From New York to Givat Shmuel: The Story of a Robot with a Plan
Updated: Jul 2, 2020
Here is the Cliff's Notes version of the past 34 years of my life. Understanding a bit about me, may help you have more insights into why we made the decision to move to Israel and how we made it work.
I grew up in Queens, NY in a 3 bedroom attached home with my mother, father and 2 older siblings. At the time, my house seemed fairly small to me. Looking back, I have to laugh at the irony considering I live in a much smaller 4 bedroom apartment with a family of 6. I grew up in a struggling middle class family which ingrained in me the desire to ensure financial stability in my future home. The desire for stability shaped so many decisions I have made in my life.
I was not raised with a love for Israel from my youth. I believe my parents each very much loved Israel but it was more of an internal love and was not spoken about very openly. I went to a Bais Yaakov elementary school which spent much time talking about 'Eretz Yisroel' as the biblical Jewish homeland but not Israel, the modern day Zionist state.
For High School, I went to a more modern orthodox school and was introduced to the modern day concept of living in Israel. To be honest, I never even heard the word Zionism until I was in 9th grade and found it to be the most interesting and confusing concept I ever heard. I was too young and naïve to fully comprehend why anyone could possibly oppose the idea of a Jewish homeland in Israel.
At that time, I still had no desire to move to Israel. I loved living in New York and having all the conveniences of New York living. However, I did love the concept of the Jewish state. Based on my understanding of the Jew's rocky history in other countries (i.e., Spanish inquisition, pogroms, slavery in Egypt, the Holocaust, the list goes on and on…), this seemed like a logical and practical idea to my 16 year old self.
Now, let's fast forward to my post-high school year abroad in Israel. Pay attention now, this is where the story gets interesting. After 10 months of living in Israel, spending Shabbat weekends at people who made Aliyah and really understanding the idealistic side of living there, I made a decision that Israel is where I want to live one day and where I want to raise my kids.
As some of you may already realize, I very much a Type A personality and I generally make my decisions based on logic not emotion. I did not want to live in Israel because my heart could not imagine living anywhere else. I decided to live in Israel because it is the land of the Jews, I am a Jew, therefore, it is where I should live. (I will pause here to interject that my husband calls me a robot. I pretend this is an affectionate pet name and he means it as a compliment, although, I am fairly certain that it is not how he intended it.) Despite this decision, I also knew that if I wanted to make my Aliyah work, I needed a plan. My basic Aliyah plan essentially looked like this:
1. Marry rich then move to Israel -Just kidding, this was only the back up plan.
2. Go back to America for a few years to get an education and save up money, then move to Israel.
After my year in Israel, I decided to become an accountant (truth: I actually decided to become an accountant in high school but that sounds even less cool so I will pretend it was a mature college decision). Accounting seemed to be the best option for me considering my need for stability and my desire to get a job that could support me and my hypothetical family in Israel. So, I went to Sy Syms School of Business (aka Yeshiva University's business school) to earn my degree in accounting.
In my first year of University, I attended a weekend event for Yachad, the National Jewish Council for Disabilities, which is an organization dedicated to assisting Jewish individuals with disabilities. During this weekend event, I met Yosef, my husband and partner in crime. We both were only interested in dating people who wanted to make Aliyah and it was a huge foundation of what we planned for our life together. After a year of dating (with a minor break in between, story for another time), we got married.
Here I will take a second to talk to you about Yosef. I am NOT generally a very expressive person about feelings (I can't imagine why Yosef refers to me as a Robot!) but I will say that I could not imagine making Aliyah and having such a successful klita (absorption) without a spouse that is a true partner. Don't get me wrong, plenty of people make Aliyah single and find their partners in Israel. It is 100% possible, and in some ways, maybe even easier (and in others, probably more difficult). But, when making Aliyah with a spouse, my personal opinion is that the process can really test the strength of relationships. If you are considering this move and you feel like you do not have a solid foundation in your relationship, just be aware that a stressful situation like Aliyah can further intensify already existing issues. I am not pretending to be a professional here or trying to give marital advice, but I promise to be straightforward and honest in giving my opinions based on my own personal experience. Yosef and I are blessed to have a very solid relationship and, even with this, looking back on our experience, we felt there were many parts of the Aliyah process that created periods of tension and anger. We are VERY happy we made the move and do not regret a moment of it. It ended up making us stronger as a couple and as a family but be prepared for rocky waters as the storm clouds blow in.
Anyway, Yosef and I got married in 2007 and lived in Queens,NY for 7 years. During that time, I gave birth to 3 daughters, I earned my bachelor degree in accounting, my CPA license and Master's degree in Taxation and worked at a large accounting firm in New York City. Yosef completed a Doctorate in Physical Therapy and worked at a Sports Clinic in Brooklyn. We saved up as much money as we could and, for 7 years, every decision we made we asked ourselves what this would mean for our Aliyah. For example, Yosef was offered an opportunity to open a PT Clinic about 2 years before we moved which would require an investment of some of our savings and taking a risk. He declined. I was offered a position as a tax manager at a private company but declined as well since I thought transferring to Israel within the accounting firm would be a safer option. I am not saying what we did was correct or advisable, but it kept our eyes on our goal, which is probably the only reason we actually ended up moving.
We made Aliyah in 2014 to Givat Shmuel with our 3 daughters (then, ages 5, 3 and 1). I transferred my job to the same accounting firm I worked for in the US (with a significant pay cut) and Yosef ended up changing his career completely (we'll discuss this more in a later post). We have lived here for 6 years now and during that time we moved to 3 different apartments (first renting and now purchased), lost my father to cancer, gave birth to a son, lost grandparents and missed their funerals, learned to argue in Hebrew, learned to haggle, voted in 4 elections, went through a shmita year and egg shortages, coronavirus isolation, 6 heart breaking Rememberance Days (Yemei Hazikaron) and 6 beautiful and inspiring Independence Days (Yemei Haatzmaut). We listen to our kids play in English and then switch to Hebrew when they start arguing (apparently to them, Hebrew is a more passionate language), my list can go on and on. I can't say we have loved every minute of every day but we absolutely have zero regrets about our decision to move here.