Teaneck transplants reflect on new lives in Israel
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Teaneck transplants reflect on new lives in Israel

Archeologists recently discovered an ancient olive press down the street from Howard and Terry Mischel’s house. Not the house on Maitland Avenue in Teaneck they left last August, but the one on Esther HaMalca Street in Modi’in, an Israeli city that was once home to the Maccabees of Chanukah fame.

“Having history on your doorstep is life in eretz Yisrael,” reflects Howard Mischel. At the same time, notes this former Standard & Poor’s executive, new “sprouts” are shooting up in his neighborhood’s time-worn soil. “On our block, we’re surrounded by younger families where at least one member of the couple is a Frisch graduate,” he says.

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Terry and Howard Mischel with youngest daughter Ariel, who will do National Service in September.

If he is successful in his brand-new career as a pre-aliyah counselor for Nefesh B’Nefesh, many other North Jersey Jewish families will follow the Mischels to new lives in Israel. After 30 years of thinking about the big move, the couple came last August with their youngest daughter, just graduated from Bat Torah in Teaneck. They maintain that the answer to the question “When is a good time to make aliyah?” is different for everyone.

“It’s always a good time to come to eretz Yisrael and fulfill the mitzvah of living here,” Mischel says. “But everybody has their own reality. At Nefesh B’Nefesh, we try to counsel people that no matter what their situation, they have to think through what they face there and what they are likely to face here, to make it possible for them to have a successful aliyah. It’s best to have a well-developed plan.”

A 20-minute car ride gets them to the Ramat Beit Shemesh home of their son Judah, his wife, Ora, and their four daughters. Son Elie and his wife Rebecca live in Staten Island with their two girls; daughter Sarah and her husband, Ari Goldberg, have one daughter and live in Fair Lawn; daughter Ariel, 18, spent a year at the Tiferet seminary and will start a year of National Service after working as a counselor in Camp HASC for special-needs children in New York, where Judah is the camp rabbi and Ora is a teacher.

“Our granddaughters here had been missing us,” says Terry Mischel. “Instead of seeing them for a week or 10 days every few months, now we are a real Saba and Savta [Grandpa and Grandma] to them. We can have them for sleepovers, we can go help out in the afternoons – normal family things. Of course, wherever we are, we are missing someone. Our kids [in the States] have intentions of aliyah, and this is our hope. But we’re not arrogant enough to think all will be perfect.“

Keeping in mind his son Judah’s reminder that “you come to Israel to make a life, not a living,” Howard Mischel realized he was taking a gamble leaving Wall Street at the crest of a 32-year career as an analyst and banker. But at 57, he was no longer happy just earning a living. He was eager to trade the pressures and competition of Wall Street for a more meaningful existence.

“It is certainly possible to have a successful career and still feel empty,” he wrote in an op-ed column for Israel National News last month. “Work needs to lead you to a higher purpose – we need to find a way to elevate the entire work experience.”

The position at NBN, an organization that facilitates immigration to Israel, came through at the end of May. Following nine months of a sometimes frustrating search for a viable career in Israel, the job has given Mischel renewed enthusiasm.

“I’m working on a team, the front line in dealing with potential olim [immigrants] from the U.S. and Canada,” he says. “I’m working in a Jewish environment, which is very different from Wall Street, and it is very pleasant to be working with people who have a unity of purpose: to facilitate aliyah of Jews to Israel. There is a tremendous amount of motivation.”

After earning a master’s degree from Harvard in city planning in 1976, Mischel came to Israel with his wife to volunteer for a year. As an assistant planner at the Environmental Protection Service of the Interior Ministry, Mischel played a role in the Ben Yehuda pedestrian mall project in Jerusalem and helped prepare environmental impact statements for road development.

Even after the couple moved to Monsey and then Newton, Mass., before coming to Teaneck in 1999, they continued visiting Israel two or three times a year. Howard Mischel volunteered during the 2006 Lebanon war – the same year they bought a house on paper in Modi’in, a central city of about 80,000 planned by Israel’s premier architect, Moshe Safdie. They live in Buchman, a neighborhood that attracts many English-speaking immigrants.

Terry Mischel taught English and history at schools including the Rosenbaum Yeshiva of North Jersey in River Edge and Ma’ayanot Yeshiva High School in Teaneck. She was in charge of admissions and communications at The Moriah School of Englewood before the move. She spent the past year taking ulpan (intensive Hebrew class) with her husband, and discovering new places.

Looking back on the past year, the Mischels agree that the good outweighs any negatives. “First and foremost, we’re living an entirely Jewish life in a place that wants you to be here,” says Howard Mischel. “It’s a reorientation of the way you live day to day. We take great satisfaction in participating in all the things that happen here that are specifically Israeli and Jewish.”

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