human fears. The Torah teaches us that we pay for this moment of fear and doubt until today, and that unless we fix the situation, our children will also pay.

I am not a prophet, or even a great religious leader (or any kind of leader, for that matter). But I know, and I think you know, that G-d wants His nation to live in the Land of Israel. That being said, the question cannot be if. The question can only be how.

I heard once a beautiful dvar Torah that said that in every country of exile, the Jewish people had to change to suit the land. But in Israel, the Land changes to suit the Jewish people. Israel is a country still in flux - obviously, we still have some pretty serious issues to contend with, and we are in the process of forming a national identity. It's easy to get nervous about how to deal with various issues, including fitting into society, educating children, and just making it!

As with anything, faith is important. Rebbe Nachman of Breslov, incidentally, says true faith can only be learned in the Land of Israel. I believe that the same G-d who helps you get your kids to school every morning in Passaic will help you do so in Jerusalem, Ramat Beit Shemesh, Neve Daniel, or anywhere else. Even more so because of the big mitzvah you are trying to do by embracing Israel and anchoring your children in it.

On to the practicalities. I am not chareidi, so I can't speak to the intricacies of that culture. However, I have found that Israelis are largely accepting, supportive, and friendly, in all walks of life. This is the Middle East, and the grittiness which comes with that has not bypassed the Jews. But neither has the sweetness of the Jewish soul, so don't be afraid of Israelis!! You and your children will learn the real meaning of compassion, brotherly love, and familial concern in Israel, as you embrace a way of life involving true sharing, partnership, and familiarity which comes with having Israeli neighbors. Sometimes there's culture shock, yes. But I think you will be very pleasantly surpised.

Furthermore, who says you have to fully immerse yourself in such a challenging way? There are plenty of great communities full of Americans, with children in schools, Old Navy in the secondhand stores, and cans of cranberry sauce piled high. Beit Shemesh, Ramat Beit Shemesh, Neve Daniel, Efrat, Tel Tzion, Zichron Yaakov, Modiin - these are communities you should look into, because American olim have paved the way on a lot of issues you are concerned with.

One more very important point. I don't, G-d forbid, mean to disparage your rabbis. But lashon hara is lashon hara, no matter who speaks it. The Vilna Gaon teaches that the Sitra Achra works hard on the Gedolim, that they should reject the Land of Israel, because the Sitra Achra is vanquished when the Jews are on the Land. Even if they don't intend, by scaring you away from the Land of Israel, by slandering large groups of Jews and making you feel you won't be able to be family with them, they are falling under the sway of the Sitra Achra, probably because they are very high souls whom he is attacking.

X, you are going to make it in Israel. You are going to face obstacles, and you will worry and maybe even cry. But you will be better for all of your experiences, and so will your kids. You will be happy that you moved here, and you will thank G-d for the miracle of taking you out of the Exile. You and your family will grow in ways you never thought possible, and you will feel the completeness of your Jewishness, something you can only do here.

Buck up! This is the dream of 2,000 years! And this is giving nachat to Hashem, the most important thing you could ever do. As the Lubavitcher Rebbe always said -Israel, the Land that G-d watches from the beginning of the year to the end of year. Hashem will be with you. All the souls of all your ancestors who never had this opportunity will be with you. And your brothers and sisters will be with you.

Fear is the great sin of our time, perhaps the great sin of history, and we are ALL susceptible to it. But we can't give in. If we beat it, I believe we will merit G-d's love and satisfaction, and bring the redemption of our people and of the whole world.

As the Lubavitcher Rebbe said - tracht gut unt zeint gut - think good and it will be good! Do your research, make a careful plan, and then close your eyes and jump! This is a great adventure on which you're embarking - enjoy it!

All the best,
Malkah

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4 Comments:

  • At 4:50 PM , Blogger yitz.. said...

    I think you slipped in editing your response.. you seem to have named the town X was speaking about -- even though you X-ed it out in the initial letter.

     
  • At 11:41 PM , Blogger meir said...

    Well Said

    This seems to come up again and again, as if some politics concerning Charedi vs. Dati Leumi should prevent someone from fulfilling a Mitzvah.

    I for one have B'H succesfuly combined both worlds into my family and would be happy to discuss with you each world as I know both quite well.

    Maybe we shoudn't wear a talis because we aren't sure to say "Talis" or "Talit" and we don't want black stripes as it is too Charedi and colored stripes are too Modern, Therefore lets just stop wearing a Talis!!!!!!

     
  • At 10:58 AM , Blogger Akiva said...

    Unfortunately this advice is accurate. Children from age 9-16 have a much harder time adjusting to aliyah than younger or older.

    The Israeli charedi system is much more narrow and rigid than the US model, with the educational system being the most narrow of all.

    American areas such as Ramat Beit Shemesh have _not_ compensated for this. While the schools are used to dealing with American olim, the goal is to fast track them into the Israeli model - which doesn't work for many in that age group.

    If you have charedi children in this age range, the critical advice for aliyah is not necessary to avoid it, but rather to plan 2 pilot trips with those children in that age range specifically focused around visiting, applying to, and checking out schools. This is the most important thing you can do. You must arrive on aliyah with your school selected and your children accepted (to avoid nightmares). [Meaning, start this process really early.]

    There are a smattering of charedi schools with American concentrations that have made some adjustments to the American mindset. (Example, Boys, Ramat Beit Shemesh - Magen Avos, Jerusalem - Rappaport, Girls Jerusalem - Beit Shulamit.)

     
  • At 3:06 PM , Blogger Malkah said...

    Shalom,

    X's town wasn't named in this article. At first, I looked to see what you might mean, then saw that you probably mean Passaic. I chose Passaic as an example of a town with lots of chareidi-type Jews as a place where G-d gets one's children to school. I could have just as easily have chosen Monsey, Flatbush or somewhere else.

     

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