|The Oshins on an earlier trip to Israel. courtesy Oshin family|
Jordana Rabinowitz dreamed of being a fashion designer and living in Manhattan. At just 21, she already fulfilled that dream and found it seriously lacking. Now she’s on her way to Israel, one of about 25 adults and the same number of children making aliyah (the “upward” move to Israel) from North Jersey through the organization Nefesh B’Nefesh this summer.
Rabinowitz, who grew up in Englewood, said she got “kind of turned off by the whole competitive industry” during her first year at the Fashion Institute of Technology. So she began exploring Zionism and the design industry in Israel. “Last summer I did a pilot trip with two friends,” she said, “and that’s when I sealed the deal.”
Though she was raised by Zionistic parents and inculcated with Zionist values at the Moriah and Frisch schools in Englewood and Paramus, respectively, Rabinowitz said she did not think about moving to Israel even after spending an enjoyable post-high-school year at the Emunah V’Omanut (Faith and Art) program.
During her years at FIT, she got involved in the Hillel Jewish campus group at nearby Hunter College, which runs many Israel programs, and she started reading influential books such as Leon Uris’ “Exodus” and “Coming Together, Coming Apart: A Memoir of Heartbreak and Promise in Israel,” by Daniel Gordis. She was also emboldened by the knowledge that one of her two older sisters will follow her to Israel in September.
“It’s strange for some of my friends, who did not see it coming,” she acknowledged. “But everyone is really supportive – and happy they’ll have a place to stay in Israel when they visit.”
Rabinowitz plans to polish her Hebrew and pursue volunteer opportunities before applying to the Bezalel Academy of Art and Design in the capital city. “Israelis have more of a perspective on design and fashion as an art form and not necessarily about the business, which I really admire,” she said.
And if things don’t go exactly as planned, that’s OK. “I’m anticipating that not everything will go smoothly, but when you’re my age and on your own, you face these issues wherever you are in the world. I’m glad I’ll be going through this process in Israel, because it’s a Jewish land.”
Dr. Sharon and Jeffrey Oshin are scheduled to be on the same Nefesh B’Nefesh charter flight as Rabinowitz, on Aug. 15. The parents of four school-age children, they are a pediatrician and a litigator, respectively.
Sharon Oshin said she fell in love with Israel at age 16 during an NCSY Israel Summer Tour, but the idea of aliyah got put on hold as she completed school and started a family. Now, the Oshins have plenty of social support to realize the dream.
“We come from a block in Teaneck where we’re the fourth family making aliyah to the same neighborhood in Efrat,” she said. “We’ve visited and seen how their children are growing up, and we want that, too. The children seem a lot more connected to what they’re learning about in school. And they have a lot more freedom and independence.”
Coming to a new land with kids ranging in age from 8 to 16 is generally not considered ideal. “Everybody has a time in their lives when it’s right for them, and this is the right time for us,” she said. “We used to wonder how our friends and their kids would manage, and we’ve seen everybody finds a way. If it’s what you really want, any changes you have to make are worth it.”
Having spent five summers in Israel with their family, their two oldest children are squarely behind the move, and though there are some “trepidations,” they’re more about leaving the only house they’ve ever known than about the destination. Sharon Oshin has started the process of getting professional recognition in Israel. “I’ve already had people say they’re awaiting a female pediatrician in Efrat,” she said.
Addam Berger of Teaneck started working remotely for his new employer, Hewlett Packard, in Israel, two months before he and his wife, Annette, and their four children arrived on July 12. Now he is commuting to Rehovot, about an hour’s drive from the family’s new hometown of Ma’aleh Adumim, east of Jerusalem.
The contingent of well-wishers awaiting the Bergers at Ben-Gurion Airport included former Teaneck residents Zena and Sholom Weglein as well as Shelley Brinn, the Fair Lawn native who handles immigrant absorption in Ma’aleh Adumim.
Annette Berger, school psychologist at the Rosenbaum Yeshiva of North Jersey in River Edge for 14 years, related that they’ve been experiencing some glitches. The lease for the apartment they arranged to rent in a new development is not yet finalized, so they’re staying down the block in the guesthouse of a newfound friend. “We feel a little lost,” she acknowledged. “We’re not grounded without our own space.”
Still, less than a week after arriving, she got 11-year-old Ariel and 9-year-old Shoshana started at camp. “Shoshana, the youngest at 9, is doing the best,” she said. “She just flew right in and hooked up with other girls her age in the neighborhood.” Gavriella, 16, and Yair, 14, will start high school locally in September.
The Bergers intended to make aliyah from the time they married 20 years ago, but their first serious attempt six years ago fell through when Annette Berger’s father became ill. They tried again three years ago, but could not sell their house. In the intervening years, Berger had forgotten that she’d already fallen in love with Ma’aleh Adumim in her youth.
“Three years ago, when I started to clean out the garage, I found a journal I’d kept during my year after high school in 1984, and flipping through I saw that we had stopped off in Ma’aleh Adumim and I wrote how beautiful it was,” she said. “I wrote that this is the kind of place I could see myself making aliyah to. I had no recollection of this impression made at age 18.”
Other north Jersey residents planning to make the move this summer include two Bergenfield teens and three Bergenfield families; two Englewood families; and a Teaneck man. Jennifer and Meir Solomon of Passaic arrived on June 21 with their kids and Simone Katz and Ethan Goldsmith of Teaneck landed on July 12 with their children.
According to Nefesh B’Nefesh, about 4,200 North Americans will move to Israel in 2011.