Pauline and Abraham Goldfarb are no strangers to disruption, having left their New Orleans home in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. Now the couple who planned to make aliyah on July 19 have once again been forced to accommodate circumstances beyond their control. Because of family pressures and Israel’s current plight, they have postponed their trip to Aug. 9. The Goldfarbs always knew they would make aliyah. So when they scheduled their flight for Israel with Nefesh B’Nefesh and the Jewish Agency, it came as no surprise to family and friends of the couple, now in their 80s.
Despite what Abraham Goldfarb described as "some trepidation over conditions in Israel at the present moment," the two accompanied by their daughter, Cynthia Bivergal of New Milford, who will stay with them for several weeks to help them get settled will make their second move of the year. Eleven months ago, they came to New Jersey from New Orleans to escape the wrath of Katrina.
"They left two days before the hurricane," said Bivergal, who, together with her parents, spoke to The Jewish Standard the week before the originally scheduled trip. "With two days’ worth of clothing, they went first to stay with my brother in Baton Rouge and then came here." The Goldfarbs have not yet been able to sell their home, but "we’re hopeful," she said.
"The local community here was wonderful," said Bivergal, who, in the aftermath of Katrina, needed to make her home accessible for her parents both of whom rely on walkers and arrange for the provision of various social services.
JAFI’s Michael Landsberg visited Abraham and Pauline Goldfarb in New Milford to discuss their plans for aliyah.
"JFS in Teaneck got them a lift chair and built a ramp, and we got help from the Jewish Home at Rockleigh, the United Way, and Bergen County Social Services. The Solomon Schechter School in New Milford, where I teach, was also wonderful."
Already displaced by the hurricane, the Goldfarbs, uncomfortable with the New Jersey climate, decided that this would be an appropriate time to join their other daughter in Israel. Bivergal’s sister made aliyah 35 years ago and lives in Ra’anana with her husband and children.
Abraham Goldfarb, an attorney and a former national officer of the Zionist Organization of America, will soon turn 89. Pauline Goldfarb, a retired teacher who served as a Hadassah vice president for three southern cities, is nearly 85. In Israel, they will live in an English-speaking assisted living facility.
Before Katrina, "New Orleans had a Jewish community of 600,000," said Pauline Goldfarb. "Everyone belonged to everything. Thanks to an understanding husband, I could go off and take trips for Hadassah. But then I had a stroke eight years ago and that slowed me down."
The couple "were always active in the field of Zionism," said her husband, who noted that he had served as the president of several Zionist organizations. Katrina provided them with the incentive they needed to make the move to Israel.
Michael Landsberg, executive director for the North American aliyah delegation of the Jewish Agency, visited the Goldfarbs to help them with the aliyah process. "Even with the Internet, e-mails, and telephones, people still need person-to-person contact, compassion, and love," he said. Aware of all that the Goldfarbs had been through and of their limited mobility, he traveled to New Milford to help ease their way.
"The Jewish Agency is the only organization chartered to bring olim to Israel and deal with their eligibility requirements," he said, explaining that the group works with several partners, including Nefesh B’Nefesh. The July 19 flight will bring about ”0 new olim to Israel, he explained. While several families have postponed their trip something that "always happens," he said no one has actually canceled plans.
"By the end of the summer we expect to bring ‘,300 olim to Israel from North America," said Landsberg, noting that this is a 15 percent increase over last year and that at least ’00 New Jerseyans will be among that number. "Unless the Israeli government says for any reason that we shouldn’t come, nothing will stop our flights."