Sunday, May 6, 2012

Bringing some of the "old country" into the new one

There was some back and forth on an Aliya listserve about how appropriate it is to complain about the challenges of Aliya.  Some felt that Olim need to give up their connections to their previous homes outside of ISrael and accept their new reality.  In response Emily wrote the following that resonated for many people who thanked her for writing it.


Hi,

I made aliyah with my family a year and a half ago. My husband and I feel very blessed to have this amazing opportunity to settle in Eretz Yisrael. Our aliyah has been pretty smooth, and our kids are integrating beautifully, tfu tfu tfu. 

Still, the process has not been without its challenges. We left all of our family behind in America . I am reinventing my career from scratch, starting at the bottom and often feeling inept at work, where in America I was successful and respected. And despite their great acclimation here, our kids miss their friends and family, and all four of them would go back tomorrow if given the choice. So while we are so glad we came, it is not always easy.

My husband and I are considered (by people who know us) to be very low maintenance people. We are generally not the type to insist on having particular products, and we could live very well like native Israelis, purchasing only what is available in our local kibbutz makolet. Still, with all of the upheaval our family has been through, we have found ourselves swept up in the fever of trying to find (and sometimes import) American goods. There is something warm and familiar about our Friday ritual of Wacky Mac before Shabbat, and it is always exciting when someone brings us American Rice Krispies. And living in the North with few affordable English reading options, there is nothing like receiving our latest used books in the mail from Better World Books!

In preparation for my son's bar mitzvah a few weeks ago, I did things I never dreamed I would do. I agreed (even encouraged?) him to have a Baltimore Ravens theme party (I HATE football, and in America I would have considered a sports-themed bar mitzvah tacky -- though we are only talking about a few decorations here...). I went through hoops to order Ravens pennants and foil-wrapped chocolate sports balls. I had to order them to America , and have my only friend coming from North America drive to the States from Canada to pick them up and bring them. Another friend arranged to have us sent Sunkist candies for throwing after his Torah reading. This seemed ridiculous to me, but the kids were so excited about it. 

As the bar mitzvah approached, my son was disappointed that none of his American family or friends would be there. But on the actual day, he read his parasha beautifully and had an amazing time with his new friends and community. In shul, people loved the change from the usual candies (we live in a place with few anglos, so the Sunkist chews were a chavaya). At the party, the Ravens touch brought a little piece of his past (along with a video his friends back in Baltimore prepared for him), and his Bnei Akiva group even sang about his fondness for the Ravens in a song they performed for him. 

Did we need to bring things from America to make his bar mitzvah special? Of course not. But I have no regrets. There are always things we can do "better" in the world. We can give more charity. We can use less water and disposable dishes. We can smile more at strangers. But there are times when we are allowed to make choices for ourselves. When someone has made all the sacrifices they have in order to leave behind all they had before to come on aliyah, who are we to criticize someone for wanting a taste from the old country (like Rice Krispies) or something to make our lives a little easier (ziploc bags) or cheaper (American sneakers and Electronics) . 

I am grateful for this forum that has helped me find ways to make my aliyah a little easier, and it is a pleasure to share things I find that I think others will appreciate. 

If anyone is interested, I am attaching a link to an article about our kids' transition here that was published in a Vancouver newspaper. It is one of a 10-part series (7 published so far). The rest are easy to find if you are even further interested (or you can contact me for more links).

http://www.jewishin dependent. ca/Archives/ Nov11/archives11 Nov25-05. html

Emily Singer

Baltimore -- Maale Gilboa 2012

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