Large number of locals making aliyah this year
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Large number of locals making aliyah this year

JERUSALEM ““ Watching her youngest son and his family descending the steps of a jumbo jet emblazoned with the Nefesh B’Nefesh logo, June Glazer was reminded of the day he was born 28 years ago.

“It was an amazing feeling,” said Glazer, who moved from Teaneck to Israel in December with her husband, Jeffrey. “When I gave birth I was soaring afterward, and I had a similar feeling of excitement and anticipation and soaring as I watched the live video of each passenger coming down the stairs of the plane. Excitement is mounting and everybody is clapping and cheering.”

From left, Ariana, Rena, and Ahron Glazer are met in Jerusalem by Ahron’s mother June, who made aliyah from Teaneck in December. Sasson Tiram

Ahron Glazer and his wife Rena have been living in Oakland, Calif., for four years. Moving to Israel was always in their plans.

“Aliyah was a joint decision when we got married,” said Ahron Glazer, who grew up in Teaneck along with his two older brothers. “But we wanted to be part of a community for some time before, and that’s how we got to California.” They arrived on Aug. 19 with their 3 1/2-year-old daughter, Ariana, and are living here in the capital not far from the elder Glazers.

According to the aliyah-assistance organization Nefesh B’Nefesh, which is credited with helping 15,000 North American and British citizens move to Israel in the past five years, more than 30 families from northern New Jersey have arrived or were due to arrive this summer as new immigrants: Shlomo Guttman and Serena and Daniel Hartstein from Bergenfield; Daniel Glucksman and Jonathan and Devora Henner from Clifton; Adina Kutnicki from Elmwood Park; Esther and David Ilan from Englewood; Keith and Tara Eliwatt, Parandoush and Oren Franks, Aliza Nadel and Daniel Lewkowicz, Elaine Berger and Jay Riesel, Mindy Davis, Leah Rothman, Raizel Gershonowitz, and Ephraim and Bracha Greene from Passaic; and Gwen Peretz and Richard Normile, Ben and Kaila Shimshak, Leon and Alicia Isaacson, Joy Krug, Deena and Zvi Kahane, and Jason and Jennifer Schwartz from Teaneck.

The Schwartzes – accompanied by their children Jonathan, Elliot, triplets Meira, Akiva and Gabriel, Daniel, and Ariel – arrived on Aug. 13 and are among the pioneer families in Nofei HaShemesh, an “American-style” modern Orthodox community in Beit Shemesh.

From left are Leora, Ezra, Roni, and Tiferet Gilbert. Photo courtesy of the Gilbert family

Other new arrivals preferred more diverse communities. Ezra Gilbert, 27, who – like Ahron Glazer – grew up in Teaneck, came to the culturally and religiously mixed city of Modi’in on Aug. 26 from Highland Park.

Gilbert and his wife, Roni, a native Israeli brought up in Pennsylvania, had started looking into aliyah five years ago but proceeded slowly.

“We went to Nefesh B’Nefesh meetings and at a certain time we decided to take a few steps, like opening a tik [file] at the Jewish Agency,” said Gilbert. “We didn’t think about the big scary picture of moving to a new country; we just took it step by step, and then saw we could do it this summer. Maybe by saying publicly that we wanted to make aliyah five years ago kept it current and out there so when the opportunity came, we were already ‘people who wanted to make aliyah.’ It was not overwhelming that way.”

The Gilberts’ transition has been eased by a combination of planning and good fortune. They decided to speak only Hebrew to their children, Leora – who turned 3 the day they arrived – and 11-month-old Tiferet, making Leora’s first day of preschool stress-free. Plus, Gilbert was employed by Avaya, a company with a Tel Aviv office.

“I feel like we’re the ideal oleh [immigrant] family because we have the language and I transferred my job here,” he said.

Originally, Avaya’s New Jersey branch had agreed to let Gilbert work from a distance in his existing high-tech position. But while he was in-flight to Israel, his whole team in New Jersey was laid off. The Tel Aviv branch, which had met him two years ago when he came on a three-week business trip, welcomed him with open arms.

“I’m still deciding on the best way of getting there,” said Gilbert, whose current hour-long commute cuts into his time with his daughters. But he is nevertheless pleased with their experience thus far.

“I am impressed with how much everybody loves kids here,” he said. “I’ve never seen anything like it. Everybody is oogling over our baby – five people manning the grill at Burgers Bar, little boys on the street, and even a woman waiting with us at the income tax office. She picked Tiferet up and held her for 20 minutes during our meeting.”

In his Nefesh B’Nefesh application essay, Gilbert had written: “Statistically, Israel is the only country in the world where the Jewish population is growing instead of shrinking. To me, that means there is a greater chance of my children growing up Jewish, not intermarrying, and, God willing, the same will be true for their children as well.”

The Schwartzes disembark in Jerusalem. Sasson Tiram

Still, a cross-continental move is a major undertaking. Ahron Glazer said the most difficult aspect was “leaving the comfort zone and learning how to play the game again. When you move from one state to another it’s more or less the same rules, but here, while for the most part things work the same, some things are very different culturally and otherwise.”

However, he added, “We’re fairly flexible and easy-going and we’ll roll with the punches and make the best of it.”

Glazer emphasized that there are many welcome changes as well. “In California, we didn’t have any family at all,” he said. “Here we have my parents and Rena’s brother, who just finished the army. Rena’s parents in Chicago also hope to make aliyah. I am feeling Israeli, feeling a real connection to the Jewish people and to Israel.”

For his parents, the opportunity to see their grandchildren growing up in Israel gives them “a feeling of completion.”

“Now they’re experiencing something similar to what we experienced when we arrived,” said June Glazer, “walking around saying, ‘We live here, we live here.’ And we are saying, ‘They live here, they live here!'”

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