By Shmuel Katz
A little more than eight years ago, Goldie and I took a leap of faith, took our children by the hand, and made the move that you have been a part of from day one. We have endured a lot of highs and lows over the years and have noted each milestone with a sense of wonder and accomplishment. This week comes yet another. Although she will not be happy that I have done so, I am thrilled to share a little nachas and the success of one of our kids with you.
By the time you read this article, our Chaya will have graduated from the nursing school of Shaare Zedek Medical Center. As a 13-year-old immigrant, Chaya came to Israel with zero Hebrew skills (outside of the biblical Hebrew she had learned in Bais Yaakov) and was thrown into the chaos of ninth grade in a foreign land. She could barely communicate with her peers, and spent the first year simply trying to fit in.
At the end of grade nine, her principal called us in for a meeting to inform us that, in her opinion, we would be better served by enrolling Chaya in a specialty program that catered to new olim. Having made new friends and finally fitting in to the group, Chaya was distraught.
We eventually formulated a plan to have her stay in the school for another year, and Chaya never looked back. She worked incredibly hard, stayed in the school through graduation (getting a special mention from the principal because of her hard work), and (after sherut le’umi) continued the hard work in nursing school. She achieved top grades, took the national nursing board examinations last Monday, and graduated on Thursday.
She is the youngest student in her year and has consistently ranked at the top of the class. She has worked as a student nurse and will return to Shaare Zedek as a nurse following the chagim. And it is impossible to express the pride we have in her success.
From a 13-year-old who could not communicate in Hebrew at all, she has become a 22-year-old who speaks more comfortably in Hebrew than in English. She has surrounded herself with Israeli peers and can go for days without speaking or hearing English. I remember so many times throughout her high-school days when Goldie and I agonized over her and worried that we had done her a disservice by making aliyah. I even remember crying in the principal’s office in anguish and frustration at witnessing her struggle to succeed.
Chaya is living proof that all the clichés about aliyah and the “rules” about when a good time to make aliyah would be are a bunch of malarkey.
We were told not to come with teens, that our teens would be hoodlums and run wild, doing drugs and getting into all sorts of trouble. We were told that “all teens” who come on aliyah rebel and become non-religious and total failures. We were told a lot of things. It is a good thing we did not listen.
Could she have achieved similar success in the U.S.? It is certainly possible. However, what is definite is the fact that she really thrives here and has blossomed into a terrific young woman, one of whom we are inordinately proud. v
Shmuel Katz is the executive director of Yeshivat Migdal HaTorah (www.migdalhatorah.org), a new gap-year yeshiva. Shmuel, his wife Goldie, and their six children made aliyah in July of 2006. Before making aliyah, he was the executive director of the Yeshiva of South Shore in Hewlett. You can contact him at email@example.com.