JERUSALEM (Jul. 31)
There is a new kind of North American aliya these days. It can be called “lifestyle aliya” — people from a variety of backgrounds who are attracted by the quality of life in Israel.
While no hard-and-fast data are available on this phenomenon, random interviews with North American olim of different ages, backgrounds and geographical locations conducted by the Jewish Telegraphic Agency aboard the special “Kadima Aliya” flight that arrived in Israel from New York last week indicated several of their salient characteristics:
*They have visited Israel many times or lived there for one or more long periods, enjoyed the atmosphere and have friends and or relatives there.
*They have given much thought and put considerable planning into making aliya, including pilot trips, getting advanced degrees, and buying machinery to start new businesses.
*They are aware of the difficulties that will be facing them in finding jobs and in some cases, new professions, and housing, and are somewhat skeptical about the abilities and willingness of Israeli officialdom to help them find these easily.
*They feel Israel is a wonderful place to raise children, the best place to raise them as Jews, and for those with offspring, this is a major factor in their decision to make aliya.
‘OUR HEARTS HAVE ALWAYS BEEN THERE’
Aron and Simcha Shtull-Trauring of Philadelphia are a couple in their late 20’s with two children, Ittamar and Hadar, both under three. Aron hails from an Orthodox family, Simcha’s father is a Conservative rabbi, and both attended Jewish day schools. Simcha has a Masters Degree in Jewish studies from Graetz College in Philadelphia, where they lived for the past four years.
Both have been to Israel many times and, said Aron, “Our hearts have always been there. We felt more involved with Israeli culture than American culture, and didn’t feel attuned to the goals of the American Jewish community.” He continued:
“If you have a strong Jewish identity in America you’re outside the mainstream. You can’t be too Jewish or people look at you as if something’s wrong. Assimilationist pressures cause Jews to be insecure in their identity. It’s easier to be a whole person in Israel than America if you’re Jewish.”
They decided on aliya when Simcha, then a teacher, became pregnant with their first child. “We had to decide what kind of community we wanted to raise him in. We didn’t want him to have an identity struggle. We want our children to wear costumes on Purim, not on Halloween, “she said.
Aron, a computer systems analyst, has a job lined up in Tel Aviv. Simcha has been working in the word processing business at home for the past year in preparation for Israel.
Similar sentiments about their children’s education were expressed by Robert and Diane Rosenschein of Silver Spring, Maryland, a couple in their 30’s with two sons under six. Robert was a student in Israel 10 years ago and he and Diane spent 1976 working in Jerusalem, he as a computer software consultant, she in the Absorption Ministry. Both “feel very much at home there,” Robert said.
“Israel is a terrific place for kids, a society which really loves its children,” he continued. A graduate of a Harrisburg day school and of Ramah (Conservative movement) camps, Robert feels very strongly about the “dangers of assimilation in America, whose most obvious symptom is intermarriage.” Now that the family is settling in Israel, he said, “the children won’t have to wonder why everyone around them isn’t celebrating Pesach.”
Gordon and Sharon Fuller, a couple in their 20’s from Evanston, Illinois, realized after their 13-month-old son, Evan, was born, that “if we want our child to grow up as a Jew, it’s an advantage to be in Israel,” said Sharon.
Gordon first went to Israel on a United Synagogue Youth pilgrimage, and both spent half of 1980 there. Sharon’s degree is in speech therapy and Gordon is a social worker and therapist — both professions that are difficult to work at in a language they are not proficient in. They are checking out industrial moshavim.
The Fullers belonged to a havura, the egalitarian minyan of Rogers Park. The services were traditional, but women participated equally. Simcha and Aron Shtull-Trauring of Philadelphia were also part of an egalitarian minyan, a split-off from the Germantown minyan in Philadelphia.
Simcha, who “can’t bear being behind a mechitza” (partition between the praying sexes) said they chose Rehovot as their home partly because it has a Conservative shul which is open to women’s participation.
TRADITIONAL AND OBSERVANT BACKGROUNDS
While many of the North American olim have traditional Jewish backgrounds, many, like William and Melanie Schoenfield of Flushing, N.Y., “came to the religious experience in adulthood.” Another newly-observant couple are also newly-weds (June 5). Rob and Bambi Kantrowitz, of Baltimore and New Jersey, a couple in their 20’s, plan to live in Zichron Yaakov, where he will study at the town’s branch of Yeshiva Ohr Sameach while Bambi seeks an advertising job.
They met five years ago on a Haifa University overseas student program, said Rob. “At the time, I had no special feeling about going to Israel — I could just as well have gone to Denmark like my other roommates did.”
What changed Rob’s life was a chance meeting with an Orthodox Jew, Baruch Levine — now renowned for his one-person out-reach program — who invited him to stay with a religious family in Bnei Brak. “I was struck by how contented their lives were,” recalled Rob. “This stuck in my mind” and he eventually went to study at Jerusalem’s Ohr Sameach Yeshiva, where he enjoyed Judaism’s logical system.” Later, Bambi studied at the sister yeshiva. Neve Yerushalayim.
Like Rob and Bambi Kantrowitz, Marcy Broder, 25, first went to Israel from Seattle on a one-year program. “It was a chance to be an adventurer,” she said. She spent her year in Sherut La’am as a social worker in Kiyat Shmona and became involved with the problems of development towns, which she hopes to work on in her new job at the Haifa municipality. She got a Masters Degree in community organization at the University of Washington for this purpose.
‘IT TAKES CHUTZPAH’
Aliza Slatis is a 40-year-old widow from the Detroit area with three children — Evan, 15, Joel, 13, and Ruth, 11 1/2. Having dreamed of making aliya for 20 years and planning it for seven, she realizes “this is a great risk — it takes chutzpah.” Her greatest worry is finding a job: her field is arbitration and mediation, which she worked at for the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employes.
“I belonged to the Hashomer Hatzair (the Socialist Zionist youth movement) as a teenager the only one in the family with strong Zionist leanings,” she said. She and her late husband, a genetics professor at Wayne State University, were “ardent Zionists,” and visited Israel many times. “I like the rhythm of life in Israel,” she continued. “I’ve always felt comfortable there, and when I came back to the States I would feel decompressed.”
After her husband died in 1976, she visited Israel again and started to make plans to settle there, including getting a degree in labor relations, and preparing the children, and selling the house. “The logistics were horrendous,” she said.
Her family, said Aliza, “is very proud that I’m finally doing what I’ve talked about for 20 years.” Then last month, as she was finalizing preparations for aliya, her mother died. “She made me promise, as she lay dying, that I would leave on time,” said Aliza.
Aliza Slatis, her three children, and 236 other North American olim arrived at Ben Gurion Airport in Lod at 3 p.m. on July 27, to begin a new life.